Chances are you’ve heard of protein before.
Protein is the powerhouse responsible for helping you build muscle. It’s also super important for preserving lean muscle tissue during fat loss phases.
Protein is pretty awesome and something you definitely don’t want to skimp on.
In today’s article, I’ll briefly explain the role protein plays in our diets as well as the best sources to get your daily dose.
The Role of Protein
Protein is the most important macronutrient without question.
Proteins are comprised of amino acids which are the building blocks of muscle tissue. When choosing proteins, you should aim to consume complete sources. These sources contain all of the essential amino acids which are why they are the best sources hands down. If you choose incomplete protein sources, you’ll need to combine multiple foods to make a complete protein.
Protein also plays a large role in diet adherence. Protein helps keep you satiated which can be highly beneficial for weight loss and improvements in body composition.
Those looking to maximize muscle gains as well as people aiming for fat loss should be sure to include plenty of protein in their diets.
How Much Do You Need?
Before we get into the best sources of protein, we need to figure out how much protein we should be consuming.
Individual preferences and needs may vary, but some starting guidelines will be helpful.
In general, leaner individuals need a bit more protein because they carry a greater amount of lean tissue (muscle) and less body fat.
Those with higher body fat percentages would do just fine consuming a bit less protein than what’s required for leaner individuals.
Despite these variances, a great place to start is around 0.8-1.0 grams per lb of body weight. Please note this is based on your body weight and not your lean tissue mass. Most people won’t have access to tests that will determine lean tissue mass, so it’s a good bet to use total body weight to set your protein intake.
Contrary to common belief, more than adequate levels of protein are not infinitely better than normal levels. This means you can save your cash on eating double the amount of protein. Around 0.8-1g/lb is plenty.
Simply take your bodyweight and multiply by 0.8-1.0 to get your daily figure. If you’re a 200lb male you would consume 160-200 grams of protein daily. If you’re a 150lb female you would consume 120-150 grams daily.
While it may sound like a lot at first, it’s a lot easier to get adequate protein intake as long as you spread out your total amount through multiple meals per day.
Now, let’s get to the best sources of protein.
Quick note–These protein sources are in no particular order. Many of them are favorites of mine and a few are great options for those on a vegan or vegetarian diet.
Eggs /Egg Whites
Eggs and egg whites are a top level protein source. Not only are they super affordable, but they pack a big protein punch. One whole egg contains around 6 grams of protein, while 3 tablespoons of egg whites are 5 grams of protein.
For those looking to build muscle, whole eggs are a fantastic option. Not only will you get high-quality protein, you’ll also get added fat which will help you hit your calorie targets.
If you’re on a fat loss diet, egg whites should be a staple.
Scramble them up with veggies and cheese, make savory omelets, or hard boil and eat on-the-go.
Probably my favorite protein source, lean ground beef and various lean cuts of steak are great choices to fulfill your protein needs.
Choose lean ground beef that’s 90/10 or higher and cuts of beef such as London broil, top round, flank steak, and filet.
Although I do love a nice juicy rib eye steak, they contain loads more fat and calories. Not every cut of beef is identical in nutritional value so it’s a good idea to choose the leaner cuts.
Chicken and Turkey
Ah, yes. The old bodybuilding staple.
There’s a reason chicken and turkey have been bodybuilding staples for decades. They pack a mean protein punch, are low in fat, and can be cooked many different ways.
They’re also relatively cheap per serving of protein. A 4oz piece of chicken breast brings in around 25g of protein.
Yogurt, Milk, Cottage Cheese
Dairy products are fantastic options for easy protein intake. Milk, greek yogurt, reduced fat or fat-free cheese, and cottage cheese are great additions to a balanced diet.
One of my favorites is Chobani 0% Greek Yogurt with some blueberries and Truvia mixed in. You can also grab milk or greek yogurts on the go for a high-protein portable snack.
Unless you’re lactose intolerant, don’t fear dairy one bit. It can be an easy way to get more protein into your diet.
Whey/Casein Protein Powder
Protein powder is a staple in my diet. Although it’s not 100% required, I enjoy the convenience it provides as well as allowing me to make a delicious ‘pudding’ before bed every night.
Whey protein is a fast digesting protein that is best used before, during, or after a workout. Casein protein, on the other hand, is best saved for periods of time where you won’t be eating, such as overnight.
I love making casein pudding before bed every night to provide me with a sustained release of amino acids for growth and recovery while I sleep. Here’s my recipe:
-25g casein protein powder (My favorite is Dymatize Chocolate)
-1-2 tablespoons Teddie’s Natural Peanut Butter
-Just enough water to get desired consistency
Mix that all together and throw in the freezer for about 10 minutes. It’s a nice treat before bed and can help you crush any sweet cravings you may have.
Tuna, salmon, tilapia, shrimp, crab, lobster.
All of those are fantastic options in the fish/seafood department. They’re all very high in protein and lean as well.
Consider making a shrimp scampi, or some broiled tilapia with a homemade lemon sauce to change up your protein options.
Tofu can be a fantastic protein option for those following vegan or vegetarian diets. Made from soybeans, tofu is a complete protein source that should be a staple in any vegan/vegetarian diet.
Try fermented tofu if you decide to go meat-free.
Boost Your Protein Challenge
Over the next week or so, I want to issue you a challenge.
Can you get in at least one palm-size serving of protein at every meal? For larger males, this might need to be two palm-sized servings.
Do your best to add more protein to your diet and quickly notice the benefits to your training and physique as well.
Plus, who doesn’t want more protein?