Deep in the woods you sit and wait. Patience is your game and you are an expert. It is a key skill as you hunt for one of your favorite sources of protein.
All around you the sound of nature stirs. Above the din, you hear your heart beat powerfully in your broad chest. Your breathing slows as you prepare for the task at hand.
Thump, thump, thump, it beats methodically and you slip into a meditative state. Aware of everything, disturbing nothing. As you wait, it is as though the environment accepts you as its own. Cognizant of your purpose.
Hours slip by. Sweat beads around the base of your neck. The westerly breeze feels cool and refreshing on your damp skin.
As the sun sets, you hear a noise. A bush near you rustles. From the bushes emerges a beautiful whitetail buck. Muscles pulsating with every step, it is as majestic a beast as you have ever seen.
Beholden by its beauty, you gaze upon it as it takes stock of the area around. Satisfied, it begins to graze peacefully on the grass. As your mind settles on the task at hand, you gently reach for your compound bow.
Feeling its weight in your hands, you draw an arrow upon its taut string and pull back. The muscle fibers in your shoulder begin to quiver under its strain. Your back tightens to steady your aim. Your eyes move from the point of the arrow towards your target. Peaceful and ignorant to the plight it is in.
You steady your breath and all becomes still once more.
Thump, thump, TWANG. Out goes the arrow like a thunderbolt streaking across the sky. You glance at the buck just before the arrow strikes, to acknowledge its beauty once more, and thud.
A perfect painless kill. You walk over to the deer to gather it. You kneel beside it and thank it for the meat that it has bestowed upon you.
Suddenly, you stomach rumbles as you think of the venison steaks you will be having soon and all the delicious protein this great beast has allowed you to have. A smile spreads across your face and a single thought occupies your head.
Today was a good day.
Protein – The Holy Grail of Fitness Macros
As humans, we have always had an intimate relationship with our main source of protein – meat.
Our relationship with it has changed a bit but we are still cognizant of the fact that, for the most part, it does come from once living animals. That alone makes it more precious to us than any grain, nut or fruit could ever be.
A favorite of bodybuilders, world-class athletes and weekend gym warriors alike, protein literally holds your body together. When protein enters the body, it is broken down into amino acids, the basic building block of muscle. The amino acids are then used by the body to repair and build muscle, making you stronger and sexier.
Protein is hugely important for both gaining muscle and preserving your precious muscle while in a calorie deficit for fat loss.
Top 10 Best Sources of Protein
Venison. Venison is simply roasted deer. A typical cut of venison has 3g of fat and 27g of protein per 3 ounces.
The key with cooking venison is to not overcook it. Overcooking venison gives it that “gamey” taste that is often associated with deer meat. All you need is a little bit of salt and pepper rubbed in prior to cooking. Place your steak on the a grill or pan and sear both sides, then transfer to a lower heat to achieve that rare/medium-rare finish.
Top/Bottom Round. Top/bottom round beef is usually pretty cheap. With 36g of protein per 4 ounces and only 8g of fat, it is a lean cut of beef and a great bang for your buck. Because of the low-fat content, you’re going to want to cook it medium-rare at most so that the meat will be nice and juicy.
Ground Beef. Lean ground beef is an excellent way to get a protein boost. A 93/7 blend (meaning 93% protein 7% fat) is very common and you’ll easily find it at your local grocery store. With 24g of protein per 4 ounces, it’s a great way to pack some protein into spaghetti or homemade burgers.
Chicken Breast (Boneless & Skinless). Look, if it’s good enough for Arnold, it’s good enough for me, and should be for you too. With 26g of protein and only 2g of fat for every 4 ounces, this is “the” bodybuilding staple for a reason. It has the most protein and least amount of fat of any other chicken cut and you can mix it with anything.
You don’t have to eat just boring chicken and rice. Get creative with the spices, throw in some sweet potato and broccoli and you have an excellent protein-packed meal waiting for you.
Pork Chop. Ahh, the other white meat. Often maligned, pork is surprisingly lean and a great source of protein. With 3g of fat and 25g of protein per 4 ounces, lean pork chops are almost on par with chicken breast for lean cuts of meat. Also, it tastes amazing. Cook it with some pineapples for your carb heavy days or just throw some onions in and serve with your favorite vegetable on your rest days. You really can’t go wrong.
Eggs & Egg Whites. Before whey protein powder came along, egg protein was the go-to source of protein for athletes and bodybuilders. Egg whites have 4g of protein per egg and 0g of fat. They are one of the best sources of protein, especially because they are so macro friendly.
This is not to say regular eggs are useless. They are full of healthy fats and a ton of vitamins. I mix regular eggs and egg whites on my higher fat days for the best of both worlds.
Octopus. Of all the things I miss about living in Japan, I probably mill octopus the most. Before I went to Japan, I may have eaten it once, but I fell in love with it after the move. Whole baby octopus, fried octopus, octopus sushi, and my favorite – Takoyaki, which is basically fried dough with octopus in the middle. I can see the street vendors of Osaka hawking them now… so damn good.
While fried dough may not be the best option for your diet, grilled octopus is. When prepared right, it can be one of the tastiest meats you will ever eat and with just 1g of fat and 18g of protein for every 4 ounces, it is a great lean protein alternative to your typical grilled burger on a summer day. Try it out once… you might just love it!
Cod. The protein of choice for the People’s Eyebrow himself, this fish is packed with protein and easy to cook. 1g of fat and 20g of protein in every 4 ounces, Cod is one of the leanest and best source of fish-based protein. With a very mild taste, you can pair it with anything and not have to worry about that “fishy” taste ruining the rest of your meal.
Shrimp. Who wants shrimp tacos? I do because they are delicious. Let’s be honest, any kind of taco is pretty great. But throw in shrimp and it makes it better. With less than 1g of fat and 17g of protein for every 3 ounces, shrimp is a protein powerhouse. Sub it in instead of the fattier carnitas or carne asada and you have an instant protein upgrade.
Turkey Breast. Turkey is not just for the holidays. The poor neglected cousin of chicken, turkey is actually leaner and has a higher protein content per ounce than chicken does. I know your head just exploded from that knowledge but it’s true. At 1g of fat and 34g of protein per 4 ounces, it is just flat out superior to chicken in every way and one of the best sources of protein you can eat.
Bonus for Vegetarians & Vegans
Greek Yogurt. Greek Yogurt has caught on fire lately. Cam Newton will do that. Marketing aside, greek yogurt is an excellent source of protein for those averse to eating meat. There are many brands out there with many different types of greek yogurt. Unless you have a reason for the extra carbohydrates, non-fat plain greek yogurt is your best bet. With 9g of carbs and 25g of protein, it’s an excellent way to get hit your protein macros on a training day.
Cottage Cheese. Texture aside, cottage cheese is another great way to score some extra protein. 1% cottage cheese comes in at 1g of fat, 3g of carbs and 14g of protein for every 4 ounces. I like to mix some protein powder in with mine to get an even higher boost of protein for that meal. Plus it makes the cottage cheese taste way better.
Pea Protein. Look, getting adequate protein as a vegetarian or vegan isn’t easy. You’re going to need to supplement your diet and pea protein powder is the best way to do this. Most brands have 15-23g of protein per serving and are pretty complete, except some amino acids.
Tofu. Real talk. I am not a fan of tofu. While I believe the fears of soy protein and the phytoestrogens it contains are mostly overblown, there can be cause for concern, especially with men who have already low testosterone. Neither is tofu the end all be all of the protein types. As always, the truth lies somewhere in the middle and a lot of research still needs to be done before there is a definitive answer.
Now that is out of the way, tofu can be an excellent source of protein for those who avoid meat. A half-cup of tofu contains 5g of fat, 2g of carbs, and 10g of protein. Although it tastes pretty gross to me, it is one of the best sources of protein for vegans and vegetarians.
What Is NOT a Good Source of Protein?
But Chris! Aren’t black beans a good source of protein? What about mixed nuts? The InterWebs say that they are!
The simple answer is no – they are not good sources of protein. When a majority of your calories come from fat or carbohydrates, a good source of protein you do not make. Not to mention many of them make the list of foods to avoid when losing weight.
The foods I listed above are not the great sources of protein, they are examples of what makes a food a good protein source. The food must derive most of its calories from protein. The leaner the better.
One last example to drive this point home. A typical ribeye steak has about 60g of fat and 70g of protein. Is it a good source of protein?
Again, the answer is a surprising no. Of the 82o total calories in that example, 540 come from fat. While there are fewer grams of fat in the steak, fat is much more calorie dense and comes to 9 calories per gram whereas protein sits at 4 calories per gram. I am definitely not saying not to eat ribeye, just don’t try to hit all of your protein macros with it.