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You need 160g of protein per day, but you’re not sure how you can eat all of that protein.
Being a dietitian, I know exactly how hard this can be.
But, I’m here to say that it’s 100% doable and I’ve helped many clients hit their protein targets.
Below, I will share 7 ways to get 160g of protein and give you a sample meal plan to follow.
- Many of my clients find it easier to eat between 5-6 smaller meals throughout the day and include around 20-40 grams of protein each time.
- Protein portions should also be spaced out every 3-4 hours and should come from a variety of animal and plant-based sources.
- Planning your meals ahead of the week can help you reach your target more easily, as you can prevent being low on protein-rich foods/snacks when you are in a hurry and you can track the amount of protein you eat
- It’s important to stay consistent with your meals and protein portions, but allow for some flexibility initially or until you get accustomed to your high-protein diet
Who Should Be Eating 160 grams of Protein Per Day
While some people may benefit from consuming 160 grams of protein per day, this amount is not suitable for everyone.
The amount of protein you need in a day varies based on biology, physical activity levels, and overall health status.
So when you calculate your protein target, you need to consider factors such as weight, body composition, and the amount and type of exercise you do.
This also means that the heavier you are, the more protein you will need.
Before giving you my tips for hitting 160g of protein a day, let’s be sure that you should be eating 160g of protein in the first place.
Protein Intake Based On Weight
In general, people who need 160 grams of protein per day are typically strength athletes or bodybuilders to support muscle growth and repair.
“Daily protein intake in the range of 1.4–2.0 g protein/kg body weight/day (g/kg/d) is sufficient for most exercising individuals”International Society of Sports Nutrition
This indicates that people who exercise need 1.4–2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, which equates to 0.63-0.90 grams per pound of body weight.
For example, if you weigh 80 kg (176 lbs) and you are a bodybuilder aiming to gain muscle, you would need approximately 160 grams of protein per day if consuming 2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight (to determine this multiply 176 lbs by 0.90 grams).
Protein Intake Based On Weight Loss Goals
During a fat-loss phase, however, athletes are advised to have a higher protein intake.
Specifically, between 2.3-3.1 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (0.95-1.41 grams per pound of body weight) to retain muscle mass.
For example, if you weigh 52 kg (114 lbs) and you are a competitive bodybuilder training 5-6 days/week and preparing for a contest, you would need approximately 160 grams of protein per day if consuming 3.1 grams per kilogram of body weight (1.41 grams x 114 lbs).
Keep in mind, this is a fairly high protein intake for someone who only weighs 114 lbs.
However, in extended fat loss phases, when your goal is to reduce your body fat percentage as much as possible while retaining as much lean muscle as possible, a higher protein intake is recommended.
This recommendation is likely only for competitive athletes and bodybuilders.
- Related Article: Bodybuilding Meal Plan For Beginners: How To Start
Protein Percentage Of Your Total Calories
Another way to think about your daily protein intake is by using a percentage of your total calories.
While the Institute of Medicine recommends a protein range between 10-35% of total calories for all adults, other research suggests that bodybuilders and those who lift weights require 25-30% of calories coming from protein.
For example, if you eat 2500 calories in a day and you lift weights, protein intake should fall between 156 and 187 grams per day.
To calculate this, you need to consider that 25-30% of 2500 calories is 625-750 calories and that 1 gram of protein equates to 4 calories.
So here is the math:
- [(2500 calories : 100 ) x 25%] = 625 calories
- [(2500 calories : 100 ) x 35%] = 750 calories
- 625 calories: 4 calories = 156 grams
- 750 calories: 4 calories = 187 grams
7 Tips For Reaching 160 Grams of Protein A Day
Reaching 160 grams of protein in a day can be done by combining different foods, drinks, and supplements. Here are 7 tips to follow:
1. Eat 20-40 Grams of Protein at Every Meal
Try including a protein source in every meal to ensure that you eat 160 grams by the end of the day.
These sources include white and red meat, white and oily fish, eggs, milk, cheese and yogurts, beans, lentils, and chickpeas.
A good general rule is to get 20-40 grams of protein per meal.
- A 3-egg omelet
- A beef steak (90-110g cooked)
- A salmon filet (140-150g cooked)
- Greek yogurt (170g) with bran cereal/oats and 4-5 nuts
- Vegetable soup made with cooked lentils/beans/chickpeas (150-200g)
- Chicken filet (90-110g cooked)
2. Plan in Advance
Planning your meals for the week and preparing food beforehand may help you in eating enough protein.
For example, you could batch cook and separate food in containers and then place it in the fridge/freezer.
By doing this, you will know exactly how much you have included in each portion and you will not be caught off guard if you don’t have time to cook.
3. Include Protein-rich Snacks
Including 1-2 snacks in the day that are high in protein will help you reach your target. Aim for a minimum of 20 grams per snack meal.
- 170g of greek yogurt with 30g nuts
- 150g of cottage or ricotta cheese with a slice of bread
- 3 boiled eggs
- 80-90g lean, grass-fed, beef jerky
4. Consider Protein Supplements
If you have limited time to prepare meals, supplements such as protein powder and protein bars are a convenient and quick way to increase protein intake.
So, consider 1 portion a day of either of these supplements.
This may be, for example, a 60-gram Quest protein bar containing at least 20 grams of protein, or a protein shake made with 1 scoop of whey protein powder and 250 ml of cow’s milk or soya milk.
It is important to not go overboard with supplements, however, as these are only meant to boost your protein intake and not substitute any meals in your diet.
This is because supplements do not provide all the necessary nutrients (including vitamins, minerals, and fiber) like whole foods do provide.
So long as you don’t consume more than 20-33% of your total daily protein intake from protein powder, then you’re all good!
- Related Article: 30 Ways To Increase Protein Intake Without Protein Powder
5. Track Protein Intake
Tracking your protein intake can help you know how much protein you are eating, at least initially.
Many of my clients who have never tracked their food intake don’t actually know how much protein is in certain types of foods.
So by tracking what you eat in the early days of your diet, you begin to learn how much protein is in a certain source.
The best way to track your protein intake is to use a macro tracking app like MacroFactor.
The reason why I suggest using an app is that they have large food databases where you can scan the barcodes of any product, which then automatically get added to your food diary.
Once you learn the portion sizes of protein-rich foods, you will get accustomed to this pattern and learn what you need to eat to reach your target of 160 grams a day.
6. Try Making Simple Substitutions of Lower Protein Foods With Higher Protein Foods
Some foods are known to be carb-rich, like pasta, beans, lentils, and even yogurts.
However, protein is disguised in these foods too. So you might want to try making some substitutions if you have not already done so.
For example, try lentil or chickpea pasta instead or white pasta, as it contains almost double the amount of protein per 100 grams.
You may also want to substitute fruit/natural yogurts with greek yogurts.
Greek yogurts contain around 11 grams of protein per 100 grams compared to 3-4 grams found in fruit/natural yogurts.
Try also substituting white bread with multigrain bread or Ezekiel bread. This kind of bread often contains around 5 grams of protein per slice compared to 1-2 grams per slice of white bread.
- Related Article: 8 Best Breads For Bodybuilding
7. Have a Portion of Protein Every 3-4 Hours
When you have a protein-rich meal or snack, try spacing out each portion to around every 3-4 hours to create regularity and help you meet your daily target.
For example, if you are having 5 meals a day, a plausible option would be eating at 8am, 11pm, 2pm, 5pm, and 8pm. Another option would be 8am, 12pm, 3pm, 6pm, and 9pm.
If you usually don’t eat early in the morning, you could consider having your protein portion around your bedtime too.
Overall, if you manage to stick to 5-6 smaller meals, you should be able to reach 160 grams in a day without feeling overly full each time you sit down to eat.
- Related Article: How Long Does It Take Whey Protein To Digest – learn why this matters
How Much Protein Should Come From Supplements vs Whole Foods If Eating 160g A Day
While there’s not enough research on the safe upper limit for protein intake from supplements, you should be getting the majority of protein from whole foods rather than supplements.
Although both sources provide protein, whole foods provide all the necessary nutrients (including vitamins, minerals, and fiber) for your body to function optimally, whereas protein supplements do not.
So, let’s assume that you are consuming 160g of protein per day.
If you cannot manage to have 100% of your protein from whole foods, then my advice would be to aim for around 75% of your protein intake from whole foods, and the remaining 25% from supplements.
In terms of an upper limit, I would try not to exceed ⅓ (33%) coming from protein supplements.
For example, if you eat 5 meals per day with an average of 20-40 grams of protein per meal, you could get 130-140g of protein from whole foods and 20-30 grams of protein from supplements.
A 60-70g protein bar or a protein shake (made with 200-300 ml of milk and whey protein or plant based protein powder) would consist of around 20-30 grams of protein.
Sample Meal Plan: 160 Grams of Protein
Here are three examples of meal plans that add up to approximately 160 grams of protein.
<<CLICK TO DOWNLOAD AND PRINT THIS 160 GRAMS OF PROTEIN MEAL PLAN>>
1. Meat & Dairy Meal Plan = 164 g
- Breakfast: 3 eggs, 2 slices of wholegrain bread, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter (33g protein)
- Snack: 170g greek yogurt with berries, 30g nuts (23 g protein)
- Lunch: 110g grilled chicken breast, roasted vegetables, 195g cooked brown rice (38 g protein)
- Snack: Protein shake with 200ml cow’s milk, 1 scoop protein powder (30 g protein)
- Dinner: 110g grilled beef steak, 1 medium sweet potato, steamed broccoli (40 g protein)
2. Vegetarian & Dairy Meal Plan = 162 g
- Breakfast: 50g oats, 100ml milk, 170g greek yogurt, banana, mixed berries, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter (29g protein)
- Snack: 3 eggs, a slice of brown bread, 50g hummus with veggie sticks (27 g protein)
- Lunch: Tofu (125g) stir-fry with broccoli and 100g chickpeas, 1 slice brown bread (36 g protein)
- Snack: 1 scoop protein powder with 300ml soya milk (35 g protein)
- Dinner: Lentil soup (200g cooked lentils), 90g cooked quinoa and grilled vegetables, 5 small mozzarella balls (35 g protein)
3. Fish & Dairy Meal Plan = 158 g
- Breakfast: 170g greek yogurt with 30g of nuts, berries and 2 weetabix (30 g protein)
- Snack: 60g Quest Protein bar, 300ml glass of milk (25 g protein)
- Lunch: 140 g tuna mixed with 100g beans, 90g cooked quinoa, grilled vegetables (40g protein)
- Snack: 150g cottage cheese, 2 slices whole grain bread (27g protein)
- Dinner: 140g grilled salmon, roasted asparagus, mashed potatoes (36 g protein)
Staying on Track: My Practical Recommendations
While it may be hard to continuously hit 160 grams or more of protein per day, there are ways to encourage you to keep going and consistently stay on track.
My recommendations would be to:
1. Plan Ahead
Try to be organized by planning your meals and snacks in advance, so that you have enough high-protein foods on hand, preventing you from getting caught off guard and resorting to protein-poor options.
For example, you could plan when to do the food shop and when to batch cook before your week begins.
You could buy some convenient individually wrapped snack options (check on the label that it has at least 20g of protein) which you could bring with you wherever you go.
- 60-70g protein bar
- 80-90g pack of chicken strips or beef jerky
2. Break it Down
Try distributing 160g throughout the day, breaking it down into smaller and more manageable meals rather than concentrating protein into fewer and larger meals.
Try to include 5-6 meals in a day (1 of which is a protein supplement if you are finding it hard with whole foods only).
3. Eat a Variety
Try incorporating different types of protein sources into your meals.This can help prevent boredom and make it easier to hit your protein target.
For example, you could change up your meals every couple of days, and have 2 vegetarian days, 2 meat days, and 2 fish days.
4. Be Patient
Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see immediate results and you find it hard to eat 160 grams of protein in a day, as it can take time to consistently meet this target.
Consistency is key here, so it is important that you keep at it and eventually it will become a habit.
5. Avoid the Perfection Mindset
Allow for some flexibility and try not to put pressure on yourself, as in the long run it can lead to exhaustion and hinder your progress.
If you don’t meet your target today, don’t stress, tomorrow is another day and you can try again.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Eat 160g of Protein With Just 1 Source of Protein?
It’s not optimal eating 160 grams of protein from 1 source of protein, whether it’s chicken, salmon, beef, eggs or tofu. If you only eat one type of protein food source, you may limit the intake of certain amino acids and other essential nutrients. As such, you should eat a variety of protein sources to ensure you have a balanced diet.
Other High Protein Daily Meal Plans
About The Author
Giulia Rossetto is a qualified Dietitian and Nutritionist.
She holds a Masters in Human Nutrition (University of Sheffield, UK) and more recently graduated as a Dietitian (University of Malta).
Giulia aims to translate evidence-based science to the public through teaching and writing content. She has worked 4+ years in clinical settings and has also published articles in academic journals.
She is into running, swimming and weight lifting, and enjoys spending time in the mountains (she has a soft spot for hiking and skiing in the Italian Dolomites).