Best High Protein Foods for Bodybuilders + 1 for Vegetarians

best high protein foods for bodybuilding

Building muscles involves a constant cycle of damage and repair. An intense workout will cause microscopic tears in the muscle and tissue.

In order for the muscles to grow, the damaged actin and myosin must be repaired. Actin and myosin are made from amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein.

Thus, in order to produce the amino acids necessary to repair the actin and myosin, you must eat foods with plenty of protein.

Balancing the right amount of carbs, fats, and protein can be difficult when trying to increase muscle mass.

Following is a list of healthy high protein foods that will help you along the way.

Our Top 4 High Protein Foods for Weight Lifting

1. Chicken

chicken is a great food for body builders to eat

Anyone hoping to gain muscle mass should make themselves very familiar with chicken and the many different ways to prepare it.

It’s a high-protein staple food in nearly every bodybuilding diet. A skinless, boneless chicken breast will have roughly 31 grams of protein and only 4 grams of fat.

However, it’s important to keep the skin off or that fat content increases to 8 grams.

Chicken is also a reliable source of complete protein. A complete protein will contain adequate quantities of all nine essential amino acids.

Having access to all nine essential amino acids in high quantities from a single food source makes it much easier for your muscles to repair after a workout.

As great of a food as chicken is for bodybuilding, it can easily be corrupted by certain cooking methods. Try to avoid the delicious temptation of deep-fried chicken and stick with baked, poached, or roasted chicken that has had the skin removed.

It won’t affect the protein quantity, but it will impact other vitamins and nutrients in the meat.

2. Quinoa

Quinoa is a great high-protein option for vegetarian bodybuilders

It was once believed that plants were always deficient in at least one of the nine essential amino acids.

This meant that vegetarian bodybuilders needed to rely on combining multiple food sources to create a complete protein. Studies have since revealed that there are a handful of plant sources that are also complete proteins.

Quinoa is among that group.

Quinoa has been making rounds as one of the latest and greatest superfoods. It is a whole grain that is packed full of nutrients and minerals.

It’s an ideal source of protein for vegetarians, but that doesn’t mean you need to be a vegetarian to eat it. It can make a great post-workout breakfast or snack in the morning.

One cup of cooked quinoa will have roughly 8 grams of protein. It’s nearly 14 percent protein, which is considerably higher than any other grain.

Barley, for example, contains less than half that percentage of protein. That same cup of quinoa is loaded with zinc, potassium, fiber, iron, and magnesium. It also has very low sodium content and about 3.5 grams of fat per cup.

3. Eggs

a weight lifter gets ready to make a fried egg

Eggs are perhaps the only food more abundant than chicken in a bodybuilding diet.

You may have seen the videos of bodybuilders eating handfuls of raw eggs or drinking them straight from a container. There’s a reason that they do this, though it’s highly recommended that you don’t consume your eggs raw.

Each large egg is a complete protein source with nearly 7 grams of protein.

Meanwhile, it has only 0.4 grams of carbohydrates. It also contains plenty of beneficial nutrients and minerals, such as vitamins A, K, and B12.

Bodybuilders have spent a long time trying to break down the perfect way to consume eggs. This is because the egg yolk and the egg white have very different nutritional values. Most of the protein is contained in the egg white while the egg yolk contains the healthy fat and other nutrients. The ideal combination often includes more egg whites than yolks.

If you’re serious about building muscles, then your refrigerator should be stocked with cartons of eggs. You can start each morning with roughly 6 egg whites and 2 egg yolks along with some oats and a fruit. You’re guaranteed to notice better results from your workout routine if you do.

Many bodybuilders choose to add eggs to every meal. It can get a bit tiresome, especially if you aren’t already a fan of eggs. It’s a good idea to learn various ways to cook the eggs so that you can mix it up. Eggs can be steamed, fried, scrambled, boiled, and even cooked in a microwave.

You should resist the temptation to eat them raw even if you saw a bodybuilding champion do it on the internet. The body can more easily break down the proteins when they are cooked. Raw eggs also carry a risk of salmonella poisoning, which is not something you want to deal with.

4. Fish

fish makes a great post-workout meal

Are you already tired of constantly eating chicken and eggs? Luckily, there are some other healthy meats that are high in protein. Fish is among the best. Fish is very healthy in general because of its omega-3 fatty acids. It’s also very low in unhealthy fats and calories.

Not all fish are created equal, though most are health. For example, more than 80 percent of the calories in a can of water-packed tuna come from protein.

Unfortunately, it’s not advisable to use canned tuna as your only source of protein because it may contain high levels of mercury and lead to mercury poisoning. Meanwhile, a fresh hake will have less protein but also much less mercury.

Brook trout, hake, carp, and perch are all great choices for whole fish if you’re interested in making fish a part of your daily routine.

They have considerably less mercury than most other fish and each contains between 16 and 19 grams of protein per 100 grams of fish. Salmon, rainbow trout, swordfish, and pike can be good in moderation, but often contain high mercury levels or high-fat levels.

Can Supplements Help?

a female weightlifter

Of course, if you’re trying to get the most from your bodybuilding routine, there are things you can do besides just getting a bunch of protein.

For a lot of people, that means using weight lifting supplements (CrazyBulk makes some of our favs – read about them here), and even protein for pre and post workout.

There are plenty of great supp companies out there, so be sure to do your research, and find one that’s going to meet your needs and goals.

Honorable Mentions

There are certainly other high-protein foods you can add to the mix so that you don’t hate your diet. These include soy-based products, turkey, shrimp, flax seeds, red meat, and low-fat milk.

Make sure to always read the nutrition label for any foods you purchase to verify that it has enough protein for the job.

Stick to a diet that is high in protein with plenty of carbs and you’ll get much better results from your bodybuilding routine.