Which Meats are Highest in Protein?
November 23, 2023
Wondering which meats are highest in protein? You’re probably interested in supporting muscle growth. When you want to gain muscle, increasing your intake of high-protein foods is probably the first thing to come to mind.
Few foods provide as much protein per serving as meats. Unless you’re a vegetarian or vegan, meat is likely already present on your plate. After all, protein-rich meats are savory, filling, and downright delicious when properly prepared.
Whether you’re looking to boost the protein content of one of your favorite recipes or simply trying to increase the variety of meats you use to fuel your exercise, it’s important to understand which cuts of meat will give you the most protein. This post shares 10 of the highest protein meats as well as ideas for preparing them.
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Protein Density: How to Compare Cuts of Meat for Protein Content
Not all protein-rich meats are created equal. The meats with the most protein can also contain fat, saturated fats, and other nutrients you should monitor.
In this post, we measure which meats are the highest in protein by looking at protein content per 200 calories. Known as “protein density”, this represents how much protein you get from each calorie of meat.
You can also measure protein density as the amount of protein per gram of meat. However, we find this strategy more complex and less informative as it doesn’t consider the meat’s fat content. And since calories only have three sources (protein, fat, and carbohydrates), and meat contains virtually no carbs, protein by calorie is a more effective tactic.
We chose 200 calories because it’s a reasonable serving – and it makes it easier to understand how the meat will impact your diet.
For example, did you know that ounce-for-ounce, you get more protein from a chicken breast than a chicken leg? To get the absolute most protein per 200-calorie serving, you’ll want to choose from these cuts of protein-rich meats.
The Top Protein-Rich Meats for Building Muscle
Protein per 200 Calories: 41.7g
Tilapia is the meat with the highest amount of protein per calorie. Although it doesn't boast the healthy fat content of other seafood options, there's no denying that tilapia is a protein powerhouse. One three-ounce serving contains a little over 22 grams of protein! However, this fish can be relatively bland. Experiment with different recipes, spices, and preparation techniques until you figure out how to make this protein-dense seafood really pop.
Protein per 200 Calories: 41.4g
While elk probably isn’t the first thing you think of when planning your meals, you could benefit from adding this nutritious option to your list of go-to protein-rich meats. Elk contains about 21 grams of protein in a three-ounce portion. And with nearly half the fat and fewer calories, this low-fat, high-protein meat is a great alternative to beef. Look for it online, from local suppliers, or in specialty food stores.
Protein per 200 Calories: 41.0g
Turkey is a common lunch meat choice. But did you know eating whole turkey breast is an even better way to get your daily dose of protein? With around 20 grams of protein in a three-ounce serving, turkey is one of the best low-fat meats out there. It’s also mild, easy to find, and a homey favorite for many of us.
Protein per 200 Calories: 39.9g
This cut of meat is making quite a statement, gradually popping up in more and more restaurants and grocery stores across the country. Bison, like elk, is becoming a popular beef substitute because it provides roughly the same amount of protein with far less fat. This protein-dense cut also provides around 21 grams of protein in each three-ounce serving.
Protein per 200 Calories: 37.5g
Chicken breast contains 37.5 grams of protein per 200-calorie serving, or 25 grams of protein per three-ounce serving. It may not be the most exotic choice on this list, but it's a tried and true option for every taste. Chicken breast is one of the most commonly consumed low-fat meats in the US – and for good reason! It’s versatile, healthy, and budget-friendly. Maintaining a high protein intake is simple when you keep your fridge and freezer stocked with this dietary staple.
Protein per 200 Calories: 36.0g
Tuna is a heart-healthy fish that’s also rich in protein. Even canned tuna is great for building muscle, offering about 20 grams of protein in three ounces. And this ingredient yields even more nutrients and protein per serving if you can find it fresh or frozen! After all, tuna is one of the highest protein fish you can buy.
Protein per 200 Calories: 34.2g
Pork is another protein-packed meat that's full of flavor. While you might think a lean cut, such as tenderloin, would be the best choice, ground pork actually has the most protein, providing 22 grams for every three ounces consumed. While ground pork can have a higher fat content, it’s a protein-rich and tasty swap for ground beef.
Protein per 200 Calories: 32.2g
Practically every list of healthy, high-protein foods includes salmon. That's because this superfood contains about 22 grams of protein per three-ounce serving! It also offers a multitude of other health benefits: it's rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can benefit your heart and help reduce inflammation. Eating fish at least once a week can be a great way to improve your health.
Protein per 200 Calories: 31.6g
Beef is a delicious and easy-to-find ingredient that adds something special to everyday meals. A beef steak can contain as much as 20 grams of protein in just 3 ounces, so it's a great choice if you want to build more muscle. However, like many other types of protein-rich meats, beef can be high in fat. It’s important to choose your cut carefully and opt for a leaner selection. (And if you’re not sure, check out this list of the leanest cuts of beef).
Protein per 200 Calories: 16.2g
If you're looking for a snack food that is rich in protein, beef jerky is a great option. Three ounces of this popular snack item offer an impressive 27 grams of protein, making it one of the top protein-rich meats by weight. This is because the curing process removes most of the water weight.
However, jerky is usually very high in sodium – so it’s best to enjoy it in small quantities and use other protein-rich meats to fill in the gaps.
Enjoying Protein-Rich Meats With Ease
No matter what kind of protein-dense meats you enjoy, remember that the protein per serving for each type of meat can vary. Depending on where you look, whether the meat was weighed before or after preparation, and what specific cuts were used, you may discover certain meats have more or less protein than you thought.
Prospre makes it easier than ever to add a variety of protein-rich meats to your diet. Try our macro meal planning app to create your own personalized meal plan today.
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