Best sources of protein

How much should you have and which foods really pack a protein punch? Find out how to get all you need and when to up your intake...

Best sources of protein

Protein is an essential nutrient, responsible for multiple functions in your body, including building tissue, cells and muscle. Everyone needs protein in their diet, but if you do endurance sports or weight training you’ll need to increase your protein intake, and to factor it into your training routine at specific times to reap its muscle-boosting benefits.

For sporty individuals a daily dose of around 1g of protein per 1kg of body weight is recommended. After exercise, protein is particularly important since muscles need it to recover and grow. A portion of protein (15-25g) is recommended within 30 minutes of exercise, when your muscles are particularly receptive to protein synthesis. 


What to eat

Proteins are made up of a collection of 20 amino acids. Of these, eight are classed as ‘essential’ and need to be sourced from food, while the other 12 are classed as ‘non-essential’ and can be produced inside your body. ‘High-quality proteins’ such as eggs and meat offer more muscle-building amino acids than other protein foods, so are considered more valuable sources of protein, particularly if you do lots of exercise. 

Whey proteinLike simple and complex carbohydrates, proteins are absorbed at different rates in the body. Whey protein is digested quickly so is a good option just before and after exercise. Casein, the primary protein in milk, releases its amino acids slowly, so is particularly useful in the morning, between meals and at bedtime. Protein shakes and powders contain these proteins and are helpful before and after sports, but you can get the protein you need from natural sources too. Here are some foods to get your protein fix:


Good protein sources

King of food protein is the humble egg. A medium egg has around 6g of protein of the highest biological value, meaning it comes complete with all 20 amino acids in the most digestible form. An omelette is a good way to start the day and is a good recovery snack too.
Take a look at our favourite egg recipes for inspiration
Read more about the health benefits of eggs


Dairy foods are packed with protein and contain bone-building calcium, too. Chocolate milk is the age-old recovery food after exercise, since it contains energy-replenishing carbohydrates and a blend of both slow and fast release whey and casein proteins. You can get the same recovery-boosting effects from a milk-based fruit smoothie - such as this cranberry & raspberry smoothie recipe.
Choose the right milk for you with our guide


A combination of casein and whey protein, yogurt is a great protein-rich food. Since most of the lactose is removed, it can work for most people who are lactose intolerant.
Try this creamy yogurt porridge for breakfast to see you through the day or fuel up after exercise with simple Greek yogurt and fruit or this instant frozen berry yogurt.



fishFish and seafood
Fish and seafood are good sources of protein and are typically low in fat. While slightly higher in fat than other varieties, salmon packs in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.
Try our delicious fish & seafood recipes 


If you’re dairy intolerant, eating soya protein foods such as tofu and soya-based drinks will help post-recovery, plus they can help to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.
This dairy-free cherry soya yogurt is a great option
Read more about the helth benefits of soya


pistachioPistachio nuts
Nuts such as pistachios are a practical protein choice if you’re on the move. Around 50 pistachio nuts will provide 6g of protein, plus sodium and potassium, the electrolytes lost in sweat during exercise.
This clementine & honey couscous recipe with pistachios makes for a great breakfast or speedy snack.


Pork pork
High quality proteins also contain branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are key in supporting muscle recovery. Leucine, in particular, makes up one third of muscle protein and helps to stimulate repair after exercise. Pork is one of the richest sources of leucine and therefore a great addition to a post-exercise meal or snack. Eggs, chicken and lean beef also provide good amounts of leucine.
Take a look at some of our favourite pork recipes


chickenChicken and turkey
When it comes to animal protein, opt for lean protein from white meat poultry such as chicken and turkey. It’s wise to discard the skin, which is packed with saturated fat.
Take your pick of our chicken and turkey recipes



What are your favourite sources of protein post-workout? Are you still unsure whether you're getting enough? Post your questions and comments below...


Comments, questions and tips

Sign in or create your My Good Food account to join the discussion.

Comments (5)

Samnorthernlights's picture

I totally agree with the last comment. Meat and eggs offer "high quality proteins" Really!! I was amazed to read the BBC repeating this myth. Science has moved on. In fact it moved on in 1981 but it seems no-one bothers to look at the evidence any more. All veg and fruit contain complete proteins, just as easily absorbed as animal protein, and in more than enough quantity ( meat gives you too much and this has been linked by the World Health Organisation to conditions such as osteoporosis and kidney problems among other things). All you need to do to get enough protein is eat good whole food and the healthiest choice is fruit, veg, soya, nuts and seeds, etc. In case you're in any doubt see this well referenced article on the subject: Who are the nutritionists advising the BBC? Good grief!!

Ruby1's picture

This article makes me want to cry - this is terrifying that this is on the BBC. Anyone who thinks any of this is true needs their head examining. It is so irresponsible to keep pedaling these lies. I can't believe how uninformed the person who put this together is.

Dr Colin Campbell proved some time ago that excess protein consumption causes cancer.

If you don't believe me he touches on some of it in the film Forks Over Knives - if you want to know the truth please watch that instead.

We need no more than 9 percent protein in our diet which you can get from fruits and vegetables. Which is what the human body is designed to eat. Rice, potatoes , veggies.. etc.. WHOLE FOOD.

Just for starters: Milk is BABY COW growth hormone. It is designed to turn a calf into a 400lb beast. We don't need it, and its been connected with all sorted of maladies. Milk protein is terrible for the human body. You can get just as much if not more calcium from green leafy vegetables. You can't digest it, most of it is full of pus - it causes all sorts of hormone problems - And has now been linked to type 1 diabetes in children. The rates of diabetes, type 1 and 2 are soaring, as are cancers and autoimmune diseases. I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes far too young and slim... it was caused by our heavy meat and dairy laden diets. I was never over weight. I reversed it through eating a plant based whole grain diet with no added oils. If you don't think that disease has to do with the food we are putting into our bodies then you are bonkers.

And the rest - protein from meat is healthy ? Who is paying for this advert.. wow... just do your homework. If you want to live longer and avoid sickness ... stick to vegetables and starches with no processed oils - including olive oil.

lisel's picture

The best sources protein is not meat, eggs and dairy. Animal protein is linked to so many health issues. Cancer, obesity, heart disease and diabetes... We need to eat less animal protein and more plant protein.

hugieboogie1's picture

This article only gives the recommended daily amount of protein (1g per 1 kg of body weight) for 'sporty people', what about the rest of us?

Katy Connelly's picture

Brilliant and informative. I like to work out on a regular basis and always need good sources of protein. I always have yoghurt in the morning with Protein World's whey protein concentrate. I then have eggs, salmon and salad for lunch and a healthy veg and protein meal in the evening. Before the gym i always have Protein Worlds protein shake before and after. It is GMO free and their protein is grass fed and tastes yummy! I am glad i am on the right tracks. Thank you BBC Foods!

Questions (1)

bausia's picture

In regards to the first question, I definitely look and feel better, and maintain a healthy weight easily, by direction first on nourishing dense food for thought*. I was vegetarian for a lot of years, and vegan for some of that. Equally an generally raw vegan, my stomach was always full but I didn’t feeling gratified. At present I am gratified and satiated. I weigh a few more pounds but my abdomen is always flat and my skin and haircloth are much healthier. I’ve done it both ways…nourishing density is the direction to go!Read more:

Tips (0)

Got your own twist on this recipe? Or do you have suggestions for possible swaps and additions? We’d love to hear your ideas.

Be the first to suggest a tip for this recipe…