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

And with good purpose. A excessive protein eating regimen fuels muscle restore and development, retains you feeling fuller for longer, and helps muscle preservation as you age. A high-protein eating regimen could 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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You might be making ready for a contest or simply typically need to regulate your physique composition. In these instances, you may additionally be all in favour of getting your protein whereas maintaining your calorie rely low. If you’re on the lookout for high-protein, low-calorie meals, look no additional than these 20 choices.

What Is Protein?

Protein could appear to be the magical gains-maker. However you may break it down like this — protein is an natural compound. It’s made up of a number of amino acids, in any other case referred to as the “constructing blocks” of your physique. 

Protein-rich foods on the table
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Amino acids are the premise for creating, repairing, and sustaining tissues, corresponding to muscle, organs, hair, and nails.

There are twenty completely different amino acids you must kind proteins, however there are 9 that you need to get out of your eating regimen. These are sometimes known as important amino acids (EAAs).

Why Do Energy Athletes Want Protein?

You’ll be able to practice as arduous as you need, however you may’t make one thing out of nothing. With out the right gas to assist your muscular tissues alongside, your muscular tissues merely received’t have the ability to expertise upkeep or hypertrophy. Irrespective of how arduous you practice, you’re simply not going to get greater for those who don’t have the protein it’s essential gas the method.

By consuming sufficient protein, you may elevate protein synthesis, which is the method by which your cells make proteins. That is necessary for sustaining your each day capabilities, but it surely’s particularly crucial for energy athletes trying to pack on muscle mass.

Different Advantages of Protein

Moreover being important for the restore and development of muscle mass and different bodily tissues, protein affords just a few distinctive advantages.

Thermogenic Properties

Protein is extra thermogenic than carbohydrates and fat. The thermic impact of meals (TEF) is the variety of energy burned throughout digestion. Throughout that course of, 20 to 30 p.c of the energy you devour from protein are “spent” on digestion. In distinction, the TEF of carbohydrates and fat is simply 5 to 10 p.c and 0 to a few p.c, respectively. (2)

A protein-rich meal with meat and vegetables.
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If, on a given day, you had been to exchange 500 energy’ price of dietary fats with protein, you might burn as much as an extra 150 energy. In fact, there are different variables in play — how processed a meals is may also have an effect on TEF, as an example. (2) It’s necessary to get sufficient of every macronutrient in your eating regimen, however this instance exhibits simply how vital the next protein consumption might 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 Vitamin, consuming a high-protein, low-fat eating regimen helped topics really feel fuller for longer than topics who had a upkeep stage of protein and better stage of fats. (3)

Some athletes could also be trying to regulate their dietary habits to assist preserve or construct muscle whereas dropping physique fats. In that case, growing 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.
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Even for those who’re not all in favour of shedding weight, the feeling of being full may also help you develop a extra aware relationship together with your meals and your physique. This may be fairly a major profit for athletes trying to last more throughout coaching periods — particularly if their digestive methods don’t do effectively with mid-workout snacks.

Enhance Immunity

Consuming sufficient protein bolsters your immunity. Amino acids assist the primary elements of your immune system, corresponding 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 meals to eat, it’s sensible to concentrate on meals that are:

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

You might discover just a few 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 need to choose just a few completely different choices. Selection and delight are important for sound vitamin. That manner, you’ll at all times have rotations available.

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

Excessive-Protein, Low-Calorie Meals

Notice: 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 characteristic on the U.S. Division of Agriculture’s (USDA) web site.


Hen is extremely versatile. When you’re somebody who eats meat, you may 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 completely 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 spread of choices. Turkey offers a stable quantity of vitamin B6 and magnesium, making it one other unbelievable possibility.

  • 27.1 grams of protein
  • 213 energy

Egg Whites

Although entire eggs are a powerhouse of vitamin, 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.
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They’re surprisingly filling and various, too. They are often combined into a spread of recipes: omelets, oatmeal dishes, breakfast muffins, and even do-it-yourself baked items.

  • 10.7 grams of protein
  • 52 energy


Regardless of being slightly larger in fats, salmon is a wealthy and nutritious supply of protein with out an overload of energy. The fish additionally incorporates 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 important fat 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 supply of protein with few tag-along vitamins. One factor to be aware of, nonetheless, is tuna’s mercury content material. As a normal rule, adults could need to eat tuna steak not more than twice per week.

  • 19 grams of protein
  • 85 energy


Although low in omega-3s, cod affords lots of the identical advantages as fattier cuts of fish: it’s a high-quality supply of protein, wealthy in vitamin B6, and incorporates a significant quantity of vitamin D. It’s additionally a voluminous minimize of fish, boasting comparatively few energy. This makes for a superb protein supply whereas chopping 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 varied cuts of leanness, might be ready in numerous methods, and works in a spread of dishes: curries, tacos, and tortillas, to say just a few.

Plus, beef incorporates a good focus of vitamins like iron and cobalamin, that are important for correct mind growth, purple blood cell formation, and transporting oxygen.

  • 27.7 grams of protein
  • 168 energy


Whereas it’s slightly costlier than beef, lamb makes for a superb 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 light and barely candy taste, lamb provides an fascinating 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.
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Mostly obtainable in beef, hen, and turkey, meat jerkies have the identical dietary profile as their hydrated counterparts. However since a lot of the moisture has been eliminated, jerky is far simpler to have on the go. One factor to be aware of is that — for a similar purpose — dehydrated meat is far much less voluminous or satiating.

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


Although it’s slightly larger in fats than many cuts of meat, pork remains to be a superb 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 effectively.

  • 19.1 grams of protein
  • 171 energy

Low-Fats Greek Yogurt

After meat, fish, and poultry, Greek yogurt is a critical contender for among the finest sources of protein. Moreover additionally containing plenty of B nutritional vitamins, low-fat Greek yogurt additionally affords 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 varied frozen treats. Plus, with how wealthy in protein it’s, it makes “wholesome” desserts that a lot simpler to organize.

  • 8.64 grams of protein
  • 95 energy

Cottage Cheese

Like Greek yogurt, cottage cheese is a superb supply of protein. It’s versatile sufficient to pack for work, use in varied 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 comply with a plant-based eating regimen and thus keep away from all animal merchandise, tempeh is a unbelievable protein to make use of as a base to your lunch and dinner. Like a variety of meat and poultry recipes, tempeh works effectively with a variety of staple meals, corresponding to stir-fry recipes and pasta dishes.

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

  • 20.3 grams of protein
  • 192 energy


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

It affords some distinctive advantages, too: it incorporates 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 every 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 actually is a dietary powerhouse. Moreover containing a excessive quantity of protein and a low calorie rely, edamame additionally affords a stable quantity of fiber, a variety of vitamin K1, and a complete day’s price of folate.

A person with with a plate of edamame on the table.
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Edamame works splendidly as each a snack and ingredient inside a essential meal, making it simple to include into your eating regimen.

  • 11.9 grams of protein
  • 121 energy

Whey Protein Powder

So far as protein dietary supplements go, whey protein is on the prime of the checklist. It’s dense with important amino acids, incorporates few tag-along energy, carbs, and fat, and is comparatively value efficient. And like lots of the dairy-based protein sources, whey protein might be an effective way to change recipes for an additional kick of protein.

Because it’s comparatively low in micronutrients, although, you received’t need 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 just a few distinctive perks. It really works effectively earlier than a interval of fasting, corresponding to earlier than mattress, since it may be significantly satiating over longer durations. Casein acts as an ideal various to whey, for those who favor the style and mouth-feel of casein powders.

That being stated, whenever you want fast-acting protein, corresponding to pre- or post-workout, whey protein is extra perfect.

  • 72.7 grams of protein
  • 364 energy

Vegan Protein Powder

When you’re lactose illiberal or comply with a plant-based eating regimen, a vegan protein powder will substitute properly for whey or casein. When on the lookout for 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 ideal mix of important amino acids.

  • 75 grams of protein
  • 400 energy

Protein Bars

When you’re not a fan of shakes, however want a straightforward and accessible manner of including protein to your eating regimen, a protein bar often is the good resolution for you. However discovering a superb high-protein, low-calorie bar might be tough.

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

  • Protein ranges is dependent upon model
  • Calorie ranges is dependent upon model

How A lot Protein Ought to You Eat?

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

When you’re chopping weight, the next protein consumption of 1 to 1.2 grams per pound of physique weight might be useful. This larger consumption helps lean tissue retention throughout a minimize, additional will increase satiety whereas energy are restricted, and helps wholesome stress ranges. (5)

When your purpose is to keep up weight, there’s a barely diminished want for protein. That’s since you’re not in a calorie deficit and so minimizing the chance of tissue loss. Thus, one gram of protein per pound of physique weight is usually thought-about enough.

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’s in an vitality deficit. Plus, as soon as your baseline protein wants are met, energy positive aspects and muscle development will probably be fueled by further carbohydrates, not protein.

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

All it’s a must to do is plug in your related info, and get going.

Methods to Get Sufficient Protein

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

A bobybuilder gulping a protein drink.
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Virtually, then, how are you going to work round this?

Initially, when planning your each day meals, think about constructing every meal round a protein supply. Let’s say you wish to eat 4 meals per day, you’re aiming for 160 grams of protein each day, and also you need to devour your protein pretty evenly all through these meals.

Earlier than including any carbohydrates or fat, your protein plan could appear like 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 may simply stack different meals on prime to fill in your remaining carb and fats allocations — for instance, fruits, greens, oats, rice, and nut butters.

You’ll additionally need to preserve focus in your preferences and routine. If you may put together your lunch and dinners forward of time, give precedence to cooked choices like eggs, purple meat, poultry, and tofu. Equally, if 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 give you the results you want, not in opposition to you.

Myths About Protein

Although energy athletes extensively will tout the advantages of protein, it nonetheless has loads of myths and misconceptions on the market.

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

Till just lately, many assumed you may solely eat a lot protein in a single sitting. When 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 whenever you’re consuming slow-digesting protein sources mixed with different macronutrients. (7)

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

Fantasy: Consuming Too A lot Protein Will Injury Your Kidneys

Vitamin 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 could must restrict their protein consumption. In accordance with the Nationwide Kidney Basis, individuals with current kidney struggles could need to keep away from extra protein as a result of their kidneys could have bother eradicating further waste from their blood.

Nevertheless, analysis means that there isn’t essentially a cause-and-effect hyperlink between consuming a high-protein eating regimen and creating 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 perform.

Eat Your Protein

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

Take the time to resolve in your favourite sources, perceive how one can greatest incorporate them into your routine, and embrace sufficient selection to maintain your eating regimen 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 eating regimen leads to much less stress and fatigue than moderate-protein, moderate-fat eating regimen throughout weight reduction in male weightlifters: A pilot examine. Worldwide Journal of Sport Vitamin 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 vitamin, 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 perform. Vital care medication, 18(2 Suppl), S86-93.
  5. Helms, E. R., Zinn, C., Rowlands, D. S., & Brown, S. R. (2014). A scientific overview of dietary protein throughout caloric restriction in resistance educated lean athletes: a case for larger intakes. Worldwide Journal of Sport Vitamin & 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 each day protein distribution. Journal of the Worldwide Society of Sports activities Vitamin, 15(1), 10.
  8. Martin, W. F., Armstrong, L. E., & Rodriguez, N. R. (2005). Dietary protein consumption and renal perform. Vitamin & metabolism, 2(1), 1-9.

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