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The Best Bodybuilding Protein Foods

salmon and veggies

In order to build muscle you'll need to eat protein. Many experts say that you should eat one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight to build muscle. However, there are other health experts that say you don't need this much. I believe that someone who works out and is actively building muscle does need more protein than a sedentary person so I believe that to build muscle that you should be getting approximately .8 grams to 1 gram of protein per lean body weight.

This is why it is beneficial to know your body fat percentage. For example, if you weigh 128, but are 25% bodyfat, then you only need to eat 96 grams of protein each day to get your 1 gram of protein per lean body weight.


Fish is a good protein source for muscle building and also contains creatine.


An excellent source of protein is salmon. Not only is it packed with protein, but it is also high in healthy omega 3 fatty acids. Just be sure to get the wild caught salmon because farm raised salmon isn't as healthy and has higher mercury levels.

In addition, wild caught salmon were able to eat their natural diet and so the fish will be healthier for you to eat. Farm raised salmon was probably fed corn and other foods that are not part of their natural diets and so the fish won't be as healthy for you.


If wild caught salmon is too expensive, then tilapia is a good second choice. Tilapia is relatively inexpensive. Farm raised tilapia from South America reportedly contains fewer pollutants than tilapia raised in highly industrial areas, such as China. Unfortunately, you'll end up paying a little more for tilapia from South America.

Tilapia is typically low in mercury and also low in fat. However, don't think that you are getting lots of healthy omega threes when you eat tilapia. You aren't. Tilapia contains more omega 6's than 3's, but it is still okay to eat. I just wouldn't eat it everyday.


Because of it's low price, tuna fish is often eaten by bodybuilders. Unfortunaly, tuna has become increasingly contaminated with mercury. If you eat tuna, I wouldn't eat it often.


Both chicken and turkey are good sources of protein. Try to eat organic or free range poultry when possible. The birds were treated much better and they will be much healthier for you if they don't contain antibiotics. Poultry doesn't seem to contain as much creatine as fish, beef, or pork.

Also, eat fresh chicken or turkey and not processed meats that are full of nitrates and nitrites.


I can't say enough about eggs. I love them! Eggs provide about 6 grams of protein each. Also, eat the WHOLE egg and not just the egg white. Most of the really good healthy stuff is found in the yolk. Try to find free range eggs or organic eggs. They don't cost that much more. Free range eggs are much healthier for you and they come from happy chickens.

Whey Protein Powder

Because it is difficult to get enough protein without also getting too many calories, whey protein powder is a great choice. You can often find protein powders online or even at the grocery store. I currently drink HD Whey, but any quality protein powder will suffice. I mix mine with bananas, 2% milk, wheat germ, flax seeds, and one raw egg, although I realize raw eggs aren't for everybody :) so you certainly don't need to add them to your whey protein shake. This meal keeps me full for hours.

Whey protein powder is also great as a post workout shake. It is quick and easy too.

Milk, Yogurt & Cottage Cheese

Many people will tell you that milk is bad for you and to only drink raw milk. For most people raw milk isn't an option because you can't easily find it.

I drink regular (meaning not raw) organic milk on a regular basis. One cup of milk has about 8 grams of protein.

I also eat yogurt daily. I eat Stonybrook Farms organic plain lowfat yogurt. If you eat yogurt you need to eat either the plain yogurts with no sugar added or eat Greek yogurt, which also doesn't contain sugar. If you find you don't like the taste of plain yogurt mix some fresh berries into it.

One half cup of cottage cheese provides 11 grams of protein, with some brands stating up to 16 grams of protein per half cup. Be sure to read the label and look at the other ingredients. I noticed that some brands add other substances that you might not want to eat, such as carageenan.

Hidden Sugars in Dairy

I know most people probably don't think about milk and plain yogurt as containing a lot of sugars, but they do. Both milk and yogurt contains more sugars than protein. For example, milk contains 8 grams of protein and 11 grams of sugar. One cup of plain yogurt contains 10 grams of protein and 15 grams of sugar. Cottage cheese actually does pretty well in regards to sugar - one half cup contains 11 grams of protein, but only 4 grams of sugar.

The sugars are one reason that dairy doesn't make the best protein source for bodybuilding, but cottage cheese may be the best choice.

Beef and Pork

Beef and pork provide lots of protein, but the protein often comes along with too much fat to be healthy. Both beef and pork contain creatine, as well as L-carnitine. L-carnitine is important for fat metabolism. Your body synthesizes L-carnitine out of methionine and lysine, but it is also available in foods. Beef contains the highest amount, followed by pork. Fish contains a small amount and poultry contains even less than fish.

Because of the creatine and L-carnitine, if you can find lean cuts of beef then it is good for muscle building. However, try to eat only grass fed organic beef. It will be healthier, have a better fatty acid profile, and won't be full of hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides.

Check out this list of the leanest cuts of beef.

Vegetarian Protein Sources

You don't have to get your protein from animal sources, although animal proteins are complete proteins (containing all essential amino acids) vs vegetable proteins that mostly do not contain all essential amino acids.

The human body needs 20 amino acids to function properly. The body makes 11 of these, but needs to consume the other 9 in the diet. Foods that contain the 9 essential amino acids are called complete proteins and those that do not contain all 9 are called incomplete proteins. Most vegetable sources are incomplete proteins, but there are exceptions.


The best known vegetarian complete protein is soy protein. Try to get non GMO soy. Many male bodybuilders are reluctant to eat soy because of the phytoestrogens it contains.


The grain quinoa is another complete protein with about 8 grams of protein per cup.


Another is sprouts. Sprouts are a complete protein, but they don't contain a lot of protein. So you'd have to eat a whole lot of them. Sprouts are very healthy too and certainly worth including in your diet, but I wouldn't rely on sprouts for all of your protein needs.

Beans and Rice

You can also mix your vegetarian proteins to make a complete protein, such as beans and rice. If you eat canned beans rinse them to remove some of the sodium. Also, buy brown rice and not white rice.

Peanut Butter or Almond Butter

Nut butters are a good source of protein and monounsaturated fats. However you must be careful to read the ingredients. Try to buy peanut butter that contains only ground peanuts. Many commercial brands put sugar in their peanut butter. Look for nut butters that say natural (but still read the ingredients to be sure).

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