by Will Grumke July 22, 2020 6 min read
If you’re looking to increase your protein intake, you’ll need to alter your diet. A common protein source in our everyday lives is chicken - but is chicken a good source of protein? In this article, we’ll talk about the amount of protein in chicken, why you should care, and how it compares to other sources of protein.
If you’re looking to get in shape or maintain your current level of fitness, you should care. Protein is one of three essential macronutrients that your body needs to be healthy and active.
As you work on your fitness and nutrition goals, you should be conscious of the macronutrients that you're eating.
As one of these macronutrients, protein helps your muscles grow bigger and stronger, gives your hair shine and bounce, and helps your skin look healthy. You need protein to recover from a hard workout and to maintain the gains you’ve made.
Protein is important for so many reasons.
In addition to making sure you're getting protein, you need to know about the quality of your protein.
All protein sources are made of different kinds of amino acids. Even though there are hundreds of different amino acids, your body uses 21 of them to synthesize protein.
Nine of these amino acids are called essential amino acids because your body cannot make them, which means you need to get them through foods in your diet.
The others are called nonessential amino acids because your body either makes them on its own or modifies existing amino acids to create them.
If you’re looking to grow more muscle or increase a missing essential amino acid, the best way to do so will be to start with a change in your diet by knowing which foods will give you the macros and nutrients you want and need, and then paying attention to both how you're getting them, and how your body responds.
That’s why knowing the nutritional content of your food is so important.
As one of the most common sources of protein, chicken is a great food to be familiar with. The protein count in a portion of chicken is going to change depending on what part of the chicken you eat. Each cut of meat comes with a different amount of protein, fat, and calories, making each cut useful for different purposes.
That means the other macronutrients will vary as well. So how much protein is in chicken? Below is a list of the different parts of a chicken as well as its protein composition per 100 grams of meat.
• Chicken breasts have 31 grams of protein per 100 grams of meat
• Chicken thighs have 26 grams of protein per 100 grams of meat
• Chicken drumsticks have 28.3 grams of protein per 100 grams of meat
• Chicken wings have 30.5 grams of protein per 100 grams of meat
As you can see, the amount of protein in chicken breast is the highest, compared to other parts of the chicken, but not by much.
It’s also important to take into consideration how you’re eating your chicken meat. Chicken wings have almost as much protein as the breast.
However, a lot of wings are breaded which really adds to the carb count, they're dipped in sauce, which adds sugar.
It should be noted that chicken skin will also add a significant amount of fat to your meal which may make it less healthy compared to a lower-protein counterpart without skin.
The most important takeaway here is that not all chicken is created equal, but all chicken still has a fair amount of protein in it. Another good thing about chicken is that, like most other animal proteins, chicken has a complete amino acid. This makes getting those amino acids you need even easier.
Chicken breast tends to be the favorite of bodybuilders or those who want to lose weight. The high amount of protein and low-calorie content allows you to consume more without worrying about those calories stacking up.
People favor chicken thighs due to the lip-smacking flavor that comes with the dark meat. It’s also slightly cheaper than chicken breasts.
When it comes to chicken drumsticks or wings, they’re typically consumed with the skin on, which means these cuts can be good for people who are seeking low-carb or keto diets that require more fat. However, it requires paying attention to how they're prepared, making sure to avoid breading or sauce that often is expected in these cuts.
Another good thing about chicken is like most other animal proteins, chicken has a complete amino acid. This makes getting those amino acids you need even easier.
Just keep in mind that the cut of chicken you should eat can depend on what your health and fitness goals are … what other foods you are eating with it … and how it fits into your overall nutrition plan!
So, how does chicken stack up to other meats you eat on a regular basis? Some people may find it surprising that 100 grams of beef has about 26 grams of protein, meaning it has less protein than chicken does.
Of course, the exact amount of protein is going to change depending on the cut and fat content. That 26 percent figure comes from ground beef which has a 15 percent fat content.
Here are some other types of beef and their protein count per 100 grams.
Ground beef with 30 percent fat content – 14 grams of protein per 100 grams of meat
Brisket – 21 grams of protein per 100 grams of meat
Flank steak – 28 grams of protein per 100 grams of meat
T-bone steak – 24 grams of protein per 100 grams of meat
Top sirloin steak – 27 grams of protein per 100 grams of meat
Fish usually has less protein than chicken. Although some kinds of fish have more protein than other specific kinds of chicken. Here are a couple kinds of fish and their protein content per 100 grams of fish.
Atlantic Salmon – 22 grams of protein per 100 grams of fish
Mackerel – 19 grams of protein per 100 grams of fish
Mahi Mahi – 19 grams of protein per 100 grams of fish
Rainbow Trout – 20 grams of protein per 100 grams of fish
Skipjack Tuna – 28 grams of protein per 100 grams of fish
As you can see, if you were looking strictly to maximize your protein intake, eating tuna is going to be better for you than eating chicken thighs. That being said, chicken still wins out most of the time.
Although various dairy products do contain protein, it usually lags far behind meat products.
Dairy also typically contains more calories due to higher amounts of carbohydrates and fats. Usually, it’s wise to avoid using dairy as one of your primary protein sources in your diet unless it is from a high-quality whey protein.
Here’s the protein count of different kinds of dairy products per 100 grams.
Butter – .9 grams of protein per 100 grams of dairy
Cheddar cheese – 25 grams of protein per 100 grams of dairy
1 percent milk – 3.4 grams of protein per 100 grams of dairy
Yogurt – 10 grams of protein per 100 grams of dairy
Light cream – 2.7 grams of protein per 100 grams of dairy
The biggest flaw with getting your protein from vegetables is that most vegetables are incomplete proteins, meaning they’re missing one or more of the essential amino acids that your body needs for protein synthesis.
Below are some different vegetables and the amount of protein they contain per 100 grams.
Black beans – 22 grams of protein per 100 grams of vegetables
Kale – 4.3 grams of protein per 100 grams of vegetables
Baked beans – 6 grams of protein per 100 grams of vegetables
Spinach – 1.9 grams of protein per 100 grams of vegetables
Soybeans – 36 grams of protein per 100 grams of vegetables
* An important note to make here is that soybeans are one of the few vegetables that’s a complete protein.
To start working toward your fitness goals, you could try to just eat an endless amount of chicken to get enough protein. But, there are other options.
1st Phorm offers four different protein shake mixes to help you meet your specific protein goals. We even offer a vegan protein powder that we call the Vegan Power Pro, and Vegan Power Pro Bars, which have a complete amino acid protein profile while being suitable for plant-based diets.
Come check out our protein supplements and find the one that best fits your fitness needs!
NASM Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Certified Nutrition Coach, NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist, NASM Certified Weight Loss Specialist, NASM Certified Behavioral Change Specialist, NASM VCS Virtual Coaching Specialist, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer