Muscle Building Foods

There’s really no such thing as muscle building foods per se, but I'm going to list some foods that support muscle growth when combined with a solid weight training program.

When recreational weight trainers think of foods that build muscle mass, they usually think protein, protein, protein.

Poor carbohydrates and fats are treated like forgotten little step children. If you want to build muscle fast (or at all), they have to be included in your diet.


Think of carbs as proteins' right-hand man when it comes to building muscle.

Carbs are your body’s first choice for energy. Carbs help…

  • spare muscle tissue breakdown
  • fuel your workouts
  • promote faster recovery from training
Foods with carbs should be counted as “muscle building” foods.

The two broad categories of carbs are complex and simple carbs, and both have their place in a muscle building routine.

Complex carbs are best on a muscle building and fat burning program. That doesn't mean eliminate natural simple carbs (like fruit). Just limit them, especially if you’re trying to get lean.

Complex carb sources:

  • beans
  • brown rice
  • oats
  • whole grain products
  • yams
  • barley


I’m going to list some good sources of protein in a minute, but let me talk for a second about what makes a protein superior.

Protein is made up of building blocks called amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids. Nine amino acids are considered “essential” because they can’t be generated by your body. Your body uses amino acids to form proteins.

A complete protein is considered quality because it contains all eight essential amino acids. An incomplete or low quality protein is missing one or more of the essential amino acids.

Complete proteins are more muscle builder friendly.

Complete proteins include…

  • red meat,
  • chicken breast,
  • turkey breast,
  • fish,
  • shellfish,
  • eggs (limit yolks to avoid gaining fat), and
  • dairy products.

If you want to keep your body fat low and your insides healthier, choose low fat sources of meats and dairy.


What? Fat helps you build muscle mass? Yep, it does!

Fat and essential fatty acids in particular play big roles at the cellular level that are needed to repair and build muscle tissue. Fat also plays a role in the production of hormones that assist with building muscle mass.

Also, if your goal is to gain weight and you need a higher calorie diet, fat can definitely help you. Carbs and protein give you 4 calories per gram, and fat gives you 9 calories per gram.

Saturated fats and trans fats are to be avoided or severely limited.

Some “good” fat sources:

  • fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, etc.)
  • flaxseed
  • nuts (peanuts, walnuts, almonds)
  • avocado
  • canola and olive oils
  • safflower and sunflower oils
  • natural peanut butter

For more on good fats and bad fats you can click here.


Obviously water doesn't count as a muscle building food, but it needs to be included here.

Water has a role in the majority of processes that are required for muscle growth and recovery. Drinking plenty of it will help you build muscle.

Related article:

Foods That Build Muscle

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