Seitan vs Chicken (Plant vs Animal): Which is Better for Athletes?


Ever since I started playing sports, every nutrition article on training that had anything to do with protein said one thing – eat chicken, it’s the best source of lean protein.

But when I went vegan, I needed an alternative.

Vegan bodybuilders have long been using seitan as an almost one-to-one replacement for chicken.

So, let’s compare them side-by-side and see how they compare.

Macro Comparison of Seitan and Chicken

It’s hard to compare these two protein sources directly.

For chicken, there are multiple types you can buy. For the sake of this post, I’m going to look at the nutritional information for chicken breast, which is the most commonly recommended type in nutrition articles.

Seitan is a name for any recipe that is mostly made with vital wheat gluten. So, different seitan will have different macros and nutritional value. But I have to pick one for this comparison, so I picked the simplest seitan recipe that I make on a regular basis.

After plugging in that recipe on MyFitnessPal, here’s a quick comparison of the macros per 100 calories of each food (can’t see data per 100 grams on MyFitnessPal).

  Chicken Breast Seitan
Fat (g) 4 3.3
Carbohydrates (g) 0 5.6
Protein (g) 15.1 12.4
% calories from protein 60.5% 49.7%

If you’re trying to build muscle, they’re obviously both great sources of lean protein, although chicken has the higher protein content.

In addition, seitan recipes will have some carbohydrates, which you may be looking to limit on a cut.

Personally as a vegan, of course I’d love for everyone to pick seitan, but if you’re an omnivore looking to optimize your macros, chicken win here.

Nutritional Profiles of Seitan and Chicken Breast

Both chicken breast and seitan aren’t great for additional nutrients.

They both have a small amount of calcium and iron, and that’s about it.

  Chicken Breast Seitan
Calories 100 100
Nutrient % of RDA % of RDA
Niacin 32 N/A
Vitamin B6 14 N/A
Calcium .5 3
Iron 3 6
Selenium 18 N/A

Chicken also has a good amount of niacin and vitamin B6, but it’s not like those are particularly important or hard to get vitamins.

The 30 Best Vegan Niacin Food Sources

Which Protein Source is Better for Building Muscle?

So where does that leave us?

While both seitan and chicken breast have some nutritional value, the main reason that you’d want to eat either is the protein.

For vegetarians and vegans, seitan isn’t quite as good as chicken for protein, but it’s still a fantastic source of it.

For omnivores, take your pick, or incorporate both into your diet, you can’t really go wrong. You might also want to take a look at this lentils vs meat comparison that I made, or more specifically, chickpeas vs chicken.

About the author

Dale C.

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance writer. Trying to do my small part in making the world better by writing about the wonderful world of veganism.

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