Top 20+ Protein Foods When Counting Macros

Filed under Counting Macros
how much protein to eat daily

When counting macros, hitting the calculated protein recommendation is often difficult for many.

It is perhaps the number one difficulty that my coaching clients report. They get frustrated when they can’t reach their protein target without going way over on their fat or carb goal.

Therefore, it’s not a matter of just telling them to “eat more meat”. But instead, it’s teaching them to choose the correct sources of protein so that their other macros don’t suffer the consequences.

In this article, I’ll list the 20+ top protein foods to use when counting macros so that you can satisfy that macro with the least impact to the other macros.

Best Protein-Based Foods While Macro Dieting

Food Protein per 8 oz (227 g) serving
Boneless/skinless chicken breast 52 grams
Canned solid white albacore tuna 71 grams
Ahi tuna steak 56 grams
Lean turkey breast cold cuts (nitrate-free) 44.5 grams
Pork loin 47.5 grams
Lean ground turkey (99%) 54 grams
Egg whites 20 grams (5 eggs worth)
Whey Protein (About Time brand) 25 grams (per scoop)
Tilapia filets 42 grams
Swai filets 40 grams
Shrimp (peeled) 32 grams
Lean brisket 47 grams
Venison steak 67.6 grams
Beef jerky 120 grams
Turkey jerky 104 grams
Cod 40 grams
lean ground grass-fed beef (96%) 48 grams
Salmon 48 grams
Canned chicken breast 30 grams
Lean bison 46 grams
Collagen Peptides 18 grams
Vegan Options
Seiten 56 grams
The Plant Era protein powder 21 grams (per scoop)
Vegan protein powder (About Time brand) 24 grams (per scoop)
Tofu 27 grams
Tempeh 32 grams

*Most of the items are raw weight unless the item typically comes precooked or ready to eat.

How Much Protein You Should Eat Daily

The daily protein requirement is often debated among fitness professionals and there are a lot of myths around figuring out an optimal daily amount. But, in general, most people believe they need to eat more protein than they actually do.

The RDA (recommended daily allowance) for protein is .8 gram of protein per kilogram (kg) of body weight or .36 grams per pound. This is considered the minimum amount and based on the individual being sedentary.

Therefore a sedentary man who weights 180 pounds would need to eat 64.8 grams of protein a day.

That’s a far cry from what many believe, which is a person should eat one gram of protein per pound of body weight. It’s not that this is completely false, it’s just not a rule for everyone.

This “rule” is actually a bodybuilding rule and was intended for bodybuilders who are bulking up and adding more muscle by doing intense weight training.

However, this doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t eat more than the RDA of protein. Here’s why…

  • Protein helps preserve muscle mass during periods of calorie deficit.¹
  • Protein takes more energy to digest so there is a greater thermogenic effect of feeding when eating higher protein meals. ²
  • Those that exercise, especially strength train, need more protein than those who are sedentary.³
  • Protein dominant meals/snacks are more satiating than more carb dominant meals.²

How Should I Calculate My Protein?

When calculating your optimal daily intake of protein, you should consider the following factors:

  1. Lean body mass compared to fat mass (your fat mass doesn’t require protein)
  2. How much and what kind of exercise you are doing.
  3. Your goals: Weight loss or weight gain.

When constructing our macro calculator, we recognize that most people can benefit from more protein than the RDA of .36 per pound of body weight, so we calculated for three optimal protein settings.

Moderate (.65 gram per pound) is good for sedentary individuals that are wanting to lose weight. This is also an appropriate amount on a rest day and this would also be appropriate for obese individuals. If a five-foot-three-inch woman weighs 220 pounds, 143 g of protein is more than adequate given her estimated lean mass, even with exercise factored in.

High (.82 gram per pound) is appropriate for most people who are engaged in moderate exercise and have an average body fat percentage.

Maximum (1 gram per pound) is appropriate for those that are wanting to gain weight, have a low body fat percentage, and are engaged in intense weight lifting. Also, athletes who are extremely active can benefit at this level.

You can also customize your protein as long as you know your body weight or Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) with some simple math.

Say you want to calculate for .7 grams of protein: You would simply multiply your body weight times .70

Example: a 180-pound person would need 126 grams. (180 x .7 = 126)

Say you just want to eat a certain percentage of your diet as protein. 25-35% is usually an acceptable range depending on lean mass and lifestyle factors.

Example: A woman with an exercise day TDEE of 1800 calories at 30% protein would need to eat 135 grams. [ (1800 x .30) / 4 = 135 ]

Can You Eat Too Much Protein?

Yes, you can eat too much protein. A person’s body can only absorb about 25-40 grams of protein at a time so if you are eating more than this each meal then some of it could be going to waste as far as your muscles are concerned.

Also, protein is harder for the body to digest and too much of it can place a strain on your kidneys which may be a problem if you have an undiagnosed kidney condition. It’s better to eat enough for your goals but not overdo it too much when eating protein.

Do You Need Protein Every Day?

The truth is that you can survive without protein daily. The human body evolved during a time when food was scarce, so the body does have systems for synthesizing protein when it’s in short supply dietarily. But, this involves breaking down muscle tissue for the amino acids it needs to make new proteins. Therefore it’s good to at least have the minimum recommended amount, that I discussed above, daily. This ensures that your muscles stay strong and that your body has the nutrition it needs.

Does protein quality matter?

I think paying attention to the quality of the protein you are eating does make a difference in your overall good health.

Do you really want to eat a chicken breast that’s laced with growth hormones and antibiotics? Do you want to eat fish that has high levels of mercury in their muscle tissue?

Understanding where your food comes from and how it is produced/caught is important and trying to choose clean protein sources when possible is also important not only for your health but also for the health of the planet.


  1. Frestedt, J. L., Zenk, J. L., Kuskowski, M. A., Ward, L. S., & Bastian, E. D. (2008). A whey-protein supplement increases fat loss and spares lean muscle in obese subjects: a randomized human clinical study. Nutrition & Metabolism5(1), 8. link
  2. Halton, T. L., & Hu, F. B. (2004). The effects of high protein diets on thermogenesis, satiety and weight loss: a critical review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition23(5), 373-385. link
  3. Phillips, S. M., & Van Loon, L. J. (2011). Dietary protein for athletes: from requirements to optimum adaptation. Journal of sports sciences29(sup1), S29-S38. link
Ted Kallmyer is an ISSA certified Specialist in Fitness Nutrition, author, and macros coach. He has helped hundreds of clients reach their body transformation goals.
Updated July 28, 2020


  • Tetina 2 months ago

    It’s hard to do this . I would rather eat my 1200 cal a day and be done with it. I just can’t seem to get it straight I use my fitness pal. But it’s so dang hard to know what to cook . I was Saturday morning but I feel like a gain weight

    • Ted Kallmyer (Certified Macro Coach) 2 months ago

      Hi Tetina, Counting macros can take some practice but it’s way better in the long run. I’ve coached so many people who have messed up their metabolisms by eating only 1200 calories. It seems like you need some expert fine-tuning and more resources to help you be successful. Check out my Macro Solution program. The Macro Solution

  • S Angelino 8 months ago

    Your page is one of the best I’ve seen so far!!! Excellent content, very well explained (as this can be a very complex topic for most people), easy to understand, very comprehensive!!!! Congratulations!!! Will definitely recommend this page; very happy I found it!!!

    • Ted Kallmyer (Certified Macro Coach) 8 months ago

      So glad you found it useful and thanks for taking the time to let me know. 🙂

  • B Fort

    How would a breast-feeding mother calculate how much of each micro is needed? Would the protein count increase or decrease?

    • Ted Kallmyer (Certified Macro Coach)

      Hi There, You would divide the extra calories needed for breastfeeding among your established percentages. Breastmilk is carb-rich with also a good dose of protein and fat so your macros are contributing to the production of healthy breast milk.

  • Tanisha

    I am starting my journey on calculating my Marcos I weight 153 and my age is 33 little excrise . I now want to stay at that weight but time my body And gain muscle weight .. is my calories 567 per meal ? And for maximum it say 1 gram/1b . I don’t understand ? Am I suppose to calculate something ?

    • Ted Kallmyer (Certified Macro Coach)

      Hi Tanisha, I can’t comment on your calories as I’d have to run your numbers, but, 1. If you want to gain muscle, you have to strength train in conjunction with the right nutrition. 2. Most people don’t need 1g/pound. If you were weight training, I’d recommend about .82 g/pound since protein is based on lean mass not total body weight. I’m available for coaching or to calculate everything for you. I also have a self-guided program “The Macro Solution” that has a muscle gain version. It explains the whole process in detail.

  • Beth

    I am just starting on my macro counting journey. I have been using a collagen supplement in my coffee every am. Should I be counting that towards my protein goal???

    • Ted Kallmyer (Certified Macro Coach)

      Hi Beth, Glad you’re starting the journey and all the best with that! I don’t know which brand you are using but I did a quick search and this brand provides 18 grams of protein: So check the label and see what’s listed for protein grams. Any food or drink that you consume that provides macros should be counted towards your totals.

  • Lene

    I must admit I do struggle eating all the 133g of protein without going over my 1517 cal/day. I more often than not are way under with 60+ grams
    You can only eat so much chicken without growing feathers. And eggs