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Whether you want to build muscle or burn fat, consuming enough protein is vital to your success. That’s why protein powders are such popular supplements, and many exercisers drink protein shakes before or after training.

The amount of protein you need depends on your goals, activity levels, and body weight, but it’s safe to say most exercisers need more than the RDA (recommended daily amount) of 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight (1).

That’s because intense exercise causes the catabolic breakdown of muscle tissue. To not just repair your muscles but also ensure they grow back bigger and stronger, most exercisers need closer to two grams of protein per kilo of body weight, or about one gram per pound.

Protein also plays an important role in fat burning and weight loss. It has a high thermic effect, which means it provides a small but valuable boost in metabolic rate, leading to an increase in total daily energy expenditure. It’s also very filling (satiating).

You can determine your protein requirements more accurately by using our online protein calculator.

There are lots of foods you can eat to get the protein you need, both animal and plant-based. Some of the best high-protein foods are listed here.

Two of the most popular protein foods are chicken and turkey. While both of these foods come from the same nutritional group – poultry – they are different enough that one may be more beneficial than the other.

In this article, we compare turkey against chicken so you can choose the best one for your health and training goals.

Turkey vs. Chicken – Calories

Raw Chicken Meat

If you want to manage your weight, calories matter. To gain weight, you need a calorie surplus. But, if you’re going to lose weight, you need a calorie deficit. Getting to grips with your caloric intake invariably means analyzing and tracking your food intake, but this step is necessary if you want to make the best possible progress.

Turkey and chicken contain differing amounts of calories, so you may want to choose one or the other depending on your body composition goals. In general, for the same cut of meat, turkey is usually lower in calories than chicken (2).

Calories in Chicken and Turkey

Calorie values for raw and cooked cuts of chicken and turkey
Item Calories
Whole chicken with skin, raw 171
Whole chicken with skin, roasted 200
Whole chicken skinless, raw 110
Whole chicken skinless, roasted 160
Chicken, wing skinless, raw 193
Chicken, wing with skin, raw 196
Chicken, wing with skin, roasted 283
Chicken, drumstick with skin, raw 125
Chicken, drumstick with skin, roasted 201
Chicken, drumstick skinless, raw 107
Chicken, drumstick skinless, roasted 175
Chicken breast, raw 100
Chicken breast, roasted 129
Whole turkey with skin, raw 135
Whole turkey skinless, raw 109
Turkey rump, raw 107
Turkey rump, roasted 131
Turkey drumstick with skin, raw 126
Turkey drumstick with skin, roasted 191
Turkey drumstick skinless, raw 113
Turkey drumstick skinless, roasted 190

So, if weight loss is your goal, turkey is arguably your best choice. However, the number of calories in the meat depends on the cut and cooking method used.

Turkey vs. Chicken – Fat

Cooked Turkey

The main reason that turkey and chicken contain differing amounts of calories is their fat content. Turkey, which is often viewed as a drier meat, typically has less fat than a similar cut of chicken (2).

Fat values for raw and cooked cuts of chicken and turkey
Items Total Sat Mono Poly Chol (mg)
Whole chicken with skin, raw 10.6 3.27 4.12 2.29 93
Whole chicken with skin, roasted 10.2 3.04 2.91 2.66 119
Whole chicken skinless, raw 3.6 1.23 1.08 0.81 75
Whole chicken skinless, roasted 5.4 1.72 1.38 1.51 109
Chicken, wing skinless, raw 12.4 4.24 3.72 2.79 89
Chicken, wing with skin, raw 14.3 4.41 5.56 3.09 82
Chicken, wing with skin, roasted 17.4 5.46 6.45 3.84 91
Chicken, drumstick with skin, raw 5.7 1.61 1.61 1.58 94
Chicken, drumstick with skin, roasted 8.5 2.53 2.43 2.22 91
Chicken, drumstick skinless, raw 3.7 1.08 1.06 0.98 88
Chicken, drumstick skinless, roasted 6.2 1.98 1.58 1.73 109
Chicken breast, raw 0.8 0.25 0.19 0.23 60
Chicken breast, roasted 0.9 0.29 0.23 0.25 75
Whole turkey with skin, raw 6.9 2.22 1.66 2.96 195
Whole turkey skinless, raw 2.4 0.90 0.62 0.60 63
Turkey rump, raw 1.2 0.38 0.31 0.34 50
Turkey rump, roasted 1.4 0.43 0.37 0.38 62
Turkey drumstick with skin, raw 6.0 1.91 1.81 1.70 73
Turkey drumstick with skin, roasted 9.3 2.80 2.67 2.71 110
Turkey drumstick skinless, raw 4.6 1.72 1.18 1.15 67
Turkey drumstick skinless, roasted 8.7 2.84 2.41 2.48 107

Sat = saturated fat

Mono = monounsaturated fat

Poly = polyunsaturated fat

Chol = cholesterol

So, if you want to consume less fat, either for weight loss or health purposes, turkey is usually the best option. However, there are also differences between the various cuts, and removing the skin also lowers the fat content.

How you cook your poultry can also affect how much fat is in it, i.e., grilling or steaming vs. frying. That said, both turkey and chicken are generally lower in fat than most types of red meat. i.e., beef, pork, and lamb. This makes them both good choices for weight loss and health.

Turkey vs. Chicken – Protein

Baked Chicken

Turkey and chicken are good sources of complete protein. A complete protein contains all nine of the essential amino acids. When supplied with the essential amino acids, your body can synthesis the remaining 11 non-essential amino acids.

Your body uses the amino acids in protein like a builder uses bricks. They are the raw material for muscle repair and growth. Broadly speaking, turkey contains a little more protein than chicken, but the actual protein content depends on the cut of meat in question.

Protein values for raw and cooked cuts of chicken and turkey
Items Protein (g)
Whole chicken with skin, raw 19.0
Whole chicken with skin, roasted 27.1
Whole chicken skinless, raw 19.4
Whole chicken skinless, roasted 27.9
Chicken, wing skinless, raw 20.3
Chicken, wing with skin, raw 16.7
Chicken, wing with skin, roasted 31.7
Chicken, drumstick with skin, raw 18.4
Chicken, drumstick with skin, roasted 31.2
Chicken, drumstick skinless, raw 18.5
Chicken, drumstick skinless, roasted 29.9
Chicken breast, raw 23.3
Chicken breast, roasted 30.2
Whole turkey with skin, raw 18.2
Whole turkey skinless, raw 21.9
Turkey rump, raw 24.0
Turkey rump, roasted 29.6
Turkey drumstick with skin, raw 17.9
Turkey drumstick with skin, roasted 26.7
Turkey drumstick skinless, raw 18.0
Turkey drumstick skinless, roasted 28.0

Turkey could be a slightly better choice for bodybuilding purposes than chicken because it contains more protein per gram. However, the differences in protein content are actually pretty small, and most people should be able to consume enough protein whether they eat chicken or turkey.

Turkey vs. Chicken – Vitamins and Minerals

Despite differing values in calories, protein, and fat, there is very little variation in vitamin and mineral content between turkey and chicken. However, there are some nutrient differences between white and dark meat.

In general, light breast meat contains more niacin and vitamin B6 than darker leg meat, while chicken leg meat contains significantly more zinc than breast meat (2).

So, if you’re looking to increase your zinc intake, dark meat may be a better option. In contrast, you want to consume more vitamin B, white meat could be preferable.

That said, when it comes to most vitamins and minerals, the best sources are invariably plant-based food. Vegetables, fruits, and grains are usually much more vitamin and mineral-rich than most types of meat. Eating a wide variety of foods is generally the best way to get all the nutrients you need.

Wrapping Up

In the battle between turkey vs. chicken, there is no undisputable winner. Both types of poultry are nutritionally similar, can be healthy, and help you reach your fitness goals.

Turkey is usually a little higher in protein and lower in fat and calories than chicken, but the differences are quite minor. Despite this, if you are trying to lose weight, these small advantages may be worth considering.

That said, there are nutritional differences between cuts and cooking methods that you should also consider. You could easily turn your low-calorie turkey into a cause of weight gain by frying it and adding a whole lot of extra fat. In contrast, removing the skin from turkey or chicken makes it lower in fat and calories.

Ultimately, most people can benefit from eating turkey AND chicken. Eating both will add variety to your diet and help you get a broader range of nutrients. It’s rarely a good idea to limit your intake to just a couple of foods, as doing so could leave you deficient in certain nutrients, and your meals will soon become boring.

References:

1 – Harvard Medical School: How Much Protein Do You Need Every Day? https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/how-much-protein-do-you-need-every-day-201506188096

2 – PubMed: Role of Poultry Meat in A Balanced Diet Aimed at Maintaining Health and Wellbeing https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4462824/

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