36 Low Carb & High Protein Foods

When trying to build lean muscle, many people focus all of their efforts on their workout. Though fitness will of course play into the ability to add lean muscle to the body, diet plays equally as important of a role. To get the lean muscle that you want, you need to eat a lot of protein—but not all protein is created equally!

Comprehensive list of low carb foods that are high in protein. These foods are essential to building lean muscle.

The 36 foods represented on this list are the very best options. They are low in carbs and high in protein, which makes them some of the best out there. Some you may already be eating and others are worth trying out for a tasty new addition to your eating regimen. Rather than eating the same tired protein every day, try to enjoy what you eat by mixing it up with these foods.

chicken breast

Chicken Breast

Chicken breast is an excellent choice as it’s not only high in protein, but it’s low in fat and calories. It’s lean because it’s white meat, and therefore a good choice. A typical serving size to aim for is a 3 ounce chicken breast, or about the size of your fist. Try grilling or broiling chicken and using herbs and seasoning to add flavor, and then add to salad, soup, or feature as the main entrée. Excellent for building lean muscle, and a tasty main staple to your diet!

Serving size 3 oz, 30 grams of protein, 110 calories.

ground turkey

Ground Turkey

Ground turkey is such a versatile and healthy way to enjoy protein. It’s high in protein, low in calories, and can be cooked up and used in just about anything. A typical serving is 3 ounces cooked and you can learn to easily substitute it for ground beef. Add some herbs and you can use it in spaghetti sauce, chili, or make into meatballs or burgers. You will love the flavor and versatility and the fact that it makes for a much leaner protein source than higher calorie alternatives out there.

Serving size 3 oz, 21 grams of protein, 195 calories.

pork tenderloin

Pork Tenderloin

Many don’t consider how tasty and protein packed pork can be in the quest to build lean muscle. One of the best types to select is pork tenderloin, and a typical serving size is a 4 ounce piece. It can be easily grilled or broiled for a quick, easy, and healthy cooking method. You can add simple marinades or seasoning to bring out the flavor. It’s leaner than you think and packed with protein, it may become a fixture in your eating regimen.

Serving size 4oz, 23 grams of protein, 154 calories.

lean ground beef

Lean Ground Beef

Yes you can and should enjoy ground beef, but just be sure that you opt for lean cuts. A 90/10 mix incorporates enough fat to give it flavor without the unhealthy calories that you don’t need. Typically you want to aim for a 3 ounce portion which you can enjoy in a variety of different forms. Though you want to be sure not to add too much filler that can contribute to fat and calories, this is a great protein source to turn to once or twice a week.

Serving size 3oz, 16 grams of protein, 148 calories.

steak lean cut

Steak (Lean Cut)

You can enjoy steak, but you want to be sure to go for a lean cut to begin with. Trim away all visible fat to ensure that you are getting something truly good for your eating regimen. Believe it or not you can enjoy a T-bone steak but limit to a 5 ounce serving and keep it as lean as possible, also removing the bone. This is not a protein to enjoy daily, but it’s a good one to rotate and enjoy in your diet as it’s packed with protein.

Serving size 5oz, 29 grams of protein, 206 calories.



Most people don’t tend to think of lamb in terms of a good protein source, but it really is. Obviously you want to go for leaner cuts and that means boneless in this instance. Trimming away all visible fat always helps, and then you can enjoy a very significant protein source. Though it does contain a bit more calories, you can mix it with healthy fillers like root vegetables and sauces made from scratch to ensure it’s a good solid choice. Don’t make this your primary protein source, but do enjoy it within your eating plan for some enjoyment.

Serving size 3oz, 20 grams of protein, 248 calories.



It may be an acquired taste, but veal can prove to be an excellent protein source. You want to opt for the leaner cuts and in this case that is veal shank, loin, or even chop. The typical serving size for a veal shank is 3 ounces and do keep in mind that the bone is a consideration as well. You get a lower calorie but protein sound option that you can include in your rotation. Even if you have never been a big fan of veal in the past, it’s well worth trying if your focus is on building lean muscle through effective protein blending.

Serving size 3oz, 16 grams of protein, 96 calories.



Ham can be a good protein source, but you do need to be mindful of serving size. If you are diligent about the slice size then you can enjoy a significant protein allotment without a lot of calories. The thing to keep in mind with ham is that the sodium can be high and so whenever possible, try to get a lower sodium type. Chopped up and tossed with vegetables, this can be a satisfying protein and a nice change of pace from the usual sources you consume. Try ham once in awhile and just keep an eye on your portion size for best results.

Serving size 1 medium slice, 11 grams of protein, 114 calories.

P.S. Take a look at the 5 veggies that boost female metabolism and burn off lower belly fat.

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  1. Jeff says:

    I’ve been working out 2 hours a day, 6 days a week for the past 12 months and even though I’ve lost 30 pounds, I’m not seeing much muscle build up. I wasn’t eating unhealthy, but I didn’t really change my diet to something healthier either. I believe my body would probably look twice as better if I paid closer attention to my diet instead of just pumping iron. I’ll get started with the these 36 foods and hopefully I’ll get a lot more from my workout sessions from now on.

    • Jason says:

      You’re not seeing much muscle build because your still eating low carb. Low carb is a good method to shed the fat, not build muscle. To build the muscle you must start to increase carbs especially focusing on high glycemic carbs.

      • Bob says:

        That’s not true. If you feel that you lack energy on workout days then adding carbs can help you maximise your muscle growth but if you can do the same amount of work without the carbs then the extra protein and fats will be of more use. Carbs are to do with energy rather than building muscle.

      • Tracy says:

        Wrong wrong our bodies very efficiently convert good fats to energy. If you do low carb, that’s good but eat more protein and good fats and oils. You will stay lean. Look up a keto diet, most men especially enjoy this because of the meat but you gotta up your veggies and knock out bread and pasta. If you aren’t into that at least cut back on these and eat clean simple sugars your body doesn’t have to break down to use for energy. You do not NEED carbs to build lean muscle or even survive for that matter

    • Garry says:

      You’re doing too much working out IMO. 2 hours a day, 6 days a week? That’s allowing very little recovery AND doing 2 hours likely means the quality of the workout isn’t so great.

      On the workout: The best part of a workout is usually the first 30 minutes, this is where you’re really energetic and get the most benefit. Often, we need to do more than that to finish up, maybe up to an hour or so, but 2 hours is way too long – try to look at how you can hit all the muscle groups you want in a shorter workout schedule. Either introduce some compounds, up the intensity and lower the rep ranges/sets or reduce the rest times.

      On rest: Your muscle growth actually doesn’t come from the workout, it comes from the recovery afterwards. The workout breaks down the muscles, forcing the body to repair them. It also adapts to the damage and thus builds them back stronger, which is how we grow muscle. If you’re not allowing your body enough recovery time then you’re not going to see much in the way of results.

      • Dr Krishnan says:

        That was one very good piece of advice for the idiots…….new to this bodybuilding and was doin exactly jeff was doin without seeing the desired results that my hardwork deserved……

    • craig says:

      building muscle is 25% training and 75% nutrition. to build lean muscle your protein intake should be 1g of protein to 1lb of body weight. (so a 200lb man should consume 200g of protein daily at least) hope this helps.

    • Jacob says:

      Mix it up make sure it’s not just lifting cardio and stretching is key to ensure your body is working properly and allowing proper development of muscle.

    • Sue Hookom says:

      The reason you aren’t seeing results from your workout is because you need to let your muscles rest and repair for a day between workouts. You method keeps them in a state of breakdown. Also drink protein powder mixed with skim milk. The best is ‘Just Whey’

    • stu says:

      You need more rest days imo. You (re)build muscle while resting. Try adding an extra rest day or 2.

    • noone says:

      Working out too long has never been good. 40 to 1h15min is definitely enough.

    • Bobby says:

      Jeff, I am late to this, but wanted to see how your workouts and results (expectations) were coming?

    • Bob says:

      You can’t build muscle while restricting calories. Simply won’t happen. With proper weight training you can keep most but not all of the musculature you currently have while cutting fat. If you are doing only cardio you will lose significant amounts of muscle along with the fat. Do some research on how natural body builders do their cuts. It’s almost a science unto itself. Don’t bother looking into professional bodybuilders since they use vast amounts of drugs. A balanced approach with weight training and some cardio along with excellent nutrition is the way to go.

    • brittany says:

      Although attending to your diet will surely aid in the gaining of muscle, the real solution is in the workout routine. You shouldn’t be working out six days a week for a simple reason: Your muscles need time to heal. You should wait at least two days in between weight training. Also, the release of lactic acid throughout your body is much more effective if given ample time to burn the fat cells in your body. Trust me, this is a tried and true method to building muscle faster.

    • Jscott says:

      Also you need to let your muscles rest. You can overwork them which will limit the rebuilding and repairing phase.

    • Chax says:

      Eat more saturated fat!

  2. CASTBOUND says:

    Baby~ low carb and high protein diet is my kind of diet xD It’s going to be tough to keep up with this diet if I have to stay away from bread and rice, but compared to other diets, it looks a lot easier and tastier. I signed up for one year membership at a local gym yesterday, so by the end of the year I’m going to look like an MMA champ while still eating delicious stuffs. I’m down for that baby~

  3. Olivia says:

    Eating low carb and high protein foods is very important when you’re putting on muscle or even when you’re trying to lose weight. The problem is these foods taste like paper after a while, because there are only so many ways you can cook them. I was wrong though, because there are apparently so many other ways that you can cook low carb and high protein foods. There are also other low carb foods that I never knew before, so this is a very pleasant surprise.

  4. YourTrueFitnessHome says:

    I have to say awesome job putting this together and all the write ups under each food idea, wow. I’m definitely going to share this with my readers and tell them to check this out. And to Jeff above … Losing 30 lbs is a great accomplishment, you should be very proud. But if you’re working out two hours a day and not seeing results, well something is off big time. Sounds like you might want to change up your workout routine, or seek out a personal trainer to help you in this area.

    • Live Peachy says:


      I agree with you, Jeff should probably see a personal trainer AND a nutritionist to accomplish his goals. That’s an awful lot of work to be doing and having nothing to show for it!


  5. Crystal says:

    I greatly appreciate the detailed food list. I’m thankful there are people like you. was just wondering, since I’m always cooking for 3 little girls and a husband, are you available for a house call? Lol, have a wonderful day

  6. Maureen says:

    THANKS for this. After seeing a nutrisionist over the weekend, she mentioned i need to start consuming 140 grs. of protein a day. Was lost for ideas, so this helps tremendously.

    • christinarmcloughlin@gmail.com says:

      that seems like an huge amount – I am a vegetarian so I would find that very difficult!

    • warren says:

      Your body cant breakdown that much protein in a day. You sho uld look up a scale which will take your body weight, age and energy burned through out your day and it will tell you a mpre proper rate. From what I know, you can only absorb 20 to 30 grams about every 6 hours, activity pending.

      • Aaron says:

        Which is actually untrue yet again. Lies come from uneducated assumptions. A human body can absorb and deplete up to 200 g a day. Depending on the validation of your actual cardio and muscle physique and weather or not one truly “pumps as much iron” as people say.

        While I’m doing p90X it is based that I consume 107 g of protein a day and that’s with doing only one video. I’ve been doing two a day and still only consume 107 but even that’s a hard number to achieve. In supplement for breakfast they provide there is an automatic 50g of protein.

        Like I said Maureen, do you but don’t let others who have no clue of their uncanny ability to be open minded put you down.

        Try you Best, Forget the Rest.

  7. CHITRA RANJAN says:

    Dear all
    i am 28 yrs old,male
    my blood uric acid is 7.85
    can i take high protein,plz give a solution

  8. milt says:

    whose fist? my girl friends is half the size of mine, she’s 5’4″, I’m 6’2″, my son is 6’6″ as his is half again the size of mine.
    which fist is 30z? what the heck kinda lead is that? probably use a scale, yes? probably lead people to using a scale? Or maybe size-wise, everyone needs a piece the size of their fist and it sure won’t be 3 oz each?

  9. Macky Pintado says:

    Very informative! Great!

  10. Toni says:

    I weigh 93 lbs. & desperately need to put on some pounds. I was recently cooking from weight watchers recipes for my family. My boyfriend needed to lose the weight & signed up to be in the program. My mother wanted to lose some weight also but I needed the opposite. Try preparing meals to combine all our needs. Not so easy. I just recently have been told that I have an increased risk for diabetes if I continue with my sweets. I am a sweet & salt gal. I have been doing a lot of reading on all different diets. I love to cook from recipes. I must focus on bringing my sugar levels down. I have had a few scary moments in the last few days with dizziness & my body just being terribly off whack. So glad to see this information on this page. It gave me hope, & now on with the new journey. We can all benefit from this. I need to simplify my life & find the time to enjoy myself & my loved ones. Thank you so much for some greatly needed knowledge. Let the learning begin. I’m excited. Toni, the hungry one

  11. Daniel abraham says:

    Am 17 yrs old n am fat but not obese and i also hav pot belly…n i hav engaged in skipping n jogging,n also reducing ma food intake so i wanna ask for more heathier ways of burining out fat

    • Charles says:

      Google your BMR and find out the amount of calories your body needs for a day while doing nothing at all. Then create a daily calorie deficit by consuming fewer calories than your body can use that day. Get rid of the sweet drinks and junk food pretty much altogether, change your diet to high protein and low calorie/carb foods (incorporate a protein powder if practicable). These foods can burn up to twice as many calories. You will lose pounds steadily (1-2 lbs./week) and healthily without reducing much muscle mass. Good luck and God bless.

  12. Deborah Johnson says:

    Hi I am a diabetic so as I am 50 pounds overweight, I walk 4 days out of each week. and use the exercise machines sometimes I am now trying to up the protein while lowering the carbs, have never tried the Protein Powder, but I will purchase this and incorporate it into my diet. Trying to lose at least (1-2lbs./week).. Thanks for everyone as I read more comments I learn a great deal.

  13. Janet Vanderbilt says:

    Do you have a 30 day meal plan that I could follow? Thank you.

  14. dd says:

    Love how half of these are meat. Times never do change do they.

  15. This is huge list. Amazingly written post with great knowledge.
    Also, I love all the fish i.e Tilapia, Tuna and Salmon. One thing I would like to add here is Soy Chunks. You can get 50 grams of protein in 100 grams. Its highly rich in protein and are tasty too. 🙂

  16. 9feelscook says:

    A low-carb diet is generally used for losing weight. Some low-carb diets may have health benefits beyond weight loss, such as reducing risk factors associated with diabetes and metabolic syndrome.Great article.You can check out more recipes on Our website about zero Carb Recipes.

  17. Maria says:

    I am trying to loose a lot of weight. My Dr told me to find foods high in protein. This was very informative. I can plan my meals now. Wish me luck.

  18. Stacy says:

    I am severely diabetic, like on the brink of a coma bad. I am to eat low carb, high protein and meats. Any suggestions?

    • peter says:

      My wife died due to complications of diabetes so I suggest most strongly that you should take your situation very seriously. She was what I would call a Carboholic….too much sugar, bread etc. Get on the high protein diet and you will soon see the results. Good luck.

    • Ashley says:

      Hi Stacy,
      Not sure what type you are, but severe diabetic isn’t really accurate. You’re either diabetic or you’re not, perhaps you are just experiencing complications from not caring for it. If you have been diagnosed Type 1 you need to see a health care physician ASPA to get put on an insulin regimen. If you’ve been diagnosed Type 2 you need to see a physician and dietician to be put on a nutrition plan.

  19. Debra says:

    I’m allergic to dairy products and seafood but I need to lose weight and I am looking for suggestions for the protein diet. I appreciate any ideas.

  20. Nicole says:

    Hello there
    Well I was wondering if u could kindly give me some advice – now I’m female 41 weight 12st and height is 5.2 now I’m over weight by about 3 stone and am really struggling I’ve tried everything and can’t loose weight!
    So my friend suggested for a few weeks that I do a high protein low carb diet she sed this is what I should do on a daily basis for about 2 weeks to shed at least 10lb – can u advise me as to weither it’s right or wrong! Diet examples as follows
    Mon- sun 6x small meals
    8am – 2 egg omelette with mushroom peppers
    10am banana or apple
    12pm 85g chicken 40g rice and kale
    2pm 85g chicken 40g rice and kale
    4pm 85g chicken 40g rice and kale
    6pm 85g chicken 40g rice and kale

    If I’m still hungry at 7pm I’ll eat the last one but sometimes just have a 0% yogurt

    So you get an idea of food the amount im eating daily I t’s roughly 2 chicken breasts about 200g cooked rice half large bag kale

    Into 5x portions excl breakfast
    Is 85g cooked chicken
    40g cooked rice

    Am I doing it right is this ok and healthy… More importantly will u lose weight … That’s my aim on a short term basis

    Please reply asap

    • Kiki says:

      Everything youre doing is correct but the rice. White rice is high in sugar, stick to brown rice or none at all. Ive lost 10 pounds on LCHD and i do eat every two hours on the clock, but i DO NOT eat potatoes, rice, bread, or pasta. These are carb killers. Opt for broccoli, caemelized onions, ertc so youre at least getting fiber.

  21. Dwayne Beavers says:

    I’ve just recently had to leave my job because of health problems with my legs and now more sedatery and I’m gaining weight easier and can’t do what I did before to lose the weight and I don’t want to gain what I lost before and I need to get the weight off to help with pain relief in my legs and mobility.

  22. Ely says:

    Am I wrong or do some of these foods have a fairly high carb content? Black beans, peanut butter, almonds, etc. All have a pretty high ratio of carbs to protein. Black beans in particular look to have a 3 to 1 ratio of carbs to protein. Maybe I’m looking at the wrong black beans.

    • Sasha Ricci says:

      While this list is informative—it’s lacking the explanation that if one only eats black beans, it’s an INCOMPLETE protein and must be adequately paired, for example, with brown rice. The meats alone are COMPLETE proteins. The rest need to be paired. Yes, very high carbs with beans/rice/yogurt…and they all need to be balanced.

  23. Ravi says:

    Hi guys, Its really good to c u all and mutually helping each other. Now I would like to add a point here. Let’s leave about nonveg protein sources. How about vegans, even though u mentioned lots of veg sources of protein, but according to studies proteins from plants are incomplete and they are not a quality one and gets poorly absorbed by body.

  24. high bp says:

    This is listed as a high protein low carb list of foods but none of the nutritional info has carb info only calories. I am new at this and trying to learn.

  25. John says:

    I am 6’6″ tall. I weigh 251lbs. I go to the gym and workout 5 days a week. I try and eat healthy everyday. I make sure I get my protein, veggies and fruit. I know building muscle weighs more than fat, but somehow I have manged to gain weight. My body fat is 25.91% I haven’t really been doing any cardio for the fear I would lose the muscle that I’ve gained. Does anyone have any suggestions how I can keep my gains but lose the body fat. Thanks.

  26. kmwa says:

    Thanks for the useful information. We don’t get much bison here in Australia, I wonder if I can substitute it with kangaroo?
    Now seriously, there’s an error for Protein Powder.
    It says “Serving size 1 scoop, 6 grams of protein, 107 calories.”
    It should say “Serving size 1 scoop, 27 grams of protein, 107 Calories.”
    The best (and most expensive) protein powder is Whey Protein Isolate which is 87% protein and virtually zero carbs.
    A cheaper alternative is Whey Protein Concentrate which is 75% protein and has a few carbs (sugars) in it.
    Both are good, but as I struggle to keep my weight under 63kg, and I can afford it, I use WPI.

  27. angela says:

    i wanna follow these suggestions

  28. Jord says:

    Guys, Please. To lose weight all you need to do is eat less calories than your body needs, there is no magic trick. Of course if you want to look better then you will need to lower your carbs but not so low that you have no energy to get through the day, pick up a dumbbell, and train harder if you want those muscles to show. But to lose weight without doing nothing at all? Eat less than is needed to sustain your current body weight… Try a 2000 calorie diet if you are 210lbs, a 2500 calorie diet if you are about 300lbs, or a 1500 calorie diet if you can go through the day on very little carbs (you will feel extremely lethargic).

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