The Best Foods for Building Muscle

People choose to increase muscle size for a number of reasons. Bodybuilders want to get bigger to enter physique contests, athletes need muscle and strength to improve performance, and thinner people just want to gain strength and fill out. There are a number of foods that can help muscle size. However, the key to gaining lean muscle mass is to eat the right kinds of foods.

  1. Muscle Composition, Protein and Calories

    • Muscles are composed of 70 percent water and 20 percent protein. Building muscle requires extra water, more energy through carbohydrates as well as additional protein. People who work out require more calories and protein than sedentary individuals. You should consume at least 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight when trying to add muscle size. Increase your calories through high-protein foods, complex carbohydrates, fats, vegetables and fruits.


    • Meats have essential amino acids necessary for building muscle mass. Meat protein is high quality, which better ensures that it will be used by the body to build muscle tissue rather than be burned as energy. Meats such as beef, chicken, turkey and fish are high in protein.
      Deciding on which meats to eat can be a challenge. Beef and pork have a higher fat content. But for those that are looking to add just lean muscle, chicken and turkey are better alternatives. You can still eat beef, but it should be limited to once or twice per week. Fish can also help a person gain lean muscle, but it should also be limited because of mercury content.


    • Milk can help build muscle mass. The average 8-ounce glass of milk contains about 20 grams of protein. However, some people have problems digesting cow's milk. Many have allergies to the casein or whey protein in milk, while some are lactose intolerant. There are alternatives such as soy or rice milk, but the protein content in these milks is considerably lower. Goat's milk is easier to digest and actually contains more calcium than cow's milk. Calcium is important for muscle contraction.


    • Eggs are one of the highest-quality protein foods. A large boiled egg contains about 6.29 grams of protein. Nearly 60 percent of the protein is in the white of the egg. Many bodybuilders eat a lot of egg whites to gain muscle, as the yolk contains high levels of cholesterol.

    Complex Carbohydrates

    • Complex carbohydrates are necessary to build lean muscle. Although the body requires some fat, you should eat a lot of complex carbohydrates when trying to gain muscle. Foods in this category include bread, pasta, rice, oat meal, corn, peas, beans, potatoes, yams and similar foods. Eating a lot of complex carbohydrates will keep you full so you aren't tempted to eat junk food for snacks.

    Eating A Well-Balanced Diet

    • People should eat a variety of foods to balance the diet out. Because building muscle requires more calories, it is best to eat five to six times per day. This is easier on the digestive tract.

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  • Photo Credit What's Cooking America; 2009.

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