The Best Foods for Muscle Growth (That Aren't Protein Shakes)

Forget protein shakes: 8 muscle-building foods to eat instead

You don’t have to be a budding bodybuilder to care about muscle mass. In fact, maintaining healthy muscle mass is one of the many ways we can stay healthy and improve our overall well-being, especially as we age. And, along with a balanced exercise and strength regimen, our diet is an essential factor in building and maintaining strong muscles.

Protein, in particular, plays a key role in supporting muscle growth. This collection of amino acids makes up a large part of our muscle and organ tissue. It’s an essential part of your diet, but that doesn’t mean you have to eat it every day. protein shake to have enough. While it’s definitely a way to boost your protein intake, you can find it in many delicious whole-food sources.

With a little effort, it’s easy to add plenty of protein-rich foods and other nutrients to your diet. In this article, we’ll look at how various foods help you build muscle mass and the best things to eat if you’re trying to build strength.

A smiling woman lifts dumbbells in the garage.

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How Food Helps Build Muscle

Although protein is essential for muscle building, it is not the only important food component in the process. According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, a good muscle-building diet should also include plenty of carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. A balanced diet that includes all of these elements will provide the necessary ingredients to help your muscles repair and rebuild after a workout.

Overall, NASM recommends that most people consume at least 0.7 to 0.8 grams of protein and 1.8 to 3.2 grams of carbs per pound of body weight each day. Total calorie intake also plays a role in building muscle because it’s hard to build muscle if you’re burning more calories than you’re consuming.

However, diet alone is not enough to stimulate muscle growth. Exercise — especially resistance training like lifting weights — is needed to start the process. When you tear the fibers in your muscles, it stimulates cell growth and repair. This is when your body can use the food you have eaten to rebuild and strengthen muscle tissue. Other factors also influence the effectiveness and efficiency of this process, from when you eat your food and how long you rest your muscles between workouts to your hormones and Genetic constitution.

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8 foods to optimize your gains

Although many factors go into building muscle, there is no doubt that diet plays a key role. Here are eight muscle-building foods you can eat to optimize your workouts and increase muscle mass.

1. Eggs

Eggs have long been considered a powerhouse food, and for good reason. They are incredibly rich in nutrients from fats and proteins and include a powerful blend of vitamins such as B12, B6 and thiamin. Their nutrient-rich profile makes them particularly potent, but most importantly, they contain a high dose of leucine. This amino acid is known for its muscle building prowess.

2. Fish

If you already get enough fat in your diet but need to boost your protein intake, look no further than fish. It’s one of the best sources of lean protein you can eat, and it’s packed with other vitamins and minerals. A bonus? Fish is full of omega-3 fatty acids. Although known for their many other health benefits, omega-3s can also improve muscle performance and help prevent muscle loss. Salmon and tuna are particularly good food choices for muscle building.

Read more: Best Seafood Delivery Services for 2022

3. Nuts

When eaten in moderation, nuts are an excellent choice for building muscle. These tasty snacks offer the perfect blend of protein, fat and fiber, making them one of the most balanced ways to supplement your workouts. You have to be careful, though, because many nuts (including peanuts, which are actually legumes) are high in calories. For the most nutrient dense options, try almonds or walnuts.

4. Soy

If you’re trying to build muscle on a meatless diet, soy should be one of your closest friends. They’re one of the most nutrient-dense legumes you can eat, and they pack a potent dose of protein to help build muscle. Soy contains all nine essential amino acids, making it one of the best sources of vegetable protein available.

Close up of a pile of edamame beans.

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5. Greek yogurt

Dairy products are a unique source of protein because they provide a combination of fast-digesting whey protein and slow-digesting casein protein. When eaten together, these two types of protein can enhance and prolong the protein synthesis process by which your muscles rebuild, helping you build lean mass. Greek yogurt is a great dairy choice because it has twice the protein of regular yogurt and provides additional probiotic health benefits you can’t find in milk or cheese.

6. Cottage cheese

It doesn’t offer the same probiotic benefits as yogurt, but cottage cheese is a great second choice for dairy-based protein. In fact, cottage cheese contains more protein than Greek yogurt while providing the same combination of slow and fast digestion. It’s a great source of casein, and it provides a significant calorie boost if you need to make sure you’re getting enough of it.

7. Olive oil

It may not look like your typical bodybuilding food, but extra virgin olive oil has become increasingly popular for its muscle-building benefits in recent years. Widely known as a source of healthy monounsaturated fats, olive oil also helps reduce inflammation and slow muscle breakdown. Both of these characteristics can help with any muscle building regimen.

8. Quinoa

They don’t call quinoa a superfood for nothing. This vibrant grain (it’s a seed but classed as a whole grain) has a bit of everything, including plenty of protein, fiber, and carbs, plus a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals. It is a perfect food to build your muscles and maximize the benefits of your workouts.

Quinoa cooked in a wooden bowl with a green garnish.

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A recipe for stronger muscles

Adding these muscle building foods to your diet will definitely help you increase your muscle mass and increase your strength. Remember, however, that building muscle takes time and diet is only one piece of the puzzle. Combining a balanced diet of protein-rich foods with healthy exercise and rest will speed up your journey and improve your overall health along the way.

Read more: Lose Weight and Gain Lean Muscle at the Same Time with Body Recomposition

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute medical or health advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.

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