15 Foods That Will Help You Build Lean Muscle

by Dr. Ahmed Zayed
Published on August 7, 2019

If you have chosen to build lean and strong muscles, then you are supposed to do the opposite to what you would be doing if you were trying to lose weight. This means that instead of going on a calorie deficit, you are supposed to double your calorie intake. Your calorie intake needs to be higher as compared with the calories that you are burning throughout your workout.

However, this is not an excuse to fill on empty calories. You are still supposed to watch over your diet closely and choose what you are feeding your muscles with. One of the best things that you can do for your body and muscles right now is to feed them with muscle growth-friendly foods. But what foods are those exactly? Not to worry, this is what the whole article is about – foods that will help you build lean and strong muscles in no time.

15 Foods that will help you build lean muscle

What will follow are 15 of the best muscle growth-friendly foods that you would definitely like to incorporate more in your diet. With the help of these foods and some sweat-breaking workouts at the gym, of course, your lean muscles will be here before you know it! Can you guess any of the foods that we will introduce you to?

Skinless chicken

You can hardly find a bodybuilder that does not rely on the use of skinless chicken in his/her diet. And for a good reason, that is.
If you are interested in gaining muscle mass, then you ought to eat all the skinless chicken that you want. Chicken is a great source of high-quality protein, in addition to containing Vitamin B6 and niacin (1). High-protein diets, especially the ones that contain chicken, have been scientifically proven to aid weight loss, and promote healthy muscle mass growth (2). Organize your weekly menu so that you have chicken at least four to five times a week, as for the rest of the week, we have some different protein sources that you might like to try.

Lean beef

Another great source of the B vitamins, high-quality protein, as well as minerals and creatine is lean beef, of course (3). Despite the fact that lean red meat has been scientifically proven to help the muscle mass gain while weight training because it comes with excessive calories, it is recommended that you keep leaning ground beef for the best results (4). Lean ground beef, especially 95% lean ground beef, has a solid scientific proof that it is able to support and enhance the muscle growth process (5). Lean beef can be easily combined with a fresh salad and a homemade soup to create the perfect, filling meal.


If you are looking for the best snack in between workouts and meals, here you have it – almonds! Only a half of cup of almonds gives your body surprising 16 gr of protein, along with Vitamin E, and phosphorous (6, 7). Almonds are also high in calorie, coming with around 400 calories in half a cup of almonds. Make sure that you always have a bag of almonds with you, so that you can use this easy snack whenever you feel like it.


The good thing about tuna is that it is filled with healthy fats and fatty acids, especially Omega-3 fatty acids, as well as, protein. Not to mention the great amounts of the various B vitamins that are to be found in tuna. Omega-3 fatty acids have not only been shown to support muscle health, optimize energy, and exercise performance, but they have also been shown to slow down the muscle mass loss and strength that normally happens due to the aging process, especially among men due to their decline in testosterone production (8, 9, 10).


Here is the perfect nutritious breakfast option for you – eggs prepared in as many ways that you can find, all with the purpose of gaining the high amounts of protein, healthy fats, and other nutrients found in this gift from Mother Earth. If you are not a fan of eating eggs for breakfast, know this – eggs are a rich source of an amino acid known as leucine. Leucine has an especially important role in the muscle growth process, so you should definitely not miss out on this opportunity (11). Experiment with the different cooking methods to find your favorite egg type.


Edamame is a great protein source for all of you vegans and vegetarians out there who are looking for a way to introduce more protein in your diet without consuming milk or dairy products. One cup of edamame comes with 17 gr of protein, which makes it the perfect snack or side-dish along with your main meals (12). Roast some edamame and cover it with a bit of sea salt, spices, and herbs to create yet another delicious snack that you can eat before and after your workouts. Edamame might be the perfect protein source for vegans, but nobody says that you should not enjoy it as well.


Chickpeas offer a rather decent amount of protein and healthy fats, along with little calories. Some roasted chickpeas or a homemade hummus would be a great addition to your standard meal plans. And do not worry about the fact that chickpeas are bringing plant-based protein – this protein is just as valuable to your muscle growth process, as is any animal-based protein (13). Add some fresh fruits and veggies to your hummus, or roast the chickpeas and add some sea salt and spices to improve their taste. You will never look for another snack ever again.


Buckwheat flour replaces the old, traditional flours more and more often. That is because of the many health benefits that come with using buckwheat, due to its nutritious value.

Buckwheat is a great source of phosphorous, magnesium, B vitamins, protein, and so much more. According to a study published in the Bioscience, biotechnology, and biochemistry, rats that have been fed with buckwheat experienced a noticeable muscle mass gain (14). And although there are still no studies done on humans, the results are pretty promising.


When you are trying to gain muscle mass, quinoa is one of the best foods that you can eat. Quinoa has no gluten, only high-quality protein, complex carbs, and fiber, that will satisfy your hunger on the long-run, increase your energy levels, and feed your muscles during recovery (15). Quinoa has to offer you both food for your muscles, but also, energy for your body to sustain the workouts that are to come.

Greek yogurt

Apart from meat and eggs, dairy is also a great source of protein. One of the best dairy protein sources that you can rely on is Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt, like any dairy product, is a source of both slow and fast-digesting protein. And science has told has that this combination of both slow and fast digesting protein is the ultimate muscle mass gain combination that we can find. In addition, Greek yogurt is considered to have double the protein amounts as compared with the regular yogurt (16, 17). Just add some seeds, nuts, and berries, and there you have it – a nutritional and delicious snack!

Cottage cheese

Many people are not aware of this, including you, perhaps, but cottage cheese offers great amounts of protein. But that is not the most surprising thing about it – most of the protein that comes of cottage cheese is casein – a slow-digestive protein which will maintain your muscle health and growth over an extended period of time. Plus, B vitamins and calcium are also found as a part of the nutritional value of cottage cheese, which of course doubles its importance (18). Pair a few fresh tomato slices with some cottage cheese and enjoy this quick and easy, high-protein snack, or simply add a bit cottage cheese to your meals and salads to improve their taste.

Turkey breast

Around 25 gr of high-quality protein, with no fats or carbs, are to be found in approximately a 3-ounce serving of turkey breast. Not to mention all of the B vitamins that you will be getting. And the reason why that is important to know is the fact that one of the B vitamins – niacin, supports and helps the processing of fats and carbs, and with that, makes sure that there is enough energy for you to finish that hard workout at the gym (19, 20). Turkey breast might be one of the leanest animal-based protein sources that we can find. And we should not forget to mention the very little calories that are to be found in turkey breast – around 3 ounces of turkey breast comes packing with only 95 calories. For such a generous protein source, those really are small amounts of protein, we must admit.


Did you know that with a half of cup of cooked soybeans, you will be introducing around 16 gr of protein, healthy fats, Vitamin K, iron, and phosphorus, among other nutrients (21)? Soy can be consumed in many different ways and combined into various delicious meals. However, do not overdo your use of soybeans, because as research suggests, over consummation of soy can lead to an early testosterone decline among men, and with that, a decline in muscle mass and strength.


There is a variety of beans for you to choose from in order to gain the B vitamins, fiber, protein, iron, and magnesium that they have to offer. Beans are one of the best plant-based protein sources that everyone can add to their diet for the purpose of gaining the protein and other nutrients that they have to offer us. Beans are easy to incorporate in any salad and main meal, plus, they are one of the most inexpensive and filling protein sources out there.

Hemp seeds

Another rich source of Omega-3 fatty acids is hemp seeds. These small seeds are not to be underestimated. Only 100 gr of hemp seeds can offer an amazing 32 gr of protein, and almost 50 gr of healthy fats. Hemp seeds are so easy to be used since you can add them to almost anything – from your salads, soups, and smoothies. They are delicious and most importantly, highly nutritional. In addition, they will reduce any present inflammation, protect your cognitive functions, improve your skin health and so much more!


If you are in the search for the best foods that will help you build strong and lean muscles in no time, then you came in the right place. As you can see, we have 15 delicious foods that bound to help you build your strong muscles easy and fast. When paired up with an extensive workout, we have a combination that results in great looking muscles and nothing less than that. With the summer coming closer and closer, we are sure that you will use the most out of these 15 delicious foods to build muscles that you will want to show off at the beach!


(1) https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/poultry-products/703/2
(2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20809267
(3) https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12970-017-0173-z
(4) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24477043
(5) https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/beef-products/6189/2
(6) https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3086/2
(7) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257681/
(8) https://jissn.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1550-2783-7-7
(9) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25285409
(10) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25994567
(11) https://journals.lww.com/nutritiontodayonline/pages/articleviewer.aspx?year=2009&issue=01000&article=00013&type=abstract
(12) https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/9873/2
(13) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26224750
(14) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10478451
(15) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4848650/
(16) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16937979
(17) https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/216
(18) https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/casein-protein-found-naturally-11240.html
(19) https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/poultry-products/859/2
(20) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17240780
(21) https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/legumes-and-legume-products/4376/2

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