There are many subjects and viewpoints within the sports nutrition area to maintain strength athletes occupied. However one factor that power fanatics usually be a part of forces over is protein — whether or not it’s a vegan pea protein shake or a basic hen breast, power athletes have a tendency to like their protein.

And with good cause. A excessive protein weight loss plan fuels muscle restore and development, retains you feeling fuller for longer, and helps muscle preservation as you age. A high-protein weight loss plan might even positively have an effect on your temper when in comparison with a decrease consumption. (1)

A person with healthy food and protein powder on the table.
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It’s possible you’ll be making ready for a contest or simply typically wish to alter your physique composition. In these instances, you might also be concerned about getting your protein whereas protecting your calorie depend low. Once you’re in search of high-protein, low-calorie meals, look no additional than these 20 choices.

What Is Protein?

Protein might look like the mystical gains-maker. However you possibly can break it down like this — protein is an natural compound. It’s made up of a number of amino acids, in any other case generally known as the “constructing blocks” of your physique. 

Protein-rich foods on the table
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Amino acids are the idea for creating, repairing, and maintaining tissues, equivalent to muscle, organs, hair, and nails.

There are twenty totally different amino acids you must kind proteins, however there are 9 that you will need to get out of your weight loss plan. These are sometimes known as essential amino acids (EAAs).

Why Do Energy Athletes Want Protein?

You may practice as laborious as you need, however you possibly can’t make one thing out of nothing. With out the proper fuel to assist your muscle groups alongside, your muscle groups merely gained’t be capable of expertise upkeep or hypertrophy. Regardless of how laborious you practice, you’re simply not going to get larger for those who don’t have the protein you should fuel the process.

By consuming sufficient protein, you possibly can elevate protein synthesis, which is the method by which your cells make proteins. That is necessary for sustaining your day by day capabilities, however it’s particularly vital for strength athletes trying to pack on muscle mass.

Different Advantages of Protein

Moreover being important for the restore and growth of muscle mass and different bodily tissues, protein provides a number of distinctive advantages.

Thermogenic Properties

Protein is extra thermogenic than carbohydrates and fat. The thermic effect of food (TEF) is the variety of energy burned throughout digestion. Throughout that course of, 20 to 30 % of the calories you devour from protein are “spent” on digestion. In distinction, the TEF of carbohydrates and fats is simply 5 to 10 % and 0 to 3 %, respectively. (2)

A protein-rich meal with meat and vegetables.
Credit score: Philip Majevsky / Shutterstock

If, on a given day, you have been to interchange 500 energy’ price of dietary fats with protein, chances are you’ll burn as much as a further 150 energy. In fact, there are different variables in play — how processed a meals is may have an effect on TEF, as an illustration. (2) It’s necessary to get sufficient of each macronutrient in your weight loss plan, however this instance reveals simply how vital a better protein consumption may be.

Keep Fuller, Longer

Plain and easy, protein is extra filling than the opposite macronutrients. In accordance with analysis revealed in The American Journal of Scientific Diet, eating a high-protein, low-fat weight loss plan helped topics really feel fuller for longer than topics who had a upkeep degree of protein and better degree of fats. (3)

Some athletes could also be trying to alter their dietary habits to assist keep or construct muscle whereas dropping physique fats. In that case, rising your satiety after meals can assist with emotional and psychological satisfaction surrounding your meals.

A person with healthy food and protein powder on the table.
Credit score: Pixel-Shot / Shutterstock

Even for those who’re not concerned about losing weight, the feeling of being full can assist you develop a extra conscious relationship together with your meals and your physique. This may be fairly a major profit for athletes trying to last more throughout training sessions — particularly if their digestive systems don’t do nicely with mid-workout snacks.

Enhance Immunity

Consuming sufficient protein bolsters your immunity. Amino acids help the principle elements of your immune system, equivalent to B cells and T cells. (4) This in flip helps your immune system determine dangerous cells inside your physique. (4)

Excessive-Protein, Low-Calorie Meals

When deciding which protein-rich foods to eat, it’s sensible to deal with meals that are:

  1. Wealthy in important amino acids, so that you’re getting the best high quality protein in every serving.
  2. Largely protein with minimal carbs and fat.
  3. One thing you get pleasure from consuming repeatedly in an effort to assist compliance.

It’s possible you’ll discover a number of of the gadgets on this checklist are already staples of yours. That’s nice information. However to keep away from “palate fatigue” — getting sick of consuming the identical meals and flavors — you’ll wish to choose a number of totally different choices. Selection and pleasure are important for sound diet. That means, you’ll at all times have rotations available.

Now, let’s have a look at your choices and select some high-quality protein sources.

Excessive-Protein, Low-Calorie Meals

Observe: The protein and calorie ranges of a 100-gram serving of the next meals are primarily based on the data supplied by the FoodData Central function on the U.S. Division of Agriculture’s (USDA) web site.


Hen is extremely versatile. In the event you’re somebody who eats meat, you possibly can grill it, pan-fry it, slow-cook it, or bake it. Your preliminary choices are plentiful, too, as you should buy hen breasts, wings, thighs, and even as a low-fat mince. Every of those have a barely totally different protein-to-fat ratio.

  • 23.9 grams of protein
  • 149 energy


Like hen, turkey is a stellar supply of protein that is available in a variety of choices. Turkey offers a strong quantity of vitamin B6 and magnesium, making it one other unbelievable choice.

  • 27.1 grams of protein
  • 213 energy

Egg Whites

Although whole eggs are a powerhouse of diet, the egg white is a lean and dense supply of protein. With the yolk eliminated, egg whites boast a excessive quantity of protein, few energy, and no carbohydrates or fats.

Egg whites being separated from egg yolks., in separate transparent bowls.
Credit score: moteioicu / Shutterstock

They’re surprisingly filling and various, too. They are often combined into a variety of recipes: omelets, oatmeal dishes, breakfast muffins, and even home made baked items.

  • 10.7 grams of protein
  • 52 energy


Regardless of being a little bit greater in fats, salmon is a wealthy and nutritious supply of protein with out an overload of energy. The fish additionally comprises vitamin B12, iron, potassium, omega three fatty acids, and vitamin D.

  • 19.9 grams of protein
  • 179 energy


Although not as wealthy in micronutrients and essential fats as different seafood choices, shrimp make up for this with how lean and protein dense they’re. A single serving of shrimp can present two scoops’ price of protein powder when it comes to protein, however comparatively few energy.

  • 24 grams of protein
  • 99 energy


Like shrimp, tuna is a unbelievable source of protein with few tag-along vitamins. One factor to be conscious of, nonetheless, is tuna’s mercury content material. As a normal rule, adults might wish to eat tuna steak not more than twice per week.

  • 19 grams of protein
  • 85 energy


Although low in omega-3s, cod provides most of the similar advantages as fattier cuts of fish: it’s a high-quality supply of protein, wealthy in vitamin B6, and comprises a significant quantity of vitamin D. It’s additionally a voluminous minimize of fish, boasting comparatively few energy. This makes for a wonderful protein supply whereas reducing weight.

  • 20.4 grams of protein
  • 84 energy

Lean Beef

Like hen, beef is a unbelievable supply of cheap and versatile protein. It is available in numerous cuts of leanness, may be ready in numerous methods, and works in a variety of dishes: curries, tacos, and tortillas, to say a number of.

Plus, beef comprises a good focus of vitamins like iron and cobalamin, that are important for correct brain development, pink blood cell formation, and transporting oxygen.

  • 27.7 grams of protein
  • 168 energy


Whereas it’s a little bit costlier than beef, lamb makes for a wonderful substitute because it’s additionally excessive in iron and cobalamin. It additionally has the same protein-to-fat ratio whereas having comparatively low energy for a way a lot protein you’re getting.

With a gentle and barely sweet flavor, lamb provides an attention-grabbing twist to staples like stews, roasts, and casseroles.

  • 22.6 grams of protein
  • 192 energy

Meat Jerky

There are few handy wholefood protein sources, however meat jerky is on the prime of that checklist.

A serving of meat jerky on a plate.
Credit score: Pixel-Shot / Shutterstock

Mostly obtainable in beef, hen, and turkey, meat jerkies have the identical dietary profile as their hydrated counterparts. However since many of the moisture has been eliminated, jerky is far simpler to have on the go. One factor to be conscious of is that — for a similar cause — dehydrated meat is far much less voluminous or satiating.

  • Protein ranges match the hydrated elements
  • Calorie ranges match the hydrated elements


Although it’s a little bit greater in fats than many cuts of meat, pork remains to be a wonderful supply of important amino acid-rich protein. Pork can be excessive in vitamin B6 and vitamin D, making it a helpful supply of micronutrients, as nicely.

  • 19.1 grams of protein
  • 171 energy

Low-Fats Greek Yogurt

After meat, fish, and poultry, Greek yogurt is a severe contender for among the best sources of protein. Moreover additionally containing a lot of B nutritional vitamins, low-fat Greek yogurt additionally provides respectable quantities of calcium, vitamin A, zinc, and vitamin C.

Yogurt in two cups on the table.
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It’s surprisingly versatile, too. This yogurt can be utilized as a base for in a single day oats, parfaits, and numerous frozen treats. Plus, with how wealthy in protein it’s, it makes “wholesome” desserts that a lot simpler to arrange.

  • 8.64 grams of protein
  • 95 energy

Cottage Cheese

Like Greek yogurt, cottage cheese is a wonderful supply of protein. It’s versatile sufficient to pack for work, use in numerous recipes, and requires minimal preparation. It has a well-rounded micronutrient profile, too, containing vitamin B12, selenium, phosphorus, and calcium.

  • 11.6 grams of protein
  • 103 energy


Particularly you observe a plant-based diet and thus keep away from all animal merchandise, tempeh is a unbelievable protein to make use of as a base in your lunch and dinner. Like plenty of meat and poultry recipes, tempeh works nicely with plenty of staple meals, equivalent to stir-fry recipes and pasta dishes.

And with its excessive iron and calcium content material, it really works as an exquisite alternative for animal-based proteins.

  • 20.3 grams of protein
  • 192 energy


Very like tempeh, tofu is a good staple for plant-based dieters trying to work round animal produce whereas protecting protein excessive.

It provides some distinctive advantages, too: it comprises a good quantity of fiber, is wealthy in iron and calcium, and has a barely longer “shelf life” than meat and poultry. Tofu can last as long as per week after opening, rendering it each handy and nutritious.

  • 10.9 grams of protein
  • 85 energy


One other glorious supply of plant-based protein, edamame really is a dietary powerhouse. Moreover containing a high amount of protein and a low calorie depend, edamame additionally provides a strong quantity of fiber, plenty of vitamin K1, and a whole day’s price of folate.

A person with with a plate of edamame on the table.
Credit score: Kristi Blokhin / Shutterstock

Edamame works splendidly as each a snack and ingredient inside a major meal, making it straightforward to include into your weight loss plan.

  • 11.9 grams of protein
  • 121 energy

Whey Protein Powder

So far as protein supplements go, whey protein is on the prime of the checklist. It’s dense with important amino acids, comprises few tag-along energy, carbs, and fat, and is comparatively price efficient. And like most of the dairy-based protein sources, whey protein may be a good way to switch recipes for an additional kick of protein.

Because it’s comparatively low in micronutrients, although, you gained’t wish to depend on this complement for all of your protein wants.

  • 58.1 grams of protein
  • 359 energy

Casein Protein Powder

Like whey, casein is ample in important amino acids, although it comes with a twist: it’s far slower to digest.

In consequence, casein has a number of distinctive perks. It really works nicely earlier than a interval of fasting, equivalent to before bed, since it may be significantly satiating over longer intervals. Casein acts as an awesome various to whey, for those who choose the style and mouth-feel of casein powders.

That being mentioned, while you want fast-acting protein, equivalent to pre- or post-workout, whey protein is extra ideally suited.

  • 72.7 grams of protein
  • 364 energy

Vegan Protein Powder

In the event you’re lactose illiberal or observe a plant-based weight loss plan, a vegan protein powder will substitute properly for whey or casein. When in search of a vegan protein powder, make sure you search a mixture of rice and pea protein. This mix is well digested and absorbed but offers an awesome mix of important amino acids.

  • 75 grams of protein
  • 400 energy

Protein Bars

In the event you’re not a fan of shakes, however want a straightforward and accessible means of including protein to your weight loss plan, a protein bar will be the good answer for you. However discovering high-protein, low-calorie bar may be tough.

Some are a wonderful and handy supply of protein, whereas others are largely carbs, fat, and a load of energy with a sprinkling of protein. Thankfully, BarBend has an up-to-date information on the best protein bars in your objectives and preferences.

  • Protein ranges will depend on model
  • Calorie ranges will depend on model

How A lot Protein Ought to You Eat?

Since everybody’s objectives, exercise ranges, and our bodies are totally different, it stands to cause that there isn’t only one commonplace protein consumption quantity to at all times goal for.

In the event you’re cutting weight, a better protein consumption of 1 to 1.2 grams per pound of physique weight may be helpful. This greater consumption helps lean tissue retention throughout a minimize, additional will increase satiety whereas energy are restricted, and helps wholesome stress ranges. (5)

When your objective is to maintain weight, there’s a barely diminished want for protein. That’s since you’re not in a calorie deficit and so minimizing the danger of tissue loss. Thus, one gram of protein per pound of physique weight is commonly thought-about adequate.

And for those who’re gaining weight, 0.8 grams of protein per pound of physique weight could also be sufficient. (6) Once more, there merely isn’t the identical threat of muscle protein breakdown in a surplus as there may be in an power deficit. Plus, as soon as your baseline protein wants are met, power good points and muscle development will likely be fueled by additional carbohydrates, not protein.

That will help you determine all of this out in a extra accessible means, check out BarBend’s protein consumption calculator right here.

All you must do is plug in your related data, and get going.

Learn how to Get Sufficient Protein

Of the three major macronutrients — protein, carbohydrate, and fats — protein tends to be the toughest to devour sufficient of. Sometimes, meals wealthy in protein are the costliest, require extra preparation, and are the least engineered for style and texture.

A bobybuilder gulping a protein drink.
Credit score: Sergey Peterman / Shutterstock

Virtually, then, how are you going to work round this?

In the beginning, when planning your day by day meals, contemplate constructing every meal round a protein supply. Let’s say you prefer to eat 4 meals per day, you’re aiming for 160 grams of protein day by day, and also you wish to devour your protein pretty evenly all through these meals.

Earlier than including any carbohydrates or fat, your protein plan might appear to be this:

  • Breakfast: 40 grams of whey protein
  • Lunch: 200 grams of hen breast
  • Afternoon Snack: 250 grams of low-fat Greek yogurt
  • Dinner: 150 grams of lean floor beef

When you’ve added your protein sources, you possibly can simply stack different meals on prime to fill in your remaining carb and fats allocations — for instance, fruits, vegetables, oats, rice, and nut butters.

You’ll additionally wish to keep focus in your preferences and routine. If you realize you possibly can put together your lunch and dinners forward of time, give precedence to cooked choices like eggs, pink meat, poultry, and tofu. Equally, if you realize that breakfast is at all times a rush, put together some in a single day oats with protein powder or a protein smoothie forward of time. Make your meal prep be just right for you, not towards you.

Myths About Protein

Although power athletes broadly will tout the benefits of protein, it nonetheless has loads of myths and misconceptions on the market.

Fable: You Can Solely Eat So A lot at As soon as

Till not too long ago, many assumed you would solely eat so much protein in a single sitting. In the event you eat greater than round thirty grams of protein without delay, they’d say, you’re losing your time.

Nevertheless, it appears to be that the extra protein you eat in a single meal, the longer it’ll take to digest and take in. This appears very true while you’re consuming slow-digesting protein sources mixed with different macronutrients. (7)

Nonetheless, when you needn’t fear if one meal comprises much more protein than one other, it’s nonetheless a clever determination to unfold your protein evenly all through the day. It’s possible that you just’ll feel satiated extra usually, discover it simpler to hit your day by day wants, and maintain elevated protein synthesis charges. (7)

Fable: Consuming Too A lot Protein Will Harm Your Kidneys

Diet and well being scares make for stunning headlines. However in actuality, the concept that an excessive amount of protein will harm your kidneys has been prolonged from a half-truth.

These with current kidney illness might must restrict their protein consumption. In accordance with the National Kidney Foundation, folks with current kidney struggles might wish to avoid extra protein as a result of their kidneys might have hassle eradicating further waste from their blood.

Nevertheless, analysis means that there isn’t essentially a cause-and-effect hyperlink between consuming a high-protein weight loss plan and growing kidney illness. (8) Consuming too little protein is problematic, no matter whether or not one has kidney illness, due to how important it’s for correct tissue restore and immune operate.

Eat Your Protein

Whether or not you’re cutting or bulking, consuming sufficient protein is essential to good outcomes. It fuels muscle restore and development, maintains wholesome stress degree, and improves the general satiety of your meals.

Take the time to determine in your favourite sources, perceive how one can greatest incorporate them into your routine, and embrace sufficient selection to maintain your weight loss plan pleasurable and full. You’ll by no means miss out on protein’s wealthy array of advantages once more.


  1. Helms, E. R., Zinn, C., Rowlands, D. S., Naidoo, R., & Cronin, J. (2015). Excessive-protein, low-fat, short-term weight loss plan leads to much less stress and fatigue than moderate-protein, moderate-fat weight loss plan throughout weight reduction in male weightlifters: A pilot examine. Worldwide Journal of Sport Diet and Train Metabolism, 25(2), 163-170.
  2. Reed, G. W., & Hill, J. O. (1996). Measuring the thermic impact of meals. The American journal of scientific diet, 63(2), 164-169.
  3. Moran, L. J., Luscombe-Marsh, N. D., Noakes, M., Wittert, G. A., Keogh, J. B., & Clifton, P. M. (2005). The satiating impact of dietary protein is unrelated to postprandial ghrelin secretion. The Journal of Scientific Endocrinology & Metabolism, 90(9), 5205-5211.
  4. Daly, J. M., Reynolds, J., Sigal, R. Ok., Shou, J. I. A. N., & Liberman, M. D. (1990). Impact of dietary protein and amino acids on immune operate. Vital care drugs, 18(2 Suppl), S86-93.
  5. Helms, E. R., Zinn, C., Rowlands, D. S., & Brown, S. R. (2014). A scientific assessment of dietary protein throughout caloric restriction in resistance educated lean athletes: a case for greater intakes. Worldwide Journal of Sport Diet & Train Metabolism, 24(2).
  6. Phillips, S. M., & Van Loon, L. J. (2011). Dietary protein for athletes: from necessities to optimum adaptation. Journal of sports activities sciences, 29(sup1), S29-S38.
  7. Schoenfeld, B. J., & Aragon, A. A. (2018). How a lot protein can the physique use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for day by day protein distribution. Journal of the Worldwide Society of Sports activities Diet, 15(1), 10.
  8. Martin, W. F., Armstrong, L. E., & Rodriguez, N. R. (2005). Dietary protein consumption and renal operate. Diet & metabolism, 2(1), 1-9.

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