Increasing the amount of protein you eat daily does not have to be difficult. If you are trying to hit a daily target of 120 grams of protein, you can use various strategies to reach this goal. Below, I’ll cover eight simple and actionable strategies.
- The easiest way to ensure you will get 120 grams of protein in a day is to plan your meals and snacks ahead of time, aiming to get roughly 20-30 grams of protein at each meal (if you are eating 4-6 meals a day).
- Only aim to get 30% or less of your daily protein intake from protein supplements to ensure you get enough nutrients from whole food sources.
- Prioritize protein-rich foods in your meals such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products. You can also incorporate high-protein legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds into each meal.
Who Should Be Eating 120 grams Of Protein Per Day
For certain people, eating 120 grams of protein in a day might be the perfect amount to help them reach their goals.
However, it is important to understand that your protein intake will be specific to you, so 120 grams may be too much or too little depending on individual factors.
The amount of protein that you should eat depends on gender, activity level, fitness and health goals, and body weight.
These are determining factors for how many calories your body burns in a day, which will ultimately have an effect on how much protein you need in a day.
According to Amanda Parker, a Certified Nutrition Coach and health expert, the optimal amount of protein to eat on a daily basis is approximately 0.7-1.2 grams per pound of body weight.
Whether you are on the higher or lower end of this recommendation will depend on what your goal is (weight loss, weight maintenance, or weight gain).
- If your goal is to maintain your weight, you should only need around 0.7 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight. In this case, a person that weighs roughly 150-170 lb would need to eat 120 grams of protein.
- If your goal is to gain muscle or you are on a higher protein diet for weight loss, then you would benefit from eating 1 gram per pound of body weight. This would mean that a 120-pound person would eat 120 grams of protein.
Key Takeaway: Therefore, those who weigh between 120-170 lbs are most likely to need 120 grams of protein per day to meet their overall goal.
8 Tips For Reaching 120 Grams Of Protein A Day
1. Prioritize Protein Rich Foods At Every Meal
If you are trying to eat 120 grams of protein in a day, including foods that are high in protein at every meal is a great way to hit your target. The amount of protein that you will need to eat at each meal will be dependent on how many meals you eat in a day.
If you eat 6 meals in a day, then the amount of protein per meal would decrease to about 20 grams. You could also have 3 meals containing 30 grams of protein and 2 snacks that each have 15 grams.
Distributing your protein intake throughout the day will ensure you don’t end up with a ton of protein left at the end of the day that is too difficult to get in, and perhaps improve the potential to gain muscle mass.
2. Eat Larger Portions Of Lean Cauts Of Meat
Choosing lean cuts of meat and eating larger portions is a great way to boost your daily protein intake. Lean cuts of meat typically have a higher protein content per serving than fatty cuts of meat, and they are also lower in calories.
Increasing your portion of chicken breast from 3oz to 5oz brings your protein intake up to about 44 grams for that meal. Choosing leaner cuts of meat can be especially helpful if you are trying to hit a protein target with a lower calorie intake.
3. Prep High Protein Foods And Snacks Ahead of Time
One of the most important factors when it comes to succeeding at any diet is preparation.
If you are trying to eat 120 grams of protein in a day, or you are simply trying to eat more protein in general, planning your meals and prepping your food ahead of time can make all the difference.
Prepping high-protein ingredients in advance can make it easy to prepare a quick high-protein meal when you are in a rush.
You can cook protein sources such as chicken breast, fish, hard-boiled eggs, and ground turkey in advance to add to your meals.
You can also prepare high-protein snacks in advance that are easy to grab when you are in a rush. If you are looking for some snack ideas, check out 15 High-Protein 200-Calorie Snacks.
4. Incorporate Nuts And Seeds Into Your Meals
Including nuts and seeds in your meals can be a great way to boost your protein intake while also getting in other essential nutrients and healthy fats.
You can use nuts and seeds as a garnish on your salads or stir-fries, or you can have them as a snack on their own.
You can also utilize nut and seed butter in your meals, such as adding peanut butter to your morning oatmeal.
That said, if you also have a lower calorie intake then you may want to go lighter on the nuts and seeds since they also have a higher amount of fat (and fats have the most calories per gram).
5. Utilize A Protein Powder
If you are having trouble hitting your protein goal with whole foods alone, using a protein powder is an effective way to boost your daily protein intake.
You can choose to have protein powder on its own mixed in water or milk as a shake, or you can add it to other meals and recipes to enhance the flavor and protein content of that meal.
You can mix protein powder into your oatmeal, make a protein pancake, add it to a smoothie, or even add it to plain yogurt.
A scoop of whey protein typically contains anywhere from 20-30 grams of protein per serving. Therefore adding even 1 scoop of protein powder to your day can get you significantly closer to your 120-gram goal.
6. Opt For High Protein Dairy
Making the simple swap to eating higher protein dairy can help you to reach your 120 grams of protein per day target.
While all dairy products contain some protein, there are certain products that contain significantly more protein per serving.
The two highest protein dairy products are greek yogurt and cottage cheese.
To get even more protein out of your dairy products you could even mix protein powder into your greek yogurt or cottage cheese, which would also improve the flavor.
7. Eat Eggs and Egg Whites For Breakfast
Opting for a breakfast that includes eggs and egg whites is a great way to boost your protein intake first thing in the morning. Eggs are a great protein source, with one egg having 6 grams of protein.
Egg whites are also helpful because they’re even higher in protein than whole eggs.
I recommend having 2 eggs plus ½ cup of egg whites to get at least 20 grams of protein; if you need more protein then add more egg whites.
Egg whites can also be cooked into protein pancakes or protein oatmeal since they can take on any flavor that you give them and are therefore easily disguised.
8. Choose Whole Grains
While grains might not seem like a protein-rich food, whole grains can actually pack a pretty hefty protein punch, especially when combined with all the other protein sources you’re having throughout the day.
Integrating whole grains into your meals will give you more protein along with fiber which is important for your digestive health.
- Related Article: 14 Grains With The Most Protein (Complete List)
How Much Protein Should Come From Supplements vs Whole Foods If Eating 120g A Day
Protein from supplements should account for less than 30% of your total daily protein intake, which for a 120-gram daily target would be 36 grams.
This means that you could have roughly 1 – 1 ½ scoops of protein and the remaining amount from whole food sources of protein.
That said, you don’t necessarily need to use supplements to get to your daily protein goal if you’re able to eat enough protein from whole foods.
In fact, I generally recommend trying to get your protein from whole food sources as much as possible since whole foods tend to offer a variety of other nutrients that are essential for your health.
With that said, utilizing a protein supplement can be a great option if you are tired of the regular high-protein foods in your diet, or you are having a difficult time hitting your protein target with whole foods alone.
- Related Article: Whey Protein vs Meat: Which Is Better?
Sample Meal Plan: 120g Grams of Protein
The following sample meal plan is based on 4 meals per day (3 meals + 1 snack) with each meal having approximately 30 grams of protein, to distribute protein evenly across the entire day.
Option #1: Egg Scramble and Whole Grain Toast
- 2 eggs – 12 grams
- 2 egg whites – 7.5 grams
- ½ oz cheddar cheese (added to the egg scramble) – 3.5 grams
- 1 slice whole grain bread (toasted) – 5 grams
- ½ tbsp butter (for the toast) – 0 grams
Calories: 352 calories
Protein: 28 grams
Option #2: Protein Blueberry Oatmeal
- ½ cup quick oats – 5 grams
- 2 egg whites (cooked into oats) – 7.5 grams
- ½ scoop vanilla whey protein powder – 15 grams
- 1 tbsp almond butter – 3.5 grams
- ¾ cup blueberries – 1 gram
Calories: 359 calories
Protein: 32 grams
Option #3: High Protein Chocolate Yogurt Bowl
- ½ cup Plain Greek Yogurt – 12 grams
- ½ scoop chocolate whey protein powder – 15 grams
- ½ oz sliced almonds – 3 grams
- 1 cup sliced strawberries – 1 gram
Calories: 415 calories
Protein: 31 grams
Option #1: Taco Salad
- 3 oz lean ground beef – 20 grams
- 1 oz shredded cheddar cheese – 7 grams
- 150 grams romaine lettuce – 2 grams
- ½ sliced tomato – 0.5 grams
- 20 grams tortilla chips – 1.5 grams
- 2 tbsp sour cream – 0.5 grams
- 1 tbsp salsa – 1.5 grams
Calories: 551 calories
Protein: 33 grams
Option #2: Turkey and Swiss Wrap
- 3 oz sliced turkey – 15 grams
- 1 oz Swiss cheese – 8 grams
- 1 Flatout wrap – 6 grams
- 20 grams alfalfa sprouts – 0.5 grams
- 1 tsp honey mustard – 0 grams
Calories: 264 calories
Protein: 29.5 grams
Option #3: Chicken Breast and Wild Rice
- 3 oz grilled chicken breast – 26 grams
- ½ cup wild rice – 3 grams
- 2 cups broccoli – 4 grams
Calories: 283 calories
Protein: 33 grams
Option #1: Protein Shake
- 1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder – 30 grams
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk – 1 gram
Calories: 160 calories
Protein: 31 grams
Option #2: Cottage Cheese and Strawberries
- 1 cup cottage cheese – 26 grams
- 1 tsp cinnamon – 0 grams
- 1 cup sliced strawberries – 1 gram
Calories: 269 calories
Protein: 27 grams
Option #3: Hard Boiled Eggs and Carrots
- 4 eggs – 24 grams
- 1 cup sliced carrots – 1 gram
- ¼ cup hummus – 4 grams
Calories: 434 calories
Protein: 29 grams
Option #1: Steak and Asparagus
- 4 oz sirloin steak – 26 grams
- 10 asparagus spears – 3.5 grams
- 1 tbsp butter – 0 grams
Calories: 272 calories
Protein: 29.5 grams
Option #2: Salmon and Quinoa
- 3 oz salmon – 20 grams
- ½ cup quinoa – 4 grams
- 1 cup Brussel sprouts – 3 grams
Calories: 353 calories
Protein: 27 grams
Option #3: Spaghetti and Turkey Meat Sauce
- 3 oz ground turkey – 23 grams
- 2 oz cooked whole grain spaghetti noodles – 3 grams
- 1/2 cup tomato sauce – 2 grams
- ½ oz parmesan cheese – 4 grams
Calories: 362 calories
Protein: 32 grams
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Eating 120g of Protein Safe?
Yes, 120 grams of protein is safe and is considered to be a moderate protein intake for the average person. Protein requirements vary depending on each individual and their calorie requirements. A general recommendation is to aim to have about 0.7-1.2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
Can I Eat 120g of Protein With Just 1 Source of Protein?
It is not recommended to get all of your protein from one food source alone because you will likely create nutrient deficiencies. Eating only one type of protein source (e.g. chicken breast) means that you could miss out on essential vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, and amino acids found in other food sources.
Can I Eat 120 Grams Of Protein In One Sitting?
While you could decide to eat 120 grams of protein in one sitting alone, it is generally not recommended since research indicates that roughly 25-30 grams of protein is the optimal amount to eat in one sitting. Eating 120 grams of protein at one time could leave you feeling uncomfortably full and cause digestive upset.
How Many Calories Is 120 Grams Of Protein?
Eating 120 grams of protein will give you roughly 480 calories because 1 gram of protein contains 4 calories.
More High Protein Meal Plans
- How To Eat 100 Grams Of Protein A Day
- How To Eat 150 grams of Protein A Day
- How To Eat 160 Grams of Protein A Day
- How To Eat 200 Grams of Protein A Day
Schoenfeld, B.J., Aragon, A.A. How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 15, 10 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-018-0215-1
Schoenfeld, B. J., & Aragon, A. A. (2018). How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 15, 10. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-018-0215-1.
About The Author
Colby Roy is a holistic health and nutrition coach. She is certified through Precision Nutrition and has a passion for all things nutrition and healing the body. More specifically, Colby likes to work with clients who want to optimize their gut health and energy levels.
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