Muscle-Building Foods: All About Protein

The world is a strange place… Seemingly half the population wants to lose weight while many of you will be facing the opposite struggle: how to eat enough to make sure you pack on some lean mass. If you’re weight training, what you eat is just as important as what you do in the gym. All the hard work in the world is fruitless if you don’t eat accordingly.

Today, we’ll look at 10 of the best muscle-building foods to maximize your gains.

The Best Program for
Muscle Building in 2024


Before that, we’ll give you the low-down on why your body needs muscle-building protein and how much of it you need.

First thing’s first then…

What’s the big deal with protein?

Why Does Your Body Need Protein For Muscle-Building?

Macronutrients make up the caloric content of your food.

The 3 main macros are:

  • Carbohydrates
  • Fat
  • Protein

Each gram of carbohydrate and protein contains 4 calories while a gram of fat has 9 calories.

In order to build muscle, it’s best to shoot for a balanced diet with perhaps 40% protein, 40% carbs and 20% fat. Fat is important to keep your testosterone levels up. Low-fat diets are all well and good but they lead to reduced testosterone which is bad news for muscle growth.

Your muscles are made of 2 filaments:

  • Actin
  • Myosin

Both actin and myosin are proteins. Every protein is made up of linked amino acids.

When you’re trying to get your body to build more muscle, you want to produce more actin and myosin. This is achieved by amino acids joining together inside the muscle.

There are 2 varieties of amino acid:

  • Essential amino acids: Your body cannot make essential amino acids. You need to get them from protein-rich food
  • Non-essential amino acids: Your body can make these from other amino acids

If you picture protein as a wall, amino acids are the bricks.


Now you know a bit about muscle-building protein and why you need it, we’ll look at how much you need if your goal is to gain weight…

How Much Protein Do You Need For a Muscle-Building Diet?

The age-old bodybuilding benchmark for protein is 1g of protein per pound of bodyweight.

For most purposes, this is fairly accurate.

If you want to cut and lose fat, you could ramp this up to between 1.2g and 1.5g of protein per pound.

Various studies show optimum figures as anywhere from 1g to 1.8g of protein per pound so there’s no one-fit answer.

With a number of variables to consider, think about your precise needs in terms of muscle growth and make it your business to eat the right amount of protein to complement your training and weight goals.

Don’t go over the top with protein either. Too much is as bad as not enough…

Take on more than 2g per pound of body weight and it can cause increased body fat and calcium secretion.

We’ll look now at 10 great sources of protein to cover most tastes and budgets.

10 Great Sources of Protein For a Muscle-Building Diet

We’ll look now at 10 highly effective muscle-building foods to help your muscles repair and grow.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of protein sources but if you incorporate these into your diet alongside training hard, you should soon start stacking on some size.

  • Eggs
  • Rotisserie Chicken
  • Lean Beef
  • Bison
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Scallops
  • Brown Rice
  • Nuts

1) Eggs

Eggs are perhaps one of the first protein-rich foods that springs to mind and a staple for bodybuilders and weightlifters the world over.

Over the years, eggs have taken some bashing for being an artery-clogging menace. Continuing research suggests that dietary cholesterol is not firmly linked to heart disease so eggs have returned to their position as a health food.

If you’re serious about putting on some muscle, eggs and cheap and easy to prepare in a number of ways so you can avoid boredom while taking on board all the protein you need.

An inbuilt bonus is the ½ gram of leucine in each egg. Leucine is a branched chain amino acid that stimulates protein extremely efficiently.

Whether you prefer them scrambled or poached, get some eggs down you on a regular basis and amp up those gains.

2) Rotisserie Chicken

One of the major obstacles for many people trying to build muscle with a protein-rich diet is the time and effort required to maintain a diet fit for your training program.

We get it. Everyone’s busy. So why not make it easy on yourself?

Grab a couple of rotisserie chicken so you have an instant go-to for a burst of protein if you slipped up on your meal prep.

Tear off a couple of breasts or grab some dark meat and enjoy a taste sensation that’s also packed with all the protein you need to fuel those tired muscles and to stimulate their repair and growth.

3) Lean Beef

Beef is a tried and true muscle-building food that tastes great and delivers a whopping dose of protein for a win-win.

The amino acids, creatine and B-vitamins make beef a real powerhouse nutritionally. There’s some saturated fat in there so be careful of what cut you go for…

Give rib-eye, T-bone and Porterhouse a swerve as the protein to fat ratio is too high. Opt instead for sirloin or eye of round.

Get the cut right with beef and you’ll give your muscles the fuel to repair and grow with a delicious steak.

4) Bison

Everyone has different needs and goals with training. If you’re looking to take less fat on board and you want something with the protein content of lean beef but even less fat, it might be time to hunt out some bison.

Each regular serving only contains 2 or 3 grams of fat. Not only is there less fat but also less calories per ounce so you score both ways with bison.

For anyone looking to stay lean while also packing on some muscle, get on the case with some bison.

5) Cottage Cheese

Full-fat cottage cheese should be part of any muscle-building diet.

There are good bacteria in cottage cheese. These live cultures play an important role in helping your body to break down and absorb essential nutrients for muscle growth.

Casein is a slow-digesting dairy protein that helps increase your blood amino acid and regulates the levels better than whey, the other type of dairy protein.

Whether you smear it on some bread or pop it in your salad, make sure you eat plenty of cottage cheese before or after training.

6) Salmon

If you’re a fish lover, salmon should be more than an occasional treat if you’re looking to get bigger.

Stuffed with high quality protein and omega-3 fats like DHA and EPA, eating salmon helps to stave off muscle breakdown and also increases the anabolic capacity of any amino acids.

Fish oil supplements can give you some of the benefits but there’s no substitute for a salmon steak if you want to improve your heart health while at the same time encouraging maximum muscle growth.

7) Tuna

Tuna is rich in protein and it’s far leaner than most land-based animal protein.

If you have the cash to spare, fresh tuna steak is unbeatable. For anyone on more of a budget, go for a can of chunk tuna. There’s a whopping 30 grams in protein in a single small can.

Look for sustainably fished tuna if possible. These wonderful giants are heavily fished so try to do your part for the environment while grabbing that protein fix.

8) Scallops

In common with most seafood, scallops are lean, laden with protein and very versatile in the kitchen.

A single meaty scallop has an incredible 15 grams of protein at the expense of just ½ gram of fat.

If you’re getting sick and tired of so much tuna, perhaps it’s time to widen your scope and include some scallops in your muscle-building diet.

9) Brown Rice

While you might normally associate rice with carbs, a cup of cooked brown rice also contains 5 grams of protein.

Branched chain amino acids are key for muscle building. These are present in relatively high levels making brown rice a great vegetarian source of protein that anyone can afford no matter how tight the food budget might be.

10) Nuts

Rounding out our top 10 sources of protein for a muscle-building diet is nuts.

Just 1oz of almonds or cashews serves you up with 150 quality calories.

Nuts offer you the ideal blend of protein, fats and fiber so you can take some extra calories on board without losing your six-pack.

If you want a perfect snack on the go to fuel your muscles, you can’t go wrong with nuts.


Now you’ve got a good selection of protein to choose from, does it really matter what kind of protein you eat?

Different Types of Protein: Quality Matters

Not all proteins are created equal.

There are 3 key factors to consider:

  • Proteins digest at different speeds
  • Proteins have varying amounts of amino acids
  • The body can use some forms of protein more efficiently than others

Beef is a great example of high quality protein…

It’s very rapidly digested and the body makes use of 75% of what’s eaten. Beef is also packed with amino acids.

Egg protein is also a strong option. It digests slowly with 90% of it used by the body.

If you target plenty of meat, fish, eggs and dairy, you will be getting your protein from quality sources and this will lead to maximum muscle growth.

When To Eat Protein To Pack On Lean Muscle

Taking on the protein you need on a daily basis is much important than when you consume it.

Some people prefer 3 larger meals a day while others training will eat 5 or 6 smaller meals. Whatever your eating habits, pepper protein throughout your day when you normally eat and the job’s done.

There are conflicting views on whether or not eating protein directly before and after working out leads to more muscle building.

While the jury is out, received wisdom suggests that eating protein before you train and within an hour of finishing up will promote maximum muscle growth.

Do I Need To Cut Carbs Completely To Boost Muscle Growth?

It’s not a smart move to slash carbs from your diet if you’re looking to put on some weight.

You need carbs and fat in limited amounts for maximum muscle growth.

Carbs are crucial for energy while working out. If you lack enough reserves, your body will dip into protein as a substitute. This in turn will starve your muscles of growth.

Supplements: Are Protein Shakes Worth It?

There’s no avoiding it, it can sometimes seem a struggle to get enough protein down the hatch.

This causes many people to think about protein supplements.

Protein shakes are ideal taken 1 hour before and after working out so however busy you are, there’s always time for a quick shake.

Both whey and casein protein are effective. Mixing them can work well.

Whey is swiftly absorbed by the body so delivers an instant shot of amino acids.

Casein, on the other hand, provides a much steadier trickle of amino acids and it breaks down slowly.

A combination of both proteins will give you a leg up when it comes to muscle building.

The Best Program for
Muscle Building in 2024



We hope you’ve found plenty of usable information in this study of muscle-building foods.

Come back soon as we are currently expanding our site so there’s plenty more in store on a wide range of muscle-building and nutritional topics. If there’s anything you’d particularly like us to look into, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Now go and get some food prepared!

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