Health trends come and go, and if you’re seeing protein counts plastered more prominently on foods than ever before, it’s not just you. Protein is having a moment — and yes, it absolutely should. It’s the building block for muscle growth, and a key source of energy that gets us through the day.
So how much do we need, exactly? Well, that all depends. Your target number will vary based on gender, weight, activity levels and a handful of other factors. For instance, if you’re logging low to average amounts of exercise (less than 30 minutes a day), women should be shooting for a baseline of 46 grams of protein per day, and men should be somewhere around 56 grams, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). If an uber-intense 5-day-a-week strength program is more your speed, your macros — and your total protein intake — will look a lot different. (You can calculate them here.)
No matter what nutrition plan you follow, one thing is for sure: awareness is everything. And if food scales, journals and apps aren’t your thing, we’ve got a helpful key to help get you more familiar with your protein sources. So which foods are Popeye-approved, and which come up short? Here’s how much protein you’d need on your plate — or in your glass — in order to reach a solid 25 gram-serving. Don’t be surprised if you start rethinking your food choices (eggs and chicken breast, for the win!). Vegans, never fear, there are plenty of options for you, too.
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Protein Sources by the Numbers
Protein Portions: Food for Thought
When it comes to considering your total protein intake for the day, the portions above are only meant as a visual guide. What you eat on any given day will depend on your health and fitness goals, dietary preferences and restrictions, and activity levels. (Ninety-five peanuts likely won’t fit anyone’s macros!) Yet, building awareness of these counts might make you a more mindful eater and help you feel more capable of sticking to a nutritious diet. If you’re unsure what a healthy eating plan should look like, consult with a nutritionist who can help you determine the best approach for you.
For those struggling to hit their macros, here’s what you need to know about all things protein powder — from whey to plant-based options. Whether you’re all about protein smoothies, egg muffins or high-protein Paleo munchies, here’s to shaking things up from time to time!