Nutrition 102: Protein Sources

Building lean muscle involves two things: Using enough weight to challenge muscles beyond their normal levels of resistance and eating more calories than you burn. With all the hype about high protein diets lately, it's easy to believe that protein is the best fuel for building muscle but, according to the American Dietetic Association, muscles work on calories so you need all three types of nutrients - carbs, protein and good fats.

A diet high in meat can contribute to high cholesterol levels or other diseases such as gout. A high-protein diet may also put a strain on the kidneys. (reference 4) If you consume too much protein, you run the risk of creating nutrient imbalance, kidney strain, or dehydration. Plus, excess protein results in extra calories that are either burned or stored.

Muscles need protein for recovery and growth, and the best time to deliver protein appears to be right after exercise. Providing high-quality protein after exercise gives your muscles the fuel and the building blocks needed for both repair and for growth. (reference 3)

A nutritionally balanced diet provides enough protein. Healthy people rarely need protein supplements. Vegetarians are able to get enough essential amino by eating a variety of plant proteins. The amount of recommended daily protein depends upon your age, health and fitness.

Protein Sources............Serving Size (ea serving = about 100 calories)
Red Lean meat.........3 oz
Boneless, Skinless Chicken or Turkey Breast.....3 oz
Egg Whites...............6 whites
Fish and Shellfish....3 oz
Tuna..........................3 oz
Ham slices low-sodium, fat-free.....3 oz
Pork Tenderloin.......3 oz
Turkey Bacon...........2 slices
Hemp Protein Powder.....100 calories
Whey Protein Powder......100 calories
Rice and Pea Protein Powder.....100 calories
Seitan.........................3 oz
Tempeh.....................3 oz
Tofu............................3 oz
Veggie Burger...........1
Venison......................3 oz

Other Source of Protein:
Legumes (Beans and Peanuts)......Serving Size (ea serving = about 200 calories):

Beans.........................1 cup
Lentils........................1 cup
Peanuts......................1 oz
Hummus....................1/2 cup

A legume, in botanical writing is a plant in the family Fabaceae (or Leguminosae), or a fruit of these specific plants. A legume fruit is a simple dry fruit that develops from a simple carpel and usually dehisces (opens along a seam) on two sides. Any of thousands of plant species that have seed pods that split along both sides when ripe. Some of the more common legumes used for human consumption are beans, lentils, peanuts, peas and soybeans. Others, such as clover and alfalfa, are used as animal fodder. When the seeds of a legume are dried, they're referred to as pulses. The high-protein legumes are a staple throughout the world. They contain some vitamin B, carbohydrates, fats and minerals. (reference 1)

Legumes contain relatively low quantities of the essential amino acid methionine - however, this should not be a problem if an adequate amount of protein is consumed. According to the protein combining theory, legumes should be combined with another protein source such as a grain in the same meal, to balance out the amino acid levels. Protein combining has lost favor as theory (with even its original proponent, Frances Moore Lappé, rejecting the need for protein combining in 1981) - a variety of protein sources is considered healthy, but these do not have to be consumed at the same meal. In any case, vegetarian cultures often serve legumes along with grains, which are low in the essential amino acid lysine, creating a more complete protein than either the beans or the grains on their own. (reference 2)

Legumes are an important source of protein for vegetarians, especially vegans. The protein in legumes is considered incomplete, however, and needs to be eaten in combination with whole grains to make a complete (high-quality) protein (e.g., green beans, lentils, and rice; navy beans and barley; soybeans and sesame seeds; red beans and rice). Such combinations have been used for centuries in the diets of people practicing vegetarianism. (reference 2)

Fish (broil, grill, or steam) about 3 to 3.5 ounces:
High in Omega-3 fatty acids – good fats:

Lean cuts of meat (between 3 to 4 oz for serving size):

~Lean cuts of beef - The USDA defines a lean cut of beef as a 3.5-ounce serving (about 100 grams) that contains less than: 10 grams total fat, 4.5 grams saturated fat, 95 milligrams cholesterol
~Extra-lean cuts of beef - The USDA defines an extra-lean cut of beef as a 3.5-ounce serving (about 100 grams) that contains less than: 5 grams total fat, 2 grams saturated fat, 95 milligrams cholesterol

Twenty-nine cuts of beef now meet the USDA's regulations to qualify as lean or extra lean. Of those 29 cuts of beef, these are considered extra lean:
-----Eye of round roast or steak
-----Sirloin tip side steak
-----Top round roast and steak
-----Bottom round roast and steak
-----Top sirloin steak

For a list of the other cuts of meat that are considered lean:

~USDA Prime cuts: is the superior grade with amazing tenderness, juiciness, flavor and fine texture. It has the highest degree of fat marbling and is derived from the younger beef. That's why Prime is generally featured at the most exclusive upscale steakhouse restaurants.

~USDA Choice cuts: is the second highest graded beef. It has less fat marbling than Prime. Choice is a quality steak particularly if it is a cut that is derived from the loin and rib areas of the beef such as a tenderloin filet or rib steak. Generally USDA Choice will be less tender, juicy and flavorful with a slightly more coarse texture versus Prime.

~USDA Select cuts: is generally the lowest grade of steak you will find at a supermarket or restaurant. You will find it tougher, less juicy and less flavorful since it is leaner than Prime and Choice with very little fat marbling. The texture of Select is generally more coarse.(reference 5)

Stick with white meat. Avoid high fat dark meat cuts including thighs and legs. Because a boneless, skinless breast has about 75 percent less fat than a breast with skin, it's the leanest of chicken choices. Skinless turkey breasts are leaner than chicken breast, with about one-ninth the fat of skinless chicken breasts.

Pork is often referred to as "the other white meat" because it can be as low-fat as chicken. Pork tenderloin is as lean as a boneless, skinless chicken breast. Boneless loin roasts have about the same amount of fat as lean beef, and boneless loin chops are low in calories and fat, but big on flavor. With less than 5 percent fat, extra-lean ham is a welcome meat for dinner. Even 2 oz. serving of Canadian bacon for breakfast, which has under 4 g of fat.

1. Wikipedia - Legume:

2. - legume: - What to eat before during and after exercising:

4. from the U.S. National Library of Medicine - Protein in Diet:

5. - How USDA Grades Beef:

6. - The role of protein in exercise recovery: