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The Best High-Protein Foods for a Faster Metabolism

Protein-heavy foods can help keep your metabolic rate up, so here are some common ones to try.
FACT CHECKED BY Jordan Powers Willard

If any of your goals for this year involve losing weight or managing your weight loss, there are two key places you may want to put your focus: protein and your metabolism. Your metabolism determines the rate at which your body burns calories, so having a faster metabolic rate means you may have a better chance of burning calories and shedding pounds. Research has shown that protein-heavy foods can actually help boost your metabolism, which is why we've collected a list of high-protein foods for you to try.

But first, let's look at how all of this works. The thermic effect of food (TEF) is how much energy an item requires for your body to digest it, and according to Nutrition & Metabolism, it is considered a metabolic response to food. Protein-heavy foods require the most energy and therefore cause a higher TEF. This study by Nutrition & Metabolism states that foods high in protein can increase your metabolic rate by 15–30%, which is much higher than the 5–10% rate for carbohydrates and 0–3% for fats.

So, if you're in need of some ideas for different high-protein foods you can incorporate into your diet for a faster metabolism, keep scrolling! We've gathered a dietitian-recommended list of healthy foods that naturally contain protein, which can hopefully help you feel energized and more confident about achieving your wellness and weight loss goals.

1

Eggs

scrambled eggs
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Protein per egg: 6 grams

If you're looking for a fairly easy way to start your day off right, you may want to try some eggs. Whether you scramble, fry, or throw them in an omelet, this high-protein food can help boost your metabolism.

"Eggs are chock-full of high quality protein and a slew of nutrients, and this protein source is super-versatile and delicious," says Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, registered dietitian and author of The First Time Mom's Pregnancy Cookbook and Fueling Male Fertility. "And, data shows that an egg breakfast can enhance weight loss when combined with an energy-deficit diet."

2

Walnuts

walnuts
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Protein per cup: 18 grams

When you find yourself in need of a midday snack, a topping for your yogurt, or just an added crunch for your next batch of brownies, you may want to consider some walnuts.

"This type of nut is a natural source of plant-based protein, fiber, and ALA omega-3 fatty acids," says Manaker, "and increasing daily consumption of nuts is associated with less long-term weight gain and a lower risk of obesity in adults." At about 18 grams of protein per cup, walnuts have more protein than chicken and many types of fish.

RELATED: The #1 Best Coffee for Your Metabolism

3

Greek yogurt

greek yogurt
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Protein per 7 ounce serving of Greek yogurt: 20 grams

Yogurt is an excellent way to get a boost of protein that can help you keep your metabolic rate up. At around 20 grams of protein per serving, it's hard to many foods with more of this nutrient than yogurt.

"This food (especially the variations without added sugar) has unique properties that may have a potential role in appetite and glycemic control. For instance, yogurt consumption is linked to an increase in body fat loss, decrease in food intake and increase in satiety, decrease in glycemic and insulin response, altered gut hormone response, and replacement of less healthy foods, according to the Journal of the American College of Nutrition," says Manaker.

4

Beef

ground beef
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Protein per 3-ounce serving: 21 grams

If you are comfortable eating animal proteins and are on the search for a high-quality, protein-heavy food, beef may be a great choice for you.

"While providing protein needed to build and repair lean muscle mass, beef also provides lots of other nutrients like iron, vitamin B12, zinc, the antioxidant selenium, and more," says Amy Goodson, MS, RD, CSSD, LD author of The Sports Nutrition Playbook and member of our Expert Medical Board. "Beef provides you with leucine, the branched chain amino acid essential for jumpstarting muscle protein synthesis post-exercise, so including beef in a post-workout meal can not only help boost metabolism, but it can help you recover as well."

5

Salmon

salmon
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Protein per 3-ounce serving: 16 grams

Many protein-heavy foods also contain other helpful nutrients that your body needs, and salmon is a great example. "It contains high-quality protein as well as is an excellent source of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids," says Goodson, "And this combination of protein and healthy fats found in salmon will keep you satisfied for hours after a meal."

RELATED: 5 Worst Foods Slowing Your Metabolism

6

Milk

older woman holding glass of milk
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Protein per cup: 10 grams

Many people make the assumption that milk is bad for you, or that it contains too much fat. However, Goodson emphasizes that milk can be a part of a healthy diet and can provide you with a healthy dose of protein, which in turn can help you maintain a faster metabolism.

"Milk contains 80% casein protein, which is slower digesting than the other milk protein, whey. Because of its slower digestion, it releases amino acids (the building blocks of protein) into the bloodstream at a slower rate," says Goodson. "This makes milk an awesome protein for helping to stabilize blood sugar. Plus, if you are an exerciser or athlete, consuming milk at night can help provide your body with the amino acids it needs to build and recover while you sleep."

So, for those trying to lose weight this year through a faster metabolism, a healthier diet, and more exercise, milk may be the perfect high-protein item to add to your daily routine.

7

Chicken

chicken breast pan seared
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Protein per 3-ounce serving: 13 grams

Although you certainly don't need to eat meat products in order to get a boost of protein, chicken can be a lean and tasty source of protein that can go with just about anything.

You'll find about 13 grams of protein in a serving of chicken breast, but if you're looking for something a bit more packed with flavor, you could always try chicken sausage to cook up with your eggs for breakfast or to throw in a stew. For example, Aidells Smoked Chicken & Apple Sausage has 13 grams of protein per serving, with 12 grams of fat and 0 grams of added sugar.

8

Lentils

puy lentils
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Protein per cup: 18 grams

You may think that it's impossible for something like a legume—think beans, snap peas, chickpeas— to have as much protein as meat or eggs, but certain types come packed full of this nutrient. For example, lentils provide around 18 grams of protein per cup, which is more than eggs, chicken, milk, or salmon.

A cup of lentils also provides around 16 grams of fiber, and fiber can help slow the rate of digestion and can keep you feeling full longer. This, along with being a metabolism-boosting, high-protein food, makes it a great choice for your weight loss goals.

9

Tempeh

Sliced raw tempeh
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Protein per 100 grams: 20 grams

If you're in need of a protein source to go along with your salad, soup, or rice dish, but you aren't wanting it to be meat, tempeh is an incredibly versatile option. This plant-based food, which packs in 20 grams of protein per 100 grams of tempeh, is easy to cook with and absorbs any sauce or marinade you throw its way.

10

Turkey

ground turkey
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Protein per 3 ounces of ground turkey: 23 grams

And last but certainly not least, turkey is a lean, high-protein food that can help boost your metabolism and meet your weight loss goals. In just 3 ounces of ground turkey, you'll be getting approximately 23 grams of protein. This is accompanied by only 173 calories, 9 grams of fat, and 0 grams of carbohydrates or sugars. If you're going to try another form of turkey, say sliced deli turkey or turkey sausage, just make sure you're monitoring how much sugar or sodium is added.

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