Skip the Protein Shakes: 8 Muscle-Building Foods You Can Eat Instead

You don’t have to be an aspiring bodybuilder to care about muscle mass. In fact, maintaining healthy muscle mass is one of the many ways we can stay healthy and improve our overall well-being, especially as we age. And, along with a balanced regimen of exercise and strength training, our diet is a critical factor in building and maintaining strong muscles.

Protein, in particular, plays a key role in supporting muscle growth. This collection of amino acids makes up a large part of our muscular and organic tissues. It’s an essential part of your diet, but that doesn’t mean you have to take it every day. Protein shakes Getting Enough While that’s certainly one way to increase your protein intake, you can actually find it in many delicious whole-food sources.

With a little effort, it’s easy to add plenty of protein-rich foods and other muscle-building nutrients to your diet. In this article, we’ll take a look at how various foods help you build muscle mass and the best things to eat if you’re trying to increase your strength.

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How Food Helps Build Muscle

Although protein is essential for muscle development, is not the only important food component in the process. According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, a good muscle-building diet should also include plenty of carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. A balanced diet that includes all of these will provide the necessary ingredients to help your muscles recover and rebuild after a workout.

In general, NASM recommends that most people consume at least 0.7 to 0.8 grams of protein and 1.8 to 3.2 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight each day. Total calorie intake also plays a role in building muscle, as it’s hard to build muscle if you’re burning more calories than you’re taking in.

However, diet alone is not enough to stimulate muscle growth. Exercise, especially resistance training such as lifting weights, is necessary to start the process. When you break down your muscle fibers, it stimulates cell growth and repair. That’s when your body can use the food you’ve eaten to rebuild and strengthen muscle tissue. Other factors also influence the effectiveness and efficiency of this process, from when you eat your food and how much rest you give your muscles between workouts to your hormonal status and genetic makeup.

A carton of brown eggs on a blue background.

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8 foods to optimize your gains

Although there are many factors at play in building muscle, there is no doubt that diet plays a key role. Here are eight muscle-building foods you can eat to optimize your workouts and increase your muscle mass.

1. Eggs

Eggs have long been considered a power food, and for good reason. They are incredibly nutrient-dense from fat and protein and include a potent mix of vitamins like B12, B6, and thiamin. Their rich nutrient profile makes them especially powerful, but more importantly, they pack a hefty dose of leucine. This amino acid is known for its muscle-building prowess.

2. fish

If you already get enough fat in your diet but need to increase your protein intake, look no further than fish. It’s one of the best lean sources of protein you can eat, and it’s packed with other vitamins and minerals. A bonus? Fish is packed with omega-3 fatty acids. Although known for their many other health benefits, omega-3s can also improve muscle performance and help prevent muscle loss. Salmon and tuna are particularly great food choices for building muscle.

read more: Best Seafood Delivery Services for 2022

3. Walnuts

When eaten in moderation, walnuts are a great choice for building muscle. These tasty snacks offer the perfect blend of protein, fat, and fiber, making them one of the most balanced ways to supplement your workouts. Be careful, though, as many nuts (including peanuts, which are actually legumes) are high in calories. For the most nutrient-dense options, try almonds or walnuts.

4. Soy

If you’re trying to build muscle on a meatless diet, soy should be one of your closest friends. These are one of the most nutrient-dense legumes you can eat, and they contain a lot of protein to help build muscle. Soybeans contain all nine essential amino acids, making them one of the best plant-based sources of protein available.

Close-up of a bunch of edamame beans.

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5. Greek yogurt

Dairy is a unique source of protein because it provides a combination of fast-digesting whey protein and slow-digesting casein protein. When consumed together, these two types of protein can enhance and prolong the protein synthesis process your muscles go through when rebuilding, helping you build lean mass. Greek yogurt is a particularly great dairy option because it contains twice the protein compared to regular yogurt and boasts additional probiotic health benefits you can’t find in milk or cheese.

6. Cottage cheese

It doesn’t offer the same probiotic benefits as yogurt, but cottage cheese is a great second choice for dairy-based proteins. In fact, cottage cheese contains more protein than Greek yogurt and boasts the same combination of slow and fast digestion. It’s a particularly excellent source of casein and provides a significant calorie boost if you need to make sure you’re getting enough.

7. Olive oil

It may not sound like your typical bodybuilding food, but extra virgin olive oil has become increasingly popular for its muscle-building benefits in recent years. Widely known as a source of healthy monounsaturated fats, olive oil also helps reduce inflammation and slow muscle breakdown. Both of these features can help in any muscle building regimen.

8. Quinoa

It is not for nothing that they call quinoa a superfood. This dynamic grain (it’s a seed but classified as a whole grain) packs a little bit of everything, including lots of protein, fiber, and carbs, plus a hefty dose of vitamins and minerals. It is a perfect food to build muscle and maximize the benefits of your workouts.

Cooked quinoa in a wooden bowl with a green garnish.

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A recipe for stronger muscles

Adding these muscle-building foods to your diet will definitely help you on your way to gaining muscle mass and increasing your strength. However, he reminds that building muscle mass takes time, and diet is only one piece of the puzzle. Combining a balanced diet of protein-rich foods with healthy exercise and rest will speed up your journey and improve your overall health along the way.

read more: Lose weight and gain lean muscle at the same time with body recomposition

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.

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