Everybody knows that if you want to build muscle like Arnold, you’re going to have to eat a lot of protein. But are all protein sources created equal? Are some better than others for building muscle? This is not a high school heath class, so I’ll just tell you the answer (reading this article is enough thinking for one day). The answer is no. This article will walk you through which sources are the best, and why.
I’m not trying to downgrade anybody’s vegetarian diet, but you will notice one trend with my list. They all come from animal sources. The reason is simple: Animal proteins are complete, meaning they contain all of the essential amino acids, and in the amounts that our bodies can efficiently consume. There are other sources of protein (i.e. plant sources), but they are all low in one or more of the essential amino acids.
So what does this mean? No, it does not mean that I hate vegetarians (although my neighbor is a vegetarian and I’m not a big fan of her ). All this means is that if you want to gain muscle, you are better off eating animal proteins, than you are eating plant proteins.getting your protein from animal products as opposed to plant products.
So, let’s dive into the best sources for a high protein diet. This list is not in any particular order, as having your protein from diverse sources will contribute to a better rounded diet.
1. Lean cuts of beef –
This can come in the form of steak or ground beef. Just don’t try to go cheap, stick with ground beef lower than 90/10 (90% lean 10% fat). You can save money by going 80/20, but you also run the risk of additional unwanted fatget a lot more fat with that type beef beef. which may not be a good thing. Grass fed beef is the best, if you can afford it. (I wonder what beef fed beef tastes like. Best thing ever, or worse thing ever?).
2. Whey protein powder –
I would not use whey protein powder as the majority of your protein sources, as it’s always best to get your proteins from whole foods. However, whey can be a great way to quickly pack in more grams of lean protein in a hurry. As long as you limit the amount of powder you intake in a day, and focus on the other sources in this article, you will b fine. I won’t go into the why whey protein is on this list, vs other types of protein powders, but keep an eye out for a future post regarding that topic.
3.Skinless chicken breast breast –
This is a no brainer. Bodybuilders have been eating chicken breasts for decades. Not much to say about this other than don’t eat the feathers and cook thoroughly.
4. Salmon –
Some hate fish, some love fish. Some hate fish but eat it anyway because it’s good for you (i.e. me). I’m not asking you to scarf down sardines (although those are an excellent source of protein if you can stomach them) but I’m asking you to give salmon a try. Sockeye Salmon is one of the best, but if you can’t find that, just get regular salmon. Keep the skin on while you cook it, and you should be good to go.
5. Tuna –
I had a roommate in college once, whose nick name was triple tuna. I’d rather not go into details here, but if anybody wants to know why, you can private message me sometime (not for the faint hearted). Tuna has huge benefits. It is cheap, low fat, and packed to the max with protein. Getting it in water is best, but if you really enjoy the taste better of tuna in oil, I’m sure you can fit that into your calorie and macronutrient targets.
6. Low fat cottage cheese –
This is a great snack anytime, but especially right before bed. You will see this in a lot of our meal plans, as it’s jammed with casein protein. While whey protein is desirable throughout the day, a slower digestion protein like casein is a better choice between meals and before bedtime.
7. Egg whites –
Egg whites are like tuna, in that they are supper easy. You can boil your eggs and take them with you everywhere you go (gym, work, gentleman’s club, etc.)
8. Turkey breasts –
No need to wait for Thanksgiving to wolf down some turkey. I would recommend getting one at a store as turkeys can run at speeds of up to 25 miles, so it might be hard to catch one yourself. After all, we lift weights, not run marathons . Look for antibiotic –free meat, if it’s available.
Another trend you will find with this list, is that they are all low in fat. I’m not against fat, but it is possible to get too much of a good thing (i.e. 6 shots of Crown, Bueno. 16 shots of Crown, no Bueno). When one chooses a protein source, we want the bulk of the calories it provides to be from protein, not fat.
So how much protein is enough? This varies depending on who you ask, but most stick to the rule of thumb that 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight is enough for a high protein diet.
Although protein is just one aspect of a nutritious diet, there are other factors that need to be considered. If all you do is focus on your protein sourcesintake, and neglect what types/amounts of fat and carbohydrates you are consuming, you won’t be pleased with your muscle gain results.
There is more detail on the complete nutrition picture in our free eBook, Four weeks to a bigger, stronger body. You can get that by clicking the button below:
What other sources of food are your favorite for a high protein diet? Put them in the comments below.
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