Bodybuilding Protein Sources – Life Beyond Chicken Breasts
How often do you hear bodybuilders talk about chicken breast? Yes it’s true that chicken breast is high in protein and if it’s trimmed properly, contains almost no fat. This makes it an excellent lean protein great for building and maintaining the muscle while also avoiding excess fat intake.
But is it really the only meat option for the serious bodybuilder?
The answer is definitely no! There is a great variety of meat out there that is not only suitable, but also beneficial for bodybuilder or any health conscious individual.
Before we jump into the specifics, it should be noted that the data for this article is all obtained from an Australian food database, and the information provided here may not line up exactly with your local produce.
Let’s have a look at why exactly chicken is so popular with bodybuilders. Firstly, it is relatively cheap compared to a lot of other meats out there. It is around 22% protein and only 1.6% fat, if it’s fully trimmed. But as we all know, chicken day in day out can get very tedious, especially when some people consider chicken breast to be bland and dry.
Canned tuna is probably the second most eaten meat, after chicken when it comes to a bodybuilder’s diet. The reason for this is because, just like chicken, tuna is very low in fat (1.8%), granted it is in spring water and not oil. It is slightly lower in protein compared to chicken breast (17%), but the fact that it’s very cheap and convenient makes up for this. So with tuna, our total meat count is brought up to two. But let’s not stop here!
Beef is not only more flavourful than chicken, but it isn’t a bad protein alternative to chicken either. Beef is inherently slightly more fatty than chicken because cattle are able to deposit fat within muscles (also known as intramuscular fat or marbling), whereas chickens cannot. This type of fat cannot really be trimmed off. However, this does not mean that you should eliminate beef as a protein source. The trick here is to pick the right cut of meat, as well as trim off any visible fat.
Picking a piece without excessive visible marbling is a good way to start. Popular cuts of steak such as porterhouse or New York cut contains 24% protein and still only 3% fat. These figures are very much comparable to chicken breast. Additionally, being a red meat, beef is much higher in iron (2.2 mg/100 g vs 0.4 mg/100 g) and zinc (3.7 mg/100 g vs 0.7 mg/100 g) than chicken. The downside to beef though, is that good cuts do tend to be significantly more expensive than chicken.
Out of all the commonly known meat, pork is probably one of the most often left out. But after seeing these figures, you may wish to reconsider. Trimmed pork loin chops contain 23% protein and only 0.2% more fat than chicken breast. In addition, pork has almost double the zinc content of chicken breast. So if you have never considered pork…why not? The major downside for pork is that it’s not traditionally accepted by a few religions.
Lamb is a tasty meat with a very distinctive flavour. Pound for pound, it is also the meat with the highest protein content. At a staggering 28%, it beats pretty much all the other meats we have on this list. Being a red meat, lamb is also high in iron (1.8 mg/100 g). However, this all comes at a price. Just like cattle, sheep are also prone to depositing intramuscular fat, and they appear to do it very well.
A fully trimmed lamb loin chop contains 7% fat. This is the highest of any of the meats on the list. So if you are trying to cut down on your fat intake, it may be wise to save lamb for the odd meal, instead of using it as a staple.
Kangaroo is a somewhat exotic meat, but it’s surprisingly easy to find in Australian supermarkets. Out of all the meats on this list, it is probably the one that has the most impressive stats. Not only is a cut of kangaroo fillet comparable in protein to most of the major meats (21%), but it has even less fat than chicken (less than 1%), while being high in iron (3.4 mg/100 g) and zinc (2.3 mg/100 g).
If you can get your hands on kangaroo meat, and don’t mind paying the premium, it is a perfect alternative for chicken; though a potential downside is that it may taste a little too gamey for some individuals.
Hopefully this article has shown you that there is a world of meaty goodness out there beyond chicken breast. After all, variety is the spice of life. Seriously consider adding pork, tuna, and kangaroo to your routine diet at the very least. Beef could also be a good addition, but lamb should be best saved for the occasional meal instead of being a staple.