6 High-Protein Soups That Can Help You Build Muscle
Depending on who you are, the idea of having soup for dinner can conjure up images of slurping away on salty brine, then enduring hunger pangs hours later when it wasn’t enough to satisfy. But soup doesn’t have to be just watery or milky broth with a few limp vegetables. Instead, it can be packed with flavor, texture, and nutrients — including protein. Protein helps to curb hunger, build muscle, and even ward off diabetes and heart disease. If you’re looking to make gains at the gym, there’s no better aid than a protein-heavy diet.
As we enter winter, soup might become a standby to warm you up and ward off the doldrums. If you choose the right recipes, those soups can also help you build muscle at the gym and fill you up, thanks to the copious amounts of protein in them. Eating a bowl of soup before your main meal can also help you lose weight. “Soups and stews are incredibly filling because of their very high water content,” dietician Dawn Jackson Blatner, a FITNESS advisory board member, told Fitness. “That means you get full on fewer calories than if you eat something like, say, a casserole, which has much less water in it.”
How much protein do you actually need? The typical man needs about 56 grams of protein per day, but those who work out regularly (three to five times per week), need more — at least 80 grams per day, depending on how strenuous the workouts are. For women, protein intake should fall between 46 grams and 71 grams per day. It can be a daunting task to take in that amount of protein, but these soups will start you on your way.
Another added bonus of soup is its flexibility at meal time. Some of these recipes can simmer in a slow cooker while you’re at work, while others you can make over the weekend and reheat whenever you need a protein boost throughout the week. Regardless of your palate and work schedule, there’s bound to be a recipe that will be a perfect addition to your cooking repertoire.
1. Muscle-Building Chili
You know if a recipe has “muscle-building” in its name, it’s guaranteed to be heavy on protein and light on fat. Plus, this recipe makes 10 servings, meaning it’s great for a group or for leftovers you can freeze. According to Bodybuilding.com, the site that recommended the recipe, the barley can be omitted if you don’t prefer it.
A serving of this hearty chili contains an astounding 40.5 grams of protein — almost your entire required intake for a sedentary lifestyle, and half of what’s required if you work out often. It only contains 6.8 grams of fat and 420 calories, making it a great dinner option.
- 2 pounds chicken breast
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 green bell peppers
- 2 red bell pepper
- 1 cup mushrooms
- 1 onion
- ½ cup frozen corn kernels
- 30 ounces light kidney beans
- 30 ounces dark red kidney beans
- 15 ounces pinto beans
- 2 cups barley
- 30 ounces canned tomatoes
- 15 ounces tomato sauce
- 3 cups water
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 1 garlic clove
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 cup Worcestershire sauce
Directions: Begin by spraying a large pot with non-stick cooking spray. Next, add olive oil and minced garlic over medium heat; bring to a boil. Add peppers, onions, and mushrooms, and stir until lightly tender. Then, add chicken, beans, corn, tomatoes, tomato sauce, and water; bring to a boil. Finally, if you choose, stir in barley and spices, and cook for 25 minutes on low heat. Sprinkle with low-fat cheddar cheese to top it off.
2. Crockpot Tortilla Soup
There’s literally nothing easier than sticking soup ingredients into a slow cooker, turning the dial, and allowing the flavors to blend while you’re at work. If you’re worried about your sodium intake, choosing low-sodium broth and canned beans will help with that. The only preparation you’ll need is to cook the chicken before tossing it in the slow cooker with the other ingredients. You could also purchase a rotisserie chicken and shred the pre-cooked meat, but you’ll have to take the skin off if you want to retain the same levels of health.
This soup is incredibly low in fat (only 2 grams per serving), but contains 17 grams of protein. It was submitted by dietitian Angie Asche to Men’s Fitness.
- 1 pound boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, shredded
- 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1 (4-ounce) can chopped green chiles, drained
- 1 cup frozen corn, thawed, or 1 cup quinoa, cooked
- 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 white onion, diced
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- 1 jalapeño pepper, diced and deseeded (keep seeds for more heat)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
- 1½ teaspoons chili powder
- ¼ teaspoons salt
- ¼ teaspoons black pepper
- Additional optional toppings: Avocado, Mexican cheese, tortilla strips
Directions: Place chicken breasts in a saucepan with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Flip chicken breasts, and add enough water to cover them. Simmer for another 7 to 10 minutes, until chicken is fully cooked. Remove chicken from pan, and place on plate or cutting board. Once cooled, use two forks to shred the chicken breasts.
Place shredded chicken and all other ingredients together in Crock-Pot. Cook on high for 3 to 4 hours or low for 7 to 8 hours, stirring occasionally. To make fresh tortilla strips, slice corn tortillas into thin strips. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place on baking sheet sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle ground paprika on top, and bake until crispy. Let cool, and place on top of soup with a pinch of Mexican cheese and a few slices of fresh avocado if desired.
3. Chicken Noodle Soup with Dill
It’s a classic soup for snow days and sick days, but who knew chicken noodle soup actually packed quite a protein punch? This recipe uses whole-wheat egg noodles, which increases the fiber. Again, using broth with reduced sodium will make the recipe a healthier alternative to the cans you’d otherwise buy in the store, and the combination of fresh ingredients will trump the taste every time. As with the tortilla soup, using a rotisserie chicken is a shortcut if you don’t want to cook your own chicken ahead of time.
Per serving, this soup contains just 4 grams of fat and 267 calories, but a whopping 38 grams of protein. It also contains 104% of your daily required vitamin A, which helps your vision and boosts your immune system, among other things. Plus, aside from some minimal chopping, this recipe really only contains two steps. You’ll be feeling all warm and cozy in no time.
- 10 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 3 medium carrots, diced
- 1 large stalk celery, diced
- 3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 ounces whole-wheat egg noodles
- 4 cups shredded cooked skinless chicken breast (about 1 pound)
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice, or to taste
Directions: Bring broth to a boil in a Dutch oven. Add carrots, celery, ginger, and garlic; cook, uncovered, over medium heat until vegetables are just tender, about 20 minutes. Add noodles and chicken; simmer until the noodles are just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in dill and lemon juice.
4. Salmon Chowder
According to Muscle & Fitness, adults eat only 3.5 ounces of seafood each week, far from the 8 ounces the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends. By using salmon in a chowder recipe you’ll boost your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, which can help soothe inflamed muscles and joints.
This soup contains more fat than others on our list (about 9 grams per serving), but by using milk instead of heavy cream you’re getting a healthier option than you would in a restaurant or a can. The chowder contains 226 calories per serving, along with 9 grams of fiber and 12 grams of protein.
- 2 tablespoons trans-fat-free tub margarine
- ¼ cup diced celery
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 medium red bliss potatoes, skin on, diced
- 1 cup 2% reduced-fat evaporated milk
- 6 ounces cooked skinless, boneless salmon or canned salmon
- 1 tablespoon dried dillweed
- Salt and pepper, to taste
Directions: Melt margarine in a medium saucepan. Sauté celery, onion, and garlic until softened. Add potatoes and milk. Cover and simmer on low, stirring every few minutes or so, until potatoes are tender. Add salmon and parsley, and stir. Serve warm.
Makes: 6 servings
5. Chunky Beef Stew
Nothing says winter and protein like a beef stew, which makes it a seasonal favorite. By adding vegetables and a low-sodium broth, you can double down on nutrients and protein.
This recipe from Fitness has just 240 calories, but packs 20 grams of protein. Despite being made with red meat, it has just 3 grams of fat.
- Nonstick cooking spray
- ¾ pound boneless beef sirloin steak, cut into 1-inch cubes
- ¾ pound tiny new potatoes, halved
- 1 package (9 ounces) frozen cut green beans (2 cups)
- 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 onion, cut into thin wedges
- 1 can (14 ounces) low-sodium beef broth
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1½ teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
- ¾ teaspoon black pepper
- 3 cans (8 ounces each) no-salt-added tomato sauce
Directions: Over medium-high heat, lightly coat a 4-quart pot with cooking spray; add beef. Cook 4 to 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove beef from pot using a slotted spoon, and set aside. Add potatoes, green beans, carrots, onion, broth, Worcestershire sauce, Italian seasoning, and pepper to the pot. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, about 15 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Add tomato sauce to pot. Return to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Add beef; heat thoroughly and serve.
6. Lamb and Chickpea Chili
The great thing about chili is that no matter how you make it, it’s bound to be a protein powerhouse. There are plenty of options that use beef or chicken (like the one we listed first), but other unique options exist, if you decide to get creative.
You can make this recipe as directed from Eating Well, though you can also substitute harissa with mild chili pepper or turn up the heat by adding a little cayenne pepper or hot sauce. Eating Well suggests serving with tabbouleh and whole-wheat pita bread, to complete the North African influences.
At 328 calories, this soup has a few more than most on our list. However, it also has 8 grams of fiber and 26 grams of protein, making it a must-try if you’d like to expand your soup palate.
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 large red bell pepper, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 8 ounces ground lamb
- 8 ounces 93%-lean ground turkey
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 4 plum tomatoes, chopped
- 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, rinsed
- 2 tablespoons harissa (see note above) or 1 tablespoon chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or mint
Directions: Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, bell pepper, and garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Add lamb, turkey, and salt, and cook, stirring and breaking up with a spoon, until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Add tomatoes, and cook, stirring occasionally, until they have released their liquid and are beginning to break down, about 4 minutes more. Add chickpeas, harissa (or chili powder), and cinnamon, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Serve garnished with cilantro.