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20 Best Muscle Building Foods

author image Susy Sedano
Susy joined LIVESTRONG.COM at its inception in 2008. Focused on all things food, fitness and health related, her daily contributions as the LIVESTRONG.COM community manager is an asset to the site and the millions of community members. She has a M. A. in Clinical Psychology.

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20 Best Muscle Building Foods
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Your ability gain muscle has as much to do with what you eat as how hard you push yourself in the gym. But if you include these foods, suggested by Dan Go, a personal trainer and nutritionist, you’ll ensure that your time spent in the gym isn’t a waste of sweat.

Whole Eggs
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Whole eggs provide great protein content at 6 to 8 grams per egg, and are also rich in vitamins, zinc, iron and calcium making them one of the most complete muscle building foods out there.

Chicken Breast
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For every 100 grams of chicken breast you get 30 grams of protein, with minimal fat. They are relatively inexpensive, easy to cook and can be served in many different styles.

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This isn’t a food, but hydration is an important part of building muscle. Your body is 70 percent water and your muscle tissue is around 75 percent water. Keeping your muscles hydrated will help increase strength, increase energy levels and aid in proper digestion. Aim for about 0.6 ounces of water per pound of body weight.

Fish Oil
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Fish oil has anti-inflammatory benefits that allow your body to recover faster from a heavy workout. This means that you can exercise more frequently. What’s more, fish oil might also speed your metabolism. So you'll not only build muscle, but also eliminate more fat to reveal more definition.

Grass-fed Beef
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Grass-fed beef is high in omega-3 fatty acids, higher in good unsaturated fats, and loaded with 400 percent more of vitamin A (as beta carotene) and vitamin E. It's a perfect substitute for the grain-fed beef you'll find in your local grocery store.

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Turkey isn’t just for Thanksgiving. It happens to be one of the most under-appreciated muscle-building foods, and it's a fantastic source of protein, and a good source of 11 vitamins and minerals. Turkey also packs selenium, which, according to recent studies, might help prevent some types of cancer.

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You want a carbohydrate source that helps build muscle? Look no further. A 100 grams serving of Quinoa packs 14 grams of protein along with essential amino acids making it a great addition to your muscle-building meal plan.

Steel-cut Oats
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Oatmeal is a healthy, filling grain, and the steel cut variety offers more flavor to the mix. Oats provide a blend of carbohydrates, fiber, protein, minerals and vitamins. The body digests steel-cut oats slowly, meaning you stay fuller for longer and maintain consistent blood sugar levels.

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Pineapples are a rich source of a protein-digesting enzyme named bromelein. It’s also been shown to reduce muscle inflammation, making it a great addition to your post-workout meal.

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There might have been a reason why Popeye ate so much spinach. Researchers at Rutgers University (2008) showed that the phytoecdysteroids contained in spinach may increase muscle growth up to 20 percent. The catch? You’d need to eat 2 pounds of spinach per day to see the same benefits.

Sweet Potato
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Carbohydrates are an essential nutrient for your body, and they also help you add on additional muscle. Sweet potatoes are one of the tastier and more convenient options to replenish energy stores and fuel the muscle-building process. Additionally, they're packed with vitamins and minerals to help you maintain normal blood sugar levels, and keep you feeling fuller longer.

Wild Salmon
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Wild salmon is a potent source of protein that also packs a powerful punch of omega-3 fatty acids. This two-pronged attack will aid your lean-muscle dreams, and studies show it may help speed up your metabolism for faster results.

Whey Protein


Whey protein a fast-absorbing protein that is best served post workout. It contains amino acids that are critical to building and maintaining muscle. The best part about whey protein is its high biological value — a measure of the efficiency with which protein can be absorbed and used by the body for tissue growth.

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Put broccoli and other fibrous vegetables (broccoli, asparagus, spinach, tomatoes, sweet corn, peppers, onions and leeks) on your list of go-to post-workout foods. You should eat five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables a day, and you can't find a better source of vitamins, minerals and fiber than these sources. But be careful: If you overcook your vegetables you will decrease their vitamin and mineral content.

Wild Rice


Wild Rice is an overlooked muscle building food that has 3 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein in one cooked cup. It's a good alternative to brown rice.

Cottage Cheese


Some might consider this a dessert, but it's also one of the best muscle-building foods you’ll find. Just one cup of cottage cheese can pack 28 grams of protein. And the snack is made up of a combination of fast and slow digestion proteins, so you can stave off hunger.

Chocolate Milk


It seems too good to be true, but chocolate milk can help you build more muscle. In a study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, chocolate milk was just as effective as sports drinks at increasing total exercise output, and delaying exhaustion.

Lean Red Meat (Buffalo/Venison)
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You don’t have to stick to the beef for your sources of red-meat protein. Venison and buffalo are two lean sources of protein that are loaded with B vitamins, iron, phosphorus, selenium, zinc and copper.

Lentils and Chickpeas
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Who says you need to eat meat to fill up on protein? These vegetarian- and vegan-friendly foods offer the protein your muscles need, without the high-impact carbohydrate rush that affects your insulin levels.

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Big things can come in small packages. Almonds provide a good source of protein and fat, but it’s their vitamin E that is most beneficial to your muscles. The powerful antioxidant fights free radicals and helps you recover quicker from your workouts.

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