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Combining the right muscle building foods with any physical training is critical to achieving your fitness goals.
You can spend as many hours and lift as much weight as you want, but you will fall short of your muscle-building goals if you pay little or no attention to your nutrition.
Gaining mass requires nourishing your body with the right muscle building foods to help supply you with the nutrients and energy to help you go through strenuous activities and also help you and your muscles to recover and rebuild quickly after your workout.
If one of your fitness goals is to build lean muscles, then any muscle building foods you include in your diet should contain high levels of protein.
You will also need some carbohydrates and fats. These will supply the calories or energy you require.
Thus, high protein foods, carbohydrates, and fats should form an essential part of your diet.
Best Muscle Building Foods to Consider for Your Diet
What foods are good for building muscle? Below are some of the top muscle building foods to consider for your diet. Consider including them in any nutrition plan to help you achieve your fitness goals.
Beans are some of the best muscle building foods to include in your diet. They are also a good source of plant-based protein.
Quite a few popular varieties of beans are available, including black and kidney beans.
100g of kidney beans contain 8.67g of protein per 100g. Kidney beans are a good source of energy as well. (1)
Aside from being high in carbohydrates, they are good sources of fiber which play a vital role in keeping the guts healthy.
The body depends on a healthy gut to help absorb minerals and nutrients – essential for building lean muscle.
Kidney beans contain various vitamins, including magnesium, iron, phosphorus, and vitamin B.
Almonds contain 21g of protein per 100g and reasonable quantities of magnesium and phosphorus. (2)
Aside from helping the body make ATP, a molecule for storing energy, phosphorus helps the body use carbohydrates and fats for energy during and after exercise. (3)
Almonds contain several vitamins, including magnesium and vitamin E.
Vitamin E is essential for the repair of the cellular damage that occurs during exercise (4)
While almonds are good muscle building foods worth including in your diet, they contain high-calorie levels. Thus it is better to consume them in moderation.
Beets are a good source of minerals and vitamins, including vitamin C and nitrate.
Studies show that eating vegetables with high levels of nitrate can help boost health and athletic performance. (5)
Beetroot is one of the well-known ergogenic supplements for athletes due to its ability to improve cardiovascular fitness. It should be part of your high protein foods for muscle building. (6).
Making beets part of your muscle building foods and regularly consuming them can help you train intensely. It can also help your workout for longer.
Including muscle building foods that contain leucine can give you many benefits.
Eggs are also good sources of B vitamins, which can help the body produce energy, among other functions.
Whole eggs are some of the best foods for building muscle and should be integral to your nutrition. Including them in your diet can help you build muscles quickly and help them recover.
Salmon is one of the best muscle building high protein foods with high levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. (11)
Given its high Omega 3 content, which contains leucine, including salmon in your diet can help you build muscles quickly and help them recover.
Aside from the high levels of protein, salmon contains B vitamins and other vital minerals and vitamins which can support heart and bone health, which are necessary for muscle building.
You can opt for fish oil supplements instead to enjoy the many benefits of Omega 3 if you are not a fan of eating fish.
Chicken breasts are one of the most popular muscle building foods and are a staple for gaining mass.
They come packed with high quality protein and are a good source of vital minerals and vitamins, including B vitamins niacin and B6, and low levels of saturated fat. (12)
Vitamin B6 is vital for the healthy development of your brain and can help keep your nervous and immune systems healthy. (13)
Chicken breast is also a good source of selenium which can protect your cells from radical damage from your physical training.
You can go for rotisserie chicken, available in most supermarkets, as part of your emergency muscle building foods. That will give you instant access to some delicious high quality protein.
Lean beef can help fuel your muscle-building efforts if eaten in moderation.
Lean beef is a good source of protein, required to support your effort to build mass.
It is also a good source of zinc which helps with testosterone production. It can also help the body to recover quickly after your workout.
You also get other vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins and creatine (14)
Beef is some of the best sources of amino acids, which can give you many health benefits and supply your body with leucine which can help your muscles to build and recover quickly after exercise.
Choose lean meat or grass-fed beef to help reduce the intake of fats and cholesterol.
Studies show weight training athletes who eat lean red meat can gain lean muscle mass (15), making it some of the best muscle building foods if chosen with care.
Bison has 2-3 grams of fat per 3.5-ounce serving, which is much higher than the fat content in beef (8-9 grams per 3.5-ounce serving), making it a leaner alternative to consider as part of your muscle building foods.
Some research indicates bison can be much friendlier to your heart than beef, making it one of the best muscle building foods for athletes who worry about the effect of red meat on their heart health (18).
Lean Pork/Pork Tenderloin
Pork tenderloin is lean and a good source of protein, thus worth considering as part of your muscle building.
A serving of the meat will give you about a third of your vitamin B2 requirements for the day. Your body uses vitamin B2 to break down proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.
Some research point to the fact that pork can give you benefits similar to those in other muscle building foods such as chicken and beef (19).
Like chicken, turkey breast is one of the leanest animal meat to include in your muscle building foods.
It is also a good source of zinc, which your body uses for protein synthesis and for maintaining acceptable testosterone levels.
Soybean, a legume, is available in various forms, including roasted soybeans, tempeh, tofu, edamame, and tempeh.
Soybeans are a good source of protein and healthy unsaturated fats. They also contain various minerals and vitamins, including iron, vitamin K, and phosphorus (14).
One of the main components of hemoglobin is iron.
Hemoglobin is a protein in the red blood cells that move oxygen through your blood and muscles, and iron deficiency can seriously reduce your ability to exercise and workouts.
Soybeans are one of the best muscle building foods containing all the essential amino acids and are worth a place in your diet.
Though cooked rice has only 6g of protein per 202 grams, its high carbohydrate content makes it a worthy part of your muscle building foods.
Your body uses the glucose in the carbohydrates to help supply you with the fuel for your physical training (15).
Eating high-carb foods as part of your pre-workout meals will make it possible to exercise harder, allowing you to build more muscles.
Brown rice is also a good source of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA), which are proven to help with muscle growth (16)
Research shows that taking rice protein supplements during your weight training regimen can help you gain as much muscle as whey protein (17).
Like legumes, brown rice is suitable for all athletes, including vegetarians. It is worth having as one of the best foods for building muscles.
Greek yogurt is a good source of high-quality protein.
Research shows athletes who consume a mixture of slow-digesting and fast-digesting proteins can achieve more lean muscle growth (18). Greek yogurt contains a mix of slow-digesting casein protein and fast-digesting whey protein.
Include greek yogurt in your post-workout diet.
It is worth regulating your Greek yogurt intake as it tends to be high in sugar.
Cottage cheese, a milk product, is high in protein and low in fat, carbohydrates, sugar, and calories.
It contains various nutrients, including vitamin B12, phosphorus, riboflavin, and calcium. (21)
Calcium is essential for healthy bones, helping you to lift weights, partake in sports and other physical activities and exercise better.
Cottage cheese is an excellent source of slow-digesting protein casein. Eating foods containing casein can cause the amino acid levels in your blood to rise slowly and stay at that high level for a considerable period compared to taking whey dairy protein.
Cottage cheese also contains good bacteria, aka live cultures. Live cultures help to break down and take in all the nutrients you need to help you grow stronger.
Cottage cheese is one of the best low-calorie muscle building foods for your workout diet.
Fermented Milk Beverage
Fermented milk beverages, such as kefir, are similar to yogurt in terms of properties and health benefits and should be one of the great contenders for your muscle building foods.
While kefir looks like milk, it can give you many more benefits than regular milk or water.
Adding one cup of kefir to your shakes can give you extra 150 calories. And the meal will digest better due to the presence of probiotics.
Aside from the high-calorie content, kafir contains protein, carbohydrates, fat, and various minerals and vitamins, including calcium. (22).
Fermented milk beverages are some of the best foods for building muscle mass. Making them part of your regular diet can help you build a healthy immune system.
Buckwheat, sometimes called kasha or groats, is a seed ground into flour.
It is gluten-free flour for baking and a grain alternative for breakfast.
Buckwheat is a good source of protein and has reasonable levels of carbohydrates, insoluble fiber, minerals, and vitamins, including copper, manganese, and zinc (23).
It also contains B vitamins and niacin, including vitamin B6, needed by the body to process amino acids from food.
Buckwheat is a plant-based complete protein and can be part of your muscle building foods to help you stay healthy and build more mass.
Protein Powder/Protein Shake
Protein supplements can play a vital role in your effort to build lean muscle.
Drinking shakes with protein and carbohydrates before your workout can improve your performance and optimize muscle growth.
Protein and carbohydrate shakes can stop your muscles from breaking down quickly, help replenish your energy stores, push more blood to your muscles, and help your body process and use carbohydrates much better.
It is vital to replenish your protein and carbohydrate levels after your workout, just as it is necessary to give your body enough energy and nutrients to help you go through your exercises.
In other words, any effective muscle building program should have some means of helping your muscles recover quickly after your workout. Including protein and carbohydrate recovery shakes in your muscle building foods can help you do that.
Protein shakes, such as whey and casein, can help you make up for shortfalls in your daily protein requirements.
Seafood, such as shrimp and lobsters, contain reasonable amounts of protein, various minerals and vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, and amino acids.
Seafood is fat-free food with lean protein and is worth considering as part of your foods to eat when building muscle.
Tilapia has reasonable volumes of omega-3 fatty acids, though not as much as you will get from salmon. But they are worth considering as they are rich in protein and can be a good meat substitute.
Aside from protein, you also get various minerals and vitamins, including vitamin B12 and selenium, which are vital for your performance when exercising and muscle growth (24).
Quinoa, a protein-rich seed, is a good source of vegetable protein with nutrients and carbohydrates to support your muscle-building efforts.
Quinoa has high amounts of vital vitamins and minerals, including iron, magnesium, and vitamin B6, which are all essential for your body to build muscle mass (25).
Almond butter is an excellent source of protein and healthy fats. It also contains vitamins E and B2, magnesium, calcium, and potassium (26).
Compared to peanut butter, the protein-to-fat ratio of almond butter is much better. Also, almond contains more fiber and monosaturated fat. And it has less saturated fat than peanut butter. Thus it is worth considering as part of your plant-based muscle building foods.
Regular eating of almond butter help give you strong bones, help your muscles and nerves to function better, and help improve your cardiovascular health.
Final words from LiveLIfe
Getting the most out of your workouts requires combining exercises with the correct nutrition. That implies eating muscle building foods that can nourish and fuel your body as and when needed.
The muscle building foods you include in your diet should contain the proteins and carbohydrates that can help you go through your workouts and help your muscles to recover and rebuild quickly after your workouts to help you achieve your goals.
Above are some of the best foods for building muscle mass. Including them in your diet can help you meet your fitness and strength-building objectives.
- Ralf Jäger, Chad M. Kerksick, Bill I. Campbell, et al. 2017. International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise. PMCID: PMC5477153. PMID: 28642676. doi: 10.1186/s12970-017-0177-8. J. of the Int. Soc.of Sports Nutrition
- Jake Depp. 2018. Five things preventing you from building muscle. Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center