What Does “Enough” Protein Even Look Like?

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This is the hardest part of the nutritional consultation:

“Zir/Sir/Ma’am, if we’re going to get you started on regenerating your body and improving your mental health, you have to get in at least one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.”

And that’s when their eyes get super, super wide.

I can empathize. Especially since I tend to work with creative individuals —the Upper West Side is a veritable and non-appropriating Mecca for generations of writers, dancers, musicians, and artists — the idea of “protein = bodyweight” can lead to all sorts of knee-jerked images.

Par exemple, if those words caused you to suddenly imagine a human body made of chicken breasts, then that’s exactly why you should keep reading this article.

One gram of protein per pound of bodyweight is not what it sounds like.

A gram is the weight of a small paperclip.

If you’re American, this may be a revelation. (If you’re European or reading this in a country that does actually employ the metric system, it’s totally ok to chuckle at us and move on.)

Now, what does 100 paperclips look like?

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And you can probably hold that jar in your palm, so let’s make this easy and say that your 100 grams can be guesstimated by about two fists, which allows for margin of error in individual hand size and also — heyy! — is going to be about the size of your stomach, which is the place where food is supposed to fit. (Yes kids, that’s why serving sizes are often based on hand size. Math is magical.)

Now, the goal here is to break down the frankly terrifying body-made-of-chicken-breast image into real-life meals for the average person.

Let’s plug the 100 grams ~ two fists unit that back into the protein-bodyweight concept. Instead of looking for a whole human body’s worth of chicken breasts, we’re actually looking for just those few fists. Pretty cool, right?

A fistful of protein* can be:

  • A large cup of Greek yogurt.
  • A half-pint of liquid egg whites.
  • A double-patty hamburger.
  • A half-block of extra- or super-firm tofu.
  • And yes, a D-cup-sized chicken breast.

*Note: these are LEAN proteins. Fat is another story, as are carbs, but luckily these are also calculable in a future article.

See how easy it is to get your grams in?

It’s not so scary after all. No chicken-breast-body mutants.

Just a few extra cups of nice-tasting stuff, totally pick-up-able at your local grocery store. And if you’re still uncertain what to DO with all this stuff, no worries! Next article, I’ll show you how to blend them into any meal.



Thank you for reading! If you enjoy my take on fitness, you can train with me virtually anywhere in the world at Work Life Fitness, and follow me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter — I might even have a YouTube channel that shows you how to DownDog without overstretching those hams. (And if you really enjoy my take on fitness, then check out The Miracle on 98th Street for a shadowboxing memoir that kicks The Bell Jar out of the ring. Peace!)

NYC trainer, founder of Work Life Fitness, and here to troubleshoot your food and fitness problems. https://worklife-fitness.com