Get ready to power up your muscles! It is not just about pumping iron but also about what you put on your plate. If you want serious gains, pay attention to what you eat. This is because the food you munch on has a huge impact on your muscle growth. So don’t miss out on discovering the best foods to gain muscle in this must-read article!
What Are The Best Foods To Gain Muscle?
The best foods to gain muscle are those rich in protein and low in fat. These include eggs, fish, Greek yogurt, beef, chicken breast, soybeans, etc. (1). The International Society of Sports Nutrition suggests that when exercising, you should consume 1.4-2 grams of protein to build and maintain muscle mass (2). With this in mind, many individuals skip other nutrients and follow a strictly-protein diet to gain muscle.
While proteins are sufficient for building muscle, solely relying on them is not good for your health. Besides proteins, you should also consume complex carbohydrates as they help replenish glycogen stores in the muscles to avoid post-workout fatigue. You also need healthy fats for optimal body function.
One proven way to build bulky muscles is to incorporate a well-balanced diet and regular exercise. You should also include vitamins and minerals in your diet and remember to stay hydrated.
Below are some of the best foods to eat to gain muscle:
Eggs are the powerhouse of protein as they include nine essential amino acids, such as leucine, which is important for building muscle. They also include healthy fats, vitamin D, and B vitamins, which are necessary for energy production. A single egg contains 6 grams of protein (3). Incorporate eggs to get the muscles you have always desired.
If you are looking for the best diet to put on muscle, you should consider including chicken. A normal-sized chicken breast is packed with protein and contains around 25-27 grams of high-quality protein. It is also rich in B vitamins such as, B3 (niacin), and B6.
Ideally, you should consume chicken without skin to build muscle, as skinless chicken is high-protein and low-fat. Also, deep-frying chicken is not recommended as it may not give the required muscle growth results. You can grill the chicken breast and season it with paprika for taste.
Greek yogurt is much more effective than ordinary yogurt in building muscle mass because it is higher in protein. It combines fast-digesting whey protein and slow-digesting casein (5). This combination might help increase lean muscle mass.
Greek yogurt usually contains at least 18 grams of protein and is a great pre-workout and post-workout meal. You can add bananas to Greek yogurt for protein and carbs.
Fish, such as salmon and tuna, are the best at building muscle as they are high in protein and contain essential fatty acids like omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fatty acids may promote muscle growth and regulate muscular health (7).
A normal serving of tuna and salmon contains 20 and 17 grams of protein, respectively. They also contain vitamins A, B12, and B6 necessary for optimal performance. Salmon is particularly beneficial for older adults as its omega-3 fatty acids have been suggested to prevent muscle loss with age (6).
How Can I Gain My Muscle Fast?
Building muscles and bulking up takes time and effort. If you are determined to get big gains, you must know it requires perseverance, discipline, following the right diet, and working out more.
Here is how you can build muscles as fast as possible:
Follow The Right Diet
Muscle growth highly depends on the food you consume. If your goal is bulking up, you must consume more calories than you are burning. Most bodybuilders follow a diet routine named bulking and cutting and alternate between the two repeatedly.
During bulking, they consume more calories and protein-based foods to increase muscle mass. In the cutting phase, the athletes follow a calorie-deficit diet to promote fat loss. Ideally, individuals try to consume 300-500 more calories than their daily normal calorie levels to promote muscle growth.
Regarding nutrition, it is sometimes advised to consume high-protein foods for muscle building, including 1.6 grams of protein and 1.5 grams of carbs per kg of body weight to build muscles fast (8).
Track Your Diet
It might also help to jot down the meals you consume throughout the day. Keeping note of your nutrition helps you learn if you are meeting your daily calorie count and not over-consuming or under-consuming. If you are not getting the desired results, you can use the data you’ve collected to see where you can make changes.
Get Enough Sleep
While you may be up all night to get the bodybuilder figure, you must take care of your health by getting at least 6-8 hours of sleep every night. This helps our bodybuilding journey by recovering your muscles and helping them heal quickly. Also, muscles may grow in size when they are resting after a heavy workout (9).
Train With Heavy Weights
Muscle responds to intensity. Increasing weight intensity puts immense pressure on your muscles which should help them grow bigger. Physical trainers will say that the crux is to feel the intense burn by the end of your set. If you feel like you cannot lift weight after your tenth rep, you are going in the right direction.
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Incorporate Compound Exercises
Compound exercises work wonders for muscle growth, engaging several joints and muscle groups. Try to do deadlifts, pull-ups, and squats more often to witness the results. Although these exercises are important, you shouldn’t forget isolation exercises like biceps curls, which help target a specific muscle.
You may be restless about gaining muscles fast, but you must understand that muscle growth does not happen overnight. Following the right diet-workout routine, lifting heavy, and practicing perseverance reaps the results.
How Do You Gain Muscle If You Are Very Skinny?
You may be complimented over your ability to stay skinny, but it can be challenging if you want to get big and bulky.
Check out how you can achieve your muscle growth goal below!
Consume More Carbs
Most individuals trying to lose weight are advised to reduce carbs. But you should consume more carbs if you are trying to build muscle. Consuming adequate carbohydrates is important as your body may start using your proteins as a fuel source if you are not eating enough carbs (11).
You can get healthy complex carbs from eating whole grains, quinoa, sweet potatoes, oats, carrots, broccoli, etc. If you are looking for the best fruits to gain muscle, you can also consume bananas, mangoes, and peaches.
Eat Every Few Hours
If your goal is to bulk up, you might want to eat after every 2-3 hours to get more energy in. Try to eat more proteins and aim to get 25% of calories from proteins. You can incorporate protein shakes during and after your workout for maximum energy. Try to have a healthy breakfast followed by intermittent snacking and lunch and dinner meals.
Replace Cardio With Strength Training
Cardio is effective if you are planning to lose weight. But it would be best to include more strength training workouts to gain muscle mass. You can do light cardio, walking, or cycling on low gear once or twice weekly to maintain cardiovascular health. However, your focus should still be on lifting weights, squatting, and bench-pressing.
Rest is essential to repairing and building your muscles. Strength training causes micro tears in our muscles due to trauma. The recovery process is where we are improving our muscles and making them more resilient and bigger (12). You do more harm than good if you constantly work out without resting.
Set Fitness Goals
Lastly, set fitness goals, such as gaining a certain amount of muscle in one year, and break them down into small achievable goals. This helps you stay on track and focused on the bigger picture. Measure your arms, thighs, and waist routinely to see how far you have come.
How Can I Bulk Up In 2 Weeks?
The good news is, even if you are new to weightlifting, beginners can still possibly gain much more muscle than experienced lifters.
So if you want to get bigger, follow the steps below:
Do Compound Exercises
Compound exercises are an excellent way of bulking up, as many muscle groups are engaged during the session. They also exert more pressure on your muscles and cause more muscle strain, which leads to muscle hypertrophy. So try to be careful when creating your exercise regime. Squats, deadlifts, and rows are your best friends if you want to bulk up fast (13).
Increase Reps And Sets
You might have increased weights to cause muscle tension. However, keep in mind that increasing weight too much can lead to muscle overload and fatigue. It would help if you raised your reps and volume by employing light to moderate weights to counter this. The idea is to keep exercising your muscles to stimulate growth.
Get Some Sleep
Remember to take a rest between your workouts. Get a full-night sleep daily to give your muscles enough time to heal and recover. Muscle recovery happens largely at night, so allow your muscles to grow fully and increase in size while you sleep.
You can also follow the intense workout routine below to start seeing results within two weeks:
- Warm up for 5 minutes.
- Do 8 sets and 5 reps of dumbbell bench press with a 30-second break between the sets. This targets your upper chest, arms, and shoulders and gives you that broad-shoulder look.
- Do 5 sets and 8 reps of dumbbell pull-over with each arm with a 60-second break between the sets. This fully opens your chest.
- Do 4 sets and 10 reps of incline hammer press with a 30-second break between sets. This exercise also targets your chest.
- Do 3 sets and 12 reps of cable fly with a 30-second break? This exercise focuses on the middle of your chest and the front of your shoulders.
Consume More Protein
Protein is the core foundation of muscles, so if you want to grow bigger quickly, you must consume all things protein (2). Try to include casein, as it has a slower digestion rate. Many bodybuilders consume casein before hitting the bed as it supplies fuel to muscles and aids muscle recovery all night long.
Consume a casein protein shake during and after your workouts to gain maximum strength. You can also aim for milk, cheese, Greek Yogurt, etc.
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What Factors Influence Muscle Growth?
Gaining muscle mass depends on several factors:
You may be unaware, but your genetics play a significant role in your ability to develop muscles. While this is out of your control, you should learn which areas of your body face the most difficulty gaining muscles. Focus your efforts on targeting those areas more than others, and you should get results.
Aging also plays a crucial role in how your muscles turn out. If you are in your late teens or early 20s, you will find it a lot easier to develop muscle mass due to elevated testosterone and related hormones. The same goes for females. However, that does not mean you cannot grow bigger with age. By working hard, staying consistent, and eating clean, you can continue to bulk up even in your 60s.
Your weight and fat levels also influence your ability to build muscles. You may find it easier to build muscles due to low body fat levels if you are generally lean. To achieve growth, you might need to consume more carbs. If you are heavier, you can focus on reducing your body fat by cardio and following a high protein diet to gain muscles (2).
What Are The Best Vegan Foods To Gain Muscle?
Some of the best vegan foods that build muscle are:
Beans are one of the best vegan foods to gain muscle as they are high in protein (14). They serve as an excellent meat substitute. Common bean types, such as kidney beans, contain around 15 grams of protein in ⅓ cup serving and are rich in fiber and vitamin B. Beans also contain magnesium, iron, and phosphorus, essential for bone and muscular health.
Quinoa is an excellent all-rounder, containing high protein, fibers, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants without gluten. Magnesium in quinoa may regulate muscle and nerve function (15). Quinoa contains around 40 grams of carbohydrates and 9.1 grams of proteins per cup cooked.
If you are looking for plant-based proteins, consider incorporating tofu into your diet, as it contains 10 grams of protein per half cup. Tofu is also used as a meat substitute and an excellent calcium source. It is considered an excellent plant-based protein, so consume tofu regularly to reap results (16).
Which Foods To Avoid For Muscle Growth?
While most foods help you build muscles, some can actually slow down your progress.
These foods include:
- Alcohol: Alcohol may harm your health as it interferes with your muscle growth by hindering protein synthesis. Its effects may also reduce your workout performance the next day if you overindulge.
- Sugars: Refined sugars and sugary foods such as cake, ice cream, and donuts are not good for your health as they contain many calories but few nutrients. Alternatively, you can consume apples and bananas as they have high fiber and nutrients that might enhance your muscle growth and health (17).
- Deep-fried foods: Lastly, you must avoid consuming fried foods as they tend to be high in calories and unhealthy fast.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What Are 5 Muscle-Building Foods?
Five of the best foods for muscle gain are eggs, chicken, fish, Greek Yogurt, and beef. Eggs are rich in protein as they comprise nine essential amino acids, such as leucine, which is important for building muscle. They also contain vitamin D and B vitamins necessary for energy production. Chicken is rich in B vitamins, B3 (niacin), and B6.
Greek yogurt contains 18 grams of protein, a great pre-workout meal. Salmon and tuna are high in protein and contain omega-3 fatty acids that promote muscle growth. Lastly, Quinoa contains high protein, fibers, vitamins, minerals, and magnesium, which helps regulate muscle and nerve function.
How Can I Gain Muscle Fast?
You can gain muscle fast by consuming proteins such as eggs, milk, and chicken, which are some of the best foods to gain muscle and lose fat. It is also important to keep tabs on your calories and eat more than you burn to gain muscle mass.
Also, incorporate heavy weights and increased volume to target your muscles more. Lastly, rest more and get at least 8 hours of sleep every night to promote muscle recovery.
What Foods To Avoid When Building Muscle?
You should avoid consuming alcohol, sugary foods, and fried foods.
Alcohol might hinder muscle growth as it inhibits muscle synthesis. Sugary foods are generally rich in empty calories that are unsuitable if you plan to bulk up. You can consume apples and bananas instead of sugary meals to retain essential nutrients. You should also avoid eating fried foods such as fries and onion rings, which are high in unhealthy fats.
Is Rice Good For Building Muscle?
Rice is an ideal food to gain muscle for females. It is easier to prepare, can be made in large batches, and can be stored for later use. The debate around rice has been ongoing for years. It is rich in carbs, which replenish glycogen stores in muscles, fueling faster muscle recovery.
This, in turn, builds muscles fast. Bodybuilders love consuming rice daily as it boosts energy and makes them appear bigger. In short, rice is good for building muscle.
The best foods to gain muscle are high in protein. These range from eggs to meat. Depending on your body composition, weight, and fitness goals, you should consume a high-protein diet to bulk up and include complex carbs and healthy fats. Whatever the case, you should work out consistently to get those bulky gains.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 26 Muscle Building Foods to Add to Your Diet (2023, healthline.com)
- International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Egg, whole, boiled or poached (2020, fdc.nal.usda.gov)
- Food Fortification through Innovative Technologies (2018, intechopen.com)
- Effects of Whey, Caseinate, or Milk Protein Ingestion on Muscle Protein Synthesis after Exercise (2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Salmon Nutrition and Health Benefits (2022, healthline.com)
- What is the best fish to eat to build muscle? (n.d., newzealandrabbitclub.net)
- Nutrition Recommendations for Bodybuilders in the Off-Season: A Narrative (2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- How Do Muscles Grow? The Science of Muscle Growth (2022, builtlean.com)
- A Systematic Review with Meta-Analysis of the Effect of Resistance Training on Whole-Body Muscle Growth in Healthy Adult Males (2020, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Weight loss – common myths (n.d., betterhealth.vic.gov.au)
- How Microtears Help You to Build Muscle Mass (2018, uhhospitals.org)
- How to Add Compound Exercises to Your Workout Routine (2019, healthline.com)
- Vegan diet muscle gain: The 10 best plant based protein sources (2020, tanita.eu)
- Quinoa Nutrition Facts: Notable for Protein, Fiber, Iron, Magnesium, and More (2019, universityhealthnews.com)
- What You Should Know About Plant-Based Protein (n.d., wellpowermethod.com)
- Apples 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits (2023, healthline.com)