Foods That Build Muscle

Foods That Build Muscle


Estimated Reading Time: 12 minutes

In this article, I will be providing information about an area of fitness that many trainee’s commonly struggle to get right – Eating correctly and consuming enough whole food to build muscle fast as part of a well-balanced, muscle building diet.

When we talk about foods that build muscle fast, I will be referring mainly to protein foods. Proteins supply the building blocks (amino acids) required to maintain and build muscle.

We will also touch on carbohydrates as they are important for high energy levels and play a part in muscle growth too.

However, before we continue please remember that eating these foods alone will not be enough to build muscle. Although protein is, of course, a very anabolic muscle building food, there are many other components that a muscle building diet must have. (Carbs, fat, vitamins etc)

So How Much Protein Do I Need Per Day?

Your body will need an estimated 1 gram of protein per pound of your body weight OR 2 grams of protein per KG of your body-weight OR 14 grams of protein per Stone of your body weight. (it is always a good idea to over-shoot these figures by 10%)

For Example : if you weigh 150lbs – You will need approximately 150 grams of protein for muscular growth.

If you weigh 10 Stone you will need to eat at least 140 grams of protein per day (10 x 14 = 140)

It is not just the total amount of protein required that is important to build muscle fast. What is even more important is the TIMING of your protein consumption.

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You should aim to eat a portion of protein at least every 2-3 hours. Never going without protein for longer than 4 hours. If you wait longer than this your body will take the protein it needs from your muscle. Which equals a loss of muscle. Something we definitely don’t want!

So for most people, eating this frequently will mean having around 5-6 small portions a day. All of which should contain foods that build muscle.

For Example : If you need to eat 150 grams daily – divide that by 5 or 6 to give you a breakdown of how much protein you should consume with each meal. 150/6 = 25 grams of protein per meal (or 30 grams per meal if you eat 5 times a day)

Think that might be difficult? Well, it really doesn’t have to be if you break the meals down into manageable portions. Instead of eating the common ‘3 big meals a day’, the idea is to never let yourself go hungry because this is a sure sign that your body is feasting on your muscle tissue!

If that hasn’t convinced you to eat more frequently, does raising your metabolism and keeping yourself lean sound more appealing? Thought so 😉 – Eating more frequently also means that your body is always having to burn calories meaning an increased metabolism.

If this frequency is still not possible for your lifestyle, then something that is commonly done is to invest in some whey protein and a shaker bottle so that you can have a convenient hit of protein wherever you are – so that’s all of the excuses out the way 🙂 Please don’t forget that whey protein is a supplement and is in ‘addition to’ rather than a replacement for whole food.

However in these articles we will only be talking about whole foods that build muscle, not supplements.

From here this article will split into sections depending on the food/protein group.


The first protein group that we will be discussing are Meats.

Foods That Build Muscle – Meat

As far as foods that build muscle are concerned, meat is an excellent choice! (unless you’re a vegetarian/Vegan, of course!)

They are the most popular form of muscle building food because they are complete proteins. This means that they contain all 8 essential amino acids in sufficient amounts for the liver to synthesize the remaining non-essential amino acids.

You want to know what this means in simple terms right? Thought so 🙂 Complete proteins basically have a higher biological value which are better utilized for muscle building. Where as incomplete proteins such as beans, pasta, nuts etc need to be combined with other proteins to be made complete and fully utilized by your muscles.

Although they are considered fantastic foods that build muscle, some negative things to look out for in certain meats is :

  • High Sodium Content (pork, frozen and processed sliced meat are usually the biggest offenders)
  • High Cholesterol (the fattier meats)
  • High Fat (if you don’t select lean cuts of meat)
  • Preservatives (mainly in packaged meat)
  • These things won’t hurt you in moderation but just be aware of them and it gives you another reason to vary your protein intake (The other reason being boredom!)

    So without further ado, here is a list of meats that build muscle fast, along with any other additional information.

    Note : All values are approximate and are per 100 grams of the meat. Cooking methods may alter the nutritional value of the food. Frying will increase the fat content for example. Some exotic meats have been left out so please check packaging of any meat not found here or alternatively go to www.nutritiondata.com for a free comprehensive list of meats and other foods! I have automatically listed the lower fat options. Other parts of the meat will usually differ in nutritional value.

    MEATS – FOODS THAT BUILD MUSCLE

    BEEF – Lean Sirloin Steak – Raw – Trimmed to 0% Fat

    Protein – 21 grams

    Carbs – 0 grams

    Fat – 4-7 grams

    Calories – 129

    Notes: It can be quite difficult to find lean beef. General rule of thumb is that beef ‘loins’ and ’rounds’ are lean. Make sure you trim all visible fat off before cooking.

    CHICKEN – Chicken Breast – Skinless – Uncooked

    Protein – 23 grams

    Carbs – 0 grams

    Fat – 1-3 grams

    Calories – 110

    Notes: Lean chicken breast is easy to find and a very popular muscle building food. The darker parts of chicken meat are generally the fattier parts so try and stick to chicken breast where possible. Frying chicken will alter the fat content. Grilling is recommended to keep it lean.

    TURKEY – Turkey Breast – Skinless – Uncooked

    Protein – 22 grams

    Carbs – 0 grams

    Fat – 2-4 grams

    Calories – 120

    Notes: Similar to chicken

    DUCK – Duck Breast – Skinless – Uncooked

    Protein – 20 grams

    Carbs – 0 grams

    Fat – 4-5 grams

    Calories – 125

    Notes: Lean duck can also be hard to find and fairly expensive. Try looking for breast.

    LAMB – Boneless Lamb Sirloin – Lean – trimmed to 1/8″ fat

    Protein – 21 grams

    Carbs – 0 grams

    Fat – 6 grams

    Calories – 145

    Notes: Lamb is generally a meat that is quite high in fat. Try to ensure the cut you buy is lean and trimmed of fat before cooking.

    VEAL – Veal sirloin – Lean – Uncooked

    Protein – 20 grams

    Carbs – 0 grams

    Fat – 2-3 grams

    Calories – 110


    PORK – Pork Loin – Lean – Uncooked

    Protein – 20-22 grams

    Carbs – 0 grams

    Fat – 5-6 grams

    Calories – 150

    Notes: Popular versions of pork are quite high in fat but leaner options are available. Check the back of packaging if you’re buying from a supermarket or ask your butcher to advise you on the leanest cuts.

    So there you have it – Some popular meats and their nutritional values (if you opt for the versions with minimal fat).


    The next chapter will be all about Dairy proteins.

    Foods That Build Muscle – Dairy and Egg

    Dairy and egg proteins are also, like meats, complete proteins which make them great muscle building foods!

    I went into a little more detail about what complete proteins are in the meat article but to recap – Complete proteins are of a higher biological value than incomplete proteins which means that your muscles can make better use of ALL the amino acids in the food to help you build muscle fast.

    Although dairy foods are a good source of protein, many dairy foods such as cheese and milk contain many carbs (consisting mostly of sugar) and sometimes too much fat. So dairy proteins are recommended, however certain dairy foods should be consumed in moderation. (unless your goal is to audition for Big Momma’s House 3 😉

    Egg’s are another great source of protein and also good foods that build muscle. The problem with eggs come when you are eating too many whole eggs (or too many yolks). The yolk of an egg contains a nice amount of protein, however it also contains a lot of fat and cholesterol which will also help expand you in all the wrong places! The way around this is to eat egg whites which are purely protein.

    If you like the yolks – one or two yolks a week won’t pose a problem. One of my favorite things to do is make scrambled eggs with four egg whites and one or two whole eggs. Add pepper and you’re good to go 🙂 Any more yolks than this and your heart won’t be best pleased with you!

    So without further ado, here is a list of dairy and egg products that build muscle fast, along with any additional information.

    Note : All values are approximate and are per 100 grams (or ml) unless otherwise stated. Cooking methods may alter the nutritional value of the food. Frying will increase the fat content, for example. Some products have been left out so please check packaging of any product not found here or seek advice for their nutritional content. I have automatically listed the lower fat options where possible. Dairy products will usually differ in nutritional value depending on how it is made.

    DAIRY AND EGG FOODS THAT BUILD MUSCLE

    SEMI – SKIMMED MILK

    Protein – 3.3 Grams

    Carbs – 5 grams

    Fat – 1.6 grams

    Calories – 48

    Notes: Whole milk contains 3.6 grams of Fat, mostly saturated (the fat that the body finds hardest to break down) and completely skimmed milk contains no fat at all. These changes obviously alter the calories too.

    COTTAGE CHEESE

    Protein – 13.7 grams

    Carbs – 3.6 grams

    Fat – 1.9 grams

    Calories – 90

    Notes: Cheeses are also good foods that build muscle but most are too fatty to be considered an option for consumption on a regular basis. However, cottage cheese is a fantastic type of cheese that is nearly all protein. Different flavors are also available if you’re not a fan of plain cottage cheese.

    OTHER CHEESES

    There are too many types of cheese to mention here but the majority of cheeses contain lots of protein and even more fat. A lot of which is saturated. For example, a 100 grams of cheddar cheese gives you 25 grams of protein and 33 grams of fat! For this reason, cheese is best eaten sparingly.


    FRUIT YOGURT – Low Fat

    Protein – 4 grams

    Carbs – 18 grams

    Fat – 1.2 grams

    Calories – 100

    Notes: Yogurts can vary greatly so please make sure you check the back of the pot. Carbs and fat are the things that vary the most in yogurts. Plain yogurt is normally lower in carbs.

    WHEY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE – (Below figures are for 1 scoop full NOT 100 grams)

    Protein – 21 grams

    Carbs – 3-5 grams

    Fat – 2-3 grams

    Calories – 120

    Notes: Okay, I did try to stay away from supplements but whey protein is derived from milk so it qualifies! It’s no substitute for solid food but if you are finding it difficult consuming enough protein daily then whey protein can be a life safer. Only use it in addition to a good diet but not instead of.

    EGG WHITES

    Protein – 10.5 grams

    Carbs – 1 gram

    Fat – 0 grams

    Calories – 50


    WHOLE EGG – BOILED

    Protein – 12.6 grams

    Carbs – 1 gram

    Fat – 10.6 grams

    Calories – 155

    Notes: Egg yolks contain a lot of cholesterol.

    That concludes another chapter of the ongoing ‘Foods That Build Muscle’ series! Hopefully, you’re now more educated about dairy and egg proteins and understand what they are about. Remember that variety is the spice of life and you’ll need a mixture of many types of foods to have a nutritionally well balanced diet.

    Some types of foods will be better to consume more of than others – High fat/high sugar dairy and egg products are foods that you’d be better off eating sparingly if you would like to stay as lean as possible while packing on muscle.


    Foods That Build Muscle – Pulses, Nuts + Legumes

    Pulses, nuts and legumes are a source of protein that do not come from animals. This makes them great for vegetarians and they’re pretty much the only protein options for vegans. (Apart from the small amount of protein found in starchy foods like rice, pasta and bread)

    The difficulty with these types of foods that build muscle is that they are incomplete proteins. This means that they are lacking quantities of some essential amino acids needed for the muscle to make use of the non-essential ones contained in the foods to build muscle.

    Not to worry! There is a way around this issue. All you need to do is use combinations of these foods to make them complete proteins. Ideally, you will combine two foods that compliment each other – The amino acids missing from one of the foods will be made up by the amino acids in the other to give you a complete protein.

    Some examples of complimentary food combinations include …

    • Rice with beans
    • Beans on toast
    • Nuts with vegetables

    The other negative to pulses and nuts is that they usually contain carbs and occasionally fats (nuts can be especially fatty). This could cause a problem if you’re a vegan because there aren’t many purely protein options available in this food category.

    If you’re worried about your carb and fat intake from these kind of foods that build muscle, then you can supplement your protein consumption with products like soy protein which ARE almost pure protein and not sourced from animals. (if you’re vegetarian then dairy, casein and egg protein supplements are also an option).

    Note : All values are approximate and are per 100 grams. Cooking methods may alter the nutritional value of the food. Frying will increase the fat content for example. If there is a type of food that is not listed here, then you can check out www.nutritiondata.com – The site contains a massive directory of foods and their values.
    Pulses, Nuts and Legumes – FOODS THAT BUILD MUSCLE

    PEAS / ADZUKI BEANS / GREAT NORTHERN WHITE BEANS / BLACK BEANS / KIDNEY BEANS / PINTO BEANS / BROAD BEANS / HYACINTH BEANS / – ALL COOKED (BOILED)

    Protein – 7.5 – 9 grams

    Carbs – 19.5 – 25 grams

    Fat – 0.1 – 0.5 grams

    Calories – 115-140

    Notes: It can be quite difficult to find lean beef. General rule of thumb is that beef ‘loins’ and ’rounds’ are lean. Make sure you trim all visible fat off before cooking.

    CHICKPEAS – COOKED (boiled)

    Protein – 9 grams

    Carbs – 27.5 grams

    Fat – 2.6 grams

    Calories – 164


    LENTILS – COOKED (boiled)

    Protein – 9 grams

    Carbs – 20 grams

    Fat – 0.4 grams

    Calories – 116


    PEANUTS – DRY ROASTED

    Protein – 23.7 grams

    Carbs – 21.5 grams

    Fat – 49.7 grams

    Calories – 585

    Notes: Although some of the fat contained in peanuts are good fats, the high overall fat content means that peanuts should be consumed sparingly.

    SOY PROTEIN CONCENTRATE / ISOLATE (per 30 gram scoop)

    Protein – 16.5 Grams (concentrate) 24 grams (isolate)

    Carbs – 9.5 grams (concentrate) 2 grams (isolate)

    Fat – 0.5 Grams (concentrate) 1 gram (isolate)

    Calories – 110

    Notes: Isolate is the better ‘pure’ protein source if you’re looking to control carbs. (if you’re vegan or vegetarian, more often than not your protein sources will contain more carbs than protein) If you’re not vegan, whey protein is also an option.

    Overall, if you’re a vegetarian or a vegan it can be quite difficult to reach your required daily intake of protein (especially if you’re vegan). This is made more difficult due to the availability of complete proteins in this food group.

    Vegans have limited choice but clever combinations of foods can solve this problem. The only danger to watch for is the high carbohydrate content also contained in these foods.

    If your goal is to stay fairly lean and build muscle, these excess carbs might pose a problem. To avoid the extra carb calories I’d recommend investing in a supplementary soy protein isolate powder for vegans or a tub of Whey protein for vegetarians.


    Foods That Build Muscle – Fish and Seafood

    Seafoods are a source of complete protein that often contain a certain amount of Omega 3 essential fatty acids. Although fats are generally looked upon in a negative light, these fatty acids are essential for normal bodily function and have a positive effect on many things such as:

  • Increased Metabolism
  • Proper Brain Function
  • Control Cholesterol and Fat Levels
  • Lower Blood Pressure
  • … amongst many others.

    These fats along with Omega 6 essential acids (omega 6’s can be found in various seeds) can contribute to much better muscular gains and health. This make many types of seafood great foods that build muscle.

    The only negative to certain types of seafood is that they can contain a substantial amount of fat, overall. Although the majority of that fat is beneficial in moderation, if eaten too much, can cause an increase in body fat storage. This will also bring with it the negative health effects that a diet high in overall fat can bring. E.g obesity, risk of heart disease etc.

    However, do not be put off by the fats contained in oily fish. As long as they are eaten in moderation (twice a week is generally recommended but I’d recommend getting some essential fatty acids daily through seeds and oils in small amounts to get the benefits), they can provide fantastic health benefits and assist you in gaining muscle.

    Apart from oily fish, there are other types of seafood that contain little or no fat at all. These include foods like prawns and tuna. These are foods that build muscle whilst keeping you lean and there isn’t as much of a restriction on how much can be eaten due to their low fat content (however, variety is always recommended for a balanced diet).

    There are generally no carbohydrates contained in seafood so they are also good low-carb foods that build muscle.

    Here is a list of seafood that build muscle fast, along with any additional nutritional information

    Note : All values are approximate and are per 100 grams (or ml) unless otherwise stated. Cooking methods may alter the nutritional value of the food. Frying will increase the fat content, for example. Some foods have been left out so please check packaging of any product not found here or seek advice for their nutritional content.

    FISH AND SEAFOOD THAT BUILD MUSCLE

    CANNED TUNA (in water – drained)

    Protein – 25 Grams

    Carbs – 0 grams

    Fat – 0.5-2 Grams

    Calories – 116

    Notes: Cooked Yellowfin and Skipjack Tuna has around 3-5 grams more of protein (per 100 grams)

    COD – (and no I’m not talking ‘fish and chips’!)

    Atlantic/Pacific – cooked – dry heat

    Protein – 23 grams

    Carbs – 0 grams

    Fat – 1 grams

    Calories – 105


    PINK SALMON – Cooked – Dry Heat

    Protein – 25.5 grams

    Carbs – 0 grams

    Fat – 4.5 grams

    Calories – 150

    Notes: The fat contained in salmon contains beneficial Omega 3 fatty acids. These types of fat are actually beneficial to us in small quantities. Giving us such health benefits like increased metabolism, control of cholesterol levels and improved immune function!

    WILD SALMON – Atlantic – Cooked – Dry Heat

    Protein – 25.5 grams

    Carbs – 0 grams

    Fat – 8 grams

    Calories – 145

    Notes: Same notes that applied to ‘Pink Salmon’

    MACKEREL – Atlantic – Cooked – Dry Heat

    Protein – 24 grams

    Carbs – 0 grams

    Fat – 18 grams

    Calories – 263

    Notes: Although, the fat contained in mackerel contains beneficial Omega 3 fatty acids, it contains fat in large quantities. Therefore I wouldn’t advise Mackerel consumption too often throughout the week. Occasionally eaten, Mackerel is beneficial however.

    LOBSTER – PRAWNS – SHRIMP

    Cooked – Moist Heat

    Protein – 20.5 grams

    Carbs – 0 gram

    Fat – 1 grams

    Calories – 100


    This final chapter concludes my articles on foods that build muscle. I hope the information in these articles has been detailed enough to be interesting but simple enough to follow! You’re now better equipped to go out there and feed your muscle the correct foods that build muscle!

    Feed the muscle – Watch it grow!

    Foods That Build Muscle
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