Protein Sources: The Ultimate Guide

You've just found The Ultimate Guide to Protein Sources. You'll definitely find some extra protein sources to help you achieve your nutrition goals. We all want to look and feel great, right? Research has shown that our physical appearance plays a significant role in how we feel about ourselves, our level of self-esteem and general productivity. It is therefore crucial that we eat the right types of food to ensure that we remain healthy. However, many people believe that eating a healthy protein rich diet is expensive. It is for this reason that we have decided to come up with this guide to show you some of the affordable foods that are high in protein content, other essential nutrients and minerals. Read on to understand why money should no longer be an excuse when it comes to healthy eating and muscle building through a high protein diet.

Non-animal protein food sources

Although these are probably the cheapest sources of proteins, it is important to note that most of the non-animal foods provide incomplete proteins. Incomplete proteins refers to the proteins that do not contain all the essential amino acids that are vital for the normal body functioning. However, according to research, these foods can be used together with other incomplete proteins to supplement each other. Apart from providing nutrients in our bodies, these foods also give us vitamins, phytochemicals, antioxidants and minerals. Here are some of the cheapest non-animal foods that you can use to increase the protein content in your diet and subsequently help boost the growth of your muscles:

Nuts and Seeds

  • Almonds- Apart from being rich in protein, almonds also have high contents of vitamins and essential minerals such as manganese and antioxidants. According to research, people who regularly consume almonds tend to have high HDL and low LDL cholesterol levels. Please note that HDL are the healthy cholesterol levels that are vital for the normal functioning of the body. Almonds are very cheap to obtain as compared to the other protein sources such as chicken or beef. To get the best out of this fantastic food, it is advisable that you form a habit of consuming a handful of them on a daily basis. You can also add them to smoothies, salads or simply use them as a snack.

1oz, 23 kernels (28g) – 162 calories, 6g of protein

  • Sunflower seed kernels- If you thought that sunflower seeds are only meant for birds, then you will be in for a shock! According to research, one ounce of seed flower kernels can contain up to six grams of protein. In addition, sunflower seed kernels boast of rich contents of vitamin E as well as phytochemicals such as arginine, betaine, phenolic acid and chlorine. These are essential components as they boost the body’s immune system. Apart from protecting your cell membranes, sunflower seeds can help strengthen your blood vessels and enhance their elasticity. Also, these seeds help eliminate the bad cholesterol. Just add some of these seeds over your salad or take them as a snack for enhanced muscle development.

1 Oz (28g) – 164 calories, 6g of protein

  • Creamy natural peanut butter- This is probably one of the cheapest and most efficient non-animal protein food sources. According to nutritionists, two tablespoons of peanut butter can produce up to eight grams of protein. In addition, this food contains other vital minerals such as magnesium and vitamin B-6. Although most people fear taking peanut butter because of its high fat content, it is important to note that most of these fats are monounsaturated and hence have no health impact on your health. Looking to build your muscles under a tight budget? Take one or two spoons of peanut butter on a daily basis as part of a balanced diet.

2 tablespoons (32g) – 188 calories, 8g of protein

  • Hemp Powder- You didn’t know that the cannabis plant can be a source of protein, right? Hemp powder comes from hemp seeds. The seeds are pressed to remove or extract the oil. To obtain the protein, the remaining material is milled and then dehydrated. According to research, the hemp powder is a less concentrated source of protein and that is why it is more expensive as compared to the other forms of protein powders available in the market.

100g of hemp powder- 45g of protein.


  • Wheat bran- This is another excellent non-animal protein source. Apart from having high protein content, this protein source also boasts of dietary fibers which enhance the digestion process. This boosts your energy production since the food is quickly digested and made available for the other biological processes. Remember that, your body requires a lot of energy, not only for the muscle development but also for the general well-being. To consume these grains, simply sprinkle them over your soup or add them to your bowl of cereal.

1oz (28g) – 101 calories, 6g of protein

  • Couscous- This is a North African traditional food made from semolina granules. Although most people see it as a healthy grain, it is important to note that Couscous is actually a refined carbohydrate and has the same nutritional value as white pasta. It is very easy to prepare this whole grain food and is also very versatile. Consider using couscous in place of another carbohydrate source since it is relatively low in carbs in comparison to pastas etc.

100g of Couscous- 3.8g of protein.

  • Amaranth- This is another rich source of plant protein. The best thing about this grain is that it is gluten-free and hence very suitable for people seeking to maintain a healthy eating habit. In addition, this grain contains rich contents of unique amino acids such as lysine and methionine. Please note that these are very important amino acids and are not available in most grains. Also, the grain contains other essential minerals such as calcium, iron, and

100g of Amaranth- 3.8g of protein.

  • Quinoa- This is a very unique grain since it contains all the nine essential amino acids. It is therefore considered as a complete protein source just like proteins from animals. Quinoa is very cheap and can be bought for as little as £5 per kilo. This food can be cooked in different ways and can be used to replace oats when making porridge. It can also be used as a carb replacement, simply replace pasta or rice with quinoa and you are ready to go! Quinoa makes an excellent breakfast carb, try using it instead of your usual carbohydrate source.

100g of Quinoa- 4g of protein.

  • Brown rice- Although most gym goers don’t take rice as often because of its high carbohydrate content, it is important to note that the brown rice is still an excellent choice and is one of the lowest carb sources. This is because it contains the bran and germ layers of the grain. These layers contain all the essential minerals that are not present in white rice. Some of these minerals include vitamin B, magnesium and phosphorus. Prices range as expected, but most brands can be purchased for less than £5 per kilo (dry – not packet rice).

100g of brown rice- 2.6g of protein.


  • Kidney beans- According to the nutritional profile, for every cup (184 g) of kidney beans that you eat, you consume about 43 grams of protein. In addition, these beans boast of very high phytochemicals and fiber contents. All these nutrients are essential for the normal body functioning and also boosts the growth of our muscles. Another good thing canned kidney bean is that it does not contain high sugar levels like most of the other processed foods. This means that you can never experience the annoying sugar spikes associated with high sugar consumption. Usually, you can combine beans with nuts or rice to make the Mexican cuisine. This helps supplement the beans making them a complete source of protein.

1 cup (184g) – 605 calories, 43g of protein


  • Lentils- Lentils are another cheap source of protein. Apart from being rich in protein, lentils also contain high contents of dietary fiber. This helps enhance your digestion process and also helps regulate the blood cholesterol levels. However, just like any other non-animal food, lentils do not contain all the essential amino acids and therefore needs to be used together with another protein source.

1 Oz (28g) – 99 calories, 7g of protein

  • Tempeh- This is another excellent source of non-animal proteins. It is made by fermenting soybeans. According to research, tempeh contains more proteins than any other soy products and hence very ideal for anyone looking for cheaper means of a protein source. Apart from being fermented, tempeh also contains high contents of dietary fiber which boosts the digestion process.

100g of tempeh- 193 calories, 19g of protein

  • Tofu- Just like tempeh, tofu is derived from soybeans. This is another excellent complete protein source and hence ideal for vegetarians. Although it contains less protein per serving as compared to tempeh, it is much cheaper going for about £5 per kilo. Tofu is also very rich in minerals such as calcium and iron and hence very helpful in bone and muscle strengthening. It is worth noting that tofu is quite bland therefore flavouring is required.

100g of Tofu- 76 calories, 8g of protein

  • Peas- Peas is another excellent source of plant proteins. They also have very high contents of dietary fiber hence aiding the digestion process. Just like any other vegetable, peas contain very little fat and therefore ideal for those on a weight loss diet. A perfect complement as part of a meal with a little top up of protein.

100g of peas- 5g of protein.


  • Veggie Protein Powder- Are you a vegetarian and looking for an excellent source of vegetable protein? Then pea protein is something you should consider! Veggie protein powder is a great protein source containing all the essential amino acids. The price of protein powder is fairly cheap going for around £ 15-20 per kilo. This form of powder is an excellent choice for people suffering from food allergies such as lactose or gluten. It is also a good bet for vegetarians who find soy allergic. Just like the whey protein powder, pea proteins are fat and cholesterol free and hence very healthy.

100g of veggie protein powder- 60g of protein.


  • Whey Protein Powder- Are you that person who is always in the gym working out and trying to grow your muscles and physique? Then whey protein powder has been made specially for you! Whey is very popular amongst weight lifters and is usually added to shakes or taken as a drink by itself. Check out the store as we stock a huge range of protein powders including whey protein powders, whey isolate protein powders and protein powders blends. There are many other benefits of using protein powders as they typically also contain added amino acids, vitamins and other nutrients.

One scoop, 1oz (28g) – 99 calories, 20g of protein (Use these figures as an average)


  • Beef Protein Powder - This is one of the newer ranges to the UK market. The most well-known is NXT Beef Protein Isolate. A key benefit is that it is completely fat free and sugar free! Perfect for those that require a lactose free diet. It also has a high absorption rate and offers 90% protein per serving.


Animal Proteins

Typically much more expensive than the non-animal foods protein sources, most of the animal products contain all the essential amino acids that are vital for the synthesis of proteins in our bodies. It is therefore important that you make a habit of consuming animal proteins at least once per week. This is because it is the only surest way of getting all the essential amino acids that are vital for the growth and development of our muscles and body tissues. Here are some of the cheapest animal sources that you can consume to boost your protein intake significantly:

  • Red Meat – Round Steak – (Refers to the meat from the rear leg of a cow). Although red meat is one of the best and cheapest source of complete protein for our bodies, it is important to note that it also comes with lots of saturated fats. This means that, red meat should be taken in moderation to avoid build-up of cholesterols in our bodies which might then lead to weight gain and obesity. Note that there are some types of red meat with relatively low fat contents. However, these types of meats are usually more expensive. The best thing about round steak is that it is not as expensive as other types of red meats and hence can be afforded by most people. In addition, this type of steak is relatively big and so you just need to consume half of it per one serving and save the rest for another meal. The nutritional profile shows that a typical half round steak should give you up to 50 grams of protein!

100g – 182 calories, 28g of protein

  • Beef Shanks- Beef shanks are other excellent sources of animal protein. Shanks are also vibrant sources of iron and other minerals and nutrients that are vital for the normal body growth and development. Please note that, although this meat appears marbled and fatty, it actually has less fat content as compared to the round steaks.

100g- 201 calories, 34g protein

  • Beef Brisket- Beef brisket is one of the cheaper high protein options that is particularly useful for a high protein family meal. Beef briskets are excellent protein sources and contain relatively low-fat A good thing about beef briskets is that they are very versatile and you don’t have to throw away the leftovers since you can easily use them to make sandwiches for your family the following day!

100g- 155 calories, 21g protein

  • Beef Ribs- Although very rich in fat content, beef ribs are some of the cheapest sources of complete animal However, according to nutritionists, this food should only be eaten in small quantities due to the high-fat content. If using beef ribs for soups, it is important that you try and reduce the amount of fat in your food. This can be done by allowing your soup to chill down in a fridge after cooking. After some time, a layer of fat forms on the top of your meal and you can easily scoop it away. However, if you have cardiovascular conditions underlying such as heart disease, you might want to avoid consuming this food, at least not on a regular basis.

100g – 471 calories, 22g protein

  • Pork Shoulder- Pork is another excellent source of complete proteins. However, it is important to note that pork contains a very high fat content and should therefore be taken in moderation. The best way to eliminate the excess fats in your pork is by trimming away the fats after cooking. The best thing with pork is that it is very tasty and also very cheap as compared to most of the animal protein sources.

100g- 269 calories, 23g protein

  • Ground Beef- This is another excellent source of cheap animal proteins. Nutritional information shows that you consume up to 21 g of protein in every 100 grams of meat that you eat for 5% lean ground beef. However, it is important that you look for the lean ground beef since it contains low-fat contents as compared to the other types of meat. Try to always opt for the lower fat content ground beef 5-10%.

5% fat ground beef – 100g – 136 calories, 21g protein

  • Cube Steak- Apart from being rich in protein, cube steak is also very rich in iron. The food also contains very low fat contents and hence very suitable for anyone wanting to build lean muscle. Due to its high iron content, cube steak is very efficient in the fight against anaemia. The iron also helps develop strong bones, muscles and tissues. Generally, cube steak will contain more than 50 g of protein.

100g- 187 calories, 18g protein

  • Chicken Legs- If you are that person who fancies delicious meat, then chicken legs is something that you should consider adding into your diet. Chicken is one of the richest sources of protein, and although can be expensive, it will help you maintain an excellent body composition as well as help strengthen and build your muscles. According to nutritional profiles, one chicken leg with no bones is capable of giving you up to 18 grams of protein.

1 leg (With no bone) – 189 calories, 18g of protein.

  • Chicken Drumsticks- The best thing about chicken is that it contains much fewer fats as compared to beef or red meats. Drumsticks are some of the cheapest cuts when it comes to chicken. Nutritional profile shows that, drumsticks contain very high protein content that help enhance the growth and development of your muscles. If you want to reduce the amount of cholesterol in your chicken, it is advisable that you avoid eating the skin.

100g- 229 calories, 18g protein

  • Chicken Liver- Apart from being rich in proteins, chicken liver is also an excellent source of cholesterol, iron as well as vitamin A. Chicken liver does contain a high cholesterol content and therefore should not be consumed on a frequent

100g – 165 calories, 26g protein

  • Ground Turkey- Ground turkey is another affordable protein source going for about £ 0.05 per gram. It is available in most of the supermarkets as a mixture of different bird parts, likely, a mixture of red and white meat. Ground turkey is therefore not necessarily the best poultry option when it comes to low-fat food. However, it is an excellent substitute for ground beef.

100g – 203 calories, 27g of protein

  • Ground Pork- Because of its low price as compared to the red meat, pork is an excellent source of cheap protein for bodybuilders. It is, however, critical to note that some of the processed pork products such as sausages and ham contains very high amounts of fats and hence should be taken in moderation. It is also possible to get lean cuts which are complete sources of protein but are low in fat contents.

5% Lean ground pork, 100g - 185 calories, 32g protein



Fish is another excellent source of protein. The best thing about fish is that it does not contain the saturated fats that come with the other types of meat. Contrary to what most people think, fish is not always expensive, and there are different types that are actually very cheap and hence very affordable. According to health experts, people who consume fish twice per week reduce their risk of heart disease (Clinic, 2016). Here are some of the cheapest fish that you can consume to boost the growth of your muscles significantly:

  • Cod Fillet- Apart from being an excellent source of protein, the cod fillet is also very rich in vitamin B6, B12, and even the omega-3 fatty acids. All these are vital minerals that help boost the health of our blood vessels as well as strengthens our hearts. Although cod fillets are sometimes known as haddock or Pollock, it is important to note that these two names refer to different varieties of cod. Cod fillet is very cheap to buy and is also very popular because of its excellent taste. It is possible to find both fresh and frozen cods, and the best thing is that cod does not lose its quality even after being frozen.

100g– 90 calories, 20g protein

  • Snapper Fillet- This is another cheap source of protein. Just like cod fillet, snapper fillet also boasts of high omega-3 fatty acids contents. In addition, snapper fillet has high vitamin D contents and hence a very healthy food. The only known downside of this fish is that it contains very high levels of mercury and thus should be consumed in moderation. According to research, one snapper fillet can produce up to 45 grams of protein!

100g – 100 calories, 21g protein

  • Sole Fillet- According to research, one serving of sole fillet can give you more than half of all your daily protein needs. Also, sole fillet contains very low-fat content and hence suitable for anyone wanting to lose weight. The fish can be found in most of the local stores, and if you cannot see the name sole, you can always look for flounder. If you are looking for frozen sole fish, the best place to go would be the large fish stores.

100g– 91 calories, 19g protein

  • Tilapia Fillet- This is one of the cheapest fish than you can ever find. Tilapia is also very rich in protein and hence an excellent meal for anyone trying to gain muscles. In addition, tilapia is said to be very low in mercury contents as compared to most of the other types of fish. However, researchers believe that tilapia contains more cholesterol as compared to other types of fish. It is, however, important to note that, although tilapia contains a significant amount of cholesterol, it can never reach the levels of meat, eggs and the like.

100g – 96 calories, 20g protein

  • Canned Sardines- As you probably already know, canned fish are very cheap as compared to other types of animal protein. For enhanced development and growth of muscles, it is advisable that you regularly look for canned sardines as they are vibrant sources of cheap protein. Ensure that your sardine has been canned in oil for better or enhanced results.

100g – 208 calories, 25g protein

  • Mackerel- This is another excellent source of cheap protein. According to research, one 110 grams of mackerel fillet can provide up to 21 grams of protein. In addition, this fish is found to contain more omega-3 fatty acids as compared to other types of sea fish. This makes it a very suitable source for people suffering from heart-related complications as the fatty acids can help stabilise and strengthen both the heart and the blood vessels. Mackerel also boasts very high vitamin D contents among other essential minerals and nutrients.

100g - 167 calories, 19g protein

  • Canned Anchovies (In Oil) - Anchovies stand out because of their distinct nutty flavor as well as their rich protein content. The best thing about canned anchovies is that they are very versatile and can be used in a wide range of meals such as sandwiches, salads, and pasta. Please note that canned anchovies are very salty and hence it is advisable to wash the fillets to reduce the excess salt.

100g – 210 calories, 29g protein

  • Canned Tuna (In Water) - Did you know that one cup of tuna can offer you up to 39 grams of protein? Although there is no difference in protein levels between fresh and canned tuna, it is very easy to prepare canned tuna and hence highly preferred by most people. Tuna is a versatile meal and can be used on salads, pasta, spreads and even sandwiches.

100g – 116 calories, 26g protein

  • Salmon- Unlike in the past where fish products used to be very expensive, the cost of fish has significantly reduced. Thanks to the improved fishing and farming techniques. Although more costly than most of the other fish products, salmon is an excellent source of protein providing up to 30 grams of protein per a 6.4oz fillet. Also, salmon contains other essential nutrients and minerals such as vitamin D, vitamin B, and even omega-3 fatty acids. However, it is crucial that you take salmon in moderation since it may contain high levels of mercury especially if it has been sourced from its natural habitat.

100g - 139 calories, 23g protein

Dairy Products

  • Greek Yogurt- According to research, Greek yogurt is said to contain more than twice as much protein as compared to the regular yogurt. Although a bit more expensive, Greek yogurt is an excellent source of casein protein and boasts of a thicker and more luxurious flavor. However, it is vital that you pick the plain Greek yogurt since the flavored varieties are likely to contain tons of added If you want to eliminate your calorie intake even further, you can go for the low-fat varieties. However, these types of Greek yogurt taste somehow acidic and may not appeal to everyone. There also exist probiotic variety which is said to contain gut-friendly bacteria. Fat free yoghurt does contain sugar, so check the labels.

100g - 80 calories, 10g protein

  • Cheese- As you probably already know, cheese is a milk product and hence not suitable for people who are allergic to lactose. Although cheese is an excellent source of protein, it is important to note that it has very high-fat contents and should, therefore, be taken in moderation. However, you can opt for the low-fat versions for a better healthy living.

100g - 403 calories, 25g protein

  • Eggs- Eggs are excellent sources of complete protein. However, in the recent past, most people have avoided taking eggs since they are believed to contain high contents of cholesterol. Although you can cut your cholesterol intake by avoiding the egg’s yolk, it is important to note that the yolk contains a lot of minerals, vitamins, antioxidants and even the omega-3 fatty acids. Eggs are cheap though and can even be purchased in carton form and egg whites alone!

100g - 147 calories, 13g protein

  • Milk- Milk is another excellent source of complete protein. If you want to limit your fat intake, you can easily opt for the skimmed milk as it contains less fats. Adding milk to your protein shakes or weight gainers is an excellent way to increase your calories if bulking or are a hard gainer.

100g - 60 calories, 3g protein

As you can see, there are so many cheap sources of protein to help boost the repair and growth of your muscles. It is all about what you want to achieve and what you can afford. However, it is important to note that, maintaining a healthy eating habit alone is not enough. You also need to engage in other physical exercises to ensure that you break down muscles in order to grow. It is also important that you regulate the frequency of eating some types of foods because as you have seen, some of these foods are high in fat and cholesterol contents. If you have any underlying medical condition such as diabetes and heart complications, it is crucial that you consult your doctor or pharmacist.


Clinic, M. (2016, 07 20). Omega-3 in fish: How eating fish helps your heart. Retrieved from Mayo Clinic:


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