When attempting to lose fat and maintain muscle, high protein low-calorie foods are optimal. Even if fat loss isn’t a goal and you merely want to stay lean while building muscle, foods that are high in protein without a calorie requirement are staples of a well-designed meal.
A high protein intake is key for both building and maintaining muscle. The body requires protein to perform protein synthesis after training, and without it, results from working out would never be accomplished.
Protein intake is best kept high when cutting calories so that muscle mass isn’t lost while in a caloric deficit. Balancing macros while cutting can seem difficult but knowledge of the foods that are ideal for protein will be helpful to selecting what you consume. Even if you’re on a bulk or don’t track calories, all the foods listed below have health benefits and are great choices to eat.
Eggs are at the top of the list for many reasons. By some, eggs are regarded as the #1 superfood and have been proven to be great for lifters as well as anyone who values their health.
Eggs are a great food to eat because they contain almost all the nutrients and micronutrients the body needs as well as all the essential amino acids, 15 out the 20 fatty acids, and many minerals that enhance the body’s function.
Eggs generally have 70-80 calories and 6-8 grams of protein.
Secondly, fish are great sources of protein without a high calorie content. Tilapia, salmon, and tuna are all great sources of protein and do not contain many calories.
Fish also are rich in omega 3’s, vitamin D, vitamin B2, and minerals. Omega 3’s are needed by the body and have been associated with a much lower risk of cardiovascular disease, the #1 cause of death in America.
On average, tilapia has 110-130 calories and 20-30 grams of protein. Salmon typically contains 150-200 calories and 30-40 grams of protein. And tuna generally has 160-180 calories and 40-50 grams of protein.
Many fish contain even less than 100 calories while still supplying high amounts of protein, making this food one of the top choices for a low-calorie high protein diet.
Following fish, chicken is an additional great meat to consume for protein without having a high calorie content.
Chicken breasts are on of the most frequently consumed foods to build muscle. This is because chicken is easy to prepare, is relatively inexpensive, and is full of nutrients and minerals that improve health.
Some of the notable health advantages from chicken are that it contains vitamin B3, vitamin B1, and vitamin B5. Chicken also has 20% of the recommended daily intake for phosphorous and selenium. The best kind of chicken to eat is skinless, boneless chicken breast in order to get all the benefits of chicken’s nutrition and protein without adding to calorie intake.
A skinless, boneless chicken breast contains, on average, 150-170 calories and has 20-40 grams of protein.
The next good food for a high protein low-calorie diet is cheese. Low fat cheeses such as ricotta, cottage cheese, parmesan, cheddar, and romano are all optimal for keeping protein high and calories low.
Cheese, in addition to the other foods listed, is a very healthy food to consume. It has high amounts of zinc, vitamin A, and vitamin B12, making it both optimal for health and building muscle.
Low-fat ricotta cheese contains, on average, 50-70 calories and has 4-8 grams of protein. Low-fat cottage cheese has 140-170 calories typically and has 25-30 grams of protein. Low-fat parmesan has 20-50 calories per serving and 10-15 grams of protein. Low-fat cheddar usually has 40-60 calories and 5-12 grams of protein. Low-fat romano has 20-50 calories on average and 8-15 grams of protein.
5. Greek Yogurt
Finally, greek yogurt is the fifth food item on this list for a high protein low-calorie diet.
Greek yogurt is great health-wise due to its high amount of probiotics, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and other nutrients. Low-fat greek yogurt is also a great source of calcium. It is key to eat greek yogurt that is low-fat in order for it to qualify as low-calorie.
Low-fat greek yogurt usually contains 100-130 calories and 15-25 grams of protein.
In addition to these, there are several other good high protein low-calorie foods to eat. Some other good foods for a high-protein low-calorie diet are tofu, shrimp, sirloin, protein bars, turkey breasts, and beans.
Tofu will generally contain 80-100 calories and 5-12 grams of protein. Shrimp has 80-100 calories and 20-30 grams of protein. Sirloin has, on average, 150-220 calories and 20-40 grams of protein. Protein bars range greatly in caloric content and protein but most low cal protein bars are 80-200 calories with 10-35 grams of protein. Turkey breast typically has 120-200 calories and around 25-40 grams of protein. A serving of soybeans is 100-200 calories and 15-25 grams of protein.
It is important to also consume carbohydrates and fats in a caloric deficit so the body can function well. Carbohydrates are needed for glycogen to be used by muscles and fats are essential for the synthesis of hormones.
High protein low-calorie foods shouldn’t be the sole source of calorie intake but are still a good component of any meal plan. Generally the optimal ratio of macros when cutting is 1.2-1.6 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight, .4-.6 grams of fat per pound of bodyweight, and 2-2.2 grams of carbohydrates per pound of bodyweight.