If you’re trying to build solid lean muscle mass, a well-structured nutrition plan that is focused on high protein foods is essential to results. Why the obsession with protein?
Once it’s ingested, protein is broken down into usable compounds called amino acids. These nutrients are the literal building blocks of lean muscle tissue.
So, if you want to build bigger and stronger muscles, you need to incorporate rich sources of amino acids into your day-to-day meal plan.
Let’s take a look at the 10 best muscle building foods to help you grow.
Animal Based Protein Sources
Most protein-rich foods are going to be based on animal sources. This is because animal protein is a complete protein.
This means that it contains all of the essential amino acids to be efficiently used by your muscle tissue.
Here are the best animal-based high protein foods:
Cheese contains an absurd amount of protein. This will come as no surprise as whey protein is a cheese byproduct.
While it might have the highest amount of protein per serving on this list, it also contains a lot of fat. This makes it an ideal choice for someone on the ketogenic diet, but this could be problematic if your doctor has you on a low-fat diet.
Protein Amount: 38 grams of protein in one cup
A bodybuilding staple, a chicken breast is a protein-packed food with very little fat and no carbohydrates. It’s the perfect post-workout meal.
Studies show that chicken, when eaten with vegetables, can also help to reduce your risk of developing obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and type 2 diabetes.
Protein Amount: 32 grams of protein per 3.5 ounces
Another bodybuilding staple, tuna is a tasty way to hit that protein target each day. Studies show that tuna is also an excellent source of healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids.
Protein Amount: 30 grams of protein per 3.5 ounces
A near perfect food, eggs contain protein, healthy fats, and several key minerals. Best of all, they are easy to make and taste great.
Most people eat multiple eggs at a time so the protein count can quickly build up. Fat content and cholesterol content is something to watch out for depending on doctor recommendations.
Protein Amount: Over 6 grams of protein per egg
Whey Protein Isolate
The quality of the protein you’re eating is very important. This can be expressed in bioavailability or how well your body can digest and assimilate the nutrients within. Whey protein isolate scores 105 out of 100 on the bioavailability scale.
Protein Amount: (This can vary depending on the brand and recommended serving) 20 to 32 grams of protein per serving
Plant Based Protein Sources
If you’re a vegetarian, vegan, or simply looking to incorporate more plant-based sources of protein into your diet, you have plenty of options.
Most plant sources of protein by themselves are incomplete forms of protein. In order to form a complete protein – one with all of the essential amino acids – you’ll need to combine two of the following plant protein sources.
Pumpkin seeds are one of the few exceptions as they are a complete protein source. They are high in protein, but they also contain plenty of healthy fat.
Protein Amount: 30 grams of protein per 3.5 ounces
Almonds are loaded with nutrients and free-radical-fighting antioxidants. Aside from offering plenty of plant-based protein, studies have found that almonds are an effective food for promoting weight management.
Protein Amount: 21 grams of protein
Lentils are a vegan foundation, allowing you to create dozens of delicious protein-packed dishes. Studies show that lentils contain plenty of antioxidants, which may help to reduce your risk of some chronic diseases.
Protein Amount: 9 grams of protein per 3.5 ounces
A Peruvian superfood, quinoa is one of the best post-workout foods you can eat. It contains plenty of protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates.
Protein Amount: 1 cup of cooked quinoa contains 8.14 grams of protein.
Hemp Protein Powder
Hemp is another exception as it is a complete protein. It’s also packed with healthy fats and important minerals.
Protein Amount: (The amount of protein per serving will vary depending on the brand.) In general, a 1/4-cup serving usually provides around 15 grams of protein.
Muscle Building Foods Complement Training
You can incorporate all of the high protein foods listed above, but without the proper training program, you aren’t going to see a size difference.
Check out my article on exercises to build muscle if you need a training program to get you started.
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- Maqbool A, Strandvik B, Stallings VA. The skinny on tuna fat: health implications. Public Health Nutr. 2011 Nov;14(11):2049-54. doi: 10.1017/S1368980010003757. Epub 2011 Feb 16.
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- Ganesan K, Xu B. Polyphenol-rich lentils and their health promoting effects. International journal of molecular sciences. 2017 Nov;18(11):2390.