Skip the protein shakes: 8 muscle-building foods to eat instead

You don’t have to be an aspiring bodybuilder to care about muscle mass. In fact, maintaining healthy muscle mass is one of many ways we can stay healthy and improve our overall well-being, especially as we age. And, along with a balanced regimen of exercise and strength training, our diet is a critical 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 tissues. It’s an essential part of your diet, but that doesn’t mean you need to downsize every day protein shakes to get enough. While that’s certainly one 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 many foods high in protein and other muscle-building nutrients to your diet. In this article, we’ll look at how different foods help you build muscle — and what’s best to eat if you’re trying to increase your strength.

Smiling woman lifts dumbbells in garage.

Inti St Clair/Getty Images

How food helps build muscle

Although protein is essential for muscle building, it is not the only important nutritional component in the process. According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, a good muscle-building diet should also be high in carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. A balanced diet that includes all of these properties provides the necessary ingredients to help your muscles recover and rebuild after a workout.

In general, the NASM recommends that most people consume at least 0.7 to 0.8 grams of protein and 1.8 to 3.2 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight each day. Total calorie intake also plays a role in building muscle because it is difficult to build muscle if you burn more calories than you consume.

However, diet alone is not enough to stimulate muscle growth. Exercise — especially resistance training like weight lifting — is necessary to start the process. When you tear the fibers in your muscles, it stimulates cell growth and repair. That’s when your body can use the foods you’ve eaten to build and strengthen muscle tissue. Other factors also influence how effective and efficient this process is, from when you eat your food and how much rest you give your muscles between workouts to your hormonal and genetic makeup.

A box of brown eggs against a blue background.

Tanja Ivanova/Getty Images

8 Foods to Optimize Your Profits

While many factors play a role in muscle building, nutrition undoubtedly plays a key role. Here are eight muscle-building foods you can eat to optimize your workouts and increase your muscle mass.

1. Eggs

Eggs have long been considered a concentrate, and for good reason. They are incredibly rich in nutrients from fat and protein and contain a potent blend of vitamins such as B12, B6 and thiamine. Their nutrient-rich profile makes them particularly potent, but most importantly, they contain a hefty dose of leucine. This amino acid is known for its muscle building power.

2. Fish

If you’re already getting enough fat, but need to increase your protein intake, look no further than fish. It’s one of the best lean protein sources you can eat, and it’s packed with other vitamins and minerals. A bonus? Fish is full of omega-3 fatty acids. Although they are known for their many other health benefits, omega-3 fatty acids can also improve muscle performance and help prevent the loss of muscle mass. 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 provide a 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, as many nuts (including peanuts, which are actually legumes) are high in calories. For the most nutritious options, try almonds or walnuts.

4. Soybeans

If you’re trying to build muscle on a meatless diet, soybeans should be one of your best friends. These are one of the most nutritious legumes you can eat, and they contain a potent amount of protein to help build muscle. Soy contains all nine essential amino acids, making it one of the best plant-based protein sources available.

Close-up of a pile of edamame beans.

Lauren Burke/Getty Images

5. Greek yogurt

Dairy is a unique source of protein because it offers a combination of fast-digesting whey proteins and slow-digesting casein proteins. When consumed together, these two types of protein can strengthen and lengthen the protein synthesis process your muscles go through during rebuilding, helping you build your lean body mass. Greek yogurt is a particularly good choice for dairy products because it contains twice as much protein compared to regular yogurt and offers additional probiotic health benefits not found in milk or cheese.

6. Cottage cheese

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

7. Olive Oil

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

8. Quinoa

They don’t call quinoa a superfood for nothing. This dynamic grain (it’s a seed but classified as a whole grain) has a little bit of everything, including lots of protein, fiber and carbohydrates, plus a hefty dose of vitamins and minerals. It is a perfect food to build muscle and maximize the benefits of your workouts.

Cooked quinoa in a wooden bowl with a green garnish.

Elizaveta Antropova/Getty Images

A recipe for stronger muscles

Adding these muscle building foods to your diet will definitely help you on your way to increasing muscle mass and increasing your strength. However, remember that building muscle mass takes time – and nutrition is only one piece of the puzzle. Combining a balanced diet of protein foods with healthy exercise and rest will speed up your journey and improve your overall health.

read more: Lose weight and build muscle mass at the same time with body recomposition

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified healthcare professional if you have any questions about a medical condition or health goals.

Leave a Comment