If you are into a healthy lifestyle, bodybuilding, or fitness in general, you are probably aware of the importance of protein in your diet. We need protein as the building block of muscle growth, repair, and maintenance and focusing on high-quality proteins to include in your diet is essential if you are aiming to transform your body in one way or the other.
Protein is a macronutrient that can be found in foods and plants and there are virtually endless food choices with high protein content that you can incorporate into your diet and use them to your advantage. Even though I will be covering several meat choices in regards to protein and fitness use, high protein plant-based foods are just as available. Nevertheless, let’s cover some great lean meat options you can incorporate into your diet for those lean gains!
Best Lean Protein
Chicken is widely used for bodybuilding purposes for numerous reasons. Chicken is affordable and with a little bit of preparation (cutting out excessive fat before cooking), this meat is a very lean source of protein. Approximately 5 oz. of cooked chicken breast packs around 40g of protein, 0 carbs, and about 230 calories. The fat content can be relative to the amount of fat you cut out or leave attached to the breast before cooking. However, a good measurement would be about 5g of fat per 5 oz. of cooked chicken breast. Besides the effectiveness of this high protein source in a diet, there are various types of chicken such as tenderloins, split breast, drumsticks etc.
Tuna can easily be labeled as one of the most affordable protein sources out there. Any grocery store will most likely carry a variety of canned tuna either in oil or in water. Tuna is very useful in salads, sandwiches or wraps and besides usefulness, tuna is a very lean source of protein. A regular 5 oz. can of tuna in water contains approximately 90 calories, 20g of protein, less than 1g of fat, and 0g of carbs. If you choose the Albacore canned tuna, you’re getting little more protein at 22g per 5 oz. can and a few extra calories, but tuna is very fitness-useful either way! Pretty much all you’re getting in a can of tuna is a load of lean gains!
Omega 3s are essential for human health and are vital for bone and joint health, fighting inflammation, and just generally improving your health state. Salmon is a little more expensive option for us fish lovers, however, it is a great source of healthy fats and high-quality lean protein. If you visit your local grocery store’s meat section, someone will most likely gladly help you select a fine cut of fresh salmon if you’re not a fan of buying frozen foods. If you prefer buying frozen salmon fillets that are already cut you can get a good value for your buck from the frozen meats section. Cooking a 6 oz. salmon fillet will pack around 350 calories, 20g of fat, 0g of carbs, and nearly 40g of protein, making it a great lean protein source including healthy fats and a whole lot of taste!
✓ Beef Steak
If you’re a meat lover, nothing tastes better than a nice piece of steak on Friday night’s cookout with your friends! A regular 4 oz. of beef sirloin steak cut contains 220 calories, 14g of fat, no carbs, and around 20g of protein! Roast some potatoes and fresh vegetables on the side, get yourself a little bit of steak sauce and you have a protein packed delicious dinner that will help you reach your fitness goals. If you’re buying ground beef for hamburgers or other recipes, pay special attention to the fat content of the meat. Not all beef is equal in its macronutrient density and if you are not paying attention, you can end up with excessively fatty meat that can greatly increase your fat intake and caloric intake as well.
You should be looking to eat at least 1g of protein per pound of your bodyweight. This can sometimes be difficult to do from food sources alone, not to mention expensive. If this is the case then it would be a good idea to invest in a protein supplement. Here are some suggestions:
Take Home Message
If you’re using meat as your protein source, a broad variety of meats are available to make your diet plan interesting and enjoyable. Personally, I include a variety of protein sources in my meal prep. Including different types of protein sources will allow you to cook different meals such as hamburgers, stir-fry, wraps, and sandwiches, or different baked dishes. Whichever lean protein source you select, focus on including a variety of spices and sides as well to keep enjoying your food and making your diet plan fun and sustainable! Hit your daily protein intake goal, stock up on a variety of lean protein sources, and keep those lean gains coming!