Usually when we think of protein for hair, we think about topical treatments like hair-masks. But, eating protein for hair growth is so critical when it comes to growing and maintaining thick, beautiful, healthy hair.
That’s because each strand of our hair is made up of a protein called keratin and the raw materials for growth literally come from the protein-rich foods we intake. Without adequate intake of protein for our hair, or with impaired protein digestion and absorption, our hair will suffer.
As important as your hair may be to you, from the perspective of your body it’s pretty low on its to-do list. To be fair, given that your body is concerned with keeping up with the functions that maintain life, growing hair doesn’t seem like a priority. That’s why we can’t skate-by eating the minimum amount of protein for very long. Eventually our body will need to make a choice where to allocate the little bit of nutrition you’re offering it through your diet, and other functions (like growing hair) may get scaled back or eliminated entirely.
How to Make Sure Your Eating Enough Protein for Hair Growth
I’ve surveyed my Instagram following (which is made up of a majority women) and learned that many of them struggle to eat enough total calories and protein. This comes as no surprise to me that these two would go hand in hand; without eating enough calories for your body type and activity levels you likely are not eating enough protein for hair growth.
Once you know how many calories you should be eating (check out the blog article linked above for tips on calculating this number), the next question is how to allocate your macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. You might have heard macronutrients referred to as “macros” before, and typically the way that they are talked about in the nutrition and fitness world is in terms of percent of your total calories (eg 20%, 30%, 50% carbohydrates, etc.). Unless you’re someone who is tracking your food intake using an app, it can be tough to manage protein intake that way. So, here’s what I like to do instead. For most women who are experiencing hair loss, a good protein goal is 1-gram protein per 1 pound of body weight. For example, if you’re a 150lb woman, that means aiming for 150 grams of protein per day.
What Should I Be Eating to Get Enough Protein For Hair Growth?
Amino acids are nutrients derived from the protein in your diet. They’re critical to your well-being and support everything from hormone and neurotransmitter synthesis, to collagen and healthy hair growth.
The amino acid cysteine is an important component of keratin, the protein that makes up a strand of hair. Cysteine is classified as a nonessential amino acid – not because it’s not super important to hair growth and other functions – but because our body can use different amino acids (for example, serine or methionine) to produce it. One thing that’s important to point out is that different nutrients are required to produce nonessential amino acids from other proteins that we eat. Looking for high-quality, nutrient dense protein sources such as organic grass-fed beef will help provide more than just protein, but also the nutrients needed to utilize the proteins for hair growth.
One of the top concerns that I hear from clients who are open to eating more protein is that they are not sure what exactly to eat.
What are some high-protein foods I should try eating?
Here is a list of high-protein foods to get you started. It’s important to eat a wide variety of protein sources because each offer a different assortment of amino acids, each with their own important roles in our body. That means not just eating plant-based or animal proteins. It also means not just eating lean, muscle meats but also including organ meats and bone broths. Quality also matters when it comes to protein. For example, I always look for organic, non-GMO protein sources and prioritize those that are locally sourced.
Protein For Hair Growth Inspiration
- Meat: Beef, Chicken, Turkey, Pork, Bacon, Bison, Lamb, Duck, Fish, Shellfish
- Brats/sausages (there are a lot of Paleo options that exclude sugar and nitrates)
- Bone broth (I like some store-bought brands like Kettle & Fire and Pacific Foods but it’s also easy to make your own)
- Organic Pasture-Raised Eggs
- Deli meats (make sure they are gluten/dairy free if you’re avoiding these)
- Cottage Cheese (I’m loving Good Culture rn)
- Nut butters
- Plant-based milks (Good Karma Flax Milk is a good protein source)
- Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides
- Designs For Health PaleoMeal Protein
- OWYN Protein Powder
- Egg White Protein Powder
- Grass-Fed Whey Protein Concentrate
- High-Protein Oatmeal (for example, The GFB Gluten Free Oatmeal, RxBar Oatmeal)
- Paleo Protein Bars (my faves are RXBar, Epic Bars, Perfect Bars)
- Portable Nut Butters (I like squeezable options like Yummbutter, RxBar)
- Epic Oven Baked Pork Rinds
- Yogurt (especially Icelandic skyr or Greek yogurt)
- Paleo Jerky (Epic Bars, Paleovalley, New Primal Classic)
- Protein bites like GFB Bites
- Nuts and seeds (dry roasted or raw are best, as most manufacturers roast in industrial seed oils)
- Canned salmon or tuna (packed in water or oil)
- Hail Merry Tarts/Bars
Just in case you’re looking for a really specific example of what a day eating high protein might look like, here is a sample menu complete with total calories and protein.
Morning Protein Smoothie: 1 Scoop Chocolate Pure Paleo Protein Powder, 2 Scoops Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides, ½ Zucchini, ½ Avocado, ½ Cup Frozen Berries, 1T Hemp Hearts, 1T Ground Flax Seeds
449cals, Protein 50g
Black Coffee, 1T So Delicious Original Coffee Creamer, 2 Scoops Vital Proteins Vanilla Collagen Creamer
155 Cals, Protein 10g
Apple Slices With 2T Yumbutter Protein Almond Butter
245 Cals, Protein 8g
Salad: ½ Cup Quinoa Cooked In Chicken Bone Broth, Grilled Chicken Breast, 1 Cup Spinach, 4 Cherry Tomatoes, 1-Ounce Chickpeas, 3-5 Kalamata Olives, 2T Primal Blueprint Dreamy Italian Dressing
643 Cals, Protein 59g
Rx Protein Bar Chocolate Sea Salt
210cals, Protein 12g
Half Fillet Salmon, Baked
1 Cup Asparagus
½ Cup Brown Rice Cooked In Chicken Bone Broth
357 Cals, 47g Protein
Daily Totals Sample Day
Calories: 2,059 cals
Protein: 186 grams