The Best Protein Source For Building Muscle
Unlock the muscle-building power of protein bioavailability with the best protein sources for vegetarians and meat eaters alike.
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If you missed my recent post on The Truth About Protein and Weight Loss, then be sure to check it out below or download the podcast episode for later. We cover why protein is so important to the body, how much protein you should actually be eating in a day, and what any of it has to do with weight loss, or I should say fat loss.
One of the key takeaways, however, is that by replacing excess body fat with lean muscle tissue you lose inches, whittle your waist, and ultimately reduce disease risk.
The nutritional key to this fitness goal? Protein. More specifically, protein sources with high bioavailability for skeletal muscle synthesis, a fancy term for muscle breakdown and repair.
If you remember from the previous article, bioavailability is the overall percentage of 9 essential amino acids (the molecules that makeup protein) available to the body after the protein-rich food has been digested. Prioritizing protein with higher bioavailability will best power muscle build, blood sugar regulation, and cellular repair.
What many people don’t realize is that animal-based protein has a much higher bioavailability than plant-based protein. Can you still get enough protein as a vegetarian? Yes, but it takes a lot more intentionality and work.
This post is going to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about protein. For those who really want to dive into bioavailability there are a couple of good resources, but keep in mind this is a very complex science, and there are always caveats to every guide.
What is the best meat with high protein?
Meat must be approached with caution. Many high protein meat sources are also high in saturated fat and salt, if processed. In case you are new around here, then it bears repeating, that my one nutritional guideline within the home is all-natural foods. If it cannot be found without artificial or processed ingredients, then it should not be routinely given a place in your pantry. To learn more about the difference between all-natural food and organic food, then be sure to read Whole Food Nutrition: Does It Really Make A Difference, or watch/listen to the episode on the imPERFECTly emPOWERed Podcast.
Meat is no exception to this rule. One massive advantage to prioritizing all-natural meat that hasn’t been processed is the reduction in salt.
But even organic beef has a high amount of saturated fat (remember organic is not a panacea for health). This can be challenging for someone with high cholesterol or a predisposition to heart disease like we have in our family. The key to meat sources of protein is prioritizing lean protein.
Lean meat protein would include chicken breast, ground turkey, pork chops, lean ground beef, tuna, mahi-mahi, cod. Due to salmon being rich in healthy fat this is also an excellent meat source of protein.
Keep scrolling for a great image with a list of 22 lean proteins you can pin or save for later.
Which Fruits Are High In Protein?
Generally speaking fruit is not going to be a go-to source of protein. Fruit is an excellent all-nautral source of nutrient dense carbohydrates, but to answer this question here is list of fruit with higher protein concentrations. Grams are noted per cup.
- Guava – 4g
- Avocado – 3g
- Jackfruit – 3g
- Apricot – 2g
- Grapefruit – 2g
- Blackberries – 2g
- Kiwi – 2g
- Cherries – 2g
- Melon – 2g
- Raisins -1g
- Peach – 1g
Which vegetables are high in protein?
Again, similar to fruits, vegetables are not going to be the best source of protein even for a vegetarian. Certainly, these nutrient-dense foods should have a large role in your overall nutritional intake, but understand that this is not going to have a super high protein bioavailability. These grams are also per cup.
- Green Peas – 9g
- Artichokes – 5g
- Sweet Corn – 5g
- Avocado – 5g
- Asparagus – 4g
- Brussels Sprouts – 4g
- Mushrooms – 4g
- Kale – 4g
What are the best protein sources for vegetarians or vegans?
A better way to phrase this might be, what are the best sources of plant-based protein? Again, keep in mind that there is greater bioavailablilty in most animal based proteins than plant based, and the key to pant-based protein as well is finding complete proteins.
Non-meat complete proteins include:
- Dairy (like milk, yogurt, and cheese)
Plant-based complete proteins include:
- Chia seed
There is such a thing as combining incomplete proteins to try to compliment each other and ensure your body is getting all of the essential amino acids. My number one takeaway is this if you are egetatiran or vegan. Be careful that your protein consumption is not only adequte but also accounts for the correct amount of carbs. This is one of the reasons I have seen so many overweight, diabetic vegetarians and vegans in my medical career. Oftentimes there is too little protein and too many carbs which ultimately gets converted into sugar for the body to use. Protein is essential for helping to stabilize blood sugar. Below is a list of some plant based protein amounts/serving. Even if you’re vegetarian you should not be consuming more than 50% of your daily calories from carbs.
- Green lentil, French lentil, black and red lentil – 18g/cup
- Hemp seeds – 16g/3 Tbsp
- Beans – 12-15g/cup
- Quinoa – 11g/cup
- Tofu – 10g/4oz (This is a great resource on how to cook with tofu)
- Nutritional yeast – 8g/2 Tbsp
- Almonds – 6g /1/4c
- Oatmeal – 6g / cup
- Pumpkin Seeds – 5g/2 Tbsp
- Chia seeds – 4g/ 2 Tbsp
- Flax – 4g/ 2 Tbsp
This article has a great breakdown of a lot of these foods, what they are, and how to cook them.
Another frequently asked question about protein concerns which protein powders are the best? In a market saturated with workout supplements claiming to get you lean and ripped, how do you know which are legit?
Stay tuned because the next post and podcast episode in this series is going to take an in depth look into protein powders and supplements, so you can cut through the clutter and get your bang for your buck! Be sure to pin the image below for later!
Pin any of the images below for later!
If you are using protein for energy, bad news, we do not wanna be using protein for energy. Protein is a building block. Carbohydrates are a quick energy source. We’re using protein to build literally all the tissue in your body. Welcome to the imperfectly empowered podcast with DIY healthy lifestyle blogger on a former empowering you to transform your. One imperfect day at a time. Hello? Hello. Welcome back to another episode of the imperfectly empowered podcast. I am your host, Anna Fuller. We have been doing this little mini series lately on the podcast on protein. We have talked everything from what protein is, what protein bioavailability means, why protein is essential for sustainable fat loss. We are going to chat today about the best protein sources for fat loss or for weight loss. Again, in my world, we like to talk about not weight loss cuz the number on the scale is arbitrary. It is merely a reflection of your relationship with gravity. It is not a relevant number that indicates truly your disease risk or your state of health. So we like to talk about. Loss. And there’s more information coming. We’re gonna chat about protein powders, how to navigate the very confusing world of protein powders, which ones are actually beneficial, which ones? Maybe not so much. We’re gonna chat recipes. We’re doing this whole little mini series on protein. My favorite macronutrient. It is the nutritional key to unlocking sustainable fat loss. And today we are going to. The muscle building power of protein, bio availability with some of the best dietary protein sources for vegetarians and meat eaters alike. If you did miss my recent post or podcast episode, the truth about protein and weight loss, be sure to check it out. You can go to hammers and hugs. Look at it on the blog. Or you can certainly search it here in the podcast world or on YouTube, and be sure to check it out or download it for later, we covered why protein was so important for the body, how much protein you should actually be eating in a day, what any of it has to do with fat loss, et cetera. But one of the key takeaways is that by replacing excess body fat, with lean muscle tissue, you lose inches, whittle your waist and ultimately reduce disease risk. The nutritional key to this fitness goal protein more specifically protein sources with high bio availability for skeletal muscle synthesis, a fancy term for muscle breakdown and repair. If you remember, from the previous episode, bio availability is the overall percentage of nine essential amino acid. Those are the molecules that make up the dietary protein that we. Bio availability is the overall percentage of those nine essential amino acids that are available to the body. After said protein, rich food has been digested chicken tofu milk. Fill in blank. Prioritizing protein with higher bioavailability will best power, muscle built blood sugar regulation and cellular repair. Not all protein is created. I mentioned this previously, what a lot of people don’t realize is that animal based protein has a much higher bio availability than plant based protein. Can you still get enough protein as a vegetarian? Yes, but it does take more intentionality. And work this post. This episode is going to address some of the most frequently asked questions about protein. For those who really want to dive into buy availability. There are a couple of good resources. I’ve linked them in the blog post on the website at hammers and hugs on the show notes. But just keep in mind. This is a very complex science. There’s always caveats to every guide. I am trying to keep it very simple as we chat about bio ability, but there is much, much more in depth information. Certainly some frequently asked questions about the best protein sources we are going to run through. What is the best meat with high protein. Meat must be approached with caution. I have said this before many high protein meat sources are also high in saturated, fat and salt if processed. So in case you are new around here, it bears repeating that my one nutritional guideline within the home is consuming all natural foods. If it cannot be found without artificial or processed ingredients, then it should not be routinely given a home in your pantry. To learn more about the difference between all natural food and organic food. Be sure to listen to the podcast episode I did on whole food nutrition. Does it really make a difference? You can watch it here on YouTube. You can go to the blog post and read the blog on hammers and hugs.com. Lots of ways to check it out. But the reality is it does make. A difference. You need to eliminate artificial and processed foods from your pantry on a routine basis within your home. Meat is no exception to this. One massive advantage to prioritizing all natural meat that hasn’t been processed is the reduction in salt, even organic beef has a high amount of saturated fat though. Remember, organic is not a panacea for health. There’s a lot of poisons that are. Organic that can be found organic. They will still kill you if consumed. So just remember organic is not a panacea for healthy. So this can be challenging for someone with high cholesterol or predisposition to heart disease. Like we have in our family. The key to meat sources of protein is prioritizing lean protein. If you want the blanket answer to the best meat, protein sources, it is meat that offers lean protein. This would include chicken breasts, ground Turkey, pork chops, lean ground beef, tuna mahimahi Cod salmon is really high in healthy fat. So I’m also going to throw this in. This is an excellent meat source of protein, but it is high in fat. It’s not by definition lean, but it’s such healthy fat. That salmon is a great, great player in the lineup of meat, proteins, or animal based protein. I did wanna mention that in the show notes also on the blog post, there’s an excellent image that I share at the end that has a lot of references for the best protein sources for weight loss or fat loss. They’re kind of condensed into one image that you can pin on your Pinterest board for later, or download it to your phone, whatever you wanna do with it. Um, there at the end, let’s talk about fruit. Which fruits are high in protein. Fruit can be a tricky dietary source. When we talk about macronutrients with my fitness nutrition clients, and that is carbs fats and protein because fruit is colorful, it looks really healthy. Juices always have this appeal because they’ve got, you know, pretty images of fruit on the sticker on the front, but just remember fruit is ultimately sugar. Now it is an all natural source of sugar. Fruit is an excellent all-natural source of carbs. So fruit you need to be careful with fruit is again, not like a panacea for healthy, just like organic isn’t fruit also needs to be eaten. Mindfully fruit is not going to be a go-to source of protein. Excellent. All natural source of nutrient dense carbs, but not a go-to source of protein. Here are a list just to give you a breakdown. Of fruits and the amount of protein in them to give you a sense, a chicken breast, a large chicken breast might have 50 grams of protein, like one full size chicken, breast, 50 grams of protein. Here are grams per cup of fruit, guava four grams avocado, three grams jackfruit, three grams apricot, two grams. Grape PR two grams. This is per cup blackberries, two grams Kiwi two grams cherries, two grams melon, two grams raisins, one gram peaches, one gram. If you are trying to figure out how does fruit factor into a healthy dietary balance fruit would be what you want to consume before you go out for a. If you need a quick boost of energy, you would want fruit. Fruit is the body’s like quick resource for energy carbohydrates, right? It ultimately gets broken down into sugar for that quick energy release protein you want to think of as the sustaining building block for the body sustaining, meaning if you are using protein for energy, bad news, that means you’re muscle wast. You’re probably in starvation mode, we do not wanna be using protein for energy. Protein is a building block. Carbohydrates are a quick energy source. We’re not using protein for energy. We’re using protein to build literally all the tissue in your body. Specifically in this case, replace disease, promoting fat with. Life giving lean protein muscle mass supported muscle mass. You have tried it all worried. You will never lose the extra weight or reclaim the energy you once enjoyed, want to achieve bat loss without spending hours in a gym or eliminating entire food groups from your diet. While now you can in the virtual faster way to fat loss with Anna. Six week fitness nutrition program. You will learn how to pair effective 30 minute workouts with all natural evidence based nutritional strategies to leverage what you eat. And when you eat to reset your metabolism and burn fat fast, even that stubborn belly fat. I am a dual certified nurse practitioner, passionate about teaching sustainable strategies to promote fat loss and prevent disease. I have cheered on thousands of clients who have done just that with the faster weight program in my six week program, the average client currently sheds seven inches of body fat. 93% report, more energy and 89% state that their mental health has improved 100% of clients report. They feel this program is sustainable. Curious to try the program, but not sure if the strategies will work for you. Try the faster way strategies for free head to www.hammersandhugs.com and sign up for my free seven day fat. Accelerator course today and start your own transformation story, which vegetables are high in protein. This is one. I also get asked a lot because for my plant based fitness, nutrition clients, obviously they are all looking for the best sources of protein that are not animal based. So this is one that we talk about a lot. I will say vegetables are going to be a better source of protein than fruit. Fruit should pretty much not even enter the protein category in your mind. Fruit. Think for the most part carbs. So, again, similar to fruits, vegetables are still not going to be the best source of protein, even for vegetarian. However, it is very, very helpful to understand what the protein content is in some of these vegetables and these nutrient dense foods like vegetables should have a large role in your overall nutritional intake, especially again, when we’re thinking nutrient dense carbs, vegetable. I would argue even before fruit should be source number one, because of all of the other micronutrients that come with these vegetables, but these are not going to have super high, super high protein bio availability. These are not going to be as big of a player in building muscle mass for your body. But to answer that question, these grams are also per cup. So these servings are grams per. One cup of green peas, nine grams, one cup of artichokes, five grams, one cup of sweet corn, five grams, one cup of avocado. Five grams is avocado, a vegetable or fruit. Hmm. Debate for the ages. I’ve heard tomatoes debated over this too. Anyways, avocado five grams, one cup of asparagus, four gram. One cup of brussel sprouts, four grams, one cup of mushrooms, four grams, one cup of kale, four grams. Again, these are excellent sources of nutrient dense carbohydrates. These would be often higher and fiber. When you are wondering which carbs should I be reaching for? You should be reaching generally speaking for the ones higher in. Fiber, these would be considered complex carbs that generally speaking will be more supportive in terms of blood sugar, regulation, et cetera. So carbs that are higher in fiber vegetables. Perfect. Perfect. Go-to source. There is some protein, but you probably should not be thinking of these in terms of muscle. What are then the best protein sources for vegetarians or vegans, a better way to phrase this question. This is a popular question. What are the best sources of plant based protein? This might be a better way to ask this question again. Keeping in mind animal based protein is going to have a higher bio availability, but the key to plant-based protein is finding complete. Proteins remember those essential amino acids that we talked about, and there are 20 amino acids that make up protein in our body, but 11 of them, our body makes, while it sleeps, we call these non-essential amino acids because we do not need to prioritize them. The body has been fearfully and wonderfully designed and it is making them on its own, but there are nine. Amino acids that make up the protein in our body, that we can only get through dietary sources. We have to eat them in order to optimally thrive. We call these essential amino acids because we must prioritize them. It is essential for us to think of these when we eat, because we’re going to start eating mindfully. Correct. We’re going to think about how we’re fueling our body. We’re not gonna deprive our body. We’re gonna fuel our body. Change your mindset. So that being said, when we talk about complete proteins, complete proteins have all nine essential amino acids. So plant based protein, non meat, complete proteins. Would include fish. I did include fish when I was earlier talking about, I should have just said animal based protein earlier, not particularly meat. I apologize for the verbiage there, but non meat complete proteins would include fish, dairy, like milk, yogurt, cheese, and eggs, fish, dairy and eggs would be examples of non meat, complete proteins. Traditionally speaking. Still animal based plant based complete proteins include quinoa, soy buck, wheat, hemp, chia seeds, spirulina temp, and Amith. Now there is such a thing as combining incomplete proteins to try to compliment each other and ensure your body is getting all of these essential amino acids. My number one takeaway for you is this though. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, be careful that your protein consumption is not only adequate, but accounts for the correct amount of carbs. This is the challenge. One of the reasons I have seen so many overweight, diabetic vegetarians and vegans in my medical career is because more often than not, there’s too little protein and too many carbs, or maybe they’re getting enough protein. But the protein choices that they’re making are also very, very high in carbs, which again, ultimately gets converted into sugar for the body to. Protein is essential for helping the body to stabilize blood sugar. We’re gonna chat a little bit more about some plant-based protein amounts. Even if you’re vegetarian, you should not be consuming more than 50% of your daily calories from carbs. Even if you’re a vegetarian, you should not be consuming more than 50% of your daily calories from carbs for a well balanced macronutrient. Here’s just a, a couple more plant-based protein amounts per serving green lentil, French lentil, black and red lentil, 18 grams per cup, hemp seeds, 16 grams per three, tablespoons beans, 12 to 15 grams per cup, quinoa 11 grams per cup. Tofu 10 grams per four ounces. I just wanna make a side note y’all by the way, I do not like tofu. I have tried it. I don’t like it, but I also recognize if you’re a plant based eater, this is a great way to get your protein. So I have included. A great resource on the website, how to cook with tofu. I thought this was an excellent article giving great ideas. If you would like to incorporate tofu into your diet, some recommendations on how to cook with it and hopefully enjoy it. cause that’s the goal. Food was meant to be enjoyed nutritional yeast, eight grams per two tablespoons almond six grams per quarter. Oatmeal six grams per cup, pumpkin seeds, five grams per two tablespoons chia seeds, four grams per two tablespoons flax, four grams per two tablespoons. I apologize. I know that list. The servings were a little all over the place, but I tried to give you realistic servings, right? Probably aren’t too many people are going to eat a cup of pumpkin seeds. So those. Protein amounts based on a serving size that is actually reasonable. I did include a link to another article that has a great breakdown of a lot of those foods for plant based diets, what they are, how to cook them. You know, like nutritional yeast, how many of you know what nutritional yeast is, for example? So, you know, again, if you are consuming a plant-based diet, you do need to be more intentional. It is possible to consume enough protein, but it will take more work, but it is worth it because getting the right amount of protein from the right sources could make all of the difference for your overall. So make sure you understand the protein that you’re eating, whether you’re an animal based diet or you’re a plant-based diet. Another frequently asked question. About protein. And I mentioned, this is which protein powders are the best, especially if you are part of a nutritional program where we are increasing your overall nutritional intake of protein. For example, my clients, as I mentioned in the last podcast episode, the general dietary recommendation is only 11%. I believe of a 2000 calorie a day. In my program. For example, we bump you up to 25%. It takes work. You have to really start thinking about what you’re consuming, but it makes all the difference, the results speak for themselves. And again, I will reiterate this. This is not unique to the faster rate to fat loss program that I coach for. This is common for a lot of nutrition programs because we recognize the essential. Essential role that protein plays, especially when combined with muscle building cardio and strength, training exercise. It is essential to replace that disease, promoting fat with life, giving muscle building, lean protein. We wanna get rid of that disease promoting fat and build lean muscle. So we often have to supplement with protein. I don’t know about you, but it is an overwhelming aisle to walk down. Whether you’re walking down the aisle virtually or in a store, our market has been saturated with workout supplements, claiming to be the best to get you lean and ripped. So how do you know which are legit? Which ones should you prioritize? Stay tuned. Because the next episode that I’m going to chat about is all about protein powders. We are going to take a deep dive into powders, what you should be looking at on the nutritional label. And we are going to keep it simple because I want to help you cut through the clutter and get your bang for your buck. Be sure to tune in next time, when we talk about those protein powders and remember. We wanna see food as fuel food was meant to be enjoyed, start consuming mindfully. Thanks for listening to this episode of the imperfectly empowered podcast. I would love to hear your thoughts from today. Head to your preferred podcasting platform and give the show an honest review and let me know what you think. Remember, you cannot be redefined only redeveloped one imperfect day at a time. Your story matters and you are loved.