18 Metabolism-Boosting Foods

Mix and match these protein-rich sources to score 20 to 30 g at each meal



How much protein do you need?

New research suggests that many of us may need more protein than we realize. The current RDA is 0.8 g of protein per kilogram of body weight, but several studies have found that 1 to 1.2 g may be more protective against age-related muscle loss.

Use this formula from Caroline Apovian, MD, to determine the minimum amount of protein you should eat daily to offset muscle loss—and protect your metabolism—while you lose weight.

Estimate your ideal weight. “If you’re a woman, start with 100 pounds for the first 5 feet in height, and add 5 pounds for every extra inch,” says Dr. Apovian. “For men, it’s 106 pounds for 5 feet in height, plus 6 pounds for every additional inch. However, if your ideal weight is less than 120 pounds, don’t eat less than 82 g of protein daily.”

Ideal Weight (in lb) ÷ 2.2 = Ideal Weight (in kg)

Ideal Weight (in kg) × 1.5 = Daily Protein Goal (in g)

Now that you know how much you need, check out these metabolism-boosting protein-packed foods.



Protein content: 2 g per half avocado

The protein in this fruit contains all 9 essential amino acids, plus heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

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Cheese and milk

Protein content: 6-7 g per oz; 9-10 g per 1 cup

Go for low-fat options—they generally contain more protein than fattier alternatives.

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Protein content: 15 g per 1/2 cup

Its nougatlike texture makes tempeh a smart stand-in for meat. Sauté, or crumble cooked tempeh over salads.



Protein content: 4 g per 1 cup (chopped)

This tasty veggie is a nutrient powerhouse. Enjoy it steamed or grilled, or toss chopped spears into salads.

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Protein content: 7-9 g per 1/2 cup (cooked)

Pair dried beans (think black beans, chickpeas, and lentils) with rice or quinoa for a complete-protein meal.


Greek-style yogurt

Protein content: 18 g per 6 oz

This thick and creamy treat packs nearly twice as much protein as other dairy sources; it’s great with fruit.


Tree Nuts

Protein content: 4-6 g per 2 Tbsp

A small handful of walnuts or almonds is great as a snack, mixed into yogurt or oatmeal, or on a salad.



Protein content: 8.5 g per 1/2 cup (shelled)

A single serving packs nearly every trace mineral your body needs, including iron, magnesium, and zinc.


Whey protein

Protein content: 24 g per 1 oz

Add a scoop to smoothies or water for a quick protein hit. Avoiding animal products? Try soy protein powder.



Protein content: 5 g per 1 cup (cooked)

Of all the leafy greens, spinach boasts the highest protein content. Try it sautéed with a bit of garlic.

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Protein content: 12 g per 3 oz

Made from soybeans, this low-cal, versatile protein will take on any flavor, from Asian to barbecue.


Fish and shellfish

Protein content: 28 g per 4 oz

Whether it’s salmon, halibut, or tuna, seafood is a great catch. Aim for 3 to 5 servings a week.



Protein content: 5-9 g per 1 cup (cooked)

These hearty, grain-like seeds (quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat) have more protein than traditional grains.



Protein content: 12 g per 2 eggs; 14 g per 4 egg whites

However you prepare them, eggs and egg whites are smart fuel for muscles.


Poultry and pork

Protein content: 28 g per 4 oz

Family favorites like skinless chicken and pork make it easy to score plenty of protein at each meal.


Hemp seeds

Protein content: 10 g per 2 Tbsp

Great for soups and salads, these seeds have 8 of the 9 essential amino acids that build muscle.


Cottage cheese

Protein content: 14 g per 1/2 cup

Eating a scoop doesn’t mean you’re on a diet–it means you’re muscle savvy. Try adding it to smoothies.



Protein content: 28 g per 4 oz

Look for the absolute leanest cuts, like round roast or top sirloin. Try bison for a leaner red-meat alternative.

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