Foods That Build Muscle

Building muscle mass doesn’t happen with exercise alone. Eating the right foods can make a big difference. Lifting weights can be stressful on the muscles so it is important to boost those cells with some nutrient rich foods. Adding these powerful foods to your diet can help you build the muscle mass you desire.


In the 1980’s, eggs took a big reputation hit. Eggs are back in favor and considered one of Mother Nature’s most perfect foods. When compared to the steak on the plate, eggs offer fewer calories and more biological protein. Eggs are a great source of protein since they contain 9 essential amino acids.  Essential amino acids are those that your body cannot synthesize, so their only source comes from your diet.  That means you can eat fewer eggs and get the same boost to your muscle formation. The egg also provides a plethora of other vitamins and minerals. In addition to essential amino acids, eggs also contain iron, Vitamins A, D, E,  B12, and Folate.  Yes, they’re packed with vitamins, but they also contain lutein and zeaxanthin which help to prevent cataracts and macular degeneration.  Selenium in eggs works well with Vitamin E as antioxidants to prevent the breakdown of tissue.  Choline found in eggs plays a role in brain function. You have to know about Biotin and its influence on cholesterol assimilation: we have a dedicated article about Whole Eggs or Egg Whites that clarifies your doubts about eggs and cholesterol.


Do pass by the chips and reach for some almonds. Two handfuls of almonds per day can fight that need to snack as well as add some boost to your muscles. Almonds contain high levels of alpha-tocopherol Vitamin E. This type of vitamin E gets absorbed by the body the best. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that combats free-radicals which can be produced by heavy workouts. The fewer free-radicals causing damage mean that your muscles can recover faster and get back to the business of building. Almonds can protect your brain as well as your body. One study from the Journal of the American Medical Association found that men who got their vitamin E from food sources were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s. These subjects dropped their risk by 67% when compared to other men who were consuming the least amount of vitamin E.

Fish Oil

If you want something fishy in your diet, make it salmon. Omega-3 fatty acids counter protein breakdown that happens after a workout and salmon has high amounts. This improves the overall recovery of the muscle. In order to build up muscle, you need to store new protein at a higher rate than your body can break down the protein that already is present. Omega 3′s are also a diabetes and heart disease defender. Recent recommendations to prevent heart disease include eating  one serving of fatty fish (200-400mg) twice per week or taking a supplement containing 900 mg of EPA+DHA [eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)] and consuming a diet rich in alpha-linoleic acid [1].


Yogurt may seem like chick food, but guys should incorporate this into their diet if they want to boost muscle development. Yogurt is a perfect blend of protein and carbohydrates. This rather simple food can help the muscles recover and grow after a workout. Skip the sugar-free varieties and opt for the regular yogurt with fruit. The extra carbohydrates that come from the additional fruit will boost insulin levels in the bloodstream. This counters the protein breakdown that happens after a workout. Yogurt contains conjugated linoleic acid. Some studies suggest that this fat helps reduce the overall body fat. Yogurt is one of the few foods that contain this specialized fat naturally.


Nothing is more manly and better than a big hunk of beef. This slice of protein power also contains iron and zinc which are important muscle-boosting nutrients. Beef also yields two grams of creatine for every sixteen ounces. Creatine gives you the energy to keep pumping the muscle-building iron. Not all cuts of beef will give you the cut muscle look you are looking for. Look for leaner cuts like rounds or loins. Leaner cuts still pack the nutrient punch without the excess calories. Beef also contains high levels of selenium which can help keep away prostate cancer.

Olive Oil

Adding a little olive oil to the regiment will also help muscle mass development. The body has a cellular protein called tumor necrosis factor-a. This nasty little bugger is responsible for muscle breakdown associated with muscle wasting and weakening [2]. The monounsaturated fat in olive oil stops this from happening. Olive oil also contains high levels of vitamin E which fights free-radicals. Opt for the extra-virgin varieties because they have the highest vitamin E concentration. There are some things in life that are better the purer they are. Besides helping muscle development, olive oil also has additional bonuses. Olive oil has been associated with reduced risk of heart disease, colon cancer, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Using olive oil to cook some of you favorite foods can help keep you growing and going long-term.


People tend to forget how important water is to the human body. When you are dealing with a system that is made up of 80% water, even a drop by 1% can be problematic. Researchers in Switzerland found that proper hydration led to greater fat loss while dehydration contributed to muscle breakdown[3]. It is hard to know just how much water you lose when working out. Weigh yourself before you start your routine and again after you are done. Drink 20-24 fl oz(approx 600-700ml) for every pound that the scale says you are down. Water is good for all your muscles but especially your heart, the most important muscle of them all. A study at Loma Linda University looked at men who drank five or more eight ounce glasses of water on a daily basis. These subjects were 54% less likely to suffer a heart attack compared to less-hydrated men. Water may also play an important role in promoting weight loss and reducing obesity according to a study published in Nutrition Review. A dedicated blog post for water is available, aptly named Water: Its Life.


The final food that can keep those muscles pumping is coffee. Most people can’t function without their daily jolt of  it. A study review published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research concluded that caffeine ingestion significantly benefited resistance training in 6 of 11 studies reviewed [4]. However, they did caution that caffeine ingestion can lead to dehydration and decreased performance too. Weightlifting is an anaerobic activity which means it doesn’t require oxygen. The extra kick from coffee should help you push out more repetitions. Some studies at Harvard have shown that coffee drinkers have a 30% reduced chance of developing Parkinson’s disease. This was compared to non-coffee drinkers. You may want opt out of this food if your blood pressure is known to be high. Extra caffeine may be hard on the already hard-working ticker, so have it in moderation.

Note: Not all foods are created equal. Some menu items just bring more to the nutritional table than others. By selecting the right foods onto your plate, you can add some power punch to your muscle-building goal.

If you have any questions, feel free to comment or shoot me an email.


[1] Curr Treat Options Cardiovasc Med. 2010 Aug;12(4):365-80.
[2] J Agric Food Chem. 2010 Feb 24;58(4):2246-52.
[3] European Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2003) 57, Suppl 2, S69–S74. doi:10.1038/sj.ejcn.1601904
[4] J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Jan;24(1):257-65