The best protein sources when cutting

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Protein is an important nutrient. In addition to energy, they provide the most important building material for tissues: amino acids. They are therefore indispensable for muscle recovery and building, also when you’re cutting. It is even recommended to consume a little more protein in the cut than normal, namely about 1.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. But where is the best place to get those proteins? So what are the best protein sources for cutters, other than protein supplements like protein powders?


In answering that question, we’re not simply looking at the foods that contain the most protein. One protein is not the other.


If we zoom in further on proteins, we see amino acids: the (different) building blocks of protein.

There are a total of 22 amino acids. 13 of these can form the body itself. The other 9 you get from your diet. We call this ‘essential amino acids’. Simply put, the biological value of a protein source refers to the number and amount of essential amino acids. We call animal protein sources ‘whole proteins’ because they have a complete amino acid profile.

If you want to meet your protein needs mainly or exclusively through vegetable proteins, because you are a vegetarian or vegan, you will have to eat about 20-30 percent more protein than the regular recommendation.


You are limited in your calories in the cut, so we don’t just look at how much protein a product provides per 100 grams, but per serving and per calorie.

To explain that briefly: peanut butter contains a lot of protein per 100 g, but not per serving. In addition, it is high in energy and contains relatively little protein per calorie. Cheese (48+) does not make our list for more or less the same reason, also because it contains a lot of salt and saturated fat.


In addition to the protein content, the other nutrients of the product also count. First and foremost the macronutrients, in addition to proteins the carbohydrates and fats.

In the bulk it is not all that close, but in the cut you will have to cut back on fats as much as possible. Because fat makes you fat, right? No, that’s an old myth. You become fat from an excess of energy, so calories. But in the cut, in addition to proteins, you mainly need carbohydrates, which are after all the primary source of energy for your training.

Try to limit your intake of fats to 0.7-1 gram per kilogram of body weight, approximately equally divided between saturated and unsaturated fats. A little fat is necessary to maintain your hormone levels, among other things.


Finally, it is even more important in the cut to eat healthy, since you consume less nutrition to provide you with important nutrients, such as vitamins, fiber and minerals.

In the bulk you can still afford an unhealthy snack, but in the cut it can easily account for 50 percent of your daily calorie intake!


Admittedly, the list is somewhat arbitrary. We have therefore not made it a ‘real’ top-6, although we have done our best to rank it.


Chicken breast is the undisputed number one in our list, with a whopping 30 g protein, 4 g fat and 157 kcal per 100 g of prepared product.

With a biological value of 79 (egg protein sets the standard with 100), it only has to tolerate egg protein and whole eggs of all natural products. Although whey protein scores even higher, it is a concentrated product.

Turkey is not much inferior to chicken in terms of biological value, but contains 8 g less protein per 100 g.


Tuna, and we are talking about the canned water version, contains almost 29 g of protein and only 1.1 g of fat per 100 g, making it relatively low in calories. The only reason tuna is not number one is because at 70 the biological value is lower than with chicken breast.

Of course, fatty fish is also not a bad choice, such as Atlantic salmon, herring, mackerel or sardines. But as the term suggests, it contains significantly more fat – in salmon, for example, 13.5 g/100 g. For that reason, something to eat in moderation during the cut.


Of all dairy sources, low-fat cottage cheese ranks first, ahead of, for example, low-fat yogurt and milk.

Low-fat cottage cheese contains 15 g of protein per 100 g, which means you only get 80 kcal. Compare that with the 157 kcal of our number one, and you see that cottage cheese provides you with about as much protein per calorie as chicken breast. Add to this the high biological value of milk, the starting product of quark, and you understand why low-fat quark is our number three.


Tenderloin is the leanest pork chop you can get, containing no less than 28g of protein per product prepared. Despite the 11 g of fat per 100 g of prepared product, it provides slightly fewer calories than a chicken breast.


You may not have thought that steak would score lower than the pork piece before. But the 23.8 g of protein per 100 g of prepared product is more than four less than a fillet chop provides you, although it is more than twice as fat. If you want to flip the numbers four and five off our list, we’ll get it.

6. EGG

You might have expected egg protein to be one, because with a biological value of 100 they are the reference point for other foods. By the way, the biological value of a whole egg including yolk is 96. Despite the high biological value, eggs do not contain as much protein as you might expect. A whole (large) egg (~60 g) provides ‘only’ 8 g of protein, about half of which is in the yolk. Meanwhile, with a whole egg you get about 75 kcal and 5 g of fat.

Still, we think that you can also tap an egg in the cut. One or two a day or so. The yolk contains valuable nutrients and may even have an anabolic effect. So don’t throw the yolk away, because then you miss the most important thing.


We can already see you thinking: why not legumes like lentils, seeds like almonds, or nuts on your list?

Don’t get us wrong, they are great plant-based sources of protein, but they don’t provide a complete amino acid profile and are relatively low in protein. Lentils, for example, only 10 g per 100 g of prepared product. Almonds are almost 20 g per 100 g, but with that you would also get no less than 52 g of fat. And because of the high fat content, nuts are also high in calories. There are good arguments for including legumes, seeds and nuts in your diet, but it is better to be a bit cautious with them in the cut.

Furthermore, it is, of course, recommended to eat a lot of vegetables in the cut. In addition to valuable micronutrients, you also get vegetable proteins.

Of course you can also use (whey) protein powders in the cut. However, limit that to at most once a day around your workout. Although whey protein is one of the best proteins for muscle growth, such a powder does not provide other valuable nutrients and drinking a shake does not really give the satisfying feeling of regular food, while you are already allowed to eat so little.

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