It may seem like every time we talk about nutrition; we’re talking about protein.
But that’s because protein is such a huge part of how our bodies function!
Did you know that every cell in our bodies contains protein?
Protein plays important roles in our immune function, metabolism, feeling full, weight management, body composition, and athletic performance. That’s why proteins are often referred to as “the building blocks of life!”
So, as you can see, it’s a no-brainer that a dancer is going to need plenty to thrive.
But just how much protein do we need?
The daily recommended protein intake for a high-intensity athlete (that’s us) is 1.4-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. In pounds, that means that we should consume about .64-.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight. An easy way to make sure you’re hitting this goal is to aim for one gram of protein per pound of body weight. This way, if you are a little bit under, you’re still in a great range, and the math is easier!
The next question is, ‘How on earth do I eat that much?’ At first, that sounds like a lot of protein, and it can seem daunting. But with just a few intentional choices, you’ll be hitting this goal consistently in no time.
The best way to get into this habit is by planning ahead.
You want to make sure you are eating your protein in chunks throughout the day rather than all at once. That will help you maintain your energy levels throughout the day and will keep you from feeling overfull after your meals. To review, here are a few easy-to-find protein-packed foods to help you plan your meals: chicken, eggs, turkey, any red meat, fish, shellfish (like shrimp!), greek yogurt, cottage cheese, lentils, beans, tofu, and tempe. There are also, of course, protein powders, shakes, and bars as well.
Use protein hacks to maximize meals.
One of my favorite protein hacks is the protein latte. Make or order two shots of espresso (or cold brew) and put it in a large cup. Then add your favorite protein shake. Suddenly your latte is worth at least 26 grams of protein – add an egg white omelet, and you could be 50 grams of protein closer to your macro goal just by eating breakfast.
Are you an oatmeal person? Why not make it protein oatmeal by adding a scoop of protein powder? More of a cereal snacker? Why not use a vanilla protein shake instead of milk? Bonus points if you choose to use a protein-boosted cereal like Premier Protein Cereal or Magic Spoon! We’ve found that frontloading your protein in the morning can make hitting your macro goals much easier. And bonus, eating before you drink your coffee (or with it in a protein latte) helps prevent your cortisol levels from spiking, which protects your body from going into stress mode.
Still feeling like you might be too full? Let’s walk through a potential day trying to hit 140-150 grams of protein.
Breakfast: Protein Latte: 26 g. protein
Omelete; 4 egg whites, one whole egg, veggies, half ounce of cheese: 24 g. Protein
Daily Total: 50 grams of protein
Lunch: Big Ass Salad (BAS), Banana, Can of Tuna: 22 g. Protein
Daily Total: 77 grams of protein (Halfway there!)
Snack: Greek yogurt with fruit: 20 g. protein
Daily Total: 97 grams of protein
Dinner: Chicken and Pasta; 4 oz Chicken, Chickpea Pasta, Marinara: 48 g. Protein
Daily Total: 145 grams of protein (NAILED IT!)
Now, I’m not here to tell you that eating like this comes easily. Culturally, protein is not usually the largest portion on our plates. But with just a few intentional adjustments, hitting your protein goal every day is well within reach. Whether it’s swapping greek yogurt for sour cream on your tacos or adding greek yogurt or cottage cheese to your fruit plate, there is almost always a way to add some protein to your meals and snacks.
Give it a try, and let us know how you do! We love hearing how our community is getting their protein in!
PS if you want to work with a pro-dancer/ certified personal trainer who can make tailored training, nutrition, and recovery plans for you, you should check out our 1:1 coaching program, The Embodied Artist Academy