Skip to main content

10 Foods You Should Be Eating If You’re Serious About Muscle Growth

Looking for Foods to Build Muscles? These Are the Best

The world of nutrition and muscle growth can be a terribly confusing one. Between the madness of the latest trends in health, fad diets, the newest “must have” workout gear, and toxic weight loss culture, it’s easy to want to throw in the towel and reach for a box of Twinkies. But tucked in, hidden in all of this confusion, there are some things about fitness and muscle growth that are just always true. The biggest truth of them all is that abs really are made in the kitchen. You can work yourself into a frenzy with a fancy gym membership, but without proper nutrition, your body is just running on toxic fumes.

Muscle building requires a good balance of proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Combined with a good strength-building routine, these foods will work for you for optimal muscle growth. So if you’ve been frustrated with the results of your workout routine, or are looking to bulge those biceps a bit more, you’ll want to add these items to your grocery list.

Bowl of Eggs

Whole Eggs

Egg whites have always been popular in low-calorie diets, but if it’s muscle growth you’re after, you’ll want to whisk in the yolk. Whole eggs are powerhouses of protein, healthy fat, and vitamins.

Chicken Breast

Chicken breast is packed with protein at 40 grams per cup. It is also one of the most versatile ingredients on our list, and the star ingredient of many delicious recipes.

Garlic butter air fryer salmon with green beans and lemon


Another protein-packed option, salmon boasts inflammation-reducing omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon also contains a good deal of potassium, which will help with muscle cramps after those especially strenuous workouts.

sirloin steak grill
Instants/Getty Images

Lean Beef

While fatty cuts of beef like ribeye are delicious and full of protein, they do carry more calories than many other options you can find at the butcher counter. Some great options for leaner cuts are top round roast, sirloin, and flank steak. Lean beef also provides a healthy dose of iron and zinc, both crucial for post-workout recovery.

Piles of mixed nuts


Easy to toss in the gym bag, nuts are not only convenient, but packed full of protein and healthy fat. A good mix of nuts will provide your post-workout body with many essentials like magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin E.

Three bowls of lentils coming in different colors


A great option for those sticking to a plant-based diet, lentils are a tremendous source of protein at 9 grams per half cup. They also contain plenty of fiber, carbohydrates, and minerals, in addition to amino acids.

Cottage Cheese

Paired with fruit, cottage cheese is a wonderfully protein-rich breakfast at 14 grams per half cup. It also is high in calcium, helping to support strong bone health.

A glass of yogurt parfait with berries and granola beside a plastic spoon on brown cloth.

Greek Yogurt

Protein-rich Greek yogurt is packed with Vitamin D, which aids in the body’s absorption of phosphorus and calcium.

Quinoa dish with tomatoes.


Quinoa has risen in popularity in recent years due to the extensive health benefits it provides. Quinoa is high in protein, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants. Not only that, but it is naturally gluten-free. No wonder this humble little seed is so popular.

A bird's eye view of soybeans on a cloth.


Another wonderful meat-free protein source, soybeans are great for muscle growth. Containing all nine amino acids, and packed with 6 grams of protein per half cup, these little guys are the perfect muscle-building snack.

How do I build muscle quickly?

One of the most crucial factors in gaining muscle quickly is also one of the most difficult to get used to. In a culture that’s so often obsessed with eating less, it feels unnatural to eat more to get the body we want. The truth is, though, in order for your body to make muscle, it needs to know that it isn’t starving to death. When we deprive our bodies of the calories it needs, it stores any and all extra calories ingested as fat, thinking it has nothing to spare. In order for your body to understand that you’re trying to pack on the muscles, you need to reassure it that it’s going to get all the fuel it needs in order to do so. For quick muscle growth, you’re going to want to add an extra 250 – 500 calories to your daily intake.

How long does it take for muscles to grow?

Unfortunately, muscle growth isn’t an overnight process. It can be frustrating to spend hours both in the gym, and in the kitchen, only to be discouraged after a few weeks of no noticeable progress. Rest assured, though, that if you’re eating the right foods and amping up your strength training, visible results should appear within eight weeks, depending on your fitness level. Stick with it, and try to be patient.

What are the three requirements for muscle growth?

The three requirements for the body to grow muscle are simple. Eat, train, and sleep. Be sure to get enough of the protein and vitamin-rich foods listed here to ensure optimal muscle growth. Pair this improved diet with strength training that challenges you, and be sure you’re getting enough Zs. When we sleep, our bodies release amino acids, which help build protein. Growth hormones are also released during sleep, which helps repair muscle after a workout. So don’t skimp on that time between the sheets.

Editors' Recommendations