What Is Protein?
Protein is an essential macronutrient in your body. If you think that it is only something present in a protein shake or a plate full of food, then you are mistaken.
Every living thing is made up of protein – from the simplest bacteria to the most complicated living thing alive.
It is made up of small molecules known as amino acids. There are different types of proteins consisting of different combinations of the 20 standard amino acids. This is where it gets interesting!
Protein molecules are the most complicated molecules present in any living being. Each molecule can have from 50 to 2,000 amino acids! Till date, there are almost 10,000 types of proteins that have been identified in the human cell’s genetic sequence.
Researchers believe that there might be billions of combinations on this planet, making this another human mystery that will remain unsolved for decades.
In an average human, almost 15% of the body weight is protein. It is distributed across the body in the form of skin, blood, skeletal muscle, bones and organs.
Protein is one of the three key macronutrients in our body that are required for survival. It is called a ‘macro’ nutrient because it is consumed on a daily basis in the form of pretty much every type of food that you eat. Consider this as gas or fuel for the human body but with a slight twist.
Protein cannot be stored in your body. It is continuously being used up unlike other macro- and micro-nutrients. Other nutrients easily get stored in your body and are required in a much lesser quantity compared to protein. That is why you have to consume protein through the food you eat on a daily basis.
Usage and the Role of Protein
Since we have established that protein is present in every cell and is a building block for your body, we know that it plays a role in everything that goes on in your body.
Protein transfers oxygen throughout your body through your blood. It creates chemicals like hormones and enzymes needed for regular functioning of your body including repairing and building muscles and tissue.
When we contract an infection in our body, the cells that fight the infection are also created by protein.
There are also messenger cells which are created with protein to transmit signals. Not to mention, there are transportation protein cells that carry molecules from one place to another within your body.
We all usually recommend high-protein diets for people who want to gain a lot of mass, especially bodybuilders. It works with a combination of effective exercises.
It has been proven that bodybuilders with a high intake of protein develop muscles that are retained for a longer period of time.
There are a number of advantages of maintaining a diet with moderate- or high-protein food. According to Dr Jose Antonio, Ph.D., there are very slim chances of one to actually absorb fat or carbs when their diet consists of protein.
It has been shown that high-protein foods have very small amounts of fat and carbs. Take chicken breasts as an example – they have 2-3 grams of fat in one serving of roughly 100 grams.
When you are steadfast on a high-protein diet, you will not gain more weight through foods full of fat and carbs since you won’t be able to eat them. Let us explain.
When you consume high-protein food, your appetite will diminish, you won’t feel as hungry as you used to, and therefore you won’t give into your own cravings.
Furthermore, a higher protein consumption means more calories will burn. That is because the breakdown of protein requires more energy which causes calories to burn and decreases your weight.
How Much Protein Is Required By the Human Body?
A normal human being, who goes to work, has a moderate amount of exercise or activity in their daily routine and operates at a standard rate with no heavy training, requires 1.4 gram of protein per kilogram of their body weight.
This is the recommended minimum amount for everyone, including non-active people. For a person who weighs 70 kilograms, that’s 98 grams of protein per day.
Yes, you cannot consume all that protein in one single meal, because you will only end up with stomach problems like constipation or diarrhoea.
That is why it is recommended that you distribute the total amount of protein among your meals during the day. Once you know how much protein you need to consume, you can plan your meals accordingly.
You do not need to be precise and to the dot. We all know that some meals are rich in protein whereas some are not. Therefore, you can plan beforehand and try your best to fulfil the daily requirement.
Bodybuilders and Protein
If you are an active, intense, and serious bodybuilder, then it’s important to match your intake of protein with the amount of energy you’re already burning with increased activity.
Your muscles require a lot of healing and rest. For them to do that, you must provide them with enough protein to recover and give you a lean body.
Bodybuilders require more protein. They need more because they build muscle, and protein is the best way to build muscle.
That is why nutritionists recommend that advanced bodybuilders consume 1.6-2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of their body weight.
They are told to consume that amount over 3-6 meals, so that means 0.4-0.55 grams per kilogram per meal.
They are also suggested to take some protein 1-2 hours before and after their workout.
Top 40 High Protein Foods
By now, you have probably understood that consuming enough protein is the key, whether your goal is weight loss or bodybuilding. Consuming proteins not only controls hunger but creates your body.
To help you have delicious, protein-rich meals, we will tell you great natural sources of protein besides chicken breasts and protein shakes.
One of the most common and easiest things to make for anyone is an egg. The good news is that one large egg contains almost 6 grams of protein!
As such, we can say that eggs are the best high-protein option available at the nearest supermarket. They are inexpensive, low on carbs, versatile and full of different kinds of proteins.
- Ground Beef
Beef is a great source of protein which is full of antioxidants and vitamins like B12. It helps muscles grow with 17 grams of protein in 85 grams of beef.
An important point to note here is to have it as lean as possible. It still tastes pretty good because it has the right amount of fat to let you enjoy your burgers.
- Chicken Breast
It’s best to have it boneless and without skin to ensure that you get the complete 24 grams of protein in 85 grams of chicken breast. Chicken breasts are the best source of protein among poultry products.
This should be economical if you focus on top or bottom round cuts. They need to be made quickly on the stove so that they don’t dry out and become difficult to consume. They provide 23g of protein in 85g of steak.
- Turkey Breast
Turkey is another bird providing 24g of protein in 85g of meat. It not only gives you the energy but also keeps the calorie count very low. Additionally, it provides vitamin B and iron. Not to forget, it tastes great in sandwiches.
- Corned Beef
This type of salted beef provides high-quality protein with great taste. You can put together a delicious meal with some corned beef, vegetables, and rice, and get 24g of protein in 85g of beef.
- Roast Beef
Roasted beef has a lot more amino acids than most deli products available at the meat store. Plus, it’s very lean with 18g of protein in 85g of roasted beef. It also carries a lot of nutrients. You could always make sandwiches or eat it with a fork.
Surprising, right? With 18g of protein in a total of 85g, pepperoni is pretty health for a salad or a pizza. You just need to make sure that the one you purchase has low amounts of sodium.
- Beef Jerky
In terms of convenience, beef jerky with 7g of protein in a total of 20g is pretty ideal. There are a lot of options as well. The best part is – it requires bare minimum preparation and has enough salt to fulfil your cravings for chips and popcorn!
- Canned Chicken
Ground white chicken can serve as a great source of protein for your sandwiches and salads. Just make sure you check the sodium level of the brand you decide to purchase from. It has 21g of protein in 85g chicken.
- Roasted Turkey
Another easy way of getting almost fat-free protein is through sliced turkey roasted to perfection. This has 18g of protein in a serving of 85g. Make sure to avoid flavoured turkey full of sugar and flavourings.
- Nuts (General)
Nuts in general are a great source of protein as they also have ‘good fat’. Almonds, walnuts, pecans and cashews are just a few examples. A cup full of nuts almost has 27g of protein.
- Nut Butters
We’ve all heard of peanut butter because that’s something we’ve had since our childhood. However, we have not heard much about other nut butters such as almond butter.
They are a great way of gaining protein with almost 8g in a tablespoon. These butters also have good fats which are great for your cognitive functioning.
- Hemp Seeds
These seeds are like a powerhouse, because they provide more than 35g of protein in a 100g serving. You can quite literally add them to anything, like yoghurts or shakes, or have them raw. They are also a great source of Omega 3 and plenty of good fibre.
- Pumpkin Seeds
These seeds have always been a good snack, but they come with a bonus of 6g of protein per half cup of serving. Not to mention, the magnesium content, fatty acids, and the antioxidants give you more of a reason to consume them.
- Black Beans
These turn out to be a great addition for things like burger patties, brownies and more. They are most common in vegan dishes, because they have 40g of protein in a cup!
- Navy Beans
These navy beans are available at a cheap price as a vegetarian source of protein and are actually quite common. They are also rich in fibre, hence they serve as a healthy meal. Another great way of having Navy Beans is by making hummus. There is around 20g of protein in a cup.
- Dried Lentils
If you really want to increase the amount of protein, fibre, and other minerals all at the same time, these lentils will do the trick. These inexpensive lentils have 13g of protein in a ¼ cup serving.
- Green Peas
Most vegetables don’t pack a lot of protein unlike the green peas that have 7g in a cup. You’d definitely want to have some in your freezer because their high-fibre quantity will help you manage your cravings.
Tofu is something you can have with whatever sort of dressing you prefer. It’s rich in magnesium, copper and zinc, which all promote more sleep. Needless to say, it is a great source of protein.
These are very similar to tofu but have more protein and are made from fermented soybeans. They are a great vegan source of 31g of protein in a cup.
Chickpeas have 2.4g of protein in a tablespoon which can be used to make falafel or cookie dough. They also have plenty of B6, iron, and magnesium.
- Edamame (Boiled Soybeans)
Another ideal and respected source of protein especially for vegans is Edamame. It contains 11g in half a cup. Edamame also has the right amount of vitamin K, antioxidants, and fibre to keep your body running perfectly.
With 8g of protein in a cup of serving, these South American seeds have various kinds of amino acid combinations. This gives them great potential for muscle building.
- Wheat Germ
This is made up of three parts-endosperm, bran, and germ. The most nutritious part is the germ which includes plant-based protein. You can add it to your shakes, pancakes, or oatmeal to give your meals a protein boost.
- Greek Yoghurt
Why does Greek Yoghurt stand out the most out of all yoghurts? Well, it has double the amount protein of any other yoghurt available in the market – a staggering 23g in an 85g serving. Furthermore, it’s rich in probiotic bacteria which improves your gut health and helps build calcium.
- Swiss Cheese
Swiss cheese provides the most protein as compared to other cheeses available in the market. That makes it a healthy choice for your sandwiches and burgers. The 8g of protein in 28g of serving also contains calcium.
- Low-Fat Milk
Low-fat milk also has 8g of protein in a single cup. It has always been the easiest source of protein as it tastes great and has calcium and fats.
- Cottage Cheese
This highly appreciated in the low or non-fat category with 28g of protein in a cup. It’s mostly preferred by consumers who are lactose intolerant.
It can be a lot easier to consume protein shakes if you blend them with different flavoured smoothies. Your smoothies can have all the fruits you like with high vitamin content.
You can also purchase premade smoothies with at least 20g of protein in two servings. If there’s too much fruit, it’ll just give you more sugar than protein.
- Yellowfin Tuna
This tuna fish has 25g of protein in an 85g serving which is easily digestible. The Yellow Tuna Fish also packs a healthy amount of vitamin B and antioxidants.
- Light Tuna
Real tuna is very expensive, especially if you end up craving it a lot. That’s why light tuna is recommended as it is affordable and canned. This serving of 85g provides 22g of protein which is more than that in fresh tuna.
This fish is not only juicy and meaty, but it’s also the best available white premium fish which is great for your muscle building. It has 23g of protein in an 85g serving.
We’ve all talked about and had meals of tuna, halibut and salmon, but why not an octopus? It’s full of protein with 25g in a serving of 85g!
- Sockeye Salmon
Wild Sockeye Salmon tastes a lot better than its cousin who grows up on the farm. Not to mention, it provides more protein (23g of protein in an 85g serving). It also has the benefit of Omega 3 Fatty Acids.
These tiny fish are full of protein and quite underrated. They provide 24g of protein in a serving of 85g and are available in cans with just the right amount of salt.
These are fish full of Omega 3 Acids, Vitamin D, and a decent amount of protein. They may have a strong taste but it can be balanced with neutral foods. Sardines provide 21g of protein in an 85g serving.
- Soba Noodles
These Japanese-style noodles are made from buckwheat. They have more protein than most wheat-based noodles and cook in half the time as well. They serve 12g protein in an 85g serving.
Mushrooms have 4g of protein per serving. They are not just a good source for protein but selenium as well. Selenium is necessary for proper muscle function. Furthermore, mushrooms have very less calories.
Flaxmeal is made from flaxseed which is well-known for high content of fibre and Omega 3 Acids. What is little known is that it is a pretty decent source of protein as well with 1g in 1 tablespoon. You can easily blend Flaxmeal with your protein shakes or smoothies.