For anyone tirelessly in pursuit of a legendarily lean physique, an ample dose of HQ protein is your #1 nutritional secret weapon. Nix that — it’s not even a weapon, it’s a mandatory requirement.
If you’re one of the 3 billion people who’s ever questioned: “how can I build muscle AND lose body fat simultaneously, ” ingesting enough protein is the closest thing you’ll get to an honest answer. Once inside, protein works relentlessly for your body two-fold:
1. Muscle Mass — a steady stream of protein is required for fresh lean muscle growth, recovery, and to prevent the breakdown of existing muscle tissue from exercise, long-term dieting, and poor nutrition. A consistent lack of protein WILL cause your muscles to deflate over time (aka catabolism).
2. Weight & Fat Loss — if protein’s propensity to provoke muscle gain wasn’t impressive enough, it’s also a potent mechanism to accelerate weight and fat loss.
Protein quenches hunger and controls appetite, which prevents YOU from smashing a pint of Ben & Jerry’s 30 minutes after a meal; keeps blood sugar and insulin in check and reduces the impact of carbs (especially sugar) on fat storage; AND burns major calories — no effort required — thermogenically (the calories burned during chewing, digestion, absorption, metabolism, etc.).
From a pure net calories PoV, protein torches an estimated 20-35% of calories from food, whereas carbs & fat lie in the paltry 5-15% range. Translated, a 100 calorie meal from protein would burn up to 35 calories, GRATIS; that same meal from carbs or fat would only knock off 5-15.
You do the math.
The Big List Of Top Protein Sources (Incl. The Best Vegetarian Options)
Because protein is such a powerful transformation agent, it’s critical to get enough of it on a consistent basis. Shoot for per pound of bodyweight per day. If you weigh 150 lbs, that’s number should fall in the 115 – 150g range.
Here’s your full, go-to compendium of the top protein sources — based on grams of protein per 100 calories — including the best plant-based protein options for vegetarians, vegans, or anyone who’s animal-product-free.
One note — veggies like watercress, broccoli raab, spinach, and mushrooms shoot up the list because they have a high protein-per-calorie ratio. When you extrapolate out to 100 calories their protein content spikes, but given how LOW in calories they are, they’re not practical as a primary protein source. You’d literally need to eat 25 cups of watercress to get 20g of protein (4 cals/.8g protein per cup).