Updated: May 19
There is one macronutrient that anyone who is serious about their fitness journey will obsess over—protein! Protein is important in many physiological processes including weight loss. Studies show that higher protein consumption can increase satiety, increase thermogenesis, and improve metabolic profile (1, 2). All humans need protein to stay alive and protein is an essential macronutrient for staying in an anabolic state and encouraging hypertrophy. It is recommended to get anywhere from .5-1g of protein per pound of body weight. If you’re weighing 200 lbs, that’s a whopping 200g of protein you need to consume to repair and rebuild the muscle tissue you’re aiming to grow.
Having more muscle means becoming stronger and faster, having a better metabolism, and becoming more aesthetic. However, where exactly are you supposed to get this protein from? Sure your protein shake can rapidly add 50g, but nothing can beat eating whole nutrient-rich foods for your gains. Some of the foods on this list are leaner than others, meaning they are higher in protein content than other nutrients, some can be higher in other nutrients like fat. Here’s a list of 10 protein-rich foods:
There’s no need to Rocky Balboa raw eggs in the morning but including eggs into your diet is a great way to get protein. Eggs are a source of cholesterol, protein, Choline, Biotin, Vitamin A, and Antioxidants. You might think, what about the cholesterol? There is research that shows that food cholesterol has a small effect on blood levels of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol in the body; but of course, everything is in moderation. 1 cooked egg supplies you with 6g of protein.
Fish is an amazing source of protein and is typically leaner than red meats. It is filled with omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins. It’s also rich in various minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium. Fish can range in fat content, from leaner fish like swordfish or fatty fish like salmon. Let’s take Salmon for example, 100g can provide you with an impressive 20g of protein and is a great source of those omega-3 fats shown to help prevent heart disease and stroke and offer protection from cancers.
3. Greek Yogurt
Greek Yogurt is an excellent source of calcium for bone health. It also contains probiotics crucial for gut health. If you didn’t know, 120g of Greek Yogurt nourishes you with 17g of protein. I like to have this for breakfast or as an after-dinner treat with fresh fruit added to it. Avoid adding granola, which can add sneaky unwanted calories.
4. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is another excellent source of calcium which can aid in the prevention of osteoporosis. It can also help regulate your blood pressure, and provide probiotics, and provide vitamins and minerals. I personally often go for a low-fat and low-sodium option, as regular cottage cheese can contain a lot. 1 cup of cottage cheese provides you with an outstanding 28g of protein.
Quinoa although a seed, is perhaps considered the ultimate whole grain. It is a great source of fiber, is packed with various nutrients such as manganese and iron, and contains antioxidants. Quinoa is naturally gluten-free and therefore a great option for those with a gluten intolerance or sensitivity. One cooked cup of Quinoa provides 8g of protein and 5g of fiber, compared to one cooked cup of rice which provides 4.3g of protein and .6g of fiber.
6. Chicken or Turkey
Poultry is generally considered a leaner option than red meats. Chicken and Turkey provide important nutrients such as protein, niacin, selenium, and phosphorus. 140g of Chicken provides 38g of protein (19g of Fat) and 100g of Turkey provides 29g of protein (7g of Fat). Turkey is typically the leanest of the two options.
Lentils have been shown to lower blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood glucose. It is a legume high in fiber content, and minerals such as selenium, iron, and potassium. 1 cooked cup of lentils can provide you with 17.9g of protein, who knew?!
8. Peanut butter
A lot of people can get down with peanut butter. Although not a very lean source of protein, I like adding it to protein shakes and as a topping on protein pancakes. Not all kinds of peanut butter are created equal. Some have a high sugar and other additive content. Opt out for a more natural and organic version. Peanut butter supplies vitamin E, magnesium, iron, selenium, and vitamin B6. 2 tablespoons or 32g of peanut butter provides 8g of protein (16g Fat).
Nuts contain a plethora of nutrients such as magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, manganese, and copper among others. 1oz of mixed nuts contains 5g of protein (16g Fat). The leanest of the nuts are pistachios providing 6g of protein and 13g of fat. Nuts make the best on-the-go snack for a quick supply of protein and energy from fats.
10. Red meat
Red meat provides iron, and zinc, and is one of the main sources of vitamin B12 in the diet. However, It can be high in saturated fats and have a higher sodium content, and is often more difficult to digest so moderation is important. Nevertheless, it is a complete protein which means it provides all the essential amino acids humans need. For example, 113g of 80% lean ground beef provides 19g of protein. Other types of red meat include beef, pork, venison, lamb, and bison, some sources being leaner options than others.
Before starting any fitness program or making dietary changes, including supplementation, please consult your physician for a thorough examination.
Paddon-Jones D, Westman E, Mattes RD, Wolfe RR, Astrup A, Westerterp-Plantenga M. Protein, weight management, and satiety. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008 May;87(5):1558S-1561S. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/87.5.1558S. PMID: 18469287.
Johnston CS, Day CS, Swan PD. Postprandial thermogenesis is increased 100% on a high-protein, low-fat diet versus a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet in healthy, young women. J Am Coll Nutr. 2002 Feb;21(1):55-61. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2002.10719194. PMID: 11838888.