AUTHORITY NUTRITION

How Much Protein in Chicken? Breast, Thigh and More

Written by Ryan Raman, MS, RD on November 23, 2017

Chicken is one of the most commonly consumed meats worldwide.

It is especially popular among fitness enthusiasts because it is a great source of protein.

High-protein foods can help you reach your health and fitness goals, such as building muscle, maintaining muscle and losing fat (1, 2).

However, chicken comes in a variety of cuts, including breasts, thighs, wings and drumsticks. Each cut contains a different amount of protein, fat and calories, so each works best for different purposes.

This article explores how much protein is in different cuts of chicken, including breasts, thighs, wings and drumsticks.

Baked Whole Chicken

Chicken breast is one of the most popular cuts of chicken.

A skinless, cooked chicken breast (172 grams) contains 54 grams of protein. This is equal to 31 grams of protein per 100 grams (3).

A chicken breast also has 284 calories, or 165 calories per 100 grams. 80% of the calories comes from protein, while 20% comes from fat (3).

Chicken breast is especially popular among bodybuilders and those who want to lose weight. Its high protein and low calorie contents mean you can eat more chicken without worrying about consuming too many calories.

Summary One chicken breast contains about 54 grams of protein, or 31 grams of protein per 100 grams. 80% of the calories from chicken breast comes from protein, while 20% comes from fat.

Chicken thigh is another popular cut of meat that is slightly cheaper than chicken breast.

One skinless, boneless, cooked chicken thigh (52 grams) contains 13.5 grams of protein. This is equal to 26 grams of protein per 100 grams (4).

Chicken thighs also have 109 calories per thigh, or 209 calories per 100 grams. 53% of the calories comes from protein, while 47% comes from fat (4).

Interestingly, chicken thighs have a slightly darker color than chicken breast. This is because the chicken's legs are more active and contain more myoglobin. This molecule helps provide active muscles with oxygen and also makes them redder (5).

Some people find that the darkness of chicken thighs gives them a more succulent taste.

Summary One chicken thigh contains 13.5 grams of protein, or 26 grams of protein per 100 grams. 53% of the calories in chicken thighs comes from protein, while 47% comes from fat.

The chicken leg has two parts — the thigh and the drumstick. The drumstick is the lower part of the chicken leg, also known as the calf.

One chicken drumstick without the skin or bones (44 grams) contains 12.4 grams of protein. This is equal to 28.3 grams of protein per 100 grams.

Chicken drumsticks also have 76 calories per drumstick, or 172 calories per 100 grams. 70% of the calories comes from protein, while 30% comes from fat (6).

Most people eat a drumstick with the skin on. A chicken drumstick with the skin on has 112 calories, with 53% of the calories coming from protein and 47% coming from fat (7).

Summary One chicken drumstick has 12.4 grams of protein, or 28.3 grams of protein per 100 grams. 70% of the calories from a chicken drumstick comes from protein, while 30% of the calories comes from fat.

Chicken wings consist of three parts — the drumette, the wingette and the wing tip. They are often consumed as snacks or bar food.

One chicken wing without the skin or bones (21 grams) has 6.4 grams of protein. This is equal to 30.5 grams of protein per 100 grams.

Chicken wings also have 42 calories per wing, or 203 calories per 100 grams. 64% of the calories comes from protein, while 36% comes from fat (8).

As with drumsticks, most people eat chicken wings with the skin on. A chicken wing with skin contains 99 calories, with 39% of the calories coming from protein and 61% from fat (9).

Summary One chicken wing contains 6.4 grams of protein, or 30.5 grams of protein per 100 grams. 64% of the calories from chicken wings comes from protein, while 46% comes from fat.

The cut of chicken you should eat depends on your health and fitness goals.

While all cuts of chicken are great sources of protein, some are leaner. The extra fat in the thigh, drumstick and wings can benefit some goals but hinder others.

If you’re trying to lose weight, then chicken breast is the best cut for you. It is the leanest part of the chicken, which means it has the fewest calories but the most protein.

For example, chicken breast is ideal for bodybuilders on a cut, since it has the fewest calories. Watching calories is especially important for bodybuilders participating in contests, given that this is when they need to have low body fat.

However, people who are following low-carb or keto diets may benefit from eating fattier cuts of chicken, as they need more fat in their diets.

If your goal is to build muscle or gain weight, you will need to eat more calories than your body burns daily. People who fall into this group can benefit from eating fattier cuts of chicken, since they contain more calories.

Lastly, people who want to maintain their muscle mass or improve recovery may benefit from eating the breast. It contains the most protein by weight, which is the most important factor for them when it comes to choosing which cut of chicken to eat.

Summary If you want to lose weight, maintain muscle mass or improve recovery, chicken breast is ideal. It is lean and has the most protein by weight. Fattier cuts may be beneficial for those on low-carb or keto diets, as well as those trying to gain weight or build muscle.

Chicken is a popular meat and great source of protein.

Below are the protein contents of different cuts of cooked, boneless and skinless chicken:

  • Chicken breast: 54 grams in one breast, or 31 grams per 100 grams
  • Chicken thigh: 13.5 grams in one thigh, or 26 grams per 100 grams
  • Chicken drumstick: 12.4 grams in one drumstick, or 28.3 grams per 100 grams
  • Chicken wings: 6.4 grams in one wing, or 30.5 grams per 100 grams

The chicken breast is lean and has the most protein by weight, making it ideal for people who want to lose weight, maintain muscle mass and improve recovery.

Fattier cuts like the thigh, drumstick and wings have more calories, which make them better for people wanting to build muscle or gain weight.

People on low-carb or keto diets also need to eat more fat and may benefit from eating these cuts too.

Overall, chicken is a great addition to your diet. The cut of chicken you choose should suit your personal health and fitness goals.

An evidence-based nutrition article from our experts at Authority Nutrition.

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