A Basic High Protein Foods Diet Plan For Beginners

What you need to know about protein

Proteins are organic compounds made up of complex chains of amino acids. These molecules form the third macronutrient of the body after carbohydrates and fats and are building blocks of musculoskeletal tissues, skin, hair, nails, and blood. These structures also code for the genetic makeup of various hormones, enzymes, and chemicals that keep the vital processes happening in our body.

The main role of these macronutrients is to build and repair damaged tissues and  to provide energy to the body. Unlike carbohydrates and fats, these nutrients do not have a specific storage space, so it is very important  to have them planned and placed in our daily  meals for them to be available as and when required.1 

There are 20 amino acids in the body that code for various structures of proteins that basically performs every function in the body ranging from making cells to complex reactions in cells to the movement of muscles and the flowing of blood through blood vessels.

Moreover, healing wounds and scar formation takes place with the help of proteins. However, amongst these 20 amino acids, not all of them are made up in our body and thus, are required to be consumed in our routine meals. These amino acids are known as essential amino acids while the ones that are made in our body are non-essential amino acids. The essential amino acids are available from the animal-based diet that includes dairy and meat products whilst non-essential amino acids are available from both plant and animal sources.1

The minimum recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for people of age groups is 0.8kg/bw (body weight) whilst, in the UK reference nutrient intake (RNI) has been recommended to be 0.7g/ kg/bw. These recommendations have been set up keeping in check the nitrogen balance in the body and show variation in different people depending upon the physical activity level (PAL). The higher the PAL, the more nitrogen retention in the body and the lesser the protein requirement in the body.

Moreover, depending upon the age and health status of an individual, the muscle mass decreases from the fourth decade of life. People become prone to chronic illness due to changing physiological conditions of the body, including weakening of the immune system and muscle wasting (decrease in muscle mass). Altogether, the findings in related articles, showcase the importance and consideration of age, health conditions, and PAL while planning a protein-rich diet.2

It has been traditionally assumed that vegetarian and vegan diets lack the optimum protein levels and do not have enough protein resources as non-vegetarians do. However, with an increase in awareness related to health and economic concerns that have been associated with an animal-based protein diet compared to plant-based protein diet that includes a range of pulses, seeds, legumes, and green leafy vegetables.3

It has been evaluated that meal plans with higher content of animal-based proteins such as meat, egg, dairy products, and whey proteins increase the risk of chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and certain cancers. Also, it faces ecological debate in context to the requirement of more land and transportation expenses for its production and supply, leading to higher emissions of greenhouse gases causing a detrimental impact on the environment in the longer run.2

High protein foods diet plan for beginners

Muscle wasting, inability to sustain and thrive the body during exercise, decrease in immunity, fluid and electrolyte imbalance are the major signs of protein deficiency and it is that point wherein, a diet plan should be planned focussing more on high protein foods balanced with healthy carbohydrates and fats to gain muscle mass. The protein intake should gradually increase in a diet plan, as every individual responds differently to the amounts of proteins that are consumed. It is advisable to follow the RDA of protein that is suggestive of the following amount of proteins in grams needed each day for different age groups.4 

  Table 1 Recommended dietary allowance for different age groups1

In the UK, it is advisable to consume 0.75 grams of protein per kilogram the body weight as suggested by RNI, making an average daily intake of proteins of 55g and 45g of protein for men and women respectively. Also, for athletes and people under strength training exercises, it is recommended to have it in the range of 1.2-1.4 and 1.4 to 1.8g per kilogram of body weight in a day. The diet plan varies for people who have different goals with respect to weight management wherein for weight maintenance, 20% of the diet should contain protein while for weight loss it is up to 25%.5 

Meals should be planned in accordance with the amount of protein in each. Some examples of how to get your dietary protein below.  


  • A whole grain toast topped up with tomatoes and mushrooms with a poached egg contributing to about 5 grams of protein
  • Low-fat greek yoghurt with fruit salad and cereal can give 2 grams of protein per tablespoon
  • 30g of unsalted almonds contains nearly 6 grams of protein, which can boost up the protein in a vegan diet


  • A green salad platter with a bit of spice and high on legumes such as chickpeas offers a great meal in a vegetarian or vegan diet offering nearly 9g of protein per can
  • Tuna fish and different parts of tuna meat with seasoning contribute to 20 grams of protein
  • Chicken breasts make up a good meal that would satiate hunger contributing to 30 grams of protein each day offering a better alternative for weight loss plans


It is highly advisable to follow a 2-hour meal plan as it is always good for the metabolic system and can increase muscle mass at a faster pace. These 2-hour meal plans highly focus on protein-rich snacks such as protein bars and peanut butter with celery sticks, offering a tasty quick pick of 6 grams of protein per tablespoon.5 


For dinner, animal-based protein meals can be  heavy-load meals for the digestive system. Research shows casein protein to be the best meal right before sleep as it does not affect the sleeping patterns and is also absorbed at a slower rate in the bloodstream during the night keeping the muscles in an anabolic state.6

  • Plant-based protein such as fresh salad with olive oil, coupled with cottage cheese(15 grams) or tofu preparation (20g protein). 
  • Greek yoghurt, smoothies or shakes topped up with strawberries could be good pre-sleep snacks.

High protein meals and weight loss has been long debated and discussed through various studies and has shown promising results, as it has been proven that protein has a satiating effect on the digestive system, making one feel content after  a meal. This diet has been highly recommended for people with metabolic syndrome who experience symptoms including, lowering of good cholesterol (high-density lipoproteins), cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and diabetes mellitus, which balances the diet low on carbohydrates and fats and high on proteins.7 

The replacement of a low carbohydrate diet with high proteins and fats leads to a popular diet plan, the ketogenic diet which works on the principle of restricting the diet to 20-50mg of carbohydrates per day with that of proteins, which will increase the mobilisation of fat and increase the satiety response leading to an overall reduction in hunger.8 

Ketogenic diet:

What to have?

  1. Green leafy vegetables
  2. Vegetables growing above the ground such as broccoli, cauliflower, and so on,
  3. Nuts and seeds
  4. Avocadoes
  5. Berries 
  6. Fats like saturated fat that range from meat and dairy products, coconut oil, and so on
  7. Almond butter is a highly recommended butter alternative for people allergic to peanut butter and can gain 6 grams of protein surplus fat 

What not to have?

  1. Fruits
  2. Grains
  3. Sugars 
  4. Vegetables that are grown below the ground such as potatoes and yams

However, as promising as the ketogenic diet appears, the high protein diet can cause severe effects on liver metabolism and can affect muscle wasting as well.9 Thus, a gradual increase in a high-protein diet along with changes in physical activity under the guidance of a qualified nutritionist and doctor is highly advisable.


What happens if your protein is low

Protein is the third major macronutrient in the body and not only does its deficiency have an impact on other systems but it also causes changes in the regulation and balance of micronutrients such as folic acid and vitamin A. Protein is an essential counterpart for the absorption and digestion of food, thus it impairs several metabolic processes and further leads to hormonal imbalances. Following, is a  list of the signs and symptoms that can arise due to protein deficiency10

  • Hormonal dysregulation of insulin 
  • Poor cognitive development
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Impaired immunity
  • Anaemia
  • Loss of libido 
  • Emotional and psychological disturbances
  • Loss of hair and dental abnormalities
  • Advanced ageing 
  • Improper foetus development
  • Stunted growth in children
  • Loss of calcium and bones in old age patients

How can I increase my protein quickly?

Protein synthesis and maintenance plays a vital role in increasing the protein levels in the body at a faster and steady pace, without burdening the metabolic system. Following is a list of comparisons between animal and plant-based proteins.11 

  1. Animal protein is much faster for protein synthesis compared to plant-based protein
  2. Whey protein in cheese and yoghurt is a quicker protein and has shown better effects on protein synthesis, anabolism after one meal compared to milk protein such as casein that is received from dairy products
  3. Protein that is consumed on spread feeding patterns that is consumed in little amounts throughout the day is better retained compared to mid-day proteins, however it shows opposite effects in females
  4. Sources of essential amino acids along with increase in omega 3 fatty acid supplementation consumption increased overall protein making, movement and retention in muscles
  5. In the resistance type strength training exercise the time of protein consumption plays a vital role and has been proven to be better consumed following the exercise to increase its duration of retention in muscle mass 


Protein is one of the three major nutrients and is trickier to balance, ingest, and retain as there is no storage space for it. Consumption of right amount of protein depending upon age, health status, physical activity, diet and type of lifestyle are vital factors that requires smart innervation from the person following the regime as well as the nutritionist who is planning and checking up on it. Clinical follow ups to monitor its level through the levels of micronutrients is a following step which should not be overlooked. Discard of carbohydrates concomitant with increase in fats and proteins to lose the muscle mass has its own detrimental effect on over longer run. Hence, the triad of amount, sources and timings makes protein regime varied and successful for different individual from different age groups.


  1. PROTEIN [Internet]. 2010.
  2. Lonnie M, Hooker E, Brunstrom JM, Corfe BM, Green MA, Watson AW, et al. Protein for Life: Review of Optimal Protein Intake, Sustainable Dietary Sources and the Effect on Appetite in Ageing Adults. Nutrients [Internet]. 2018 [cited 2023 Jan 24]; 10(3):360.
  3. Mariotti F, Gardner CD. Dietary Protein and Amino Acids in Vegetarian Diets—A Review. Nutrients [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2023 Jan 25]; 11(11):2661.
  4. Carbone JW, Pasiakos SM. Dietary Protein and Muscle Mass: Translating Science to Application and Health Benefit. Nutrients [Internet]. 2019 [cited 2023 Jan 27]; 11(5):1136.
  5. High protein diet plan for weight loss [Internet]. www.weightwatchers.com. [cited 2023 Jan 27].
  6. This Is Why Every Athlete Should Eat Protein Before Bed [Internet]. Spartan Race. [cited 2023 Jan 27].
  7. ‌Campos-Nonato I, Hernandez L, Barquera S. Effect of a High-Protein Diet versus Standard-Protein Diet on Weight Loss and Biomarkers of Metabolic Syndrome: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Obes Facts [Internet]. 2017 [cited 2023 Jan 27]; 10(3):238–51.
  8. The Life Co.The Basics of Ketogenic Diet [Internet].2022[cited 2023 Jan 27].
  9. Wu G. Dietary protein intake and human health. Food Funct [Internet]. 2016 [cited 2023 Jan 27]; 7(3):1251–65. 
  10. Bauer J, Biolo G, Cederholm T, Cesari M, Cruz-Jentoft AJ, Morley JE, et al. Evidence-Based Recommendations for Optimal Dietary Protein Intake in Older People: A Position Paper From the PROT-AGE Study Group. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association [Internet]. 2013 [cited 2023 Jan 27]; 14(8):542–59.
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Kanisha Mehta

Master of Science in Biomedical Sciences (Immunology) at the University of Westminster, Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS), Saurashtra University, India

I am Kanisha, a graduate biomedical researcher and a former dentist. As a health professional, I have read, written, heard, and seen many stories of patients going through an array of ailments such as oral diseases, cancers, and nutritional deficiencies and I consider it a moral duty to spread awareness regarding this ailment which starts off small and turns up taking a bigger picture. I hope with this piece of article you could make the right choice of steps needed to be taken for prevention and cure.

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