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Nutrition

Get excited about nutrition, and learn as you go with these information-packed resources on a wide variety of nutrition-centric topics! Our bistroMD experts review the importance of the macronutrients protein, fat, and carbohydrates, as well as how to make them work most efficiently for you.

20 Foods to Help You Build Muscle

You can lift all the weight in the gym but without getting your diet right in the kitchen, you are likely to stay stagnant with your health goals. Wondering what to eat to gain muscle? Put these muscle-building foods on your next grocery list!

20 Foods to Help You Build Muscle


20 Muscle-Building Foods

Gaining weight and building muscle the healthy way requires a surplus of calories with the right mix of protein, carbohydrate, and fat, including from these best muscle-building foods:

1. Eggs
And not just the egg white...

Researchers at the University of Illinois found eating three whole eggs, providing 18 grams of protein, after resistance exercise boosted muscle building and repair 40 percent greater than eating solely just the egg whites with an equal amount of protein.

While the yolks were once feared for their cholesterol content, they supply omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, like vitamins A, D, E, and K, and minerals, like phosphorus and iron, show to be beneficial in aiding muscle synthesis.

2. Skinless Chicken Breast
Offering 21 grams of protein per three ounces, it really is not so surprising chicken is regularly included in a muscle-building eating plan.

Chicken is also a good source of selenium, phosphorus, and B vitamins, all of which support cell repair and a healthy metabolism.

To naturally withhold its high-protein content without worrying about fat, opt for a skinless chicken breast and pair with a whole grain and veggie for a muscle-building, balanced meal.

3. Beef Sirloin
Sirloin is considered one of the leanest cuts of beef and provides 23 grams of protein per three ounces.

Beef also supplies iron and zinc, two minerals necessary for maintaining health and obtaining ideal performance in athletes, with deficiencies potentially impairing athletic performance.

Selecting grassfed beef over grain and corn-fed furthermore lends greater amounts of omega-3 fat to combat against inflammation and promote muscle recovery.

4. Ground Turkey
A 3-ounce serving of ground turkey supplies approximately 20 grams of protein, along with phosphorus, selenium, niacin, and vitamins B6 and B12.

And while red meat can fit into a well-balanced diet, swapping it out with lean ground turkey reduces total fat content while still supplying ample protein.

5. Tuna
Not only is canned tuna budget-friendly, but offers 14 grams of protein per two ounce serving! Tuna is also naturally rich in the omega-3 fatty acids, which helps reduce inflammation post-exercise.

When selecting tuna, select a product soaking in water rather than oil and salt and enjoy it straight from the can, in a salad, or paired with veggies or whole grain crackers.

6. Salmon
Like tuna, salmon is also a rich provider of omega-3 fatty acids to help postulate muscle gains. A 3-ounce serving of salmon also gifts 17 grams of protein and generous doses of potassium, selenium, and vitamin B12.

Prepare this blackened salmon recipe for some major muscle gains.

7. Edamame
Edamame is a young soybean harvested before it has matured and is a unique plant-based protein, as it is considered a complete protein and provides all essential amino acids essential for muscle growth.

Edamame is also rich in fiber, healthy fats, vitamin K, iron, manganese, copper, and phosphorus.

Steam the young soybean and enjoy as a snack, throw into salads, or whip up this edamole recipe.

8. Tempeh
Tempeh is one protein-packed, plant-based, muscle-building food to include! One cup of tempeh supplies 31 grams of protein, while its soy-based relative (known as tofu) offers 20 grams.

Unlike tofu, tempeh also supplies a desirable mix of carb and fat to help support muscle growth. But similar to tofu, it can be used as a meatless substitute in stir fry recipes, soups, salads, casseroles, smoothies, and sauces.

9. Beans
From black to pinto, beans pack an average of 15 grams of fiber per half cup and supply a healthy dose of magnesium, iron, and phosphorus.

Nonetheless, beans are a nutrient-dense, plant-based, muscle-building food to include in a muscle-building diet. And thanks to their versatility, beans can be added to soups, salads, and casseroles.

10. Chickpeas
Chickpeas are a plant-based protein supplying 10 grams per ¼ cup, along with 30 grams of slow-releasing carbohydrate to help sustain energy levels and recover muscles following exercise.

Add chickpeas to your salads, mix into a hummus, or roast them up for a crunchy snack.

11. Almonds
Almonds supply approximately six grams of protein per ounce, along with omega-3 fatty acids to protect against inflammation in the body.

Consuming almonds and other nuts can also foster fat loss, protect the heart, prevent and manage diabetes, reduce inflammation, support brain health, cut cancer risk, and promote longevity.

12. Milk
Milk in itself is muscle-builder thanks its mix of carb, fat, and protein it provides, including the proteins casein and whey.

Casein comprises 80 percent of milk products and is considered to be slow-acting, keeping amino acid content stabilized and maintained hours after intake.

Whey, on the other hand, fills up the remaining 20 percent of milk and considered to be "fast-acting," shown to foster protein synthesis within an hour of intake and commonly consumed by athletes for this very reason.

13. Chocolate Milk
MOOOving a step further from traditional dairy milk, the chocolaty version is considered to be one of the best muscle-building drinks and has become an affordable recovery beverage for many athletes.

Low-fat chocolate milk consists of a 4:1 carbohydrate:protein ratio and provides fluids and sodium to aid in post-workout recovery and refuel fatigued muscles.

A study published in Medicine and Sport Science indicates consuming chocolate milk immediately after exercise and again two hours post-exercise appears to be optimal for exercise recovery and may lessen muscle damage risk.

14. Whey Protein Powder
Though nutrition experts encourage whole foods over protein powders, they do have their time and place. With whey being a fast-acting protein, it is often recommended to be consumed within an hour following exercise.

Whey protein is further broken down into concentrate and isolate: Concentrate provides between 30 to 80 percent of protein with varying amounts of fat and carb dependent on protein volume, while isolate is essentially a purer form of whey and is comprised with at least 90 percent of protein.

15. Cottage Cheese
Being a dairy product, cottage cheese supplies both casein and whey and packs on 13 grams per half cup. Cottage cheese also naturally supplies carbohydrate to replenish glycogen stores and stimulate muscle growth.

Cottage cheese can stand on its own as a muscle-building food or pairs well with fresh fruit such as pineapple and peach slices.

16. Greek Yogurt
Going Greek with yogurt supplies 15 grams of muscle-building protein for a typical 5.3-ounce container, along with delivering gut-supporting probiotics and bone-supporting calcium.

But rather than consuming the large loads of added sugars most yogurts come with, opt for plain Greek yogurt and add natural sweetness and fiber with favorite fruits, including berries packed with antioxidants.

17. Brown Rice
While brown rice is minimal in protein, it does supply 45 grams of carb per cup and hefty doses of fiber and B vitamins.

Ultimately, the high carb content of brown rice makes it's a valuable pre-workout food, as it can keep energy levels and muscles fueled to power through.

18. Quinoa
Like edamame, quinoa is one of the few plant-based foods that is considered a complete protein. The "superfood" is also packed with fiber, magnesium, iron, and B vitamins.

The grain-like, gluten-free seed can stand on its own, be a substitute for rice, or bulk up salads, soups, and other dishes.

19. Olive Oil
Whereas olive oil does not supply protein or carb required for protein, its nutritional profile certainly helps! Olive oil supports hormone regulation and prevents muscle degradation, two key components in sustaining muscle growth.

The heart-healthy oil is also rich in calories to sustain a caloric surplus, along with vitamin E to signal cell recovery and strengthen the immune system.

20. Water
Although water is not a macronutrient to build muscle, it is equally as important as diet and training when it comes to your gains and success.

Water transports nutrients to muscle cells and increases new muscle tissue. Dehydration can also impair performance and cause muscles to cramp.

The overall population should consume at least 64-ounces of water daily, while regular exercisers and athletes should drink 16 ounces of water leading up to activity, six to 12 ounces immediately prior to exercise, and every 15 to 20 minutes of active training.



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