More protein, fewer carbohydrates: It's the prescription of nearly every weight-loss and muscle-building plan today. But how much protein do you need?
Active men should aim to get 20 percent of their daily calories from protein. So if you weigh 180 pounds and eat about 2,400 calories a day, this means consuming 120 grams – the equivalent of a pound of steak. If this sounds gluttonous, remember that meat isn't the only source. Dairy, soy, fish, beans, and nuts contain protein, as do vegetables and grains. A head of cauliflower packs in 5 grams, while a cup of quinoa delivers 8 grams, the same as a glass of milk. Brown rice and whole-wheat bread have 5 grams and 4 grams of protein, respectively. Although these foods aren't complete proteins, meaning they don't have all nine essential amino acids, they can and should still be combined into your daily protein intake.
Even if you're not vegetarian, consider making more of your meals meatless: Many conventional cuts of meat are packed with saturated fats, hormones, antibiotics, and other harmful additives. Use this guide to help identify which foods are highest in protein but low in saturated fat and unhealthy chemicals. Launch Gallery >>
All fowl is rich in protein, with as much of the nutrient as red meat – around 40 grams per six-ounce serving. Breast meat is the leanest part of a bird, with fewer calories than thigh or wing meat and only 6 grams of fat. Darker thigh meat has more iron and zinc – and, arguably, more taste – but slightly less protein and more saturated fat. To reduce your toxic load – we're talking hormones and antibiotics – buy only organic, cage-free, or pastured poultry.
Choose skinless organic chicken breasts, which contain 54 grams of protein per six ounces, more than the same cut of turkey breast (48 g), duck breast (36 g), or chicken thigh (42 g). If you opt for thigh over breast, add another 12 grams of fat to every six-ounce serving. Protein power: Excellent.