Protein is the building block for muscle. Period. It also plays a role in your metabolism, cravings and your fat burning process. It doesn't matter how healthy you eat, if you don't get enough, your workouts won't give you the results you want and you'll have a hard time creating those beautifully cut muscles. In order to make muscles you need protein and you need to work them; in order to *see* the muscles you have to eat a balance of nutrition so that those lean muscles show through! Gals, lifting doesn't mean you get big, it means making muscles that push against your skin for that tight, sleek, athletic look. You get to decide how "big" they get and adjust your workouts and nutrition accordingly. But protein is a must to give you the control you need to start your building process. How much do you need? If physique building is your goal, then you should shoot for approximately 1 gram per pound of body weight for both building and maintaining.
Here are 15 power proteins for you to mix and match!
1. Chicken Breast (boneless and skinless)
Grams of protein per oz: 25g for a 3 oz servingThis is a bodybuilders staple but you certainly don't need to be a bodybuilder to eat it. It's about as lean a meat as you can get and packed with protein. Just be sure to watch sodium content. Chicken is naturally low in sodium but some stores add it (yes, even when it's raw) to enhance flavor.
2. Turkey Breast
Grams of protein per oz: 24g for a 3 oz serving
It has all the same benefits as chicken.
3. Ground Beef
Grams of protein per oz: 24g for a 3 oz serving
Buy the 90% lean beef for just the right amount of fat and so it actually tastes good.
Grams of protein per oz: approx 25g for a 3 oz serving
Steak can be pricey and some may have a hard time digesting but it can be a great "sometimes" protein to keep taste buds from getting bored.
Grams of protein per oz: approx 17g for a 3 oz serving
Not just packed with protein but super omega 3 fatty acids, essential amino acids and host of vitamins and minerals
Grams of protein per oz: approx 21g for a 3 oz serving
Super protein-packed and great for non-fish lovers since the taste is mild and it’s easy to prepare.
7. Tuna (canned)
Grams of protein per oz: approx 20g for a 3 oz serving
Both white and light are great but the light tuna actually has a little more protein. Be sure to choose water packed tuna instead of oil. Also check sodium content and pick the brand with the lowest amount.
Grams of protein per oz: 6g for a large egg
But what’s the deal on egg whites and yolks? The whole egg is great for you but here’s the deal on egg yolks: Yes, they're good for you. They've gotten a bad wrap over the years and only those with cholesterol problems need to keep a close eye. The issue with yolks is that they're high in fat and calories which you're trying to be efficient with while you're losing layers.
Yes, yolks have good fat, but too much of a good thing isn't always good. There is .1 gram of fat in an egg white while there is about 4.5 grams of fat in the yolk. There are approximately 17 calories in an egg white while the yolk alone has a whopping 55 calories. The whites also win in protein with 3.5 grams, while the yolks come in at 2.5 grams. If you love the taste, go ahead and throw a yolk into a few of your whites, but in general, no more than two when you’re trying to lose.
9. Roasted Turkey breast (sliced from the deli)
Grams of protein per oz: 18g in a 3oz serving
And easy, quick and delicious way to throw together a quick meal. Just be sure to watch out for flavored turkey or other deli meats as they probably add sugar, sodium or other chemicals you don’t need.
10. Nuts (mixed)
Grams of protein per oz: 6g in 1 oz (approx 30 pieces)
Super snack, just be sure to stick to serving sizes and know how much you’re eating. It’s easy to over-do too much of this good thing.
11. Peanut butter
Grams of protein per oz: 8g in 2 tablespoons
A super delicious way to add protein to fruit, or create a high power-energy snacks with good-for-you fat built right in. Just be sure to watch sugar and sodium content which can be high.You’re better off choosing natural styles with no sugar added. And steer clear of “low fat” versions since they just replace fat with sugar.
12. Lentils (dried)
Grams of protein per oz: 13g in 1/4 cup
Dried lentils are great because they don’t need to be presoaked like most dried beans. You just need to throw them in a pot of hot water and let them simmer until they’re tender (15-20 mins). You can eat them as a side dish, in salads, or thrown in with stir fry dishes.
Grams of protein per oz: 8g in 1 cup
Quinoa is special in that it’s one of the only plant foods on the planet that is a complete protein, that is, it has all 9 essential amino acids in about the same amounts. It’s also full of vitamins, minerals and fiber and can be used as a substitute in some recipes for flour to create cookies and muffins.
Grams of protein per oz: 8g in 1/2 cup
Edamame is a young soybean that is harvested before the bean hardens. You can buy them raw, roasted or frozen and have endless consumable possibilities. It’s a great plant based complete protein also rich in iron and calcium.
15. Cottage cheese
Grams of protein per oz: 14g in 1/2 cup
Cottage cheese has a protein type called casein. It’s a slow digesting protein which means it breaks down slowly in the body over the course of 5-7 hours so it’s a great before-bed protein since your body will continue to absorb the nutrients, even when you’re sleeping. Just be aware that sodium content can be high so check labels and choose one with the lowest amount.