Protein – It does a Body Good, but what are the Best Sources
If you hope to be building some lean muscle, you are going to need some high quality protein, this may sound easy, but the process is a little bit more involved than simply working out and wolfing down anything presumed to contain some protein, you need to know how much and what kind in order to get the best possible results.
Depending on the type of working out that you’re doing and the results that you are trying to achieve the amount of protein that your body will need could vary dramatically. Some bodybuilding/strength focused workouts require a suggested amount of anywhere between one and one and a half grams of protein per bodyweight or more to achieve maximum results whereas “general” fitness workouts or endurance training may require significantly less.
The sources from which you get the protein are even more important than the total number of grams that you are consuming, your quest for protein has to go well beyond just looking at that line on the nutrition label – a fast food hamburger has protein, but it’s negatives in terms of other nutritional factors far outweigh the positives that those grams of protein will give you.
If you are on a program designed to build muscle, ¾ of one gram to one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight will probably suffice to get the results desired – you can get too much of a good thing, and too much protein will ultimately get stored as fat inhibiting the results that you are trying to achieve with you hard work in the gym.
If you weight 165, then shoot for around 125-150 grams of protein per day – Now you’ve got a target number, let’s talk about how to get it…
Here’s a list of my personal favorite sources of protein (keep in mind that I’m a lacto-ova vegetarian, so the majority of this list will be vegetarian friendly)
Eggs – in my opinion, eggs are one of nature’s best sources of protein – they pack a powerful 6 grams of protein per egg on average and the fat content of your egg-laden meal can easily be adjusted by eliminating some (or all) of the yolks. Eggs are super easy to cook, and when hard-boiled they are easily taken with you for a high protein meal on the go – those are just some reasons that make eggs my number one when it comes to muscle building food.
Fage – (pronounced fa-yeh), or Greek Yogurt – this all natural “whole food” isn’t quite as popular as the egg, but it rivals the egg in terms of nutritional power. By itself, I don’t find that it has a whole lot of flavor (unlike regular yogurt, some of which I can barely stomach eating) so I usually mix it with any number of things to complete one of my protein heavy meals on a given day. Fage has about 22 big grams of protein per one cup serving and, like regular yogurt (or milk) is available in non-fat, 2% and 5% varieties to help control calories and fat consumption. Fage can be eaten on its own if you so choose, it can be mixed with fresh fruit, nuts or honey or it can be used in a wide variety of recipes to up your protein intake.
Seeds and Nuts – There is more to this category than just the peanut. Don’t get me wrong, you can’t go wrong with a PB&J as a late night snack, but there are a wide variety of nuts and seeds to choose from. Almonds, cashews, peanuts, pumpkin seeds and flax seeds can be tossed in salads, mixed in sauté’s or added in deserts for extra protein and essential fats. A small handful of mixed nuts eaten as a snack or mixed into your favorite recipe can easily add an extra 8-10 grams of protein.
Cottage Cheese – this didn’t use to be one of my favorites, I actually didn’t like the taste of it very much until I mixed it with some crushed pineapple. Now I’ll have it as either a mid-afternoon snack or even as a desert – a ½ cup serving of cottage cheese has a whopping 15 grams of protein.
Beans – black and pinto are two of my more preferred members of the bean family, cooked with brown rice or whole wheat pasta or in vegetable or pasta salads, just a half cup of cooked beans brings upwards of ten grams of muscle building protein to the table.
I know I’ll get my balls busted if I construct a list of the top protein foods and don’t pay any attention to the carnivores – and if that’s your thing then go for it, but try to watch the cut and quality of your meat.
A good quality, lean steak in the six ounce range can give you somewhere in the neighborhood of forty grams of protein. Forty grams of protein is huge, and this kind of intake will certainly help you pack on the muscle.
Fish – there are a ton of varieties of fish to choose from out there, and as I recall from the days when I partook, many of them are very tasty. On average, most fish contains somewhere around six grams of protein per ounce – so a nice four ounce fillet will give you about twenty five grams of protein as well as essential oils and fatty acids.
Chicken and turkey are also versatile and reasonably low fat sources of protein, bringing about five to six grams of protein per ounce. Chicken and turkey can be used in a wide variety of recipes and once cooked can be eaten hot or cold, so this protein powerhouse is extremely easy to incorporate into your dietary routine.
If I can make one suggestion to the meat eaters – if you want the best in terms of taste and quality, look for terms like organic, free-range and grass-fed when procuring your meat products – it will cost you a little more money, but the quality will be well worth it.
Most people are getting plenty of protein to survive, lots are even getting enough to build some muscle but many are getting it from low quality, high fat sources. If you want to achieve your ultimate goal you need to look at this portion of your diet with the same scrutiny you use to control your fast food/junk food urges. Up your protein intake with lean, low fat sources and you’ll begin to notice big changes in the near future.
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About Jeff Wilson Jeff Wilson has been involved in some form of sports and athletic training for more than two decades: as an athlete, a trainer and a writer.