Knowing the fundamentals behind building lean muscle is essential to see results, whether you’re beginner, intermediate, or advanced in bodybuilding. Most people believe that exercise is the utmost priority, but the fact is, it is not. To achieve the physique you desire, balancing exercise and your nutrition is the key.
A popular rule of thumb (though not scientifically proven) in muscle-building is 80 percent diet and 20 percent exercise, simply implying that intaking proper calories from your nutrition are critical. With that being said, we listed down the 25 best foods you can consider to achieve muscle growth. So, take notes and follow along.
1. Whole Eggs
Simple and easy to prepare. Eggs packs in health-friendly fats, protein, choline, and vitamin b (for cell health). Amino acids are the fundamental building blocks of muscle. Eggs are loaded with high levels of the amino acid leucine to promote muscle recovery and muscle growth after your exercises.
Salmons make an excellent choice for muscle growth. For every 85 gram serving, salmon has about 20 grams of protein and is stacked with about 2 grams of omega-3 fatty acids and essential B vitamins. Omega-3 fatty acids are the highlight in salmon. They increase insulin sensitivity, reducing the amount of insulin flowing in your blood. Insulin is known to boost fat storage, which may be doing you a good favor.
3. Chicken breast
Chicken breasts are the go-to default protein source for anyone looking to grow muscle. Chicken breasts are essential as they are packed with about 26 grams of protein, B vitamins B6 and niacin, per 85 grams of serving. Vitamins are just as vital as vitamins when achieving proper muscle gain. They promote healthy body function during those bench presses or any other exercise.
A close second to salmon. Tunas packs 20 grams of protein and essential vitamins, including vitamin A and B, vitamins B6 and B12. Like salmons, tunas also have high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids to maintain muscle mass and strength. It is essential that you pair tuna with a side dish such as potatoes or brown rice to avoid mercury poisoning.
5. Lean Beef
As the name suggests, lean beef is an excellent source of lean protein may it be a sirloin or tenderloin steak. In general, beef contains about 25 grams of protein, B vitamins, minerals such as zinc and creatine. Lean beef is known to pack high amounts of zinc that boost testosterone production and promote faster recovery from your workouts. Creatine is essential to provide muscles with energy to improve strength and increase lean muscle mass.
Believe it or not, shrimps are excellent sources of protein as every 85 grams of serving has about 18 grams of protein and only 1 gram of fat! Best of all, shrimp has zero carbs, making them a great addition to promoting muscle growth without worrying about excess fats and carbs from your current diet.
7. Turkey Breast
Turkey breast is a great alternative to chicken breast. They’re packed with 25 grams of lean protein and the B vitamin niacin to process carbs and fats in the body. An unpopular fact: turkey breast has high amounts of zinc, an essential mineral for protein synthesis to help you build your muscles up ultimately.
Scallops, not only are they tasty, but they are also enriched with protein and minimal fat. Like shrimps, scallops make a great addition to add on 20 grams of protein (per serving) to reach your nutritional goals. Surprisingly scallops are less than 100 calories, so don’t worry about an excessive caloric surplus.
9. Lean Jerky
When you’re in a rush, lean jerkies are the way to go. While there are many types of jerky meats, always opt for lean jerkies. The best part about it is that most fats are eliminated during processing, leaving you with the pure protein you need to stimulate muscle gains.
10. Pork Tenderloin
The pork tenderloin is a boneless cut from the hip to the shoulder of the pig. Many are unaware of this, but pork is packed with 21 grams of protein, only 4 grams of fat, and even B vitamins such as B2 for breakdowns of your fats, carbs, and protein. Not only is it a good protein source, but it also makes a great meal as it is the most tender part of the pig.
Though it may be an unpopular option, bison packs quite a protein punch at 22 grams per 85 grams of serving. Its nutritional content is similar to lean beef. Still, it may be a better option to mitigate the risks of cardiovascular disease associated with eating beef.
Soybeans are doubtlessly tiny but mighty when it comes to nutrition. Per 86 grams of serving, they contain 14 grams of protein, healthy unsaturated fats, and various vitamins and minerals to promote healthy body functions. Soybeans are particularly enriched with iron, phosphorus, and vitamin K for healthy blood flow, sturdy bones, and protein synthesis.
13. Kidney beans
Building muscles isn’t all about consuming high-protein foods. Kidney beans such as beans legumes pack in loads of fiber to maintain a healthy stomach. A healthy gut means enabling optimal absorption of all the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals from other foods you eat to promote muscle growth. Since kidney beans only have about 8 grams per 100-gram serving, it is best to complement them with whole grains to help reach your protein intake requirement.
Typically served in Japanese restaurants, Edamame simply refers to immature soybeans (usually green in color). A full 100-gram cup has about a whopping 17 grams of protein, 8 grams of fiber, folate, vitamin K, folate, and manganese. Folate is particularly an amino acid booster to help you maintain muscle mass and strength.
Carbs are just as essential as protein to provide your body’s energy to grow and build muscle. Quinoa is packed with 40 grams of carbs, 8 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, and minerals such as magnesium and phosphorus per cup.
When ordering steak, chickpeas are typically there as a classic side dish for a good reason. Chickpeas are excellent sources of protein and carbs, with 12 grams of protein, 50 grams of carbs, and 10 grams of fiber per cup—a great addition to your main entree.
Broccoli is classified as a cruciferous veggie, which means it has compounds that inhibit estrogen production and boost testosterone levels through its high zinc levels. Other alternatives of broccoli are kale or Bok choi, whichever you prefer.
Whether it be a side dish or a quick snack, peanuts are excellent protein, carbs, and fat sources. Peanuts pack in 34 grams of protein, 32 grams of carbs, and unsaturated fat per cup (about 150 grams). If you struggle to reach your daily caloric requirement, peanuts are great calorie boosters with 850 calories per cup.
These are seeds that can be turned into flour as an alternative to your regular flours. Buckwheat is filled with 8 grams of protein and a handful of fibers, carbs, vitamins, and minerals. Some essentials it has include B vitamins, manganese, magnesium, and phosphorus to optimize muscle-building performance and maintain your health.
If you’re not a big fan of peanuts, then almonds could be your go-to alternative. Almonds are loaded with 16 grams of protein, plenty of vitamin E, and minerals such as magnesium and phosphorus per half a cup. Please remind to consume almonds in moderate amounts as they may have more than 400 calories for every half a cup!
A surprising addition to the list, indeed. Pineapples are the only food that has a specific enzyme called bromelain that digests protein. Additionally, pineapples are anti-inflammatory to ease your muscle recovery process, especially when it comes to soreness.
22. Greek yogurt
Interestingly, Greek yogurts contain whey (fast-digesting) and casein (slow-digesting) proteins in one serving. For every 100-gram serving, they have 10 grams of protein and vitamin D to absorb essential minerals such as calcium and phosphorus for muscle contraction and energy.
23. Brown rice
Aside from being the go-to alternative to white rice for carbs, brown rice also has about 5 grams of protein per cup, a decent boost for your protein intake. Like quinoa, brown rice is considered a healthy carb source that can stimulate optimal muscle growth as you balance it out with proper exercise.
Tofu makes a great alternative to meat for your source of protein. Tofu has about 20 grams of protein, 12 grams of fat, 4 grams of carbs, and a handful of calcium per cup. They are perfect for vegans and vegetarians looking to build muscle without eating meat for protein intake.
25. Protein powder
Protein powders are one of the most best ways to help you reach your protein and caloric intake requirements. They range from mass gainers, whey, and casein, to help you reach your nutritional goals. Remember, they should not be considered meal substitutes, just boosters to help you maintain a consistent protein intake.
While there are many more that came from, these top 25 foods should be an excellent springboard and guide to your future meal planning and prepping. The best way to ensure you reach your nutritional goals is by eating what you genuinely enjoy, not just for the sake of high protein content per se. As long as you have a good balance between your diet and workout sessions, you will see your muscles grow.