Are you starting a high-protein diet and trying to hit your macros?

As you plan your menu on the keto diet, this meat protein guide will help you make the smartest buying decisions. Plus, learn how to plan a healthy diet low in saturated fat and high in muscle-building protein.

If you want to try the protein-sparing modified fast (PSMF diet), you can download the free printable PDF guidebook, meal plan, PSMF food list, and PSMF calculator.

Meat is delicious and nutritious, and you will reach your daily protein intake easily. That being said, not all types of animal proteins are the same. See the meat charts below.

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  1. Chicken breast, skinless – 1 cup (245g) = 75.9g protein
  2. Chicken breast, skin eaten – 1 cup (245g) = 67.2g protein
  3. Salmon steak – 1 cup (245g) = 62.4g protein
  4. Ground beef 5% fat – 1 cup (217g) = 59.1g protein
  5. Ground beef 15% fat – 1 cup (217g) = 56.2g protein
  6. Prawns – 1 cup (245g) = 58.9g protein
  7. Tuna – 1 cup (227g) = 57.9g protein
  8. Pork roast – 1 cup (245g) = 56.7g protein
  9. Sirloin steak (fat eaten) – 1 cup (245g) = 56.9g protein
  10. Pork rinds – 1 cup (30g) = 18.4g protein

Nutrition in meat

One of the health benefits of a low-carb diet that’s high in meat is that animal protein has all the essential amino acids our bodies need. Amino acids are essential for building muscle, the synthesis of hormones, collagen, enzymes, and neurotransmitters such as serotonin.

Protein is the building block of muscle, and it is vital to our health, especially on a high-protein low-carb diet.

Meat is incredibly nutrient-dense packed with iron, B-complex vitamins such as thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6 and the essential vitamin B12. Meat protein is a natural source of energy and nutrients such as iron and vitamin B12 can increase your red blood cells and lower the risk of anemia.

Which meat should you avoid?

Not all meat and food from animals are as good for you. Some ultra-processed deli meats are high in chemicals, preservatives, additives, and salt.

That’s why it’s important to choose high-quality meat, for example, processed meat like hot dogs does not have the same health benefits as a lovely grass-fed steak.

While lean meats such as lean ground beef can be a part of your diet, don’t shy away from eating fattier cuts of meat either. Diets higher in fats can help you lose weight, stay satiated, balance your hormones and so much more.

What meat has the most protein?

Meat is made of protein, fat, and water. A high-fat cut of meat generally will have lower protein. Low-fat meat will generally have higher protein. Meat that has been brined and absorbed a lot of water will have lower fat and lower protein.

Looking to get the most bang for your buck? You may be surprised to hear that chicken breast has the most protein in it compared to all types of meat.

It has an impressive 30.9g of protein per 100g/3.5 ounces. But beware of buying chicken that has been pumped with water.

What is chicken plumping?

Chicken is often injected with salted water to keep the chicken meat moist, tasty, and tender. Water injected into chicken can be 15% – 30% of the chicken you are buying. This is called chicken plumping.

Why do they inject chicken meat? When they began to breed larger chickens, the protein of the chicken meat increased but their fat decreased, which made for dry bland tasting chicken.

The saline (salted water or brine) they inject into chicken meat also has natural chicken flavors, broth, lemon concentrates, and often corn syrup.

So next time you cook chicken and all that dirty water is at the bottom of your pan, it’s water that has been added to increase the weight, but not the nutrition, of your meat.

Meat protein: types of meat

I’m going to cover the protein amounts in whole meats rather than processed ones. That’s because a very important part of healthy eating is eating real, whole foods instead of processed meats filled with unnecessary carbs and starches, fillers, additives, and preservatives.

Let’s take a quick look at the most popular types of meat and how many grams of protein each of them has.


There are 31 grams of protein per 100g/3.5 ounces of skinless chicken breast.

The amounts are similar for chicken thigh and chicken drumstick. There are 28.2 grams of protein in a 3.5-ounce thigh and 27.3g of protein in a drumstick.

Many people can find chicken a bit boring, but the right seasoning can change everything! Here are 4 different ways to make amazing keto chicken.

Per 100g/3.5 ouncesProtein gFat gCalories
Chicken breast, skinless30.94.5173
Chicken thigh, skin eaten28.213.2239
Chicken drumstick, skin eaten27.310206
Chicken wings, skin eaten23.816.9254


Lean pork like pork tenderloin is another healthy choice. Here’s how much protein is in the different types of pork.

Bacon has the highest protein because it is often cured then dried so most of the moisture and water have been removed.

  • Pork Tenderloin – 29g protein in 100g/3.5 ounces
  • Ground pork – 21g protein in 100g/3.5 ounces
  • Ham – 23g protein in 100g/3.5 ounces
  • Bacon – 42g protein in 100g/3.5 ounces
  • Pork ribs – 20g protein in 100g/3.5 ounces

If you are looking for a simple, yet delicious way to enjoy pork, I highly recommend this one-pan keto pork chop with butter garlic sauce. It’s fantastic!

Per 100g/3.5 ouncesProtein gFat gCalories
Pork tenderloin, no visible fat eaten 28.85.5170
Ground pork, 4% fat 21.14121
Ham, boneless, cured 22.69178
Bacon, centre cut 42.431.4467


Some people who have been warned to cut back their saturated fat intake might want to eat less red meat. However, the World Heart Federation actually says fats protects us, carbs are harmful.

Lean beef can still be a healthy part of your diet as they tend to be higher in protein, but don’t completely neglect the delicious fatty cuts.

  • Lean ground beef – 27g protein in 100g/3.5 ounces
  • Roast beef – 30g protein in 100g/3.5 ounces
  • Round steak – 26g protein in 100g/3.5 ounces
  • Sirloin steak – 27g protein in 100g/3.5 ounces

I use ground beef in particular quite often for meal prep. Want to do the same? Here are 20 keto ground beef meals that you can easily meal prep.

Per 100g/3.5 ouncesProtein gFat gCalories
Lean ground beef, 5% fat27.36.4174
Ground beef, 15% fat25.914.4240
Roast beef, no visible fat eaten29.94.5160
Sirloin steak, fat eaten26.715.1 250


Another name for deer meat is venison and it is a complete protein source as well. There are 26 grams of protein in 3 ounces of venison.

Per 100g/3.5 ouncesProtein gFat gCalories
Venison, ground 26.5 8.2 187
Venison, wild, steaks 35.6 2.5 165
Venison, jerky 33.9 22.4 404
Venison, ribs 30.2 3.2 158


Turkey is another lean protein that you can get in three different ways. Here’s how much protein is in each type.

  • Turkey breast – 30g of protein in 100g/3.5 ounces
  • Ground turkey – 19g protein in 100g/3.5 ounces
  • Turkey bacon – 29g protein in 100g/3.5 ounces
Per 100g/3.5 ouncesProtein gFat gCalories
Turkey breast, no visible fat eaten 30.12.1147
Turkey breast, visible fat eaten27.310206
Ground turkey, 7 % fat18.78.3150
Turkey bacon29.525.9368


Another tasty way to eat more protein is by eating seafood.

Fatty fish like salmon is fantastic for brain and gut health. There are 25 grams of protein in a small fillet of salmon.

In my opinion, cooked shrimp and mussels are some of the most delicious protein sources found in the ocean. There are 23 grams of protein in 100g of shrimp.

Canned tuna is a very versatile type of seafood that lasts a long time on your shelf. There are 25 grams of protein in 100g/3.5 ounces.

Per 100g/3.5 ouncesProtein gFat gCalories
Salmon fillet 25.3 12 210
Shrimp 22.8 1.7 119
Crab, canned, drained 17.9 0.7 83
Tuna, canned, drained25.5 0.8 116

Plant-based protein foods

There are also lots of high-protein foods that come from plants instead of animals. Some people prefer to eat plant-based protein because it has less saturated fat, they may think it is better for the environment, they’re heart-healthy, or for ethical reasons.

Plant proteins are promoted to be beneficial for your heart health if you’re not eating meat. Eating them can lower your heart disease risk and even increase weight loss. And, the good news is there are plenty of options that aren’t loaded in carbs either!

However, the flip side is that switching from meat to plant protein can have dangerous health consequences. Most plant-based meat alternatives actually exceeded the daily recommended allowance for saturated fat, sugar, salt.

Plant-based meat alternatives provide below the daily requirements for Vitamin B12, calcium, zinc, magnesium, and potassium.

Best vegetarian protein sources

These are the best protein charts showing high-protein low-carb nuts and seeds. You can see exactly how many grams of protein, fat, net carbs, and calories are in each different nut and seed.

Cooked lentils and whole grains are often the most common alternative to animal proteins, but they are both high-carb.

But don’t worry, there are plenty of plant-based foods and plant proteins that have a wide variety of amino acids and are healthy protein foods for low-carb vegetarians.

First, peanut butter has a high protein content. There are 8 grams of protein in 2 tablespoons of peanut butter. Nuts and seeds are a great way to increase your protein intake.

The most popular types are sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds. However, you will need to be mindful of the carb count – see more in this article about low carb nuts and seeds.

High-protein fruit and vegetables

What are the best high-protein fruits and high-protein vegetables?

These protein charts for fruits and vegetables will show you exactly which have the highest protein and 14 delicious recipes to use them.

If you are on a low-carb vegetarian diet, you need to balance protein and carbs wisely. These easy fruit and vegetable protein charts and the carbs in fruit charts will show you how to build a high-protein low-carb vegetarian meal plan.

High-protein dairy

Dairy protein can be so versatile. It can be used in sweet and savory recipes and can be eaten as a snack or part of the main meal.

If you don’t want to eat meat, but don’t mind eating other animal foods, full-fat dairy can help you get enough protein in your day and you also get calcium for bone health.

Cottage cheese is a lean protein that is versatile and low in calories. Cottage cheese can be enjoyed as a quick protein snack, especially if you stir through a tablespoon of peanut butter and a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds for your B vitamins.

Final thoughts

As you can see, all kinds of meat have an excellent amount of protein and essential amino acids in them.

When you need to increase your intake of high protein foods, meat like lean pork, dark meat from chicken, or beef will give you essential amino acids and help you build lean muscle.

Always choose high-quality protein from an ethically raised source that is free of chemicals.

People also ask

Are dairy products high-protein?

Diary can be a good source of protein and a great addition to a wide range of food. Liquid dairy products are moderate protein but solid or semi-solid dairy such as cheddar cheese, cottage cheese, and Greek yogurt are higher.

What are the best low-fat sources of protein?

You can eat lean meat, low-fat yogurt, and whey protein, for example. One of the best ways to learn which different cuts give you the best low-fat meats (such as lean ground beef) with the highest amount of protein, is to begin tracking your daily intake of protein.

Tracking apps will show you the fat content, calories, protein, and different amino acids so you can make sure you meet your protein requirements.

Another low-fat protein source with fewer calories is cottage cheese which is surprisingly a great source of protein and can be used in a variety of tasty recipes, sweet and savory.

Will eating a high-protein diet guarantee muscle growth?

Protein is the most important essential macronutrient for increasing muscle mass because amino acids are the building blocks for muscle in healthy adults BUT you also need to be lifting weights or doing resistance training to make muscles grow.

What are the cheapest high-protein meats?

The cheapest high-protein meat that can be found in all grocery stores has to be lean ground beef. It is low-fat and high-protein and often sold in bulk so you can buy it cheaper and is perfect for cheap meal prep.

References and studies

Biochemistry, Essential Amino Acids – NCBI

What is the role of meat in a healthy diet? – PubMed

Unintended consequences: Nutritional impact and potential pitfalls of switching from animal- to plant-based foods. – NCBI

What is chicken plumping? – Wikipedia

Water in meat and poultry – USDA

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  1. Eugen Klaussner says:

    You mention that the saline injected into chicken meat contains “con syrup” – delightfully appropriate!

  2. Susan colwell says:

    I find it hard to compare SKINLESS chicken breast to SKIN ON thighs or drumsticks, maybe could you list how much the skin contains, protein AND fat wise. TIA

    1. Hi Susan, there is a handy table in the article above which shows you how much protein, fat, and calories are in each cut of chicken. Skinless and skin eaten. I’ve copied it below for you too. I hope that helps.
      Per 100g/3.5 ounces Protein g Fat g Calories
      Chicken breast, skinless 30.9 4.5 173
      Chicken thigh, skin eaten 28.2 13.2 239
      Chicken drumstick, skin eaten 27.3 10 206
      Chicken wings, skin eaten 23.8 16.9 254

      1. Lisa Gross says:

        But you still did not mention The information for the skinless chicken thighs.

  3. WOw what a scam. Carb are important and essential to a balanced diet. Once again an idiot prescribes bull shit advice. OH, btw, the highest protein per ounce with the least fat n cholesterol of ANY ANIMAL PROTEIN IS RABBIT. BUT YOU MORONS KEEP SPEWING THIS HORRIBLE USA/FDA MONEY MAKING BULLSHIT. You may know that it was rabbit that saved Europeans from starvation after numerous wars. OH and what is the least intrusive animal protein to raise? The least amount of carbon foot print? Rabbit again. But like you AMERICANS ARE STUPID, STUBBORN AND DUMB when it comes to food. Hey, go watch your favorite FN show.

    1. Hi JP, good morning from here in New Zealand, which BTW is full of rabbits which are a darn pest here so yes, please come and eat our rabbits!

    2. Lynne Patterson says:

      There are no essential carbs – our amazing body can create all the carbs we need using the glycerol portion of triglycerides, or, lacking fat, the liver can use protein to produce carbs using a process called gluconeogenesis. So perhaps before you write inaccurate information following such a well-written article, you should consider going to the websites found across the internet that allow people to spew their opinions as if they are facts.

    3. Jacqui Spring says:

      I want to thank you for this information about rabbits and their addition to an all meat diet. although you were a bit snarky in your reply, with this world falling apart, raising rabbits for food is an excellent suggestion

  4. lynne patterson says:

    This is an AMAZING article. I will send people to this page because my clients believe that twenty grams of chicken are 100% protein. Thank you for this resource. I am signing up for your email list! Keep up the excellent, informative work!

    Can’t you delete the jerky comment below? It is painful to read such a spew of hate! Perhaps the writer is not familiar with the internet. There are other websites he could visit that would not raise his blood pressure!

    1. Hi Lynne, I’m so glad you love this article and charts, it really does help explain that sources of protein are actually a mix of protein, fat, and water. P.S. As much as I would love to delete that comment below, I keep them as it shows I allow all comments through and do not censor them which would encourage confirmation bias towards my articles/site.

  5. I never knew that meat offers protein and nutrients that the body needs daily. My friend talked about his plans to improve his appearance this year through shifting diets. I should talk to him about finding a meat market that can offer different options for his needs in the future.