Top 4 High Protein Muscle Building Foods

By Vince Del Monte, WBFF Pro Fitness Model, Certified Fitness Trainer and Nutritionist and author of No Nonsense Muscle Building.

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.

egg

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.

chicken-breast-recipes

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.

Canned_Tuna

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!

flank-steak-horseradish-sauce-01-af

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.

Vince

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83 thoughts on “Top 4 High Protein Muscle Building Foods

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  12. Eating a lot of protein will probably help with muscles…like for instant body builders..they eat protein at specific times of the day..sooo they can give their muscles what they need..to maintain or gain muscle

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  13. If you work out correctly, then you are putting a lot of stress on your body, particularly your muscles. You are acutally breaking the muscle fibers down and they need to rebuild back stronger. This is why weight lifting works.

    Protein plays a huge role in rebuilding of the muscles. It gets absorbed the best immediately after your workout. This is why.

    30-40 grams is a good goal for right after. Don’t do more as it can stimulate an insulinemic response which leads to fat storage instead of metabolism.

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  14. Pasta is really good for protein. im in soccer and my coach says to eat a lot of protein such as pasta. hope this helped

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  17. hello can anyone tell me if its okay to eat fruits thru out the day with some of your meals cause some people say that you should only have simple sugars before and after workouts

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  18. heyyy can anyone tell me if its okay to eat fruits thru out the day with some of your meals cause some people say that you should only have simple sugars before and after workouts

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  21. Originally Posted By BobTermites are also high in protein, 20 grams of protein for every 100 grams of termites (seriously). The only problem is trying to find termites in bulk. If you have to hunt for them, it uses up too much energy (not so seriously). :)

    I wonder if anyone would eat termites to build muscles. I don’t think they taste very good… lol

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  22. Oh! Thank you very much. I’ll tell these foods to my friends. He always ask me about high protein foods that building muscle.

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  23. Whole eggs are a huge part of my muscle building diet. A lot of people completely miss out on the benefits of eating eggs by only eating the egg whites. In my opinion this is a huge mistake, especially if you want to build muscle mass. Just like everything else, keep it in moderation don't go crazy and eat 20 eggs a day or anything like that. Work in a few whole eggs here and there and they'll help you build muscle.

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  24. I don't like eggs but other 3 is suitable for me for building muscles. From beef we can get large amount of protein for muscles and from others also we are getting protein but lesser as compared to beef.

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  25. Great advice as well buddy. By the way, love the new stairs vid on youtube!

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  26. Hi Vince!

    While I do agree on the eggs, the fish and the meat, I somehow wouldn't recommend the chicken. Why? Simply because:

    1. Chicken is one of the cheapest and fastest meat that you can produce. How? By force-feeding those chickens and doping them with tons of growth hormones and antibiotics so that they grow as fast as possible to meet the demand. It has to be ready to be in your plate within 3 weeks! Now, let's say for example that tomorrow, you and your wife-to-be have a baby. By natural processes, the baby would take, let's say 18 to 21 years to grow into a fully-mature adult. Now, if I tell you, ok Vince, I'll force-feed your baby and dope him/her with growth hormones and antibiotics and he/she will be an adult in 3 months. Would you agree to that? Do you think that he/she would be healthy if I did that? Don't forget that chemicals affect your body chemistry and can have very adverse effects on your health.

    2. Have you visited a poultry factory? Those poor animals have barely an inch to move freely. Now imagine how sad and depressed you yourself would be if you were kept in a room with thousands of other people with barely any space to move freely. How would you feel? Now, since everything is so inter-linked inside your body, your emotions – especially stress – affects your health, wellness and vitality. If you would feel stressed and sick by being in such a situation, then imagine how those chickens are, and imagine what you are actually eating. It's virtually like eating a sick animal, and this cannot be healthy for anyone of us.

    3. By nature, chicken is a scavenger. It eats virtually everything it finds in the soil, from worms to its own feaces, to almost any other garbage it can find. Imagine yourself eating those things. Would you be healthy by doing that? I guess not! So you can imagine what you are actually eating when you consume chicken.

    No wonder why and how the Food industry is one of the billion-dollar industries (alongside the pharmaceutical industry).

    Anyway, this was just food for thought. In the end the choice is yours guys. But, I presume that if people are logging into this site, its because they want to move to the next level in their health and fitness, so I'm sure all of you guys would prefer opting for much healthier sources of food.

    Your health, wellness and vitality are affected by 3 things (called the triad of health):

    1. Structure – i.e. your spinal alignment, degree of subluxations and spinal degeneration etc – these are normally things which you can correct via Corrective Chiropractic.

    2. Body Chemistry

    3. Mental / Emotions

    So, make an informed choice, and remember 2 things:

    1. Winners don't do different things, they do things differently.
    2. You have to do what others don't to achieve what others won't. (This one I found on one of Vince's friends, Arnel Ricafranca's blog. It's really profound if you can grasp the meaning of it).

    Good luck guys!

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    • Good info on the chicken. The farms are really gross to see. I've been able to find free-range non-medicated chicken meat at a few of my local markets so it's definitely out there. My wife would actually rather take a half hour bus ride to get some of that chicken then walk up the street to get the regular stuff.

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      • Hi Ryan,

        Thanks for the reply mate! Actually, I'm happy for you that you've found free-range chicken, but don't forget that, as pointed in my 3rd point, by nature, chicken is a scavenger. It eats virtually everything it finds in the soil, from worms to its own feaces, to almost any other garbage it can find. Imagine yourself eating those things. Would you be healthy by doing that? I guess not! So you can imagine what you are actually eating when you consume chicken.

        Hope this helps.

        Best of luck in your training and nutrition!

        Cheers,
        Yog.

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        • Thanks for sharing all that Yog.

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  27. Nice article, consolidated to serve as a ready reference list.

    One question though.

    The idea of using liquid egg whites is quite appealing, since it’s handy and doesn’t waste the yolks. However I’d like to know how they’re made. How they are processed and so on…

    Could you please point in the right direction.

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  28. I live in Australia, and Kangaroo Meat is an incredible source of protein (and Iron). It's extremely healthy, fat levels are typically 1 – 2% and it is totally free of antibiotics and other chemicals common in meat from domestic animals. Its organic and produces no methane gas :D Its also has upto 5 time as much CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) as Lamb, and CLA has been shown to reduce body fat in humans and has also been researched for its anti-carcinogenic and anti-diabetes properties.

    Only downside is you have to be VERY careful when cooking it, as it tends to overcook easy, becoming very tough. And the taste may take a little getting used to, as it is quite 'gamey'.

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  29. Nice info Vince !
    My favorite protein recipe:
    Greek yogurt, Cottage cheese, Hard boiled egg, Salmon roe, Sun flower seeds, Flax seeds, all mixed together, yammy.
    Greek yogurt, which I use, has 10% fat, but I haven't found better tasting….

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  30. An easy way to estimate your mercury exposure from eating fish is to check out the free online mercury calculator athttp://www.gotmercury.org. Based on the current U.S. EPA and FDA guidelines, the mercury calculator is an excellent way to know your potential mercury exposure risk.

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  31. I love eggs any way you can cook them, chicken breast and tuna are also a regular in my diet. Steak I love too but is more for special occasions because it is a little pricey. Love some veggies too.

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  32. I love a 2 egg white and i whole egg Omelette with a slice of low fat cheese or an ounce of ripe English cheddar with greens or broccoli for a super breakfast. I even season it with 2-3 drops of Tabasco.

    I love Fish for dinner with a big bowl of salad with a dressing of Apple Cider vinegar, olive or flax seed oil , honey, garlic, salt and pepper.I also have a side dish of stir fried veggies like baby corn, zuccini, mushrooms,spinach or snow peas. I do 3 types of combos.

    I eat Chicken breasts for lunch which i marinate in different gluten free sauces overnight and then pan fry them in 1 tsp of olive oil.

    My snack choices are Peanut butter or raw nuts and tons of fresh fruit and Protein shakes with water. I’m addicted to Peanut butter but i have laid off it for 3 weeks as i want to choose more lean options.

    I have a DARK CHOCOLATE ADDICTION which i am a slave to so i indulge in a small piece after lunch and after dinner i eat 2 pieces of dry fruit and an ounce of nuts.

    If anyone on the blog thinks i can do better for weight LOSS then please lemme in on your Diet.

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  33. 1-milk
    2-tuna
    3-eggs
    4-beef
    i also wanted to ask, what is the best way(protein wise) to cook chickenbeefeggs? and do people still eat em raw?

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  34. I like Egg and Beef

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  35. Soft curd cheese, in Holland it's known as kwark and everyone's eating it. It has 8.5 grams of protein for every 100 grams. And fresh herring, a typical Dutch delicacy, full of the good fats and high in protein!

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    • Yes, we have that here (in Sweden) too, the brand name here is Kesella. I make pretty much all my cold sauces out of quark, just press a clove of garlic, any spices/herbs you want and stir a little, works great with fish, steak, veggies or anything else. Sometimes I also include an additional spoon of it in my workout shake (when using the blender anyway, shaking manually is a bit difficult with quark).

      It can also be used in baking, very versatile.

      The low fat version here has the following profile

      Energy 320kJ / 75kcal
      Protein 13 g
      Carbs 3,5 g
      Fat 1g

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  36. WHAT ABOUT VEGETARIANS…??

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    • What about them? I'm just kidding.

      I'm not a vegetarian so don't provide much information on this lifestyle. Nothing personal, it's just not an area that I'm very excited about talking about.

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  37. Yeaaah, Flank steak. Now thats the way to go.

    I eat steak around once a week, usually always flank steak.

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  38. You've pretty much hit on my primary diet, Buddy! Add some organic salad mix for some cold veggies and some ratatouille for some hot ones and there isn' much else I can think of I eat in the course of the day on a reqular basis. Maybe add some low or non fat cottage cheese here and there. One thing about the eggs, I got into using the cartoned egg whites for a while but found that wasting the yolk or not, it was less expensive to separate the eggs plus there's noe of the other stuff they put in the cartoned ones. Not that there's much but with the real whites there's nothing.

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  39. Excellent choices Vince, I would just add a couple of notes. Beef: Grass-Fed is an important consideration as GF beef has Omega 3 – 6 ratios comparable to salmon which will allow you to keep it on the menu more often. Bison is another good choice and is very lean. Fish: Wild caught. Garbage in – Garbage out: We see the effect of what we eat on our performance and physique and avoid those things that work against our goals. We should take that into consideration when choosing the foods that we eat. Take an animal out of its normal environment, feed it foods it would not eat naturally and then conclude that it will be equally nourishing.

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  40. Christian Emperio May 18, 2010 at 1:16 am - Reply

    wohhh. . . great one vince. . . i will be sharing this to all my friends at the gym . . .

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  41. Hi! Mr. Delmonte, I am having trouble to send you an email with my AntiDiet receipt.
    It says that your email doesnt exist. Is there any other way that I can send it to you?
    Any other email adress? My e mail is edleusaege@hotmail.com. And my order is

    Receipt for your ClickBank Order #D7JN58E2

    Thank you for the attention!

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  42. Hey Vince,

    I know eggs are a great protein source, and you said they decrease cholesterol, but aren't eggs really high in cholesterol? Scrambled eggs are almost always included in my breakfast so I'm just curious.

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  43. l am veggie and l don't eat eggs (unless they happen to be in some food product). What can l eat?

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    • combining legumes, nuts and seeds can provide complete proteins, but they are more carbohydrate dense, if you're insulin sensitive. I couldn't live without my beans and rice (always use a whole grain blend of rices) and make hummus at least once a week–it's a complete protein with the legumes and the seeds (tahini and garbonzo)

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  44. I don't eat red or white meats except fish so next to eating alot of whole Eggs 3-4 per day, I chow down on unsalted raw NUTS like there is no tomorrow, I hate Tuna so I prefer Salmon most of the time, low fat cottage cheese and yogurts ( i try to stay away from milk). I avoid Protein Shakes as real food is the way to

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    • Just saw a special on imported fish and how bad it is for you. Make sure that all of your fish come from local farms and waters. I love fish, but would die without a juicey, bloody red steak once a week or so:) Mmmmmmmmmmmm.

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  45. I'm interested..what are the best high protein muscle-building foods for vegetarians/vegans?

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  46. I agree with Vince my favorite source of Protein is a good steak with eggs being a very close second. I try to incorporate as many differnt types of protein into my diet through out the week and have just recently been using some of the recipies from Dave's Anabolic cook book for some better ideas (all of the one's I've tried so far are incredible by the way!)

    Thank you Vince and Dave you both have been a huge help to improving my overall health and fitness!

    Billy

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    • Thanks Billy! I'm glad you like the Cookbook and that we were able to help you achieve your goals.

      All the best my friend.

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  47. I like the recommendations. I need to incorporate more tuna into my diet.

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  48. My main sources of protein are whey, cottage cheese(mixing them together is yummy, too) and salmon. Only wild caught, not farm raised. Also, be careful of all the mercury in tuna….I get mine from a company in Alaska (shipped to PA) that is careful about the size of the tuna caught so it has the least amount of mercury.

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  49. Great choices for protein.

    I tend to lean toward chicken breast and love making chicken breast sandwiches and adding some salsa and guacamole / avocado for flavor.

    Same with eggs, you can go wrong with a spinach and tomato omlette with added (you guessed it) avocado!

    ~Chris

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    • Avocados are a great source of healthy fats and make a great addition to omelettes or sandwiches! Good post Chris!

      (actually I'm gonna eat an avocado now :) )

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  50. I know eggs are a great source of protein and I love them, but how many times a week is it ok to have them. Is it ok if I have a few eggs everyday for breakfast or should I only eat eggs 3-4 time per week?

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  51. if egg will be done s omlete. it won't lose some of the nutrition value?

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    • Not at all… it is an old myth that heating protein will make it lose its nutritional value. It's like cooking with protein powder, heat will not make it lose its nutritional value :)

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  52. I'm currently liking raw milk. I'm blessed to live in California, one of the few states where it's legal to sell raw milk at retail. The whole milk is $6 per half gallon, and the skimmed milk is $3… so last week I bought the skim, even though the fats in whole, raw, unpasteurized, un-homogenized are actually good for you. I also bought a raw kefir product where the kefir grains are fermented in raw colostrum–the "first milk" that every mammal supplies to their newborn. Very high in beneficial probiotics and an awesome base for a fruit smoothie.

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  53. Chicken breast, Tuna and cottage cheese my 3 favorite sources. I live on the coast in Croatia so we also get other good fish, I don't know all the names in english but I recommend shark meat on the grill, it's delicious.
    I can't have eggs unfortunately (allergy) bummer I would love to eat some in the morning.

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    • where are you from in Croatia. Im from Bosnia

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  54. The trick is a balance. I mean you should try to make complete proteins out of the incomplete ones. An example is red beans and rice. Speaking of which, that is a great side to have with tuna or chicken.

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  55. "A 6 oz chicken breast normally runs three-to-four dollars"

    Where are you buying your chicken from? The most I pay for boneless, skinless chicken breast is $2.99/lb. and that is only if I NEED it. I stock up when it goes on sale for $1.59-$2.29/lb. I just bought 20 lbs of it at $1.79/lb.

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    • Chicken Breasts (boneless) are about $6 a pound here in Canada

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    • I agree. This past month Istocked up on whole frozen turkeys when they went on sale at easter for $0.59 per pound ( I bought 125 lbs and stocked my freezer) I get split chicken breast for $0.99 per pound an skin it myself and free range eggs for about $1.59/dozen

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  56. I agree with some aspects in your article but to state to eat egg yolks for one in four eggs is incorrect. The so-called health concerns are merely myths. They raise cholestrol- HDL, the good cholestrol.

    Also, you talk of the protein to fat ratio in tuna being beneficial to building muscle, but instead, fatty fish (which you have acknowledged in salmon) have been shown to increase lean muscle, as a result of the more stabilising effect on blood sugar, and consequently, blood sugar.

    I'd add wild game meat to your list too.

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    • Hey Akash, this article was emphasizing protein foods that had a high protein to fat ratio which is why I made the recommendation for less egg yolks, not because of the health concerns with the yolk.

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  57. My favorite is cottage cheese or greek yogurt. Lots of lowfat proteins and an apple or other fruit and I'm set :-)

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    • it is not greek it is turkish.

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  58. Along with the foods you mentioned in the article, I also like tuna, pickled herring, beef jerky, smoked salmon, cottage cheese which is low calorie for how much protein there is, yogurt with live cultures, refried beans which are higher calorie for the protein in it, and of course whey protein powder. These are my personal favorite high protein foods.

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  59. What about 1% milk fat cottage cheese? There is no prep work involved like the others so it's great for on the fly. One cup is only 163 calories and has 28g of protein (which I've read is a great protein to eat in the evening as it is slow release), 2.3g of fat, 6 grams of carbs.

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    • Great pre-bed snack! I have some almost everyday.

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    • Yes. My body does not get along with dairy all that great. If yours does, cottage cheese is a great high protein food and good price.

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  60. i like to add hummas and or hot sauce to tuna and eggs to add taste

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    • Termites are also high in protein, 20 grams of protein for every 100 grams of termites (seriously). The only problem is trying to find termites in bulk. If you have to hunt for them, it uses up too much energy (not so seriously). :)

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