If I had to choose to do one type of workout for the rest of my life, strength training would win, hands down. I love having muscles. I love feeling strong. And in my book, lifting weights beats a tedious treadmill sesh or pricey spin class every single time.
That’s why I decided to try doubling my protein intake for 10 days. I wanted to bulk up. And what better way to do that then bump up how much protein I ate?
When it comes to daily protein consumption, the average person should strive for .6 grams per pound of body weight, says Christina Fitzgerald, R.D. and owner of Fitzgerald Nutrition in Barrington, Illinois. So a 130 pound woman should be eating roughly 78 grams of protein a day.
Looking at my current diet, I estimated that I already was eating 80 grams of protein a day—so I had to figure out a way to incorporate 160 grams of protein in my diet. Every. Single. Day.
That’s A LOT of protein, so I worked with Fitzgerald to strategize how I would accommodate it into my daily routine. (PSA: Definitely talk to your doctor before making a drastic change like this to your diet, especially if you have kidney problems.)
For starters, you can’t just pound protein powder and call it a day. The body can’t process more than 30 grams of protein at a time, Fitzgerald says—otherwise, you just pee it out. I had to space out my protein throughout the day to make sure I didn’t max out at any one meal, meaning I ate protein at breakfast, lunch, AND dinner (and in all my snacks, too).
You also have to watch your portion sizes, Fitzgerald says. Protein is inherently more filling, so if you’re doubling it, you’ll need less of your other foods to stay full. (And if you don’t adjust, you may gain weight—simple dietary math.)
“Pay attention to your hunger and fullness,” Fitzgerald says. “Don’t fall into the trap of eating the same thing you normally do.”
Here’s what I learned when I packed in the protein for 10 days straight:
FEEL FULL ALL THE TIME
Like, all the time. I’ve never been so consistently full, for long periods of time, day in and day out. I’ve almost forgotten what it feels like to be hungry.
Normally, breakfast is one of my motivators for getting out of bed. I love eating that much. But many mornings I couldn’t put anything in my stomach besides coffee for the first few hours. I resorted to drinking protein smoothies in the a.m., because drinking isn’t as daunting as eating when you have no appetite.
This is normal. “Protein is going to leave you fuller than carbs because it takes longer to digest,” Fitzgerald says.
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LESS IS MORE, ESPECIALLY WITH PORTION SIZES
Part of the reason I was uncomfortably full? I forgot to cut down my portion sizes like Fitzgerald recommended. Whoops.
I was on autopilot, doubling down on protein while still eating the same amount of everything else on my plate. Major mistake—no wonder I felt like I’d eaten a boulder after every meal.
Once I realized I was accidentally overdoing it, I made my portion sizes slightly smaller, and cut back on fat and carbs. My body didn’t need them as much since I was so full from the protein, anyways. That tweak helped me feel a little more comfortable (and less heavy).
I HAD FEWER SWEET CRAVINGS
When you’re as full as I was, a slice of chocolate cake isn’t as tempting. True, hunger was never a motivator for my sweet tooth. But a big, rich dessert loses its appeal when I already feel stuffed—so I found that I wasn’t reaching for cookies or sugary treats as often.
During my experiment, I did test out some high-protein cookies. I’m typically cautious about packaged “diet” foods, which often have tons of fat or sugar substitutes that can give me gas. These ones though from KNOW Foods were a cut above the rest, though.
I mostly ended up turning to savory rather than sweet treats when hunger (occasionally) struck. My go-to combo: Nuts and a Chef’s Cut meat stick.
One thing I learned quickly: It’s hard to measure and keep track of how much protein you’re eating, plus reduce the other nutrients to balance it out, without a tracking app.
I turned to MyFitnessPal, a calorie tracker, diet, and exercise journal. The app incorporated my nutrition goals into my daily intake requirements and then warned me when I was eating too much of one kind of macronutrient, like fat, carbs, or sugar. (Note: I did have to sign up for their premium account to access the macro-counting features, but most other services on the app are free.)
App or no, it’s still a huge pain to log every single bite you eat. It’s illuminating at first, but I won’t be doing this long-term.
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SOURCE: (Women’s Health Mag)