What’s for breakfast? Or lunch? Or dinner? Those are probably just some of the questions you sit with when deciding what to eat when you’re trying to conceive. Like every fertility journey, every mealtime is unique and meant to support your body, lifestyle, and dietary needs.  

Rather than depriving yourself of all of the good things that make your meals fun, try thinking of nutrition as a way to learn how to have all of your favorites in the right pairings. In this article, we’re focusing specifically on how protein can fold into your everyday meals. Now let’s dive in!

How much protein should you consume in a day?

The amount of protein you should consume in a day really depends on your age, sex, weight, activity level, and overall health status. As a general rule, the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) recommends that adults consume at least 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight every day. However, those who are trying to conceive should consume slightly more — typically between 1 to 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. Let's say you weigh 60 kilograms (132 pounds): Your recommended daily protein intake for optimal fertility would be between 60 to 72 grams of protein per day. Make sense?

woman eating fried eggs

If carbs are your favorite, try not to panic. Even small changes like adding an extra egg to your breakfast plate or a scoop of collagen protein to your morning cup of coffee can make a big difference.  

Why is protein important for fertility?

When it comes to our reproductive health, protein plays a big role, which is why you need more of it when trying to conceive. These are just some of the many benefits of protein for fertility:

  • Hormone Production: Protein is essential for the production of hormones, including reproductive hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. These hormones are crucial for regulating the menstrual cycle and supporting healthy ovulation.

  • Egg Quality: Adequate protein intake is associated with improved egg quality. High-quality proteins provide essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins. These amino acids are necessary for the development and maturation of healthy eggs.

  • Sperm Health: Protein is also important for the production of healthy sperm. Sperm cells require amino acids and other nutrients to develop properly. A diet rich in protein can help maintain optimal sperm count, motility, and morphology. Men, take notes! 

  • Nutrient Absorption: Protein helps facilitate the absorption of other important nutrients involved in fertility, such as vitamins and minerals. It improves nutrient bioavailability, ensuring that essential nutrients are properly absorbed and utilized by the body.

  • Reproductive Organ Health: Protein is crucial for the growth, repair, and maintenance of reproductive organs, including the uterus and ovaries. It provides the necessary amino acids and nutrients to support the health and function of these organs.

  • Blood Sugar Regulation: Protein-rich foods have a minimal impact on blood sugar levels compared to carbohydrates. This helps regulate insulin levels and prevent insulin spikes, which can have a positive effect on reproductive hormone balance and fertility. So, try to pair your carbs with a protein source, if possible. 

If that’s not enough to convince you, protein also helps you feel fuller for longer, helps with weight management, and can even boost your immune system. Waiter, I’ll have the burger. 

woman eating a hamburger

How can you incorporate more protein into your diet?

You’re probably thinking, “Well, that’s great, but how can I actually make sure I’m getting enough protein in my diet?” 

As you may already know, some common sources of animal protein are chicken, turkey, eggs, dairy, and red meats, such as beef, pork, and veal. However, plant-based protein is also an excellent option. In fact, an often-cited study out of Harvard states that plant protein may support fertility more than animal protein! 

You can check the box for plant-based protein when you add legumes (pinto beans, peas, edamame), whole grains (rice, quinoa, oats), nuts (almonds, pecans, cashews), seeds (sesame seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds), corn, or even Brussel sprouts to your regular diet. 

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Protein powder can be an easy and convenient way to add more protein to your diet, but when it comes to protein supplements, ingredients matter. Because everyone’s body is different, make sure you’re selecting a protein source that supports your specific nutrition and fitness goals, and make sure there are no gluten, soy, fillers, artificial flavors, colors, or sweeteners included. 

What are the benefits of protein when trying to conceive?

In case we haven’t reiterated it enough, during the preconception period it’s especially important to make sure your diet includes adequate amounts of protein. Protein not only plays a crucial role in the production of hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle (think LH and FSH), but it’s also needed to produce healthy eggs and sperm and to maintain proper reproductive organ function. 

So, whether it’s adding a dollop of peanut butter to your oatmeal or a few pieces of grilled chicken to your salad, remaining conscious of your protein intake at each meal can offer peace of mind that you’re to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Kristyn Hodgdon is the Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer at Rescripted.