Many of us are looking to increase our protein intake, but it can be hard to know how to add more protein in to your diet healthily. Especially if you're vegetarian or vegan. Below, you'll find out how much protein you should be eating and which foods are the highest ranking.


Have a read then check out our high-protein recipes, high-protein vegetarian recipes and high-protein vegan recipes. Plus, have a look at our spotlight on high-protein diets.

Why do we need protein?

Protein is an essential nutrient, responsible for multiple functions in your body, including building tissue, cells and muscle, as well as making hormones and anti-bodies. Everyone needs protein in their diet, but if you do endurance sports or weight training, you may benefit from increasing your protein intake, as well as factoring it into your training routine at specific times to reap its muscle-building benefits.

Studies also suggest that as we get older we may benefit from eating more protein because it helps minimise the muscle loss associated with aging.

How much protein should I eat?

For most people, a daily dose of around 0.8-1g of protein per 1kg of body weight is recommended. For weightlifters and strength athletes, 1.4 – 2g of protein per kg of body weight is recommended per day, with a recommendation of 1.2-1.6g of protein per kg of body weight per day for endurance athletes. 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.

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Can you eat too much protein?

For most of us, our daily protein requirements are easily achieved by a healthy, balanced diet. The Department of Health advises adults to avoid consuming more than twice the recommended daily intake of protein (55g for the average man and 50g for the average woman). This is because, in the long term, consuming too much protein might lead to health issues such as an increased risk of osteoporosis and a worsening of an existing kidney problem. However, research in this area is mixed and it is likely that other factors may influence outcome, such as whether the protein is of animal or vegetable origin and how balanced the diet is in terms of vitamins and minerals.

One of the main issues with our Western diet is that our breakfasts and lunches are often low in protein but high in carbohydrates, with a protein-packed evening meal. It is better to spread your protein intake throughout the day. Try our suggestions for high-protein breakfasts, high-protein lunches and high-protein dinners.

10 best sources of protein

You can get protein from both plant and animal sources. We've also highlighted some of the best high protein foods below:

Brown rice tabbouleh with eggs & parsley

1. Eggs

We love to cook with them, but how much protein is in an egg? One medium egg has around 6g of protein in an easily digestible form. A healthy omelette is a good way to start the day and is a good recovery snack post-exercise, too.

Try our healthy egg recipes and read about the health benefits of eggs.

2. Milk

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.

Read more about the best calcium-rich foods.

3. Yogurt

A combination of casein and whey protein, yogurt is a good protein-rich food. Since some of the lactose is removed, it may be a useful option if you are lactose intolerant, but check with your healthcare professional if you have any concerns.

Try making your own healthy bio yogurt.

Fresh salmon with Thai noodle salad with chopsticks

4. Fish 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, which can reduce joint stiffness and inflammation.

Try our favourite healthy fish recipes and read more about the health benefits of salmon.

5. Chicken and turkey

Opt for lean protein from white meat poultry, such as chicken and turkey.

Try our healthy chicken recipes and healthy chicken breast recipes.

6. Soya

If you’re dairy intolerant, eating soya protein foods, such as fortified tofu and soya-based drinks, will help post-recovery. Plus, they can help lower cholesterol and may reduce the risk of heart disease.

Read more about the health benefits of tofu and the health benefits of soya.

7. Nuts and seeds

Nuts and seeds are a practical protein choice if you’re on the move. Around 50 pistachio nuts provides 6g of protein plus sodium and potassium – the electrolytes lost through sweat during exercise. This clementine & honey couscous recipe with pistachios is a great breakfast or speedy snack.

Read more about the health benefits of nuts.

Herb & garlic pork with summer ratatouille and a fork

8. Pork

Meat supplies branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which are key in supporting muscle recovery. Leucine in particular makes up a third of muscle protein and helps 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.

Try our healthy pork recipes.

9. Beans and pulses

Beans and pulses are great, cheap protein sources. They're also a useful plant source of iron and and are rich in fibre.

Try our favourite lentil and chickpea recipes.

10. Tofu and tempeh

Both tempeh and tofu are made from soy beans; however, tempeh requires the additional step of fermentation, providing it with an extra depth of flavour. Tempeh also offers a higher protein and fibre content, while tofu is slightly lower in fat and calories.

Discover our favourite tofu and tempeh recipes.

Enjoyed this? Now try:

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

Kerry Torrens is a qualified Nutritionist (MBANT) with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including Good Food.


All health content on is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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