There are two things I know about myself –

  1. Tracking my food in the past has not worked well for me.
  2. I don’t build muscle easily.

I’ve been in the fitness and nutrition space for 12ish years at this point. I went to college for health and exercise science, competed in CrossFit for years, and I’ve tried all kinds of different diets, workouts, and regimens. And something I’ve found to work best for me, my body, and my mental health is simply intuitive eating. I eat breakfast when I’m hungry, I stop when I’m full, and I’ve done this for years. But when I was watching my friend Michaela on instagram the other day, I noticed that she tracks her protein levels to ensure she’s getting enough in to build muscle. For me, building muscle takes WORK. Since I was never an athlete that built muscle from an early age and I don’t have great genetics to help me build extra muscle, the muscle I have built throughout the years has been a struggle. So after watching Michaela’s stories, I asked if I could hop on a call with her to talk about how much protein I should be getting in on a daily basis.

When I chatted with Michaela, she recommend I try getting in around 115 grams of protein per day and work my way up to 135 grams over time. To get this amount, it’s a pretty simple equation –

  • your weight x anywhere between 0.8-1.0 gram = how many grams of protein you should consume per day

Since I don’t weigh myself and haven’t for 8 years, I guessed my weight since I know I’m somewhere between 135-145lbs then multiplied that by .8, getting me around 115g of protein/per day to starts. So before I began, I started tracking my protein levels for a few days using My Fitness Pal app and noticed that I was naturally eating around 65-75 grams per day. Below is a meal that I ate without paying attention to my protein amount. The meal included about 15 grams of protein and after my other meals that day, I had only consumed 62 grams of protein, about 53 grams off my goal amount for the day. So the next day, I purchased a food scale and I started paying attention to my protein levels!

PaleOMG Getting Familiar With My Protein Intake

And surprisingly, it wasn’t that hard to up my protein levels. I thought I would be overly full or uncomfortable, but that wasn’t the case whatsoever! I began upping my protein level to at least 25 grams per meal then made up for the rest with some snacks throughout the day. It’s been 6 days of 115grams or more of protein and I’ve felt great so far! I’m so excited to see if this helps build some muscle that I’ve always struggled with. Only time will tell!

In case you’re new to tracking your protein, here is how I do it –

  • First I decide what I’m going to eat for breakfast. Say it includes 96% lean cooked ground beef – I’ll add that into My Fitness Pal, then I’ll check out what 3-4 ounces of the beef gets me in grams of protein. 3 ounces comes out to about 25+ grams of protein, which is where I want to be. So I’ll cook the ground beef then I’ll weigh out 3 ounces of the beef for my meal. Then I try to build my meal with lots of veggies, sometimes a starch, and usually some sort of fat.

Below I’m going to walk you through some of the meals I’ve had this past week and their protein amounts to help you visually see what meals normally look like for me! This meal included 39 grams of protein!

  • 4oz of Trader Joe’s Just Chicken = 33.3 grams of protein
  • 1/4 cup black beans = 1.7 grams of protein
  • 1 cup acorn squash = 1.1 grams of protein
  • 1 cup spinach = 2.9 grams of protein (who knew?!)

PaleOMG Getting Familiar With My Protein Intake

This was a breakfast I made the other day. This meal included 20.4grams of protein!

  • I first put 3oz of smoked salmon on my plate, but I couldn’t finish it. So I ate 2oz = 15 grams of protein
  • 1/4 cup Trader Joe’s black bean dip = 4 grams of protein
  • 1 cup acorn squash = 1.1 grams of protein
  • 1/2 cup arugula = .3 grams of protein

PaleOMG Getting Familiar With My Protein Intake

For this quick lunch I had 32.9 grams of protein!

  • 3oz of Trader Joe’s Just Chicken = 25 grams of protein
  • 1/4 cup Trader Joe’s black bean dip = 4 grams of protein
  • 1 cup spinach = 2.9 grams of protein
  • 2 tbsp kalamata olive hummus = 1 gram of protein

PaleOMG Getting Familiar With My Protein Intake

Now this was a snack I made one day when I was trying to get more protein in. It included 9.3 grams of protein!

  • 1/4 cup (27 grams) of GF rolled outs = 4 grams of protein
  • 1/4 cup fat free oat milk = .8 grams of protein
  • 10 grams of plant based protein powder = 4.5 grams of protein

PaleOMG Getting Familiar With My Protein Intake

I made this meal for dinner one night and it included 29.5 grams of protein!

  • 4.5oz of St Louis Pork Ribs = 21.4 grams of protein
  • 1/4 cup Trader Joe’s black bean dip = 4 grams of protein
  • 1 carrot = 0.7 grams of protein
  • 1 orange bell pepper = 0.5 grams of protein
  • 1 cup spinach = 2.9 grams of protein

PaleOMG Getting Familiar With My Protein Intake

For this meal, I mixed things up with my main protein source using a shrimp burger and it included 23.6 grams of protein!

  • 4oz Trader Joe’s Shrimp Burger = 13 grams of protein
  • 1/4 cup (64 grams) Trader Joe’s black bean dip = 4 grams of protein
  • 1 tbsp hemp hearts = 3 grams of protein
  • 6 Divina roasted tomatoes = 1 gram of protein
  • 3/4 cup cauliflower puree = 2.6 grams of protein

PaleOMG Getting Familiar With My Protein Intake

For this meal, it was a pretty standard meal that I’m eating most days and it included 31.7 grams of protein!

  • 3oz 96/4 cooked ground beef = 25.7 grams of protein
  • 1/4 cup Fillo’s cuban black beans = 3.5 grams of protein
  • 6 Divina roasted tomatoes = 1 gram of protein
  • 1/2 cup cooked kale = 1.5 grams of protein

PaleOMG Getting Familiar With My Protein Intake

And this was a meal I purchased from a restaurant and took home to weigh out then added some beans to it. It included 32 grams of protein!

  • 4oz bulgogi= 28 grams of protein
  • 1/4 cup A Dozen Cousins cuban black beans = 3 grams of protein
  • 2oz kimchi = 1 grams of protein

PaleOMG Getting Familiar With My Protein Intake

After a little less than a week of increasing my protein, I’m feeling great so far! Since I don’t weigh myself and that’s usually the most helpful indicator if diet change is working, Michaela recommended I take some measurements around my waist and legs to see if I see a change in those numbers with time. I still haven’t done that, but I plan to this week! But something I have noticed is that my waist feels smaller, surprisingly. Leading up to this change, I was dealing with some bloating and I don’t normally experience that. I hadn’t changed anything with my diet and I couldn’t get it to go away…until I increased my protein. Ever since I have felt far less bloated! It’s so interesting!

Something else I’ve been adding in that I haven’t done since my CrossFit competition days is protein shakes! I’m using Four Sigmatic Plant Based Protein mixed with oat milk. I stay away from dairy as much as possible since I have such acne-prone skin, so I’ve been using Four Sigmatic Peanut Butter or Cacao plant based protein that includes 5 different plant sources and has 18g of protein per scoop! I’ve been doing that for the last week and I really like it! If you’re having trouble getting enough protein in, I would recommend adding in a little extra at meals and you can also eat it as snacks throughout the day, too! Since I eat beans for every snack these days, that has really helped my protein levels, as well as GF oats! Then I love adding hemp hearts as a nutty and crunchy topper on top of my meals for added protein!

I’m going to keep you updated as I try this out the next few months and let you know how it goes! But if you ever want one-on-one help, definitely contact Michaela! She sometimes has openings for clients and she’s so insightful, helpful, and one of the kindest people I’ve met. I met her years ago when we were both in the CrossFit circuit and we’ve been online friends ever since! She helps her clients meet their strength and physical goals, and she’s one of the most inspiring women (and mother of FOUR!) that I’ve ever known. I can’t recommend her enough!

When I decided to start tracking, I was really nervous I would start getting super obsessive with all my numbers, but I think I’m in a phase of life where those other numbers don’t stress me out. I simply pay attention to my protein amounts and fiber, as well, and then I just go about my day as usual. Yes, it’s taking more time to weigh out my protein and track it in the app, but it’s felt productive and exciting so far! Hopefully it stays that way. I’ll keep you updated! And let me know if you have any questions in the comment section below!

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  1. Liza says:

    Good for you! I was wondering when you would realize you needed more protein. Putting on muscle is not easy for anyone especially for those who have worked out for years. Reality is you need to be eating at maintenance or slight surplus and you have to weight train with progressive overload not circuit train style as that more like cardio and if you tire yourself out you won’t be able to lift as heavy on the main lifts. Well you know – Booty by Brett’s workouts focus on straight sets and resting between so you can lift heavy on your next go. They are not as fun as your circuit style but they do work for muscle building. I naturally like to eat 4 times per day so I split my protein up amongst those meals. I am the opposite of you as I only need 110 grams of protein but I have a tough time getting it under 130 as once you get used to eating higher protein it is so much more satisfying and can easily be done with whole foods. Beans also have a good amount of protein so that is a bonus for you. Good luck and enjoy the process!

    1. juli says:

      that’s funny, i find that style so much more fun than circuit style!!

  2. Victoria says:

    Love this post! Also made me instantly want to go to Trader Joe’s. I have been tracking protein as well and I was amazed how low mine started off as. Wanted to know, what Oat milk do you like? Just recently tried it and like it so much better than almond but trying to find a good brand.

    1. Liz says:

      I personally like the Oatly oat milk. My nephews can’t drink milk and they like the Pacific Brand oat milk. Their dad got the Oatly and they hated it so I drank it (waste not want not) and liked it even as a dairy lover, though to be fair I don’t drink that much milk, just cheese and cream.

    2. juli says:

      i love Oatly and Malk!

  3. Damaris says:

    Hi Juli, you look amazing! Please let us know where you got your orange cardigan sweater!

  4. Amelia says:

    Such a fun experiment! I think the human body is so fascinating and fun to manipulate our food. We are all so bio individual so it’s cool to see what works for one person vs another. I’m glad you’re liking your results and have only experienced positive results. Do you pay any attention to fat or just kinda ignore it? I noticed you mentioned in your stories at one point that you tend to eat fat separately from your beans. I notice that my digestion is much quicker when I eat lower fat. I guess there is less to hold it up in the gut? Thank you so much for sharing. Cheers to feeling good and glowing from the inside out!

    1. juli says:

      no, i never even look at my carbs or fat, only protein and fiber!

  5. Denise says:

    This is so helpful!! Trying to do this too and it just really breaks it down perfectly ! Thanks Juli!! ❤️

  6. Emily says:

    Hi Juli, you really inspire me, thank you for sharing this about your protein!!! I also have a hard time building muscle, I’ve been using MyFitnessPal to track it as well which helps, and I can’t wait to try your meal and snack ideas. I love that you eat a lot of different veggies and beans, I do too! However, according to MyFitnessPal I eat too much fiber. Do you find that it tells you that you eat too much too? Do you ever have to try to reduce your fiber, or do you just say fuck it and give me my veggies and beans?! Thanks for your advice!

    1. juli says:

      how much are you eating? i normally eat anywhere between 20-40 grams and i’m happy with that. it says it’s too much, but i really don’t care lol

  7. Kim says:

    ok so here goes…. this is probably a really stupid question but I think i may be calculating my protein wrong. I weigh out my protein for 4 ounces and my scale says that it’s 114 grams. So if I’m eating 4 ounces every meal is this not high or am I doing this wrong? #imnotverygoodatmath 🙂 I also second guess every move I make when it comes to my nutrition.

    1. juli says:

      what you’ll want to do is weigh out your cooked protein on the scale – say it says 4 ounces of baked chicken. You’ll go into your nutritional calculator, like my fitness pal and look up baked chicken and set it to ounces, then you’ll be able to see how many grams of protein is in 4 ounces of chicken!

  8. Olivia says:

    HI. Thank you for always sharing. I have started the bean protocol because you shared and want to add more protein and FIBER. Two questions- where/ what brand is your 96% lean ground beef (I currently subscribe to Butcher Box) and how can I get more fiber in (eating 1/4c beans 3x a day)?

    1. juli says:

      i have no idea what the brand is, but i get it from whole foods!

  9. M. Kendell says:

    I hope that anyone struggling with their “weight” took note of the fact that you haven’t weighed yourself in 8 years!! That is incredible and I applaud you for mentioning it. In my personal journey I have always done better judging my progress by how I look in the mirror and how I am feeling. Chasing a number (weight) has never given me the results I desired. My perfect version of myself is someone who looks and feels great; not someone who weighs a certain number. The BMI they use at the doctors office is primarily based off of height and weight and does NOT take into account your overall health or fitness level. It took a long time to separate that thinking to a more accurate vision of health and wellness. Juli, keep up the incredible content and thanks for inspiring all to achieve our personal goals through a realistic approach. Nothing happens overnight. Life goals!

    1. juli says:

      thank you so much for the kind words! we are taught from a young age that a number should be a deciding factor in how we feel about ourselves and it’s a hard idea to break past. but once you do, life becomes so much more fun!