Choosing the best high protein foods is a key principle of the bodybuilding lifestyle. Protein is responsible for muscle growth, repair, creation of hormones and forming neurotransmitters in the brain.
Your body craves the amino acids from protein after a hard work and your bodies growth is dependent on dedication to supplying your body with the right high protein foods before and after your workouts.
Pretty easy concept, right?
The trick for the bodybuilder is to ensure their diet comes from different forms of proteins because each form contains different amounts of amino acids, and some proteins lack amino acids that others make up for.
YOU ARE DIFFERENT: Your nutritional demands are completely different than a sedentary person who has no interest in six packs and big muscles and does not put a demand on their body with intense weight training.
This means the foods you eat must foster an anabolic environment your body needs to pack on the mass. Most research agrees that you need to ingest about 1-1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight.
I prefer to apply this formula to “lean body mass.” So take the amount of lean body mass on your body, instead of overall weight, and multiply it by 1 to 1.5 and that is your protein intake for the day in grams. Take that number and divide it by 5-6 meals.
So a 200 pound bodybuilder who is 15% fat will have 170 pounds of lean mass on his body. This means he should consume 170-255 grams of protein per day or 30-40 grams of protein per meal.
NOTE: The right intensity and recovery protocols must be applied to your program to reap the benefits of the top high protein foods. A high protein diet can not compensate for a lack of training intensity or overtraining. The high protein foods only work if your workouts are high enough in intensity to challenge them to new growth.
The Top 4 High Protein Muscle Building Foods
1. Whole Eggs – Don’t Throw Out The Yolks
As far as protein is concerned, eggs are the kings. A whole egg has the biological value (BV) of 100 which measures the protein’s quality. BV is based on how much of the protein consumed is actually absorbed and utilized in the body. The higher the amount of protein (nitrogen) that is actually retained, the greater the BV. If a protein has a BV of 100, it means all the protein absorbed will be utilized and none has been lost.
Whole eggs score the highest of all foods with a BV of 100, while beans have a BV of only 49 an significant contrast.
Whole eggs are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids your body craves to decrease cholesterol levels, aid in joint inflammation, and increase hormone production. Eggs are high in BCAA’s which aids in muscle growth.
Since the egg yolk is the source of fat and some of the essential amino acids, it’s necessary to include yolk in whole egg/egg white mix to achieve the optimal ratio of nutrition. A whole egg has about 7 grams of protein with 3.5 grams from the yolk and 3.5 grams from the white. The yolk has about 3.5 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat.
I have found that adding 1 yolk with every four whites (one whole egg and three extra egg whites if you’re making a custom order at a restaurant) delivers 17.5 grams of protein and 4 to 5 grams of fat.
So a carton of a dozen eggs, which would cost about three-four dollars, you will have three whole eggs and nine additional egg whites. This will deliver approximately 52.5 grams of protein and 15 grams of fat.
A 300 gram protein diet from eggs would cost you about twenty dollars a day. I prefer to use liquid egg whites, blended with a whole egg, instead of wasting the yolk from a carton of eggs.
2. Chicken Breast: The Bodybuilders “Go-To” Choice!
Why is chicken breast so popular for bodybuilders? It’s probably linked to the fact that it has an extremely high protein to fat ratio. It’s virtually non-exisitent of saturated fat and low in overall fat, making it a heart-healthy choice.
This is why bodybuilders feel safe in consuming it up to three-to-six times a day and for twelve-to-sixteen weeks at at time. Chicken has a BV of 76 making it a great choice for a high-protein food. The low-fat content makes is a very versatile food since it leaves room for the addition of good sources of fat like olive oil or avocado to your salad and vegetables so you don’t have to eat the chicken breast alone.
A typical 6 oz chicken breast is approximately 200 calories and 40 grams of protein and 2 grams of fat. A 6 oz chicken breast normally runs three-to-four dollars so it’s not as superior in cost and quality to whole eggs but pretty darn close.
3. Fish: A Great Catch
Tuna is probably the most popular muscle-building food amongst bodybuilders. The most redeeming quality is it’s non-existent fat content. Tuna is the best protein-to-fat ratio of all whole food proteins. It has a high concentration of BCAAs, so it made the list pretty easily.
Like red meat, tuna has a high amount of creatine in it, which is a nice bonus from a protein source. Tuna is not the only acceptable form of fish, salmon is exceptionally high in omega-3 fatty acids (good fats) and solid source of complete protein high in essential amino acids.
If you’re in a restaurant, look for the white fish options such as haddock, founder, shark, swordfish, and mahi-mahi. Each of these are lean choices that dominate the protein to fat ratio.
All proteins take some time to digest and fish is no exception. Consume with veggies and olive oil to help undergo digestion to in order to push the amino acids into the bloodstream. Fish is a slow-release protein but far faster releasing than protein sources like red meat.
A typical serving size of 6 oz of tuna will consume 200 calories will the same 6 oz of salmon will reach 300 calories. The tuna brags as high as 45 grams of protein per serving while salmon boasts 35 grams of protein in the same serving size. Salmon will will have almost 15-20 grams of fat, only 4 grams from saturated fat, which is why bodybuilder rely on salmon more in the off season than contest phase where calories and fat is reduced.
My favourite part about tuna is the cost: cheaper cans of tuna can yield up to 60 grams of protein for a can that is only one-to-dollars a can! Consume tuna in moderation and no more than one can a day to minimize the mercury levels. Again, everything in moderation.
4. Beef: The Big Mass Growing Protein
If the plan is to pack on serious size, you know this is a reliable standby and most-used weapon. Why is beef so powerful for building muscle?
Aside from beef being the best tasting option of all the high protein foods, beef is linked to being abundant in creatine and L-carnitine, which have both been shown to boost cardiovascular health and aid in muscle growth. It contains lots of zinc, vitamin B12, and phosphorus.
The BV of beef is 76, same as chicken, and contains a good amount of BCAAs. The only downfall of beef is that is very high in saturated fat (hence why it tastes so good), and cholesterol, two things that will definitely hurt your cardiovascular health.
The key is to eat beef in moderation and choose the leanest cuts such as top round and flank steak which provides all the benefits with the least amount of saturated fat.
Steak is a delicacy to me and I prefer to have it cooked properly and with the highest quality beef, which is why I rarely cook it in my house. My typical dinner out will be a steak at a nice restaurant so I reserve the majority of my beef consumption on date nights and social nights with friends. Yes, you pay much more in a restaurant, which is why I include steak on a treat night where I can accompany it with a glass of red wine and dessert!
That’s a nice cut of flank steak, add some mustard or horseradish and you’re good to go.
Let me know what your favourite high protein food is by posting your answers below.