Top 10 muscle building foods

Some foods are better than others for allowing muscles to recover bigger and stronger. Here are the top 10 muscle building foods to include in your diet to provide the most efficient process for allowing damaged muscle fibres to repair. The faster the repair process, the sooner you can workout again.

1. STEAK

Beef steak provides your body with high quality protein (not all proteins are equal), and a high level of amino acid that works with insulin to promote muscle growth. On average, an 85g serving of lean beef is only 150 calories, yet it also provides ten essential nutrients, including iron, zinc and B-vitamins. It also contains some saturated fat which has been shown to boost testosterone production, a key element in muscle development.

2. MILK

High in protein and great for a post-workout snack to shuttle glycogen back into the muscles and protein into the system to start the repair process. Just make sure to have organic when you can. Skimmed milk is great post-workout as the low fat content stimulates insulin secretion – this is normally ‘the devil’ for most of the day, but in the 30 minute window post-workout, we actually want to stimulate insulin secretion to ensure muscles are repaired and reloaded quickly. For other times in the day, try whole milk which will give you that great balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats for testosterone production and muscle repair.

3. EGGS

The king of protein sources aside from refined supplements. The only problem is that a normal egg may only pack 7 grams of protein so you need quite a few to get the correct protein consumption. Most of the protein is found in the egg whites so for muscle maintenance eating only the white is fine. But I rarely leave the yolks; even with their cholesterol levels. Research into the role of dietary cholesterol and heart disease shows that for most people, the two are not linked. Eggs have since returned to the spotlight as a health food, especially for building muscle. The cholesterol and saturated fat found in eggs yolks serves at the scaffolding for steroid hormones, and the 0.5g of leucine in each egg is like throwing petrol onto your muscle-building fire.

4. CHICKEN

Like steak, this is a quality source of protein and is easier to digest than red meat. It also tends to be leaner than steak meaning that it can be used for muscle building and fat loss diet plans alike. It has a few less vitamins and minerals than steak and this, coupled with the fact that steak is mainly for muscle building diets whereas chicken is more of an all-round winner, is the only reason why steak gets the nod over chicken in this list.

5. SALMON

Salmon is loaded with protein and omega-3 fatty acids, two key nutrients to build and repair muscle tissue, and to keep your hunger in check and is also rich in key nutrients, such as selenium, Vitamin D, B12, niacin and vitamin D. The list goes on with all of the health benefits associated with salmon, such as reducing cholesterol and improving memory. The only reason it doesn’t go as far up the list is because of it’s high fat content to protein ratio. On a full-on muscle bulk where calories aren’t counted, it is fine to get 30+ grams of protein from the fish source without worrying about the calories from the fat. But for a leaner bulk, you would need to ensure your other 5 or so protein filled meals aren’t all full of fattier meats/fish as calories can mount up when looking to reach your protein quota.

6. PEANUT BUTTER

Not a great protein source, but a brilliant fat source to have in the evening to slow protein release from other foods throughout the night. It’s high health mono-saturated fat levels and good cholesterol also helps with the production of testosterone. Perfect timing for night time muscle repair when coupled with a slow releasing protein source before bed. Try greek yoghurt or casein protein with a tablespoon of peanut butter.

7. BACON

A surprise maybe?! But it is a food source that has positives and negatives similar to salmon, egg and beef. Bacon has a high fat and cholesterol content (great for testosterone production) as well as good protein. However, to get the adequate protein levels, you may need more than 3 rashers of bacon, which will take your saturated fat content for the day up to near your top line. However, if you were to have other leaner protein sources for the rest of the day (white fish, chicken and protein shakes) rashers of bacon provide some of the perfect base ingredients for muscle building…and it doesn’t smell or taste too bad either.

8. SWEET POTATO

Not a protein-packed wonder food, but the best food around for fuelling your muscles. Sweet potato is a complex carbohydrate that replenishes muscle glycogen stores after a hard workout to enable you to have the energy to lift harder and heavier next time. Protein, after-all, repairs the muscle damage to make them bigger; but it is the energy you have in your body that allows you to lift heavier and work harder that will push your body further to make them need to repair afterwards. Their ‘complex nature’ comes from the fibre it packs that can help an athlete feel full and satisfied. They can be utilised pre-workout, post-workout and at any other meal.

9. OATS

Ditto to the above, but for when your taste says ‘give me something creamy’. It is also more versatile than people think. It can be used as breakfast porridge (plain, sweet or salty), instead of rice for any dish (my ‘risoatto’ instgrams have had quite the following now), you can have it cold or hot. Plus, you can pop some in a little jar and store it in a bag, in the car or in your desk to just add water to when you’re caught without food for a meal or snack.

10. COTTAGE CHEESE

Finally, a pure casein protein source for slow release protein that is naturally lower in fat and can be had as a between meal or pre-bed snack. Cottage cheese is also an excellent source of vitamin B12, calcium, and other important nutrients as well as being high in protein. It’s low sugar and calorie content means that for muscle building plans, you will need to supplement it with other foods to keep your calories up, but to satisfy your protein needs where meat, fish or eggs aren’t available, grab a pot from the supermarket and enjoy.

 Chris James MA O.A. Dip
Director – Head of Fitness and Nutrition
Fitness Body Pro
Chris James
Top Local Trainer Author
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