The Ultimate Protein Guide
By Dana Leigh Smith & The Editors of Eat This, Not That!
Everything you need to know about the most talked about nutrient on the block—protein!
Ever since the Atkins craze hit back in the late 1950's, Americans have been obsessed with adding more protein to their diets. And that's because whether you want to lose weight, gain muscle, or simply improve your health, studies have pointed to protein as the magic potion. And it kind of it; but that doesn't mean you should consume any source or eat it without abandon. Because unlike a Reese's, there's a right way and a wrong way to eat protein—and luckily for you, this guide will tell you everything you need to know about the nutrient; how to eat it, how much of it you need, and the very best sources of the stuff, too! No matter your goals or lifestyle, there is something here for you. Consider this your protein bible, bookmark it, share it, and refer back to it often. And while you've got weight loss on the brain, be sure to check out our exclusive report, 20 Weight Loss Tricks You Haven't Tried!
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Most people know that protein is essential for muscle growth, tissue health, and weight loss. Most people also know that it's found in food like chicken and milk. But have you ever stopped to think about what protein exactly is? Like carbs and fat, protein is a macronutrient or a substance required in large amounts for humans to survive. And all sources of protein are made up of organic compounds called amino acids. For this reason, people will often refer to amino acids as "the building blocks of protein." Though there are about 20 different types of amino acids, eight of them, which are collectively referred to as essential amino acids, must be supplied by the foods we eat. That's because the body cannot produce them on its own. While animal sources of protein contain all eight, when it comes to other sources of protein like beans and whole grains, that's not always the case. For this reason, vegans and vegetarians are often told to eat a wide variety of foods to ensure they consume all the essential amino acids throughout the day.
So, how much of the stuff should you be eating? Diet experts, personal trainers, and scientists seem to go back and forth on this one—and the answer depends on a number of things; namely your activity level, age, and gender. To find out what's right for you, step on a scale and be honest with yourself about your activity level. Men who work out for 45 minutes three to five days a week need about 0.45 gram per pound; women with the same activity level need 0.35 gram per pound. So an 180-pound guy who works out regularly needs about 80 grams of protein a day. For a 140-pound woman, that translates to nearly 50 grams of protein daily. Take in any more than that and you'll just burn it off as extra energy since you're body doesn't need it. But be warned: Taking in excess calories, from protein or otherwise, can lead to weight gain, so be sure to stay within the recommended calorie range for your goal.
One more tip for optimal results: Distribute your protein intake evenly throughout the day. Research shows that grazing on the nutrient instead of packing it all into one meal boosts protein synthesis (the muscle-growing process) by 25 percent!
THE BEST SOURCES
OF THE STUFF...
OF THE STUFF...
Okay, now on to the fun part: eating! From snacks and protein powders to meats and veggies, there are a million sources of protein. It can be overwhelming, to say the least. To help you cut through the noise and identify the best bets for your diet, we've listed the best of the lot below. This way you can simply jot down what sounds yummy to you, and add it to your shopping cart next time you hit up the grocery store. And speaking of food shopping, be sure to check out these The 46 Best Supermarket Shopping Tips Ever to save cash and slim down!
Amount of Protein: 24 g per 4 oz
A longtime enemy of doctors and dieters, pork has been coming around as a healthier alternative of late—as long as you choose the right cut. Your best bet is pork tenderloin: A University of Wisconsin Study found that a three-ounce serving of pork tenderloin has slightly less fat than a skinless chicken breast. It has 24 grams of protein per serving and 83 milligrams of waist-whittling choline (in the latter case, about the same as a medium egg). In a study published in the journal Nutrients, scientists asked 144 overweight people to eat a diet rich in fresh lean pork. After three months, the group saw a significant reduction in waist size, BMI and belly fat with no reduction in muscle mass! They speculate that the amino acid profile of pork protein may contribute to greater fat burning. For even more great ways to burn off the flab, check out these 42 Ways to Lose 5 Inches of Belly Fat!
Amount of Protein: 26 g protein per 4 oz strip steak
When it comes to steak or burgers, go grass-fed. It may ding your wallet, but it'll dent your abs. Grass-fed beef is naturally leaner and has fewer calories than conventional meat: A lean seven-ounce conventional strip steak has 386 calories and 16 grams of fat. But a seven-ounce grass-fed strip steak has only 234 calories and five grams of fat. Grass-fed meat also contains higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, according to a study published in Nutrition Journal, which have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. Concerned about your ticker? Keep it healthy by eating more of these foods that decrease your heart disease risk.
Amount of Protein: 23 g per 4 oz serving
While grass-fed beef is an excellent choice, bison's profile has been rising in recent years, and for good reason: It has half the fat of and fewer calories than red meat. According to the USDA, while a 90 percent lean hamburger may average 10 grams of fat, a comparatively sized buffalo burger rings in at two grams of fat with 24 grams of protein, making it one of the leanest meats around. But wait, taking a chance on this unexpected meat will earn you two healthy bonuses: In just one serving you'll get a full day's allowance of vitamin B-12, which has been shown to boost energy (like these 23 Best Foods for Energy) and help shut down the genes responsible for insulin resistance and the formation of fat cells; additionally, since bison are naturally grass-fed, you can confidently down your burger knowing it's free of the hormones and pollutants than can manifest themselves in your belly fat.
Amount of Protein: 29 g per 4 oz patty
Lower that eyebrow you're raising. Ostrich meat is the rising star of the grill. While it's technically red and has the rich taste of beef, it has less fat than turkey or chicken. A four-ounce patty contains nearly 30 grams of the muscle building nutrient and just six grams of fat. Plus, one serving has 200 percent of the daily recommended allowance of vitamin B-12. This exotic meat can also help whittle your middle: Ostrich contains 55 milligrams of choline, one of these essential nutrient for fat loss. And it's not as hard to find as it sounds—ostrich is increasingly available in conventional supermarkets around the country.
Amount of Protein: 16 g per 3 oz
You already knew fish was rich in protein but you might be surprised to learn that halibut tops fiber-rich oatmeal and vegetables in the satiety department. The Satiety Index of Common Foods, an Australian study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, ranks it the number two most filling food—bested only by boiled potatoes for its fullness factor. A separate Australian study that compared the satiety of different animal proteins found a nutritionally similar white fish (flake) to be significantly more satiating than beef and chicken; satiety following the whitefish meal also declined at a much slower rate. Study authors attribute the filling factor of white fish like halibut to its impressive protein content and influence on serotonin, one of the key hormones responsible for appetite signals. Just make sure you avoid tilapia.
Amount of Protein: 17 g per 3 oz
Don't let salmon's relatively high calorie and fat content fool you; studies suggest the oily fish may be one of the best for weight loss. In one study, participants were divided into groups and assigned one of three equicaloric weight loss diets that included no seafood (the control group), lean white fish, or salmon. Everyone lost weight, but the salmon eaters had the lowest fasting insulin levels and a marked reduction in inflammation. Another study in the International Journal of Obesity found that eating three 5-ounce servings of salmon per week for four weeks as part of a low-calorie diet resulted in approximately 2.2 more lost pounds than following an equip-calorie diet that didn't include fish. Wild salmon is leaner than farmed, which is plumped up on fishmeal; and it's also proven to be significantly lower in cancer-linked PCBs. So go wild — literally. This is a protein-rich fish you don't want to miss! And for even more foods that will fight inflammation, check out these 20 Anti-Inflammatory Foods for Weight Loss!
Amount of Protein: 16 g per 3 oz
Tuna or to-not? That is the question. As a primo source of protein and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), canned light tuna is one of the best and most affordable fish for weight loss, especially from your belly! One study in the Journal of Lipid Research showed that omega 3 fatty acid supplementation had the profound ability to turn off abdominal fat genes. And while you'll find two types of fatty acids in cold water fish and fish oils—DHA and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)—researchers say DHA can be 40 to 70 percent more effective than EPA at downregulating fat genes in the abdomen, preventing belly fat cells from expanding in size. But what about the mercury? Mercury levels in tuna vary by species; generally speaking, the larger and leaner the fish, the higher the mercury level. Bluefin and albacore rank among the most toxic, according to a study in Biology Letters. But canned chunk light tuna, harvested from the smallest fish, is considered a "low mercury fish" and can–and should!–be enjoyed two to three times a week (or up to 12 ounces), according to the FDA's most recent guidelines.
Amount of Protein: 15 g per 3 oz
Fish and chips won't help you lose weight, at least not out of the fryer. But research suggests a regular serving of Pacific cod, the fish that's typical of fish sticks, may keep you stick thin. One study in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases found that eating five servings of cod per week as part of a low-calorie diet for eight weeks resulted in an extra 3.8 pounds of weight loss compared to a diet with the same amount of calories but no fish. Researchers attribute the satiating and slimming properties to cod's high protein content and amino acid profile, which can help regulate the metabolism. No wonder Captain Birdseye looks so smug!
Amount of Protein: 16 g per quarter-pound turkey burger
Lean and protein-rich, turkey is no longer an automatic substitute for red meat–this bird deserves props on its own. A quarter-pound turkey burger patty contains 140 calories, 16 grams of protein and eight grams of fat. Additionally, turkey is rich in DHA omega-3 acids—18 mg per serving, the highest on this list—which has been shown to boost brain function, improve your mood and turn off fat genes, preventing fat cells from growing in size. Just make sure you buy white meat only; dark contains too much fat. And know that you're doing your health a double solid by grilling at home: Restaurant versions can be packed with fatty add-ins to increase flavor. Not your problem, since it's going straight from the grill to your plate (ideally with the best spices to burn fat and peppers mixed in).
Amount of Protein: 26 g per 3 oz. cooked breast
A 3 oz. cooked chicken breast contains only 142 calories and 3 grams of fat, but packs a whopping 26 grams of protein! But the go-to protein can be a fail on the taste front. (Our casual poll on the taste of plain breast elicited answers ranging from "air you cut with a knife" to "wet sock.") The good news: With just a little creativity, you can make it a savory post-gym dinner or an impressive date-night meal. Check out these 35 Best-Ever Chicken Recipes for Weight Loss for some culinary inspiration.
Amount of Protein: 7 g per egg
Eggs might just be the easiest, cheapest and most versatile way to up your protein intake. Beyond easily upping your daily protein count, each 85-calorie eggs packs a solid 7 grams of the muscle-builder! Eggs also boost your health: They're loaded with amino acids, antioxidants, and iron. Don't just reach for the whites, though; the yolks boast a fat-fighting nutrient called choline, so opting for whole eggs can actually help you trim down. When you're shopping for eggs, pay attention to the labels. You should be buying organic, when possible. These are certified by the USDA and are free from antibiotics, vaccines, and hormones. As for color, that's your call. The difference in color just varies based on the type of chicken—they both have the same nutritional value, says Molly Morgan, RD, a board certified sports specialist dietician based in upstate New York.
Amount of Protein: 20 g per 7 oz
Yogurt may be one of your key allies in weight-loss efforts. A study printed in the Journal of Nutrition found that probiotics like the ones found in creamy, delicious yogurt helped obese women lose nearly twice the weight compared to those who did not consume probiotics. Both sets of subjects were on low-calorie diets, but after 12 weeks, the probiotic poppers lost an average of 9.7 pounds, while those on placebos lost only 5.7. Bonus: the subjects who were given the good bacteria continued to lose weight even after an additional 12 weeks, an average of 11.5 pounds to be accurate! The group that didn't get the probiotic boost? They maintained their 5.7-pound initial loss but didn't trim down further. The good bacteria in probiotics can help ramp up your metabolism and improve your immune system, but it pays to be picky about your sources. Yogurt's a great way to get a.m. protein and probiotics, but to get the healthiest yogurt you'll have to read labels; most are packed with added sugars that exceed their protein levels. To speed up the process, use our indispensable guide to the best brand name yogurts for weight loss.
Amount of Protein: 8 g per cup
Organically raised cows are not subject to the same hormones and antibiotics that conventional cows are; no antibiotics for them means no antibiotics for you. Grass fed cows have been shown to have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids (good) and two to five times more CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) than their corn and grain fed counterparts. CLA contains a group of chemicals which provides a wide variety of health benefits, including immune and inflammatory system support, improved bone mass, improved blood sugar regulation, reduced body fat, reduced risk of heart attack, and maintenance of lean body mass. While skim milk may be lowest in calories, many vitamins are fat-soluble, which means you won't get all the benefits of the alphabetical nutrients listed on your cereal box unless you opt for at least 1%.
Amount of Protein: 5 g per cup, cooked
Popeye's favorite veggie is a great source of not only protein but also vitamins A and C, antioxidants and heart-healthy folate. One cup of the green superfood has nearly as much protein as a hard-boiled egg—for half the calories. Looking to get the biggest nutritional bang for your buck? Be sure to steam your spinach instead of eating it raw. This cooking method helps retain vitamins and makes it easier for the body to absorb the green's calcium content. Add a handful to soup recipes, omelets, pasta dishes and veggie stir-fries, or simply steam it and top with pepper, garlic, olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.
Amount of Protein: 8 g per cup
It's enough to make Popeye do a spit take: Despite their wimpy reputation, a cup of green peas contains eight times the protein of a cup of spinach. And with almost 100 percent of your daily value of Vitamin C in a single cup, they'll help keep your immune system up to snuff. Layer them into a mason jar salad or add them to an omelet to boost eggs' satiating power.
Amount of Protein: 4.2 g per cup
The highest-protein fruit, guava packs more than 4 grams per cup, along with 9 grams of fiber and only 112 calories. With 600 percent of your DV of Vitamin C per cup—the equivalent of more than seven medium oranges!—the tropical fruit should merengue its way into your shopping cart ASAP.
Amount of Protein: 6 g per tablespoon
Similar in taste to sunflower seeds, these nuts are derived from hemp seeds, which are also used to grow cannabis. (We know what you're thinking. The answer is no.) By weight, hemp seed nuts provide more high-quality protein than even beef or fish. Each nut is also packed with heart-healthy alpha linoleic acid. Find them in your local health-food store or in the natural products section of your grocery store. Once you get your hands on 'em, eat them straight from the bag, or sprinkle a handful on salads or in your morning oatmeal.
Amount of Protein: 18 g per cup
Here are some pretty amazing proportions: One cup of lentils has the protein of three eggs, with less than one gram of fat! Their high fiber content makes them extremely satiating, and studies have shown that they speed fat loss: Spanish researchers found that people whose diets included four weekly servings of legumes lost more weight and improved their cholesterol more than people who didn't. Eat them on their own as a side or simmer them into a number of all-season soups.
Amount of Protein: 11 g per cup, cooked
This ancient grain, which you can use in place of quinoa, has three more grams of protein per cup than its trendy cousin. It's high in magnesium, potassium, and iron, with 21 g of fiber per cup. Bonus: A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating Kamut reduces cholesterol, blood sugar, and cytokines, which cause inflammation throughout the body—not a good thing if weight loss if your goal.
Amount of Protein: 5 g per 1 oz serving
Dairy products are famously protein rich, but this versatile cheese is truly impressive: You can get nearly 10 percent of your daily protein from a 1 oz, 76-calorie serving. To add the stuff to your diet, crumble goat cheese over a colorful salad and top it with our Zero Belly Vinaigrette dressing; use a watermelon or chickpea base to ratchet up the fat-burning benefits. Or combine feta with other flat-belly ingredients to make a healthy homemade pizza, like the arugula-and-cherry number above.
Amount of Protein: 8 g per 1/2 cup
When it comes to healthy snack foods, almonds and walnuts are always on the A-list, but pumpkin seeds, a.k.a. pepitas, are an underrated winner. One half-cup serving has 20 percent more protein than an egg and is high in iron, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and immune-system-boosting zinc. Add pumpkin seeds to salads, oats and Greek yogurt, or grab a handful as a snack.
Amount of Protein: 6 g per cup
Tomatoes are packed with the antioxidant lycopene, which studies show can decrease your risk of bladder, lung, prostate, skin, and stomach cancers, as well as reduce the risk of coronary artery disease. Just one cup of the sun-dried version will lend you seven grams of fiber, ¾ of your RDA of potassium—which is essential for heart health and tissue repair—and 50 percent of your RDA of vitamin C, the superstar antioxidant that prevents DNA damage. They're also rich in vitamins A and K. Use them as a pizza topping, a tangy addition to salads, or snack on them right out of the bag.
Amount of Protein: 8-12 g in two slices
Not all breads are carb bombs waiting to shatter your weight loss goals. This nutrient-dense bread, for example, is loaded with folate-filled lentils and good-for-you grains and seeds like barley and millet. To reap the benefits, make a protein-packed veggie sandwich overflowing with wholesome nutrients. On two slices of sprouted whole-grain bread combine hummus, avocado slices, roasted red peppers, cucumbers, onions, spinach, and tomatoes. Yum!
Amount of Protein: 11 g per cup
You might not think of the little beige bullets as a superfood, but it's time to start. High in nutrients and soluble fiber, chickpeas are a prime weight-loss weapon, increasing feelings of satiety by releasing an appetite-suppressing hormone called cholecystokinin.
Use chickpeas as a base for a salad incorporating tomatoes and feta, blend them into homemade hummus with lemon and olive oil, or roast them for a super-healthy alternative to chips. You can also substitute chickpea flour for a portion of the regular flour you use in baking; it contains almost twice as much protein as the standard white stuff.
Amount of Protein: 7 g per 2 tablespoons
This creamy spread is downright addictive. While eating too much peanut butter can wreak havoc on your waistline, a standard two-tablespoon serving provides a solid dose of muscle-building protein and healthy fats. According to a 2014 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, consuming peanuts can prevent both cardiovascular and coronary artery disease—the most common type of heart condition. Look for the unsalted, no sugar added varieties without hydrogenated oils to reap the most benefits. If you're tired of plain old PB&J sandwiches, try stirring the spread into hot oatmeal, smearing it on fresh produce, or blending it into your post-workout smoothie. And for some seriously slimming smoothie inspiration check out these smoothie recipes for weight loss.
Amount of Protein: 6 g per 1/4 cup
While you may have never heard of this hearty whole grain before, it may become your new favorite. This wheat-rye hybrid packs 12 grams of protein per half cup and is also rich in brain-boosting iron, bloat-busting potassium, magnesium, and heart-healthy fiber. Use triticale berries in place of rice and mix it with soy sauce, fresh ginger, cloves, shiitake mushrooms and edamame to make a healthy Asian-inspired dish. If you prefer to firing up the oven to using the stove, use triticale flour in place of traditional flour in your baking.
Amount of Protein: 6 g per oz
Think of each almond as a natural weight-loss pill. A study of overweight and obese adults found that—when combined with a calorie-restricted diet—consuming a little more than a quarter-cup of the nuts can decrease weight more effectively than a snack comprised of complex carbohydrates and safflower oil—after just two weeks! (And after 24 weeks, those who ate the nuts experienced a 62 percent greater reduction in weight and BMI!) For optimal results, eat your daily serving before you hit the gym. Almonds, rich in the amino acid L-arginine, can actually help you burn more fat and carbs during workouts, a study printed in The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found.
Amount of Protein: 5 g per 1 oz
Cashews are a good source of protein, phosphorus, calcium and copper, and shouldn't be overlooked as one of your go-to nuts. Magnesium boasts a myriad of health benefits such as helping your body relieve various conditions like constipation, insomnia, headaches and muscle cramps, as well as regulating the immune system and supporting brain function. They also contain a good amount of biotin, which will help keep your locks shiny and lustrous.
Thanks to the high protein content of powder supplements, adding a scoop or two to your smoothies, baked goods, or shakes can aid in rapid weight loss efforts by boosting calorie burn, increasing satiety, and preserving lean muscle mass. Here, our go-to vegan and animal-based protein powder picks.
First, know this: Plant protein is more slimming than milk-derived proteins. Because whey is a dairy derivative—and many commercial preparations tend to contain all manner of funky chemicals—protein powders that use this source as a base can lead to bloat and skin conditions. However, if you find you're not terribly lactose intolerant, milk proteins are some of the best sources of amino acids out there. Milk proteins such as whey and casein have the ability to preserve lean muscle mass and improve metabolic health during weight loss, according to research published in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism.
Amount of Protein: 25 g per serving from grass-fed whey protein concentrate
If you want a "fast acting" protein that will stimulate protein synthesis (the muscle-growing process) after a workout, go with whey. While a whey protein concentrate has a lower percentage of protein than whey isolate, it contains more bioactive compounds found in the milk fat that positively influence metabolism and immunity. This method allows the protein powder to retain many of its fragile immune factors and nutrients leaving it loaded with the ideal blend of easily absorbed amino acids, anti-inflammatory compounds, essential fats, energy-replenishing carbs and metabolism-boosting peptides. You'll get even more of these nutrients when your powder is made from pasture-fed cows, which have a higher concentration of inflammation-reducing omega-3 fatty acids than their corn and grain fed counterparts. Buy it online now!
Amount of Protein: 26 g per serving from micellar casein
If you're looking to repair and regrow muscle, take some Naked Casein Powder before bed. Casein, as opposed to whey, digests more slowly (it's the same principle as low-glycemic-index "slow carbs") and stays in the system longer to nourish muscles. This makes it a good option if you need a nighttime snack on workout days: It'll help kick-start recovery and build fat-burning muscle. This option has 26 grams of protein and zero grams of fat per serving. (If you do want to drink whey, you can do it in the PM as well: A study published in 2014 in the British Journal of Nutrition found that active men who consumed whey at night increased their next morning metabolism.) Buy it online now!
Amount of Protein: 20 g per serving from grass-fed whey protein concentrate
This product is designed to boost both your fitness levels as well as your overall health. It contains a unique blend of high-quality whey protein, muscle-fueling coconut triglycerides, pre-biotic resistant starch, endurance-boosting and blood-sugar-stabilizing chia seeds, and probiotics. Not only can probiotics keep your gut healthy, but when they're combined with high-quality whey protein, they can enhance muscle development: Probiotics help your body synthesize leucine, a particular branched-chain amino acid (BCAA), which you need for muscle building. Buy it online now!
Amount of Protein: 25.2 g per serving from GMO-free egg whites
Whey tends to be the first word when it comes to protein supplementation. But as we've mentioned before, it can cause belly bloat. For a better option that'll help you bulk up only in desirable areas, try egg-white protein, which is naturally low-carb and no-fat. Just like whey, egg white protein such has a complete essential amino acid profile, which promotes optimal recovery from challenging workouts. Want to boost the flavor without artificial additives? Paleo Pure provides a blank slate (it's only egg whites and sunflower lecithin) to add a tablespoon of raw cacao powder to boost your intake of brain-boosting flavanoids while curbing your chocolate cravings. Buy it online now!
Mt. Capra Products
Goat Milk Protein
Goat Milk Protein
Amount of Protein: 20 g per serving from grass-fed goat milk
This powerful protein combines the best of both worlds in protein supplementation through a natural blend of casein and whey proteins. Using a combination powder allows the whey to trigger muscle building simulation while casein inhibits factors that lead to muscle breakdown. Mt. Capra is a small, family-run farm in the Pacific Northwest who uses milk from their own pasture-grazed goat herd in their protein powders. If your body doesn't agree with cow milk, goat milk is a great alternative. Even though goat milk still has lactose, the goat milk proteins are smaller and easier for humans to absorb than cow's milk. Buy it online now!
PLANT-BASED PROTEIN POWDERS
Plant protein powders won't lead to bloat like whey powders will, and they're also less likely to include nasty artificial sweeteners. (Although recent science indicates they're not carcinogenic, as feared, artificial sweeteners have been shown to actually increase your appetite.) Those looking to build muscle shouldn't shrink in fear: In a 2013 study published in Nutrition Journal, University of Tampa researchers found that rice protein was just as effective as whey in building muscle and strength among men who hit the gym on the reg.
Raw Protein Powder
Raw Protein Powder
Amount of Protein: 19 grams per serving from peas, hemp, cranberries, brown rice and more
A great raw protein option, this GMO-free powder derived its muscle-building power from organic pea, cranberry and hemp seed protein—it's even tasty enough to take on its own! What's more, there are no sugars, gluten or artificial sweeteners to cause a metabolism-confusing midday crash. If you down some pre-workout, the branched-chain amino acids can give your gym session a boost by helping to target energy directly to your muscles. Buy it online now!
Amount of Protein: 20 grams per serving from peas and hemp
Loaded with six servings of greens, probiotics, antioxidants and 50 percent of your daily intake of food-based vitamins and minerals, this super clean protein powder is difficult to turn down. With tasty flavors like vanilla chai and berry, water alone is enough to create a tasty shake you'll actually like sipping. If you have more time, combine a scoop—which doles out 20 grams of protein—with unsweetened milk alternatives and a frozen banana for an irresistible milkshake-like creation. Created by a former Ironman triathlete, this balanced protein also tastes great in homemade protein muffins as a post-triathlon—or post-regular run—treat. Buy it online now!
Garden of Life
Amount of Protein: 34 grams per serving from brown rice, amaranth, quinoa, millet and more
This complete protein showcases 13 raw and organic sprouts, with 17 grams of protein per serving, all the essential amino acids your body needs, plus tea and cinnamon extract. Just make sure you whip up a smoothie using a healthy fat like nut butter or avocado. Makers of this powder load it with fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, which can only be fully absorbed by your body when paired with a healthy fat. Their original unflavored powder works in any post-workout shake, but we're suckers for slimming, satisfying chocolate versions. Buy it online now!
Amount of Protein: 15 g per serving from hemp
We love the post-workout high—no, not that kind of hemp high—we get with this hemp-based, organic protein powder. Hemp protein is derived from the less-fun parts of the hemp plant, offering a substantial amount of fiber (here, 8 grams) that's easy to digest, making it a great pre-workout powder to keep you from cramping up at the gym. On top of 15 grams of complete protein per serving, hemp also boasts heart-healthy doses of anti-inflammatory omega-3s. This option is an ideal mix-in for oatmeal or smoothies (or brownies if that's your thing); the fiber will make you feel fuller longer, and it contains eight essential amino acids to build muscle. Buy it online now!
Amount of Protein: 18 grams per serving from hemp, pumpkin seeds, and peas
Milk the benefits of this tasty, plant-based protein powder by slipping it into one of your quick weight loss smoothies or protein shakes. The organic, vegan protein powder is made with hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, and peas for an impressive punch of 18 grams of protein per serving—with no chemicals or artificial fillers. And while it may be gluten-free, soy-free and dairy-free, it's certainly rich in flavor. When you try this in a shake recipe that is originally dairy-based, you'd swear it was the real thing from its rich texture and flavor. Try their wild harvested vanilla or fair trade organic cacao powder swirled into a quick shake with half a frozen banana for an ice cream-like texture and a tablespoon of nut butter for satiating healthy fats and some extra protein. Buy it online now!
Amount of Protein: 15 g
If you've got no time to cook up a chicken breast, your next best option is grabbing a bar that's made from one. Certainly not your typical chocolate-coated, dried-fruit ridden bars—Epic's line of meat-based protein bars are great options for post-workout recovery because they offer up a hefty dose of lean protein to support muscle repair and growth.
Chip Cookie Dough
Chip Cookie Dough
Amount of Protein: 19 g
As the name implies, this bar is anything short of wimpy. "If you're looking to build muscle, [eating whole foods is a better choice, but if a bar is your only option] then you want protein and carbs to at least be in a 2-to-1 carb per protein ratio," explains registered dietitian Isabel Smith. "Carbs actually help protein get into the muscle fibers."
Amount of Protein: 15 g
Simply Protein's motto is "The most protein for the least calories" and boy, do they deliver! Each of these sweet bars is packed with 15 grams of protein for just 150 calories. Plus, each one only has one gram of sugar and no artificial sweeteners—it doesn't get much better than that.
Amount of Protein: 20 g
Quest nutrition bars are all about the protein, making them an ideal choice if you're trying to fend off cravings and gain lean muscle. Though some people experience stomach discomfort with whey, the massive serving of 20 grams of protein per 180-calorie bar is perfect for those who digest it with ease. Drool-worthy flavors like S'mores and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough (yes, seriously) make these tasty snacks an almost-too-good-to-be-true way to up your protein intake and beat the 3 pm slump.
Wild Blueberry Crisp
Wild Blueberry Crisp
Amount of Protein: 14 g
Somewhere between snack time and forbidden dessert time lies OATMEGA and its variety of bar-like crisps. These bars have everything we look for in a good bar: Low sugar, high protein, high fiber, lots of omega-3s and minimal additives. Each of these delicious bars–which come in crave-worthy flavors like Wild Blueberry, Chocolate Peanut, and Chocolate Mint–has 14 grams of protein and as little as 5g sugar. And we haven't even mentioned their cookie line yet.
Squarebar Organic Protein Bar,
Chocolate Coated Coconut
Chocolate Coated Coconut
Amount of Protein: 11 g
Aloha Protein Bar, Vanilla
Amount of Protein: 18 g
Aloha, one of the newest supplement company to take the health food world by storm, claims to make convenient snacks without convenience store quality ingredients. One scan of the ingredient panel is all it takes to see that they're legit. Whole food ingredients like almonds, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed protein and pea protein make up the bulk of this bar, while quinoa, sea salt, vanilla extract and monk fruit extract lend texture and flavor.
Amount of Protein: 21 g
Quest's delicious, protein-filled chips—which come in flavors like salt and vinegar, sour cream and onion, and BBQ—will tingle your taste buds without blowing your diet. One individual snack bag can even serve as a savory on-the-go replacement for a post-workout protein shake. Before you laugh us off, you should know we have two big reasons to back up our claim: The salt can help replace electrolytes lost after a sweaty workout and one bag serves up as much protein as a 2.5-ounce chicken breast. Made from dried potatoes, a blend of milk protein and whey protein isolate and a generous amount of seasonings, this crunchy snack is sure to put your sad bag of Lays to shame.
Seapoint Farms Dry Roasted
Edamame, 100 Calorie Snack Pack
Edamame, 100 Calorie Snack Pack
Amount of Protein: 11 g
Getting sick of snacking on almonds and walnuts? Mix things up (while still satisfying that craving for something crunchy) by incorporating packs of dry roasted edamame into your snack-time lineup. There are 11 grams of soy protein and six grams of belly-filling fiber in each 100-calories serving—it doesn't get much better than that!
KIND, Caramel Almond
& Sea Salt
& Sea Salt
Amount of Protein: 6 g
KIND Bars are one of the most popular brands out there–for good reason. They're made with "powerful" ingredients like almonds, dark chocolate, honey, and molasses. While some have a slightly higher calorie count–the bars range from 150 to 230 calories–they pack impressive amounts of protein, so they're sure to take the edge off even the meanest midday hunger. And while your sweet tooth will be happy with flavors like Caramel Almond & Sea Salt and Peanut Butter Dark Chocolate, these chewy snacks aren't just for sugar cravings; savory options like Honey Smoked BBQ are also available.
The New Primal Grass-Fed
Beef Jerky Original
Beef Jerky Original
Amount of Protein: 10 g per oz
To make their signature jerky, The New Primal uses grass-fed beef that's full of healthy omega-3s and CLA. CLA, or conjugated linoleic acid, isn't as present in grain-fed cattle because the CLA comes directly from the grass. This fatty acid contains a group of chemicals that provide a wide variety of health benefits, including improved blood sugar regulation, maintenance of lean body mass and reduced body fat. For more ways to lean out your physique, check out these 44 Ways to Lose 4 Inches of Body Fat!
Powerful Yogurt Plain
Amount of Protein: 25 g per 8 oz
Powerful Yogurt uses a proprietary straining process to help retain the yogurt's natural protein, which comes from its pasteurized milk base. While it only boasts two or three more grams of protein than its primary competitors, the extra protein is beneficial if you're looking to pack on some extra muscle or trim down. Mix in some cinnamon and a few fresh blueberries for a burst of added flavor.
Chia, Acai Berry
Chia, Acai Berry
Amount of Protein: 5 g
Self-described as "Super Snacks," these chia-based bars are the low-calorie diet boost you've been looking for. All Health Warrior Chia bars are gluten-, dairy- and GMO-free, 100 percent vegan and boast mouth-watering flavors like coffee, acai, and apple cinnamon. Each four-bite bar has only 110 calories and as many as 1100 mg of omega-3s–that's more ounce-per-ounce than is found in a piece of salmon! With that nutritional power packed into their diminutive size, they're perfect for stashing in your bag for sudden snack attacks.
Mediterranean Snacks Roasted
Garlic Hummus + Sea Salt Lentil Crackers Tapaz 2 Go
Garlic Hummus + Sea Salt Lentil Crackers Tapaz 2 Go
Amount of Protein: 7 g
This satiating, flavorful duo of olive-oil based hummus and lentil crisps serves up as much protein as an egg and provides a crunchy texture reminiscent of a "normal" cracker that'll make even Triscuit lovers jealous.
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ABC News Chief Women's Health Correspondent