Best Muscle Building Foods and Protein Sources
Building muscle is not easy, in fact, it can be a downright nightmare, especially for those of you who perhaps aren’t blessed with the most efficient muscle building genetics, or for people who simply hit natural plateaus, which, sadly, we all do from time to time.
In order for us to stand any chance of building muscle and achieving a physique to be proud of, we need to ensure that we put the hours in, not only in the gym, but also in the kitchen as well.
Bodybuilding isn’t just about heading to the gym and lifting weights, it is a lifestyle, a way of life, and it requires huge amounts of sacrifice, dedication, knowledge, willpower, drive, determination, and a willingness to succeed and never give up, even when times get tough.
If you think that bodybuilding is about simply lifting weights in the gym a few times each week, you are very much mistaken, as bodybuilding requires 24/7 dedication.
There aren’t many athletes that will set their alarms to wake them up in the middle of the night so that they can chug down a protein shake, or eat some quality food, yet for a bodybuilder prepping for a photo shoot or a competition, that will happen every single night for several weeks/months leading up to the event in question.
In regards to building muscle, people often think that the training in the gym is the hard part, when in fact, that is easy, it’s the eating right that is considered the most difficult.
Bodybuilding and building muscle in general, is considered around 70% diet and nutrition, and 30% training, so that gives some idea of just how important it is to ensure you eat right.
Here we’ll be taking a look at 12 best muscle building foods so that you can help pile on the pounds (of muscle) and perform at your absolute best in the gym in the process.
1. Chicken Breast
First and foremost, we’ll begin with the bodybuilding staple – Chicken breast.
Chicken breast for a bodybuilder, is both their best friend, and their worst enemy at the same time.
It is their best friend because it is so beneficial in regards to building muscle, yet it is their worst enemy because they will probably be so sick and tired of consuming it on a daily basis.
Chicken breast is virtually fat free, providing it is skinless, and it is very versatile, going with virtually any dish imaginable.
Not only is it low in fat, but it is also very high in protein, with one average sized breast providing around 18 – 20 grams of protein.
Protein plays a vital role in the growth and development of muscle tissue, so consuming enough protein each day is considered a top priority for many bodybuilders.
Not only is chicken breast rich in protein, it also contains amino acids, and minerals as well, making it very healthy.
Combine this with the fact that the meat can be cooked in advance, and consumed cold the next day, it is great for prepping in advance and helping you to hit your daily protein macros in the process.
To help liven it up slightly, don’t be scared of various seasonings.
2. Whole Eggs
Forget what people tell you about egg yolks and cholesterol, because, whilst the yolks do indeed contain cholesterol, they contain a combination of both good, and bad cholesterol, and in order for the bad cholesterol to be deemed as dangerous, you would need to be consuming an absurd amount of yolks each day, so try to limit yourself to no more than four whole eggs daily, and bulk the remainder out with whites.
When choosing eggs, avoid eggs from caged hens like the plague, as the eggs are tasteless, contain far less nutrients than healthy eggs, and it is also not really fair on the chickens.
Instead, opt for organic or free range eggs instead as they taste superior, and are packed full of natural goodness.
For bodybuilders, whole eggs are ideal as they are high in protein, and one of the best muscle building foods, containing around 5 – 6 grams per egg.
They also are the only food to boast a complete amino acid profile, containing all essential and non-essential amino acids required by the body.
The fats in the yolk are also healthy and provide energy, and there are also B vitamins and minerals present in the eggs as well.
If you’re expecting a list full of high protein foods, then you may be surprised, because, although protein does indeed help to build muscle, there are other macronutrients that also play vital roles in muscle growth, for very different reasons.
Carbohydrates for example, help to promote muscle growth by providing sustained energy for the body, helping to provide fuel to get through intense workouts and make them more effective.
Oatmeal is packed full of slow-release carbohydrates, which provide a steady flow of energy to the body, making oatmeal the ultimate pre-workout food.
Oatmeal is low in fat, is rich in niacin, B vitamins, Folate, and dietary fiber, which not only helps improve digestive health, it also helps suppress your appetite and keeps you feeling full for longer.
For the ultimate pre-workout breakfast, bodybuilders all over the world start their days with a bowl of fresh oatmeal, and enjoy fantastic workouts afterwards as a result.
Seafood in general is extremely healthy and beneficial, yet salmon is considered one of the healthiest forms of fish in the entire world, and is therefore especially beneficial to bodybuilders.
Salmon is rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which help promote mental health and fitness, as well as increased metabolic rates, healthy digestion, healthy organ function, and much more besides.
Whilst it is oily and rich in fats, the fats help to lower harmful triglycerides in the blood and lead to increases in energy as well.
The more energy you have, the more effective your workouts become as a result.
Salmon is also very high in protein, which as you know, plays a vital role in muscle growth.
The protein is also thermogenic, which means that it boosts the metabolism as the body struggles to digest it and break it down.
5. Red Meat
Red meat is another food that is often overlooked by bodybuilders, and we can’t really understand why.
Red meat, grass-fed beef or wild game for example, is actually very lean and incredibly high in protein, higher even than chicken.
The saturated fats found in red meat are also healthy as they are derived from animal fats.
Red meat really comes into its own, however, due to the fact that it is rich in minerals, especially iron.
Iron helps increase haemoglobin production, which helps transport oxygen around the blood.
The more oxygen that is pumped around the blood, the more energy our muscles will have, and the more weight we can lift in the gym.
Other minerals present includes zinc and magnesium, both of which help boost immunity.
6. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is another staple bodybuilder snack food that is incredibly simple, easy to consume, and highly beneficial and one of then available muscle building foods.
Cottage cheese is rich in casein protein, which is a protein that digests and breaks down much slower than other whey proteins.
For this reason, cottage cheese is the perfect snack food before bed, or before long journeys as it provides a steady stream of protein over the course of several hours, helping to prevent muscle wastage and breakdown and keeping them in an anabolic state.
Cottage cheese is also virtually fat free, and versatile, making it a great accompaniment, or snack food for when you’re in a hurry, as it is ready to eat directly out of the tub.
7. Natural Peanut Butter
When choosing peanut butter, always make sure it is natural, and preferably organic.
Natural peanut butter is rich in protein and healthy fats and oils that boost energy production and help the body to perform more effectively in the gym.
The reason why you should always opt for natural/organic peanut butter is the fact that other peanut butters in the store are often enriched with hydrogenated oils, salt, sugar, and other chemicals that do the body no good at all.
Natural peanut butters contain nothing but pure ground peanuts, with nothing added, and nothing taken away.
8. Organic Egg Whites
Another one of the best muscle building foods is Egg Whites!
Egg whites are an integral part of many bodybuilder’s diets and for very good reason as well.
Egg whites are a fantastic source of protein, which is absolutely vital for the growth and repair of cells and muscle tissue.
As well as being rich in protein, egg whites are also rich in vitamins and minerals and are able to boast a complete essential amino acid profile.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein molecules and play a number of key roles in the growth and repair of muscle tissue, as well as various other processes as well.
Always opt for organic egg whites if possible, or failing that free range.
Avoid caged hens eggs at all costs as they’re extremely unhealthy, taste vile and bland, and contain very little nutrients in the slightest.
When people talk about the importance of oily fish, it is often salmon that takes most of the credit and whilst salmon is indeed an extremely healthy fish, so too is mackerel, not to mention the fact that it is vastly underrated both in terms of taste and nutrient content.
Mackerel is from the tuna family, though it contains far more omega 3 fatty acids than tuna.
These omega 3 fatty acids are especially beneficial from a muscle building standpoint as they help support the joints, they help lubricate the joints, they fight inflammation, and they help enhance the metabolism.
Mackerel are also rich in various other nutrients, including minerals such as zinc which helps to boost the immune system and regulate the testosterone levels.
Beetroot is quickly becoming one of the most popular health food in the entire world and beetroot sales over the past 24 months have sky rocketed.
The reason for this is that beetroots are rich in nitrates, which act as vasodilators, which dilate the blood vessels and allow more oxygen and nutrient rich blood to pass through them.
As more nutrient rich blood is able to be carried around the body, athletic performance is greatly increased because various cells found in the muscles around the body will soak up these nutrients and this energy and will basically be able to work harder and for much longer periods of time.
They’re also rich in various other nutrients so it’s no wonder why they’re so popular, which make Beetroot one of the best muscle building foods.
Almonds contain healthy fats, proteins, and plenty of dietary fiber and are considered one of the healthiest nuts you could ever wish to consume.
Almonds are also packed full of vitamin E, which is extremely beneficial and very difficult to get a hold of.
It works as a potent antioxidant and can help to prevent a number of different cancers.
The benefits don’t stop there, however, as they’re also full of B vitamins that provide energy and help to boost the metabolism, which in turn can help to burn body fat.
Almond butter is a real treat for many bodybuilders, with many of them choosing to spread it on whole wheat bagels, or even simply eat it directly out of the jar.
Whilst chicken breast is the meat of choice for many bodybuilders and one of the best muscle building foods, red meat such as steak simply cannot be ignored and should not be ignored.
It contains minerals such as iron, which help to maintain blood health and circulation.
It’s also rich in protein and amino acids, which is obviously ideal for anybody looking to get muscle fast.
It’s also surprisingly lean, especially if you choose for leaner cuts such as the rump.
What’s more is the fact that it tastes great, which is a real treat if you’re dieting down for a competition and are used to consuming bland and tasteless foods.