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Get excited about nutrition, and learn as you go with these information-packed resources on a wide variety of nutrition-centric topics! Our bistroMD experts review the importance of the macronutrients protein, fat, and carbohydrates, as well as how to make them work most efficiently for you.

Good Sources of Lean Protein to Add to Your Diet

Lean protein is an essential aspect to a healthy well balanced diet. See what sources contain the lean protein that enables your body to maintain muscle and lose fat.

Good Sources of Lean Protein to Add to Your Diet

Hands-down, protein is the most satiating (or satisfying) food. How do we know? Scientists have known for years that consuming protein makes you feel fuller for longer when compared to consuming equal calories of fat, fiber, or carbohydrates. Even water doesn't quiet your appetite as well as protein-containing foods.

5 Different Sources of Lean Protein to Maintain Muscle and Lose Fat

If you struggle with hunger at any point during the day, or if you find that you can't fight cravings for certain foods, you are about to learn the secret to ensuring you don't get too hungry. We'll also talk about how protein can stave off sneaky cravings before they ever start. Just imagine, you'll be able to walk through the bakery aisle at your local grocery store, and not even be tempted. That's what a diet that contains high satiety foods, like protein foods, can do for you.

By incorporation different sources of lean protein, you will ensure that you maintain lean muscle and help your body lose fat better. It's been proven with research over, and over again. Leucine, a very special amino acid found in protein sources, is largely responsible for helping maintain lean muscle, even as you age.

And now without further ado: Our list of 5 different sources of lean protein to maintain muscle and lose fat


Chicken, Turkey, Cornish Game Hen, just be sure to remove the skin and trim visible fat - as the skin is where the major source of fat lies in poultry products. Duck is usually quite fatty, as it is almost always cooked with the skin on, so skipping it is a good idea. Other types of fowl like pheasant, goose, pigeons, ostrich, and emu are great lean protein sources that are good for building muscle. And don't forget about eggs. As long as you limit your egg yolk intake to 1 per day, you won't be getting too much fat from this food source.


Shrimp, Salmon, Grouper, Haddock, Cod, Snapper, Whitefish, Crab, Oysters, Mussels. If it swims in the ocean and you can purchase it at your grocery store, seafood is an easily-digested protein source that is often accompanied by heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are a source good fat in the diet, and can also help reduce inflammation in the body.

Red Meat

While limiting red meat may be a good idea for some us, as long as we choose lean cuts of beef like filet, tenderloin and meats without a lot of marbling, the research shows these are healthy sources of lean protein. Pork, the other white meat can take on some pretty fatty forms, so be sure to skip the bacon, hot dogs, and sausage. Check the label on ham, and choose thinly sliced versions. Pork tenderloin can be quite lean, as well as pork chops with visible fat removed. Lamb, veal, mutton, goat are all considered red meats, and as long as you select the lean versions you're getting lean protein to maintain muscle tissue. So go ahead and order that filet mignon next week!

Dairy products

Dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese contain large amounts of branched chain amino acids, or BCAA's, which are vital for incorporation into muscle tissue. Whey protein is usually available in a powder form, and when you drink milk you are getting essentially the same ingredient, maybe just a little less concentrated. When selecting dairy products, however, make sure you look to see just how many fat grams it contains. A good rule of thumb to make a lean source of protein to help maintain muscle and lose fat is to ensure that the label only lists 1-2 grams of fat per serving. And be sure you identify and measure what a serving really looks like!

Vegetarian Proteins

Vegetarian proteins like tofu or tempeh are very lean sources of protein as well, which can help you maintain muscle and lose fat just like other types of proteins. Vegetarian proteins can be easier to digest, and may be better for your health in the long haul. Vegetarian proteins also come with the added benefit of helping to reduce your risk of certain cancers. It's definitely worth giving those a try. A common misconception is that beans and lentils are a source of protein - when actually they are a plant source of nitrogen - which is not the same thing! In order for a meal with beans to provide the necessary amino acids to be considered a complete protein, a grain such a rice or corn needs to be eaten as well to provide all the essential amino acids you need.

Sydney Lappe's Photo
Written By Sydney Lappe, MS, RDN. Published on July 30, 2017. Updated on October 20, 2020.


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