18 Foods That Help You Build Lean Muscle

Both nutrition and physical activity are critical if you want to gain lean muscle.

High-protein foods are very important for gaining muscle, but carbohydrates and fats are also necessary sources of energy.

Here are 20 of the top foods for gaining lean muscle.

 

1. Eggs

Eggs contain high-quality protein, healthy fats and other important nutrients like B vitamins and choline.

Proteins are made up of amino acids, and eggs contain large amounts of the amino acid leucine, which is particularly important for muscle gain.

2. Salmon

Salmon is a great choice for muscle building and overall health.

Each 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of salmon contains about 17 grams of protein, almost 2 grams of omega-3 fatty acids and several important B vitamins.

3. Chicken Breast

There’s a good reason why chicken breasts are considered a staple for gaining muscle.

They are packed with protein, with each 3-ounce (85-gram) serving containing about 26 grams of high-quality protein.

They also contain generous amounts of the B vitamins niacin and B6, which may be particularly important if you are active.

4. Tuna

In addition to 20 grams of protein per 3-ounce (85-gram) serving, tuna contains high amounts of vitamin A and several B vitamins, including B12, niacin and B6. These nutrients are important for optimal health, energy and exercise performance.

7. Shrimp

Shrimp are almost pure protein. Each 3-ounce (85-gram) serving contains 18 grams of protein, 1 gram of fat and zero carbs.

While healthy fats and carbs are important in your overall diet, adding some shrimp is an easy way to get muscle-building protein without too many additional calories.

8. Turkey Breast

A 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of turkey breast contains around 25 grams of protein and almost no fat or carbs

Turkey is also a good source of the B vitamin niacin, which helps process fats and carbohydrates in your body.

9. Tilapia

Although it doesn’t have as much omega-3 fatty acids as salmon, tilapia is another protein-packed seafood item.

A 3-ounce (85-gram) serving provides around 21 grams of protein, along with good amounts of vitamin B12 and selenium.

Vitamin B12 is important for the health of your blood cells and nerves, which allows you to perform the exercise you need in order to gain muscle.

10. Beans

Many different varieties of beans can be part of a diet for lean muscle gain.

Popular varieties, such as black, pinto and kidney beans, contain around 15 grams of protein per cup (about 172 grams) of cooked beans.

11. Quinoa

While protein-rich foods are a priority for building lean muscle, it’s also important to have the fuel to get active.

Foods with carbohydrates can help provide this energy.

Cooked quinoa contains about 40 grams of carbs per cup (185 grams), along with 8 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber and hearty amounts of magnesium and phosphorus.

12. Scallops

Like shrimp, tilapia and lean poultry, scallops provide protein with very little fat.

If you are looking to add protein to your diet without consuming too many calories, these very lean sources may be good choices.

Three ounces (85 grams) of scallops provide around 20 grams of protein and fewer than 100 calories.

13. Peanuts

Peanuts contain a mix of protein, fat and carbs. A half-cup (73-gram) serving contains 17 grams of protein, 16 grams of carbs and large amounts of unsaturated fat.

They also contain higher amounts of the amino acid leucine than many other plant products.

Each half-cup (73-gram) serving of peanuts contains around 425 calories.

14. Buckwheat

Buckwheat is a seed that can be ground into flour and used in place of traditional flours.

Half a cup (60 grams) of buckwheat flour contains around 8 grams of protein, along with plenty of fiber and other carbs.

Buckwheat has become a very popular health food due to its impressive vitamin and mineral content.

15. Tofu

Tofu is produced from soy milk and often used as a meat substitute.

Each half-cup (124-gram) serving of raw tofu contains 10 grams of protein, 6 grams of fat and 2 grams of carbohydrates.

Tofu is also a good source of calcium, which is important for proper muscle function and bone health.

16. Milk

Milk provides a mix of protein, carbohydrates and fats.

Similar to other dairy products, milk contains both fast- and slow-digesting proteins.

This is thought to be beneficial for muscle growth. In fact, several studies have shown that people can increase their muscle mass when they drink milk in combination with weight training.

17. Almonds

Half a cup (about 172 grams) of blanched almonds provides 16 grams of protein and large amounts of vitamin E, magnesium and phosphorus.

Among other roles, phosphorus helps your body use carbohydrates and fats for energy at rest and during exercise.

As with peanuts, almonds should be consumed in moderation due to their high calorie content. Half a cup of blanched almonds contains more than 400 calories.

18. Brown Rice

Although cooked brown rice provides only 5 grams of protein per cup (195 grams), it has the carbohydrates you need to fuel your physical activity.

Consider eating healthy carb sources like brown rice or quinoa in the hours leading up to exercise.

This may allow you to exercise harder, providing your body with a greater stimulus for your muscles to grow.

Furthermore, some research has shown that rice protein supplements can produce as much muscle gain as whey protein during a weight-training program.

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