The Top 4 Muscle Building Foods

top muscle building foods
The Top 4 Muscle Building Foods | Gain Muscle

Learn how to create a stronger, more muscular you

By Vince Del Monte | Reworked by Melanie Chisnall

1. Chicken Breast: The Favoured Choice For Bodybuilders

Why is chicken breast such a favourite among bodybuilders? Well, for starters, it has an incredibly high protein to fat ratio. Not only that, but it’s completely void of saturated fat and low in total fat, which makes it a perfect healthy choice for your heart. Chicken can be safely eaten three to six times a day, 12 to 16 weeks at a time. I don’t recommend eating the same protein source more than once a day as this could cause your body to develop food sensitivities. Chicken has a biological value (BV) of 76, which makes it a great choice for a high-protein food.

It’s low-fat, which makes it a very versatile food. You can easily add good sources of fat like olive oil or avocado to your vegetables or salad so that you don’t have to eat the chicken breast on its own. A typical six ounce chicken breast is around 40 grams of protein, 200 calories, and two grams of fat. This is slightly more expensive when compared to eggs as it costs three or four dollars, but the benefits are quite close.

2. Whole Eggs – Don’t Throw Out the Yolks

Eggs make an excellent source of protein. One egg has the BV of 100. BV measures the quality of the protein and is based on how much of the protein taken in is absorbed and utilised in the body. If the amount of protein (nitrogen) is high, the BV will be greater. If protein has a BV of 100, it means that all the protein absorbed will be utilised. Your body craves omega-3 fatty acids in order to lower cholesterol levels, increase hormone production, and aid in joint inflammation. Eggs are an incredible source of omega-3 fatty acids and they’re high in BCAAs, which aid in muscle growth.

You should always include yolk in whole egg/egg white mixes because it’s a good source of fat and some essential amino acids. This will help you achieve an optimal ratio of nutrition. One egg has around seven grams of protein: three and a half grams from the yolk, and three and a half grams from the white. The yolk also contains about five grams of fat.

I’ve found that adding one yolk with every four whites (one whole egg and three additional egg whites), carries 17.5 grams of protein and four to five grams of fat. One carton of a dozen eggs will cost around three or four dollars, and includes three whole eggs and nine extra egg whites. This will give you around 52.5 grams of protein and 15 grams of fat.

Being on a 300 gram protein diet from eggs will cost you around twenty dollars a day. I prefer to use egg whites blended with a whole egg, so that the yolk from a carton of eggs isn’t wasted.

3. Fish: Get A Hook On Ocean Meat

Tuna is a popular muscle-building food amongst bodybuilders because of its non-existing fat content. Of all whole food proteins, tuna is the best protein-to-fat ratio. It made the list fairly easily because of the high concentration of BCAAs. As an extra bonus from a protein source, like red meat, tuna also has a high amount of creatine in it. Salmon provides a solid source of protein, which is high in essential acids and omega-3 fatty acids. When eating out, go for white fish options like swordfish, shark, mahi-mahi, and haddock.

These are all lean fish choices, which drive the protein-to-fat ratio. White fish is fast to digest, and makes an excellent pre- and/or post-workout meal plan, and it provides a quick flow of amino acids into your bloodstream. To help undergo digestion, eat all your proteins with vegetables as they help push the amino acids into the bloodstream.

A regular serving size of six ounces of tuna will include 200 calories and 45 grams of protein. The same serving of salmon will reach 300 calories, and contain 35 grams of protein and 15 to 20 grams of fat (only four grams from saturated fat). This is the reason why bodybuilders rely on salmon in the off season as opposed to the contest phase where fat and calories are reduced. My favourite perk about tuna is the cost; one tin of tuna can yield up to 60 grams of protein for just one or two dollars! To minimise mercury levels, stick to a maximum of one daily tin of tuna. Remember, it’s always best to rotate your protein sources.

4. Beef: A Reliable Protein Pick

If you’re planning to pack on some serious size, you’ll know that beef is a reliable standby and popular protein choice. Why is it so powerful for building muscle? Besides the great taste, beef is linked to being abundant in L-Carnitine and creatine, which have both been proven to aid in muscle growth and boosting cardiovascular health. Beef is packed with vitamin B12, zinc, and phosphorus. It also contains a good amount of BCAAs and a BV of 76, which is the same as chicken. The one downfall of beef is that it’s very high in saturated fat and cholesterol; two things that will hurt your cardiovascular health. The trick is to focus on organic products, which are higher in omega-3s, and to rotate your beef sources. Try different meat sources like buffalo, elk, venison and sirloin.


To gain 10 pounds of muscle isn’t the easiest job in the world, but it’s certainly not the toughest. The deadline of four weeks makes this job even more challenging, but it can be done by following the suggested plan below. The trick is to apply discipline and perseverance to your muscle-building diet plan, and to increase your intensity when you power up the weights. If your goal is to beef up, I’ve created a simple muscle-building diet that will make sure you tip the scale 10 pounds heavier in four weeks’ time. Let’s get started.

Power Up Your Muscles!

The size of your muscles increases on calories (20 to 22 per pound of body weight to be precise). A man weighing 180 pounds will have the challenge of taking in 3 960 calories a day. Unfortunately, not all calories are created equally. This means that 3 960 calories of bagels, chicken wings and sausages will make an incredible difference to how you look naked, versus 3 960 calories of egg whites, oatmeal and beef. I wish it wasn’t so!

Wilder Protein Servings

In the sample muscle-building diet plan, you’ll notice that you’re taking in two grams of protein per pound of body weight (360 grams for a 180-pound bodybuilder), which is likely double what your normal protein intake is. Why are you taking in so much extra protein? The main reason is to recover and rejuvenate the muscle tissue that you break down when you train, and to make sure that you don’t lose any muscle during your intense workouts.

This bulk of protein will switch on the ‘muscle-growing’ part of your body and ensure that you have plenty of amino acids to support your continued growth. Concentrate on a mixture of protein sources like white fish, salmon, turkey, venison, buffalo, and whole eggs. Also, make sure that you don’t have more than one protein shake per day.

Keep Up Your Carbs

If you want to gain 10 pounds of muscle in one month, your carbohydrate intake needs to match your protein intake. Carbs help keep your muscles large and full, and they make sure that you have enough energy to meet your weight training programme’s demands. So the average 180-pound bodybuilder will strive to consume 360 grams of carbs each day; a much easier task than consuming 360 grams of protein. Focus on eating a mixture of sources like oatmeal, Ezekiel cereal, different coloured potatoes and grains, and fruits and vegetables.

Get Your ‘Fat Fill’

Fat is not as crucial as carbs during a muscle-building diet plan, but a certain amount is needed to support testosterone levels. Stock up on only healthy fats like avocados, coconut oil, mixed nuts, and olive oil. These foods are known to protect your joints, balance your hormones, and boost testosterone production.

Go Big On Breakfast… Twice!

Serious perseverance and discipline is needed with the challenge of a muscle-building diet plan to schedule your meals into your everyday routine, and this often means forming new habits. The double breakfast strategy is a good one because it reinforces your goals for the rest of the day, and your body is able to handle more calories in the morning. The first breakfast is devised to get into your blood stream quickly and prevent muscle breakdown, and your second breakfast is meant to supply a slower-releasing form of energy for the first part of your day.

Ease Off On Off Days

On off days, your energy demands aren’t as high, so you’ll consume a lower amount of carbs to boost the muscle-to-fat ratio, and to make sure that you don’t increase fat, only muscle.

You’ll also drop your calories to 19 per pound of body weight, maintain your protein intake, increase your fat intake, and decrease the carb intake to one gram per pound of body weight.

Meal Plan to Gain 10 Pounds of Muscle in Four Weeks

  • Breakfast 1
  • 2 scoops of whey protein isolate
  • 2 bananas
  • Breakfast 2
  • 2 eggs with veggies + 6 oz sirloin
  • 2 cups of cooked oatmeal
  • 1 tablespoon of mixed nuts
  • Pre-Workout
  • 250ml veggies
  • 2 cups of rice (white or brown)
  • 10 oz of white fish
  • Immediately Post-Workout
  • 2 scoops of carb powder
  • 2 scoops of whey protein isolate
  • 1 Hour after Workout

  • 2 bananas
  • 250ml cottage cheese
  • 250ml cereal
  • 4 Hours after Workout
  • 8 oz of turkey
  • 250ml of egg whites
  • 250ml stir-fry veggies
  • 500ml rice (white or brown)
  • Before Bed

  • 10 oz of salmon
  • 250ml of veggies
  • 3 oz of avocado

I’m sure you’ll pile on at least 10 pounds of muscle in the next month with this muscle-building diet plan. Remember that you can adapt the calories based on your level of progress.

Source: Del Monte, V. (2013, January/February). The Top 4 Muscle Building Foods. Inside Fitness, 78–81.

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