Us fitbros know we need lots of it. It’s how we make our gainz after all. I mean, it’s not like you see dudes slamming shaker bottles full of olive oil post-workout.
And fortunately or unfortunately, depending how you look at it, the food industry is catching on to how much we need protein as well. Everywhere you look you see products labeled “High Protein!” or something like that.
It’s great that companies are responding to the publics calls for more protein in their food. But they’re cheating. They’re taking advantage of the fact that most people don’t know what “high protein” actually is.
In order to make sure my fellow bros are as informed as possible when it comes to our precious protein, I put together a list of the 5 best and worst protein sources you can buy.
My criteria for ranking was mainly the percentage of calories that come from protein. I didn’t factor in things like cost (because that varies depending on where you buy) and taste (because that’s highly individual); just pure protein-ness.
#1 – Skinless Chicken/Turkey Breast
These two birds claim the top spot because they really can’t be beat. One 4 oz serving of either will yield you between 25-30g of protein. Not only that but protein makes up nearly 100% of their calories.
A lot of people’s knock on chicken and turkey is that it’s dry and tasteless. And to that I say, stop being so damn lazy. There are literally hundreds of different spices and rubs out there that don’t contain any calories, as well marinades that contain minimal or zero calories. Experiment and find something you like.
#2 Egg Whites
From a pure protein standpoint, egg whites should be first on the list as their calories come exclusively from protein. You are however a bit more limited in their usage.
I rank egg whites as #2 however because they make an excellent protein filler. Fillers are what I call the foods that if you are way behind on a certain macro for the day, they’ll help you fill the gap without filling you up.
Egg whites can be made into a scramble, omelet, or blended into a protein shake for an extra protein kick. Just 3 tiny tablespoons of egg whites contains 5g of protein.
With the exception of oysters, shellfish like shrimp, scallops, lobster, and crab are all very macro friendly. Not only that, but because their calories come almost exclusively from protein, you get a lot of volume for not a lot of calories. Here’s how they break down…
In one 4oz serving:
Shrimp – 67 calories, 95% from protein
Scallops – 126 calories, 72% from protein
Lobster – 105 calories, 90% from protein
Crab – 99 calories, 82% from protein
The problem with a lot of shellfish is how you prepare it. Skip the butter and oil and all of a sudden these become very solid protein sources.
#4 Lean Fish
There really are too many here to list, but know that most fish are naturally very lean. Much like shellfish, the biggest problem comes in how they are prepared, so skip the fish fry and opt for blackened or broiled.
Fattier fish would include things like salmon, trout, and mackerel. Tuna is naturally a fatty fish, but falls into the lean fish category when it is dried and packed in water like you find in most grocery stores.
#5 Whey Protein
As much as I prefer your protein comes from whole food sources, you can’t deny the convenience of whey protein. If you’re short on protein for the day, there’s no easier way to make that up that making up a quick protein shake.
You’ll want a protein that’s low in low in carbs (>10g), low in fat fat (>3g), and contain at least 20g of protein per serving. Plus it needs to taste good obviously. This one is my absolute favorite.
I’m not sure how they did it, but somehow nuts duped everyone into thinking they were a “good” source of protein. They’re not.
No matter what your nut of choice, they almost all contain twice as much fat as protein; not to mention the carbs thrown in there as well. Nuts are also extremely easy to overeat. Look at the palm of your hand. That’s one serving of nuts. ONE SERVING. How many times have you just eaten one handful of nuts?
I have yet to find a sausage that has good macros. At the very best you may be able to find a chicken or turkey sausage that has twice as many grams of protein as it does fat. Even then though you’re looking at 10 or more grams of fat, and that’s just too many calories for the amount of protein you’re get.
Sorry vegetarians, this one’s gonna sting. To get the same amount of protein from quinoa that’s in one 4oz chicken breast, in addition to the 25 grams of protein, you would also be consuming over 100 grams of carbs and almost 5x the calories.
Yeah, moving on…
I will say this, many beans do contain a decent amount of protein. However, they almost always contain more carbs, and in some cases more fat as well. When compared the other macronutrients, the protein just isn’t high enough to make the cut.
I love cheese, so it pains me to put it on the list, but it’s been mascaraing as a “good” protein sources for too long. Cheese is a tasty topping…and that’s it. Almost all cheese has more fat than protein so to treating it as a protein source is a mistake.
Are there any other foods not on the list you’re wondering about? Shoot me an email and I’ll share my thoughts.