Bars and shakes are great in a pinch, but there’s plenty to choose from when it comes to natural sources of quality protein.
Protein aids in the building, repair, and maintenance of lean muscle tissue. Along with carbohydrates and fat, protein is one of the three principal macronutrients. These nutrients provide calories (energy), and are needed by the body in large quantities (compared to micronutrients like vitamins and minerals needed in smaller amounts).
The minimal daily requirement for the average person (not active) is 0.36 grams (g) of protein per pound (lb) of body weight. Athletes, however, need more protein than the average couch potato, so those involved in endurance-based sports need approximately 0.55 to 0.64 g/lb daily. Those involved in strength-based activities will require approximately 0.55 to 0.77 g/lb. Since fighters train in both of these realms, meeting somewhere in the middle around 0.68 g/lb body weight is a good template. If you do the math, a 175-pound fighter with a well-rounded training schedule will require approximately 119 grams of protein daily. While that sounds like a lot, when you break it down over three meals and a couple of snacks, it’s not excessive when you have these natural sources to choose from.
Tip: Organic, grass-fed beef has higher levels of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats, metabolic boosting CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), and antioxidants beta-carotene and vitamin E (compared to conventionally fed/raised beef).
3oz Beef (93% lean ground)
Tip: Buy organic eggs to ensure that the chickens were raised in a cage-free environment on organic feed and were not given antibiotics or hormones.
1 Large Egg
Tip: Go wild (versus farm-raised) when it comes to this fish that is rich in omega-3 fatty acid, as farm-raised may contain up to 10 times more toxins, including PCBs and mercury.
4oz Wild Salmon
Tip: Like grass-fed beef, grass-fed bison will be higher in omega-3 fatty acids, CLA, and antioxidants, as well as protein, B vitamins, iron, and selenium.
3oz Grass-Fed Ground Bison
Tip: Ground turkey is a great lean protein source that easily lends itself to everyday entrees such as burgers, chili, and meatloaf.
4oz Turkey Breast
Tip: When you’re looking for the leanest of the lean, skinless breasts are the way to go. However, skinless thighs are usually quite a bit cheaper and not that much higher on the calorie scale, so when pennies need to be pinched, thighs are also a good choice.
4oz Chicken Breast
4oz Chicken Thigh
Tempeh (cooked/fermented soy)
Tip: Tempeh is much healthier than tofu due to the fermentation process that negates the effects regular soy can have on thyroid and hormone balance.
4oz Organic Tempeh
Sometimes you don’t have time to cook a chicken breast. For a quick protein boost when you’re in a hurry, try Xyience’s new Advanced Protein Complex, with 25g of protein, 2g of fat, and 125 calories per scoop. You can get a two-pound canister at xyience.com for $25.97.