Foods That Build Muscle

foods that build muscle

If you’re thinking of bulking up those biceps by hitting the gym, then congratulations! You’re off to a great start. Regular exercise is essential for building bigger, better, and stronger muscles.

“You can’t build muscle without hitting the gym, but you can grow your guns more efficiently by properly fueling your body,” writes Mary Squillace from “There’s no single food that holds the secret to bigger, stronger, muscles, but protein is one nutrient that plays a major role in muscle development.”

When you get a good dose of protein each day, it can improve your muscle growth and speed up the repair and recovery of your muscle tissue.

The amount of protein your body needs varies depending on your gender, age, and size. However, nutrition experts typically recommend that you get 20-28 grams of protein at each meal.

Below are the top 5 foods that build muscle. Each one is a protein powerhouse that can pump up your plate and your workout when combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise.

1. Quinoa

Eating rice and whole-grains is a great way to build a better body and feel fuller for longer periods of time; without packing on the extra calories.

foods that build muscleOne cup of quinoa provides you with 8 grams of protein and 39 grams of carbohydrates. Although many people shy away from eating a lot of carbs, they’re actually very important for athletes and bodybuilders.

“You must meet your energy need before you go out and build muscle,” says Susan Kleiner, RD, PhD. “If you’re cutting carbs to lose body fat, you’re missing something important.” And you could be underfueling your muscles.

2. Cottage Cheese

Whey products such as cottage cheese have the highest concentrations of leucine.

According to, leucine just might be the most important amino acid that you take on a daily basis. A recent study published by The American Society for Nutritional Sciences showed that taking leucine in high doses can stimulate muscle protein synthesis.

Leucine has also been shown help preserve lean muscle mass, increase energy supplies, and maintain glycogen levels.

A single cup of cottage cheese can contain 2.8 grams of leucine and 28 grams of protein.

3. Eggs

foods that build muscleIf you’ve ever seen Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, then you may have noticed that Gaston eats large quantities of eggs in order to stay large.

Although the song is a little exaggerated, the “incredible edible egg” is packed with protein that can feed your muscles without packing on the fat.

You can easily consume up to 6 grams of protein and 330 mg of leucine per egg!

And don’t forget about the choline. It’s a nutrient that supports acetylcholine, which is an important neurotransmitter in your body.

“You can’t expect to train hard without choline,” explains Kleiner. “Brain cells can’t be well fed without phospholipids from egg yolks.” She goes on to recommend eating one whole egg and four egg whites to get a protein-packed, nutritious meal.

4. Chicken

No need to chicken-out on this lean meat, for every 3 oz. of chicken breast, you can consume a walloping 3 grams of leucine and 20 grams of protein – for under 100 calories. And since chicken is lean, it’s one of the best meats to eat if you want to maintain a healthy muscle-to-fat ratio.

On top of that, chicken costs less than red meat; it can be cooked in hundreds of different ways; and it’s easy to add into your daily diet.

5. Tuna

foods that build muscleTuna, salmon, and other fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids (don’t confuse fatty acids with fat) that can power your brain and your muscles at the same time.

A recent study in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine demonstrated that the omega-3 fatty acids in fish may reduce inflammation and muscle soreness; allowing you to get off the couch and back into the gym faster with smaller risk of injury.

The Importance of Balance

When included in a healthy diet balanced with fruits, vegetables, and whole-grains, these foods can help increase your protein intake and consequently increase your muscle-building capabilities safely and naturally.

Keep in mind, however, that a diet rich in proteins shouldn’t be a diet entirely of protein. Although protein is essential for muscle growth, your body needs a good mix of nutrients and foods that build muscle in order to stay healthy and strong. Don’t make the mistake of opting for a meat-only regimen or fall for the trap that a low-carb high protein diet is the best way to lose weight. Be smart and keep it balanced.

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