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Full Day of Eating: 1g of Protein Per lb & Tips for Staying Lean Year Round

As a strength coach, I often tell my clients that the promised land is when you can eat intuitively to maintain your goal physique. Once you’ve put in the work to build a strong body composition and nutritional foundation, it gets a lot easier to maintain.

Now, I fully acknowledge that this is easier said than done. It takes a lot of time, consistency, and effort to reach this “promised land,” which is why I think most lifters and athletes never get there or they’ll go through yo-yo-like patterns.

Plus, we all start at different points, so I recognize that some are starting from a tougher point than others in the context of learning about nutrition, working with the body composition they possess, and their training.

That said, if your goal is to get lean and STAY lean year-round — it’s completely doable, and you’re capable of achieving it. It’s just a matter of building the right habits and staying consistent on the path of your goals.

As you read this, keep in mind this is how I like eat every day and this article is NOT intended for you to replicate my exact flow of eating or meals. Use this piece of content for ideas, then apply them to your context!

Setting the Stage, How I Approach My Nutrition

It’s important to have guiding pillars with your training, health, and nutrition. These are the pillars that keep you on track and that you base your choices and decisions on.

My nutritional pillars are the combination of 16 years of formal training and eating for my goals, along with 12 years of coaching and personal training. It’s been awesome blending my pillars with client goals to help provide more depth to how I view nutrition.

Pillar 1 | Daily Total Protein Intake Takes Priority

Above all else, whether you’re traveling or doing your normal day-to-day, your daily protein goal should be at the forefront of your nutrition choices throughout your day.

Protein is what will help you build and maintain muscle, and it will assist in lean muscle mass growth and maintenance, especially for those eating in a deficit.

When I first started working out, I’ll admit that I ate way too much protein. I was the classic “more is more” type of lifter and would try to eat 1.5-2g of protein per lb and that was NOT needed — nor comfortable. Oh, the lessons we learn.

Now, I follow the much more sensible protein recommendations that have been laid out in the research by scientists, educators, and nutritionists who are far more educated than the bodybuilding.com forums I used to subscribe to.

For my daily goals, I aim to consume 1g of protein per lb of body weight. Some may say this is still overdoing it, but I think it’s a safe bet for most and it’s what I have my clients do. Plus, this gives you a little variance in the event you do undereat protein some days, it’s not the end of the world if you’re 10-20g shy, for example.

Why it’s a safe bet is because you’ll likely still gain muscle consuming less protein than 1g per lb in the event you don’t hit your goals some days. A paper published in 2015 in the Journal of Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism recommends,

“Current evidence indicates intakes in the range of at least 1.2 to 1.6 g/(kg·day) of high-quality protein is a more ideal target for achieving optimal health outcomes in adults. (1)”

Remember, if you’re in a calorie deficit, you’ll want to air on the higher end of protein intake. If you’re maintaining or in a surplus then you can get away with being on the lower end of on par with 1g of protein per lb.

Full Day of Eating Breakfast Options

Calories Matter, Here’s My Tip for Beginners

Calories obviously matter and if you have no idea how much you should be consuming, then you’ll need to use some tracking when starting out. Figure out your daily goal caloric amount then build meals and snacks using these pillars.

If you’re brand new to this caloric, then you’ll have to track for a few months before you can go autopilot, and this is where pillar four below can help a ton.

I know, it’s a lot of leg work up front if you’re new to this style of eating to achieve your goals. However, remember, once that groundwork is laid down — it’s so much easier to stay the course and turn off your brain in the future. It’s like starting anything as a beginner.

Pillar 2 | Protein Leads My Snack and Meals

With my daily protein intake goal in mind, I then let my protein choices dictate my snacks and meals. This means that I build meals around my protein choice. This makes it easier to construct choices in which I know exactly how much I’m eating and can eat consistently.

What types of proteins do you enjoy the most for snacks, breakfast, lunch, and dinner? You’ll build around these.

For example, I love snacking on Greek yogurt. Once I have my one or two servings of Greek yogurt, which comes out to around 15-30g of protein, I’ll then build onto this with things like granola and fruit. I do this for flavor and pick things that fit into my caloric goals.

If I’m consuming breakfast, then I’ll build my meals around if I’m eating eggs, eggs with some meat, or Greek yogurt. Find what protein sources you like the most, keep an idea of how much protein a serving has, and then construct meals accordingly.

I also love leading meals and snacks with protein because it makes it a lot easier to stay on track with my daily intake goals. Most of my meals are consistent but will vary regarding the flavor and supplemental food — this keeps me on my goal without burntout.

Pillar 3 | I Don’t Overthink Small Details

When we start out, it’s normal and easy to overthink things that seemingly feel like big deals but, in reality, aren’t probably what we should be stressed about.

For example, consuming protein immediately post-workout used to stress me out. However, I’ve since ditched my “immediate” mindset with this because the “anabolic window,” AKA the timeframe in which our body will most efficiently utilize protein for muscle growth, is much larger than we think.

Research has suggested that this anabolic window lasts for multiple hours following a training session, so if you have to do life post-workout and can’t eat right after — that’s okay. (2) You’re not losing gains; don’t let that detail take away from your daily happiness.

Full Day of Eating Snack Options

Another aspect to avoid stressing out about is the topic of how much protein our body can utilize in one meal. Research has suggested that the body has a range in which it will most efficiently use the protein we consume at each meal. (3)

For most lifters and athletes, as long as they spread out their protein throughout the day, they’re likely efficiently utilizing it for muscular growth and repair. Note that this may be different for them if they fast for prolonged periods.

The big takeaway here is that it’s not that these things don’t necessarily matter, it’s just not the stuff that I think is worth stressing about if you’re not consistent in the first place. Don’t get hung up on small details if the foundation hasn’t been built.

Caveat: If you get more specific with your goals and training, then come back to this and address it accordingly. For example, if you’re doing two-a-days, then yes, your protein and meal timing can have more relevancy. For most, though, just be consistent and hit the basics.

Pillar 4 | Staple Meals Are a Cheat Code

Every day, I eat roughly the same breakfast, lunch, and snacks with some variance within each to keep things fresh. In terms of variance, I mean things like the types of meat and veggies I’ll add to my breakfast omelet and the type of carb I consume (oatmeal, rice, potato, etc.).

Staple meals are fantastic because if you can build meals that you know you enjoy and that you won’t get burnt out with, then you can somewhat mindlessly go about your days without stressing intake goals.

You’ll know exactly how much you’re consuming and how said meals will make you feel post-consumption. I like to do breakfast, snacks, and lunch for these staple meals because I’m working and busy throughout my days and don’t feel like thinking about what I’m eating.

I want something that’s going to help me achieve my goals, but also open up my dinners for more variance. This is the classic 80/20 or 90/10 mindset. I’m eating the same stuff (call it “clean”) for 80-90% of the time, then keep 10-20% open for variety that could include dinners and drinks with friends some nights (within reason, obviously).

If you haven’t built your staple meals yet, lead with pillars 1-2 above to help dictate how much each of these staples should include regarding protein and calorie amount. Remember, subtle variance is key with these staples to avoid burnout. You do NOT need to eat the exact same meal every single day.

Your Flow of Meals Should Be Individual

I ebb and flow my meals based on my work and training schedule, and I’d suggest you do the same. There’s no hard and fast rule about having to eat on a traditional schedule that our society uses.

For example, I like eating a light protein snack before doing my head down morning work, then I’ll have my bigger breakfast meal after a few hours on my computer before I go train. Plug and play here to find a flow that works.

I’d suggest trying out different means of eating for a few weeks at a time so you can realistically and accurately track how that flow works for your day-to-day. If you’re varying every day it can be tougher to find a good flow.

My Normal Full Day of Eating

Author’s Note: To keep this example as realistic as possible, I’ll highlight how I track calories and protein and let the rest of my macros populate accordingly. I’m also not going to include my vegetable intake as that varies a TON for me.

Pre Breakfast Snack

  • 7:30ish AM: 2 servings of non-fat or 1-2% Greek Yogurt with a banana
    • Calories: 250
    • Protein: 30g of protein

Breakfast (early lunch)

  • 10:30-11 AM: 3 eggs, 1/4 lb lean ground beef (93/7), bag of brown rice, 1 serving of shredded cheddar cheer
    • Calories: 760ish
    • Protein: ~55g

Lunch (post-workout)

  • 1:30-2 PM: 1/2 lb lean ground beef (93/7), potato (I’ve been loving Yukon gold with some light butter lately), 1 serving of shredded cheddar cheese, and 1-2 pieces of fruit (banana, watermelon, kiwis, etc.)
    • Calories: 800
    • Protein: 60g

Dinner

  • 6-7 PM: 1/2 Sirloin steak, potato (with some butter and ground cinnamon, think Texas Roadhouse style!), some vegetable (usually asparagus, broccoli, or Brussels sprouts)
    • Calories: 680ish
    • Protein: 50g

Post-Dinner Snack (this varies A LOT)

  • 8 PM: Bag of Masa Chips, 1 serving of light shredded cheddar cheese
    • Calories: 600
    • Protein: 20g

My Daily Totals

To maintain my body composition and weight, I need to consume around 3-3.1k calories. If I train really hard, have a crazy busy day, or do a two-a-day I’ll increase my daily consumption to about 3.5k calories, and my protein goal is around 180 grams.

  • Daily Total Calories: 3,090
  • Protein Total: 235g (went over, big deal)

Takeaway Points

We all want to get to the promised land when it comes to eating to maintain a body composition that we’re happy with. As you progress along your training journey it’s normal to ebb and flow with your nutritional habits regarding meals and meal times.

It can be incredibly productive to build nutritional pillars and then base your daily eating decisions on those. This can help you hit that “auto-pilot” style of eating and allow you to have a guilt-free mindset when you have occasions where you stray from your consistent flow.

If you have questions on this article or how to build your flow of eating, drop a comment below or reach out via Instagram.

References

1.Phillips SM, Chevalier S, Leidy HJ. Protein “requirements” beyond the RDA: implications for optimizing health. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2016 May;41(5):565-72. doi: 10.1139/apnm-2015-0550. Epub 2016 Feb 9. Erratum in: Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. 2022 May;47(5):615. PMID: 26960445.

2. Schoenfeld BJ, Aragon A, Wilborn C, Urbina SL, Hayward SE, Krieger J. Pre- versus post-exercise protein intake has similar effects on muscular adaptations. PeerJ. 2017 Jan 3;5:e2825. doi: 10.7717/peerj.2825. Erratum in: PeerJ. 2017 Aug 1;5: PMID: 28070459; PMCID: PMC5214805.

3. Schoenfeld BJ, Aragon AA. How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2018 Feb 27;15:10. doi: 10.1186/s12970-018-0215-1. PMID: 29497353; PMCID: PMC5828430.

Jake Boly, CSCS, MS Sports Science

Jake Boly, CSCS, MS Sports Science

Jake Boly is the Founder and Editor-In-Chief of That Fit Friend. He's often regarded to as a go-to resource in various performance shoe communities. He’s been formally reviewing shoes and training gear for over 7 years and has hand-tested over 400 pairs of shoes. Jake is known on the internet and YouTube for blending his review process with his educational, strength sports, and personal training background.

Jake has a Masters in Sports Science, a Bachelors in Exercise Science, a CSCS, and he's been personal training for over 10 years helping hundreds of clients get stronger, lose weight, and accomplish their goals. He uses his exercise science brain and personal training background to make curated and thoughtful review content on the fitness gear he's testing.

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