18 Foods That Help You Build Lean Muscle

Both nutrition and exercise are important to build lean muscles.

Putting your muscles under stress during a workout is the primary science behind muscle growth.

However, without dietary support, this process will not work.

If your aim is to build lean muscle, concentrate on regular exercise and eat more calories from food.

Here are 18 nutritious foods that help you build lean muscle.

1. Chicken Breast

Chicken breasts are a staple for muscle growth. A serving of 85 grams of chicken breast contains 26 grams of high-quality protein. It also contains substantial amounts of vitamin B, niacin, and B6.

These vitamins support your body’s function during exercise. In addition, some studies have shown that high-protein foods can help you lose belly fat.

Add chicken breast to your diet if you want to pack some lean muscle mass (1, 2, 3).

2. Lean Beef

Beef contains high-quality protein, B vitamins, minerals, and creatine. Some studies show that lean red meat consumption can help you build lean muscle through weight training.

If you are trying to build lean muscle however, beef is the best option that promotes muscle gain without providing too many additional calories (4, 5, 6, 7, 8).

3. Shrimp

Shrimp contain a protein that is almost pure. Each serving of 85 grams includes 18 grams of protein, 1 gram of fat, and zero carbs.

While healthy fats and carbs are essential in your general diet, adding a few shrimp is a simple way to get the protein that builds muscle without too many extra calories.

Like many other animal proteins, shrimp include an enormous quantity of the amino acid leucine, which is important for building lean muscle mass (9, 10).

4. Beans

For muscle gain, beans should be a part of your regular diet. Boiled beans such as black, pinto, and kidney beans contain about 15 grams of protein per cup (172 grams).

Besides being high in magnesium, phosphorus, and iron, beans are also significant sources of fiber and B vitamins.

Beans are a substantial source of plant-based protein. They may also play a part in the prevention of many diseases (11, 12, 13, 14).

5. Salmon

Salmon is the best option for building muscles and general health. Each serving of 85 grams contains approximately 17 grams of protein, nearly 2 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, and several B vitamins.

Omega-3 fatty acids play a major role in protecting your body from injury and can even boost muscle gain during exercise (15, 16).

6. Eggs

Eggs contain high-quality protein, healthy fats, and other nutrients such as B vitamins and choline.

Proteins are made of amino acids, and eggs contain large quantities of the amino acid leucine, which is essential for building lean muscle mass.

In addition, B vitamins are important for several functions in the body, including energy production (17, 18, 19, 20).

7. Tuna

One serving of 85 grams of tuna can provide 20 grams of protein. Tuna also contains outrageous amounts of A and B vitamins, including B12, niacin, and B6.

These nutrients are important for optimal performance in terms of health, energy, and exercise. Tuna offers large quantities of omega-3 fatty acids that can help you build lean muscle mass.

For older adults, the nutrients in tuna are important. Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids can reduce age-related muscle loss and increase muscle strength (21, 22, 23, 24, 25).

8. Greek Yogurt

Dairy products contain high-quality fast- and slow-digesting proteins. Some studies have shown that ingesting a combination of fast and slow-digesting milk enzymes can increase lean muscle mass.

However, not all yogurt is created equal. For instance, Greek yogurt often includes about twice as much protein as standard yogurt.

While Greek yogurt is a nice snack, its combination of fast-and slow-digesting enzymes may be useful to eat it after a workout or before bed (26, 27, 28).

9. Peanuts

Peanuts are a combination of protein, fat, and carbs. A half-cup serving (73 grams) contains 17 grams of protein, 16 grams of carbs, and large quantities of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Peanuts also contain greater levels of the amino acid leucine compared to many other plant products. Every half-cup 73-gram peanut serving includes approximately 425 calories.

So if you find it difficult to get enough calories, eating peanuts might be the best way to increase your calorie consumption (30, 31).

10. Cottage Cheese

One cup (226 grams) of low-fat cottage cheese contains 28 grams of protein, including a heavy dose of the significant amino acid leucine.

You can buy cottage cheese with a variable fat content, like other dairy products. High-fat foods such as creamed cottage cheese can provide more calories.

Depending on how many additional calories you want to add to your diet. However, cheese is a fantastic muscle-building snack no matter what sort you choose (32).

11. Soybeans

Half a cup of boiled soybeans (86 grams) contains 14 grams of protein, healthy unsaturated fats, and several vitamins and minerals that can help you build lean muscle mass.

Soya is an excellent source of vitamin K, iron, and phosphorus. Thus, iron is used to store and transport oxygen in your blood and muscles.

Iron deficiency may affect these functions. Women may be at a higher risk of iron deficiency because of menstrual blood loss (33, 34, 35, 36).

12. Milk

Milk contains protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Like other dairy products, milk contains proteins that are digested both quickly and slowly.

This is useful for muscle growth. Several studies show that drinking milk in combination with weight training can help you gain lean muscle mass (37, 38).

13. Almonds

Half a cup of blanched almonds (172 grams) contains 16 grams of protein, vitamin E, magnesium, and phosphorus.

Phosphorus helps your body use carbohydrates and fats as energy. However, almonds should be eaten in moderate quantities. There are over 400 calories in half a cup of blanched almonds (39, 40).

14. Tofu

Tofu is made from soy milk and is used as a meat replacement. Half a cup of raw tofu (124 grams) contains 10 grams of protein, 6 grams of fat, and 2 grams of carbohydrates.

Tofu is also a significant source of calcium, which may help with bone health.

Soy protein, discovered in foods such as tofu and soybeans, is one of the highest-quality plant-based proteins, making it an excellent choice for vegans and vegetarians (41, 42, 43).

15. Turkey Breast

One serving of 85 grams of turkey breast contains 25 grams of protein and almost no fat or carbs.

Turkey is also a good source of vitamin B3, or niacin, which helps in various functions of the body.

Having ideal concentrations of B vitamins can help you build lean muscles (44, 45).

16. Tilapia

Compared to salmon, tilapia has fewer fatty acids. One serving of 85 grams of tilapia provides about 21 grams of protein, including decent quantities of vitamin B12 and selenium.

Vitamin B12 is essential for your blood cells and nerves, enabling your body to gain muscle (47, 48).

17. Quinoa

One cup (185 grams) of cooked quinoa contains approximately 40 grams of carbohydrates, 8 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, and large quantities of magnesium and phosphorus.

Magnesium plays a significant role in muscle and nerve function, both of which are essential for building muscle.

While protein-rich foods are a priority in muscle building, carbohydrate foods are also essential for energy (49, 50, 51).

18. Chickpeas

Chickpeas are a useful source of both carbs and protein and are also known as garbanzo beans.

One 1-cup (240-gram) can of chickpeas includes approximately 12 grams of protein and 50 grams of carbs, including 10 grams of fiber.

Compared to animal protein sources, the protein content in chickpeas is of lower quality. However, it can still be an element of a balanced diet for muscle building (52, 53).


Many foods can help you build lean muscle. Many of them are rich in protein, which can help in both growth and recovery. However, carbohydrates and fat are required to fuel your body.

Many of the above foods contain vitamins and minerals crucial for your body to function in the best way possible.

Focus on regular exercises and getting more calories every day from nutritious foods, such as those mentioned in this article.

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