10 Muscle-Building Foods

Trying to bulk up? Here are the 10 foods you should include in your diet.

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Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved


Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

The Best Foods for Building Muscle

Many folks hit the gym hoping to build muscle. However, in order to be most successful in building muscle, you need to pay attention to not only what type of exercise you do but also the food you eat. Foods containing branch-chain amino acids (BCAAs) help promote protein synthesis in the muscles and reduce exercise-induced muscle damage. Also, most of the muscle building happens post-exercise, when you need to consume a combination of carbs and protein in a 3-to-1 ratio. Here are 10 muscle-building foods to include in your diet. 


This 5,000-year-old seed is categorized nutritionally as a grain. It has a mild, nutty flavor and chewy texture. One cup of cooked quinoa has 220 calories, 5 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein. The protein found in quinoa includes all nine essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein (including all the BCAAs). Quinoa is also gluten-free, so those with a gluten allergy or who are vegetarian can enjoy its muscle-building benefits.

Greek Yogurt

Nonfat or reduced-fat plain Greek yogurt has more than twice as much protein as the same quantity of traditional yogurt. It also has 38 percent less sodium and 40 percent less sugar compared with traditional yogurt. Plus, Greek yogurt contains tummy-pleasing live and active cultures, many of which act as probiotics. Use it to make parfaits and smoothies, or get more creative and use it in marinades, dips and sauces.


Known as “the perfect protein,” an egg contains 98 percent of the essential amino acids you need, all in one neat little package. The American Heart Association now recommends up to 1 whole egg per day, suggesting using it to replace other forms of protein, like beef, chicken and pork. 

Peanut Butter

We’re talking about the real type of peanut butter, with only two ingredients: peanuts and salt. The other so-called peanut butters, with hydrogenated oils and sugar, just don’t cut it. And forget about reduced-fat peanut butter — although the fat content may be lower, the sugar tends to be higher compared with the regular stuff. One tablespoon of smooth or chunky has about 100 calories and 4 grams of protein. This is the perfect portion to slather atop an apple or pear for a post-workout snack. If you want a PB&J sandwich, then the portion is 2 tablespoons, which gives you 8 grams of protein. 

Chocolate Milk

Although this one may have caught you by surprise, low-fat chocolate milk is a perfect recovery food, with a 3-to-1 ratio of carbs to protein. Many athletes have now turned to this kid favorite after a workout, which also is the time muscles are repairing and building. 


Pork is one of the richest sources of leucine, which is the strongest BCAA for muscle building. Pork is also has more energy-boosting B vitamins, like niacin, thiamin, and vitamins B6 and B12, than any other type of meat. Choose lean cuts of pork, like tenderloin, boneless top loin chop, top loin roast and rib chop.


Besides being high in protein to help build muscles, salmon contain Omega-3 fats, which help reduce inflammation that may have occurred during a workout. Omega-3 fats also have other benefits, including heart health and improved circulation.


These legumes have a special advantage, because they provide both healthy BCAAs (all three of them) and complex carbs, making them a perfect recovery food. When combined with grains, lentils create a complete protein, giving you all nine essential amino acids and the same quality protein you can find in a piece of meat. 

Lean Beef

Lean beef is defined by the USDA and FDA as having 10 percent fat by weight. Due to increased trimming practices, the external fat on cuts of beef has decreased 80 percent over the past 20 years. Today, over 65 percent of beef cuts meet the guidelines for lean beef; these include cuts like eye round steak or roast, top round roast, bottom round roast and top sirloin steak.


One-half cup of cooked chickpeas, also called garbanzo beans, contains about 135 calories, 7.5 grams protein, 2 grams of fat, 6 grams of fiber and 4 grams of sugars. It also contains most of the B vitamins, including 35 percent of the daily recommended amount of folate. Blend garbanzo beans into a fabulous hummus, or roast them for a super-crunchy snack.

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