11 Foods To Help You Build Muscle And Tone
The most common reason people want to build muscle is to bulk up and improve their physique and strength, also known as "bodybuilding".
Increasing muscle is also beneficial for weight management, as muscle is an "active tissue" meaning it uses energy even while we rest. Increasing your muscle mass, therefore, means your body burns more calories at rest. This can help you both lose weight and keep it off.
Maintaining muscle mass is also beneficial as we get older and naturally lose some of our muscle mass and strength. From the age of 30, we lose approximately 10% of our muscle mass every decade and after 50, that increases to 15%. A loss of muscle mass, known as sarcopenia, is associated with several negative health outcomes such as an increased risk of falls, various diseases, and poor quality of life. It is therefore beneficial to try and minimize this loss of muscle to maintain good health as we age.
When trying to gain muscle, it is essential to get enough protein, both throughout the day and immediately after workouts. The International Society for Sports Nutrition recommends 1.4 grams to 2 grams of protein per kg body weight per day for muscle building. The exact amount will depend on factors such as gender, body size, and activity levels (1).
The recommended muscle-building foods below include both plant and animal sources. These include: whey powder, tofu, peas, milk, beans, lentils, eggs, and fish. To build muscle, these foods should be eaten in combination with regular resistance exercise. Resistance exercise is any type of exercise that causes muscles to contract against a force or resistance; this can be free weights, weight machines, or your own body weight. For example, weight lifting, squats, lunges, push-ups and even yoga. Resistance exercise builds and tones muscle and makes your muscles stronger, it also increases bone strength. For good health, it is also recommended to include 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise per week.
There is some debate about animal vs. vegetarian protein sources. Many bodybuilders are convinced you need animal protein to build muscle. There are however many successful vegan bodybuilders and athletes and a new school of thought that the inflammation caused by animal proteins might actually hinder performance. For this reason, the following list contains a mixture of both animal and plant-based proteins. If you do consume animal foods, it is healthy to include a mixture of both plant and animal proteins in your diet.
These muscle-building foods are all high in protein, easy to prepare, and have other health benefits beyond just their high protein content.
Foods to Help You Build Muscle
Nutrition Facts for Dried Sweet Whey Powder.
Nutrition Facts for Firm Tofu.
Nutrition Facts for Cooked Green Peas.
Nutrition Facts for Skim Milk.
Nutrition Facts for Lentils (Cooked).
Nutrition Facts for Almonds.
Nutrition Facts for Hard Boiled Eggs.
Nutrition Facts for Bluefin Tuna (Cooked).
Nutrition Facts for Quinoa Cooked.
Nutrition Facts for Lean Chicken Breast (Cooked).
Nutrition Facts for Peanut Butter (Chunk Style).
Tips for Building Muscle
- The American College of Sports Medicine recommends resistance training (weight lifting) to build muscle. This involves training each muscle group two or three times per week on non-consecutive days by doing 8-12 repetitions and 2-4 sets of each different exercise.
- Donâ€™t forget to incorporate rest days between your training days, as they are essential to building muscle. In fact, it is during rest periods that new muscle formation takes place.
- Caffeine enhances muscle strength, so can boost your workout and may also decrease muscle soreness post-workout. Take it easy though, as too much can cause fatigue in the long term.
- Vitamin C supplements may speed up muscle recovery and reduce pain after intensive workouts (23,24). The best way to get plenty of vitamin C is to eat 10 servings of fruit and vegetables per day.
- 70% of muscle mass is made up of water and water is essential for building healthy muscles. Hydration is also key to exercise performance and maintaining physical and mental energy. Requirements increase with activity levels and hot weather, so drink accordingly.
Data Sources and References
- Kerksick CM, Arent S, Schoenfeld BJ, Stout JR, Campbell B, Wilborn CD, Taylor L, Kalman D, Smith-Ryan AE, Kreider RB, Willoughby D, Arciero PJ, VanDusseldorp TA, Ormsbee MJ, Wildman R, Greenwood M, Ziegenfuss TN, Aragon AA, Antonio J. International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: protein and exercise J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017 Aug 29;14:33. doi: 10.1186/s12970-017-0189-4. eCollection 2017. 28919842
- Dangin M, Guillet C, Garcia-Rodenas C, Gachon P, Bouteloup-Demange C, Reiffers-Magnani K, Fauquant J, BallÃ¨vre O, BeaufrÃ¨re B. Influence of the protein digestion rate on protein turnover in young and elderly subjects J Physiol. 2003 Jun 1;549(Pt 2):635-44. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2002.036897. Epub 2003 Mar 28. 12665610
- Kerksick CM, Rasmussen CJ, Lancaster SL, Magu B, Smith P, Melton C, Greenwood M, Almada AL, Earnest CP, Kreider RB. The effect of whey protein supplementation with and without creatine monohydrate combined with resistance training on lean tissue mass and muscle strength J Strength Cond Res. 2006 Aug;20(3):643-53. doi: 10.1519/R-17695.1. 16937979
- Lockwood CM, Roberts MD, Dalbo VJ, Smith-Ryan AE, Kendall KL, Moon JR, Stout JR. Effects of whey protein supplementation prior to, and following, resistance exercise on body composition and training responses: A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled study J Am Coll Nutr. 2017 Jan;36(1):16-27. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2016.1140094. Epub 2016 Oct 6. 27710436
- Gilani GS. Protein digestibility-corrected amino acid scores (PDCAAS) for soy protein isolates and concentrate: criteria for evaluation Br J Nutr. 2012 Aug;108 Suppl 2:S168-82. doi: 10.1017/S0007114512002383. 23107528
- Tzatzakis T, Papanikolaou K, Draganidis D, Tsimeas P, Kritikos S, Poulios A, Laschou VC, Deli CK, Chatzinikolaou A, Batrakoulis A, Basdekis G, Mohr M, Krustrup P, Jamurtas AZ, Fatouros IG. Effect of whey vs. soy protein supplementation on recovery kinetics following speed endurance training in competitive male soccer players: a randomized controlled trial Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2019 Nov 21:1-14. doi: 10.1123/ijspp.2018-0984. Online ahead of print. 31751937
- Duarte NM, Cruz AL, Silva DC, Cruz GM. Pea proteins oral supplementation promotes muscle thickness gains during resistance training: a double-blind, randomized, Placebo-controlled clinical trial vs. Whey protein J Sports Med Phys Fitness. 2020 Jan;60(1):75-84. doi: 10.23736/S0022-4707.19.09741-X. Epub 2019 Sep 23. 31565912
- Kerksick CM, Arent S, Schoenfeld BJ, Stout JR, Campbell B, Wilborn CD, Taylor L, Kalman D, Smith-Ryan AE, Kreider RB, Willoughby D, Arciero PJ, VanDusseldorp TA, Ormsbee MJ, Wildman R, Greenwood M, Ziegenfuss TN, Aragon AA, Antonio J. Cow's milk as a post-exercise recovery drink: implications for performance and health J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2017 Aug 29;14:33. doi: 10.1186/s12970-017-0189-4. eCollection 2017. 28919842
- Tipton KD, Elliott TA, Cree MG, Aarsland AA, Sanford AP, Wolfe RR. Milk ingestion stimulates net muscle protein synthesis following resistance exercise Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2007 Jan;292(1):E71-6. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00166.2006. Epub 2006 Aug 8. 16896166
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- Hull S, Re R, Chambers L, Echaniz A, Wickham MS. Appetitive, dietary and health effects of almonds consumed with meals or as snacks: a randomized, controlled trial Eur J Nutr. 2015 Aug;54(5):803-10. doi: 10.1007/s00394-014-0759-z. Epub 2014 Sep 3. 25182142
- Hollingworth S, Dalton M, Blundell JE, Finlayson G. A mid-morning snack of almonds generates satiety and appropriate adjustment of subsequent food intake in healthy women Nutrients. 2019 Aug 30;11(9):2030. doi: 10.3390/nu11092030. 31480245
- Rodriguez NR, DiMarco NM, Langley S; American Dietetic Association; Dietitians of Canada; American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Choline: an important micronutrient for maximal endurance-exercise performance? J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 Mar;109(3):509-27. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2009.01.005. 19278045
- Ratliff J, Leite JO, de Ogburn R, Puglisi MJ, VanHeest J, Fernandez ML. Short-term effect of eggs on satiety in overweight and obese subjects Nutr Res. 2010 Feb;30(2):96-103. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2010.01.002. 20226994
- Borzoei S, Neovius M, Barkeling B, Teixeira-Pinto A, RÃ¶ssner S. The effects of consuming eggs for lunch on satiety and subsequent food intake Eur J Clin Nutr. 2006 Jul;60(7):897-902. doi: 10.1038/sj.ejcn.1602397. Epub 2006 Feb 15. 16482079
- Smith GI, Atherton P, Reeds DN, Mohammed BS, Rankin D, Rennie MJ, Mittendorfer B. Dietary omega-3 fatty acid supplementation increases the rate of muscle protein synthesis in older adults: a randomized controlled trial Clin Sci (Lond). 2011 Sep;121(6):267-78. doi: 10.1042/CS20100597. 21501117
- Smith GI, Atherton P, Reeds DN, Mohammed BS, Jaffery H, Rankin D, Rennie MJ, Mittendorfer B. Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids augment the muscle protein anabolic response to hyperinsulinaemia-hyperaminoacidaemia in healthy young and middle-aged men and women J Appl Physiol (1985). 2009 Oct;107(4):1308-15. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00348.2009. Epub 2009 Jul 30. 19644030
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- Verreijen AM, Verlaan S, Engberink MF, Swinkels S, de Vogel-van den Bosch J, Weijs PJ. Supplementing Breakfast with a Vitamin D and Leucine-Enriched Whey Protein Medical Nutrition Drink Enhances Postprandial Muscle Protein Synthesis and Muscle Mass in Healthy Older Men Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Feb;101(2):279-86. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.090290. Epub 2014 Nov 26. 25646324
- Murphy CH, Saddler NI, Devries MC, McGlory C, Baker SK, Phillips SM. Leucine-Enriched Essential Amino Acids Improve Recovery from Post-Exercise Muscle Damage Independent of Increases in Integrated Myofibrillar Protein Synthesis in Young Men Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 Dec;104(6):1594-1606. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.116.136424. Epub 2016 Nov 9. 27935521
- Kephart WC, Mumford PW, McCloskey AE, Holland AM, Shake JJ, Mobley CB, Jagodinsky AE, Weimar WH, Oliver GD, Young KC, Moon JR, Roberts MD. Leucine supplementation and intensive training J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2016 Jul 26;13:30. doi: 10.1186/s12970-016-0142-y. eCollection 2016. 27468258
- Bell KE, Brook MS, Snijders T, Kumbhare D, Parise G, Smith K, Atherton PJ, Phillips SM. The effects of resistance training with or without peanut protein supplementation on skeletal muscle and strength adaptations in older individuals Front Nutr. 2019 Apr 11;6:40. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2019.00040. eCollection 2019. 31032258
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