30 muscle building foods to fuel your goals

Eating the right foods can help someone build muscle, recover from training, and maintain their

Eating the right foods can help someone build muscle, recover from training, and maintain their energy levels.

The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) advises that consuming 1.4–2.0 grams (g) of protein per kilogram (kg) of body weight per day is sufficient for most exercising individuals to build and maintain muscle mass.

People performing high-intensity resistance training may benefit from up to 3 g of protein per kg of body weight per day.

To build muscle optimally, individuals also need to consume enough carbohydrates. Carbohydrates replenish glycogen stores in the muscles and liver and help to avoid fatigue during training.

The ISSN suggests that consuming 45–55% of daily calories as carbohydrates is sufficient for a general fitness program. However, people who take part in high-volume training may require more than this.

To support any training program, including resistance training, people need to eat a healthy diet that includes vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats. They should also make sure they are adequately hydrated.

Vitamins, minerals, and water help people perform well, recover from exercise, and maintain their general health.

To optimally build lean muscle mass, it is also essential to create a calorie surplus by consuming more calories than a person burns.

The following are foods containing protein to help someone build muscle. Some also contain carbohydrates and fiber, while many others contain beneficial micronutrients.

Eggs

A boiled or poached egg contains 6.28 g of protein.

Eggs contain the amino acid leucine, which research indicates is essential for muscle synthesis.

Eggs are also a suitable source of B vitamins that people need to produce energy.

Chicken

A medium chicken breast without skin weighing 120 g contains 35.5 g of protein.

Chicken without the skin is a low fat protein source that someone can easily add to different meals and recipes.

Turkey

A cup of chopped turkey contains 37.23 g of protein, while a turkey drumstick contains nearly 27 g of protein.

Like chicken, turkey is a low fat protein source that is adaptable to different meals and recipes.

Greek yogurt

Five ounces (oz) of Greek yogurt contains 12–18 g of protein.

A person could add some carbohydrate-rich banana to their Greek yogurt for a healthy snack after training.

Cottage cheese

Part-skimmed cottage cheese contains 14 g of protein per half-cup.

Cottage cheese is also rich in calcium for healthy bones.

Salmon

A 227 g salmon steak contains 58.5 g of protein.

Salmon also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which have health benefits, including preventing muscle loss in older adults.

Tuna

Tuna fish is a suitable source of omega-3 fatty acids besides their benefits for general health and inflammation.

Research suggests omega-3 fatty acids may also improve muscle size and strength.

Tuna contains 7 g of protein per ounce.

Milk

Skimmed or 1% fat milk contains 8 g of protein per 8 oz, and high protein milk contains 13 g of protein per 8 oz.

As long as individuals tolerate milk, it can be a healthy choice to boost protein and hydration after exercise.

Milk also contains calcium which people require for healthy bones.

Jerky

Dried beef or turkey jerky contains 10–15 g of protein per oz.

Jerky can be a protein-rich snack that people can easily transport when going to the gym.

Whey protein powder

Whey protein isolate powder contains 50 g of protein per 3 scoops.

If someone tolerates whey protein powder, they can boost their protein intake by making shakes and drinks.

Soy protein powder

Soy protein powder contains around 25 g of protein per scoop.

People who eat a plant-based diet may find soy protein powder a valuable addition to boost their protein intake. They can add it to a smoothie along with some fruit and plant-based milk.

Lean beef

Lean beef contains just over 23 g of protein per 4 oz. It also contains selenium, zinc, and iron, which are essential for energy and recovery.

Edamame

Edamame beans are immature soybeans. Some people use them in Asian cooking.

Fresh or frozen edamame beans contain 6 g of protein per half-cup. Adding them to a quick stir fry can make a healthy meal, perhaps with some other beans or chicken for extra protein.

One oz of dry-roasted edamame beans contains 13 g of protein, which is a suitable option as a quick and convenient snack.

Quinoa

A 2020 review suggests that quinoa has an exceptional nutritional profile due to its:

  • high protein
  • balanced amino acid profile
  • fiber content
  • range of vitamins and minerals
  • antioxidants
  • absence of gluten

The same review indicates that quinoa has a protein content of between 9.1–15.7 g per 100 g, depending on where manufacturers cultivate it.

Chickpeas

Chickpeas, which people also call garbanzo beans, are a suitable source of protein and carbohydrates.

A person can choose to eat chickpeas either dried and soaked, canned, or as a ready-made dish such as dahl.

Canned chickpeas contain 14.6 g of protein per cup, making them suitable for people following plant-based diets and wishing to increase their muscle.

Hummus, which contains ground chickpeas, has 7 g of protein per one-third of a cup.

Brown rice

A cup of cooked brown rice contains 5.32 g of protein and is a suitable source of carbohydrates, fiber, and B vitamins. Combining brown rice with beans, chickpeas, or lentils gives a person on a plant-based diet a complete range of amino acids in one meal.

Tofu

Tofu is a suitable protein source for people eating a plant-based diet, containing 12.68 g of protein per 100 g.

When manufacturers prepare tofu with nigari, it is also an excellent source of calcium for healthy bones. It contains 345 milligrams (mg) of calcium per 100g.

Seeds

Seeds are a suitable source of healthy fats, fiber, and minerals such as magnesium and zinc.

A half-cup of roasted sunflower seeds contains just under 14 g of protein, while a half-cup of roasted pumpkin and squash seeds contains around 18 g of protein.

People can eat seeds as a snack or sprinkle them on breakfasts, salads, or vegetables.

Seafood

Seafood, such as crabmeat, shrimp, and lobster, contains around 6 g of protein per oz. Seafood is a rich source of:

  • amino acids, particularly taurine
  • fiber
  • vitamins and minerals
  • omega-3 fatty acids

However, according to older research, people should be aware that some researchers link eating seafood with risks of toxicity, heavy metals, and pollutants.

Peanuts

One cup of peanuts contains nearly 41 g of protein.

Two tablespoons of peanut butter contain 7 g of protein.

Peanuts also contain 257 mg of magnesium per cup, which research indicates may enhance exercise performance.

Walnuts

A cup of chopped shelled walnut halves contains 15.2 g of protein and 9 g of omega-3 fatty acids, which may benefit muscle building.

Walnuts are also a suitable source of dietary vitamin E, which research indicates may protect the body against physical stress during exercise.

Buckwheat

Buckwheat is a seed that people can use as a grain or flour. Retailers sometimes market buckwheat as groats or kasha.

A cup of buckwheat contains 22.5 g of protein and suitable amounts of carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.

Buckwheat is a valuable addition to a plant-based diet, and people can use it in place of rice or use the flour to make protein pancakes.

Lean pork

Lean pork or fresh ham contains nearly 40 g of protein per cup.

A 2012 study found that adults with a high body mass index who increased their intake of fresh, lean pork for 6 months improved their body composition, weight, and body fat scores.

The authors suggested that pork is a nutritious meat that does not negatively impact someone’s cardiovascular risk.

Bison

A 2018 study indicates that bison had a lower atherogenic — referring to fatty deposits in the arteries — risk than beef in healthy men. Therefore, if someone chooses to include red meat in their diet, bison may be a wise choice.

Lentils

Lentils contain 9 g of protein per half-cup and a range of amino acids. They are a suitable source of fiber, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals.

Lentils provide a protein source for people following plant-based diets, and someone can achieve a balanced amino acid profile by combining lentils with a whole grain such as brown rice.

Beans

Beans are a valuable source of protein for people eating plant-based diets.

Kidney beans, black beans, and navy beans contain 8 g of protein per half-cup.

Beans are also a suitable source of fiber and minerals for bone health, such as calcium, magnesium, and phosphorous.

Almonds

A cup of dry roasted almonds without salt contains nearly 29 g of protein.

Nuts also provide fiber to help keep someone fuller for longer and B vitamins for energy during training.

Cheese

A cup of diced cheddar cheese contains around 30 g of protein, while a cup of Mozarella cheese has over 31 g of protein.

However, many kinds of cheese are a source of saturated fats. Government guidelines advise people to limit saturated fats to no more than 10% of their daily calories.

High protein cereals

Some packaged cereals are higher in protein, with between 7 and 15 g of protein per portion.

Eating high protein cereals for breakfast also offers a source of carbohydrates and fiber.

Soy milk

Soy milk is a suitable protein source for people who follow a plant-based diet or are intolerant to dairy milk.

An 8 oz portion of soy milk contains 7 g of protein.