You’ve heard it all before right? Chicken breast, broccoli, protein shake, repeat.
Well this isn’t that type of muscle-building diet plan. British Men’s Health recently compiled a list of the 23 best foods to eat for muscle building and some of the less familiar ones will surprise you (i.e. freshwater algae).
So rather than going through the protein-rich foods that you probably already know of, we’ve cherry picked some of the lesser known ones that help make the perfect balance of protein, carbs and fats ideal for muscle building. The necessity of getting this balance right lies in the body’s ability to decide what calories from food is burned as fuel, stored as fat or used to build muscle. And it goes without saying that eating this way isn’t the silver bullet to getting swole. Quality workouts paired with a diet and good sleep also plays into the muscle equation.
As Arnie once said, “Come with me if you want to lift”. Something similar anyway.
Beans, beans the magical fruit, the more you eat the more you…get swole. Nurseries aside, soy beans are a great vegetarian source of protein to help build lean muscle. The legumes pack nine essential amino acids and contain 36g of protein per 100g. They can also be found in other vegan-friendly foods like tofu
Most believe that fruit isn’t great for bodybuilding, but there is one exception. Pineapple is the only fruit that contains bromelein, an enzyme which digests protein. It’s inflammatory properties also helps with post-workout soreness and tenderness.
Greek yogurt contains loads of fast-digesting whey protein and slow-digesting casein protein in the region of 10 grams total per 100g. It’s also a great source of vitamin D which assists the body in absorbing calcium and phosphorus. We need calcium for muscle contractions whilst phosphorus is a building block for the type of energy our bodies use.
Believe it. A study published in The Journal of Nutrition showed that garlic increased testosterone and lowered cortisol in rats on a high-protein diet. Cortisol is known to compete with testosterone in muscle cells, so the less stress you have, the better your gains.
Less of a direct muscle building food, kidney beans are good for your gut which in turn aids in your body absorbing nutrients, minerals and supplements – the foods that actually create lean muscle. They contain just 8g of protein per 100g but make up for it with 10g of fibre.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
The go-to favourite of the pantry has some secret muscle-building tricks. Monounsaturated fats found in olive oil stimulate protein production for muscle growth and also prevents tissue breakdown. It also increases insulin sensitivity in muscles, which in turn ensures that the body can make optimal use of glucose, nutrients and amino acids.
The slow-digesting protein known as casein can be found in cottage cheese. It also contains 15g of protein and 85 calories per 100g.
Let’s just hit you with the figures. Each oyster contains more than 20g of protein per 100g whilst containing just 5g of fat. When compared to chicken they also have eight times more iron and almost 50 times more zinc – the stuff needed for proper growth and maintenance of the human body.
As one of just a handful of plants that contain the nine essential amino acids to form the building blocks of protein, quinoa also contains fibre, magnesium, B vitamins, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin E, potassium, iron and plenty more of the good stuff.
Don’t go diving into your local watering hole just yet. Spirulina and chlorella are brightly-coloured freshwater algae loaded with heaps of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, and they’re more nutrient-dense per gram than kale, spinach and broccoli. Protein is the name of the game here with both algaes packing more than 50 percent protein per serve.
Another great vegan option is buckwheat. This guy packs 13g of protein per 100g serve but it also contains manganese, magnesium, niacin, zinc, phosphorus, folate and vitamin B6. It’s everything the body requires to absorb amino acids from the foods you eat.
And The Best Of The Rest…
The author also noted a few of the more common muscle building foods below.
- Whole eggs
- Turkey breast
- Lean beef
- Pork tenderloin
- Chicken breast
Foods For Building Muscle FAQ