Published Jan 29, 2021

Food plays a crucial role in building lean muscle. Discover 7 of the best muscle-building food to support those hours in the gym


If you are already fit and like the idea of going that extra mile and building muscle, you will need to plan your meals with particular care. You are what you eat: yes, it’s a cliché but it’s also very true. From a physical perspective, building muscle is an expensive process that requires a steady supply of rich and nutritious food, not just hours in the gym.


To build muscle your body needs both protein and energy – and some foods do just the opposite. Here are 7 of the best muscle-building foods:

1. Eggs

This  familiar, everyday staple food is high in both protein and healthy fat to burn for energy. Eggs also contain vitamin B, which plays a crucial  role in energy production, along with the amino acid leucine – an important protein building block.

2. Chicken

Chicken – in particular chicken breast – is very high in protein: a three ounce chicken breast (85 grams) provides a full 26 grams of protein. Chicken is also rich in vitamins B6 and B3 (niacin), which help release energy for those tough workouts.

3. Salmon

Salmon is another rich source of protein, providing about 17 grams per 3 ounce slice – as well as B vitamins for energy. Salmon also provides plenty of omega-3 fatty acid: a potent nutrient thought to play a role in muscle gain during exercise.

4. Tuna

A 3 ounce slice of tuna will provide 20 grams of protein, vitamins B3, B6 and B12,  omega-3 – and vitamin A. The latter is crucial to growing muscle because it enables the body to synthesise protein and boosts the production of the hormone testosterone, which plays a central role in building muscle.

5. Greek yogurt 

Greek yogurt is the thicker kind that has been strained to remove whey – the rich liquid which forms when cheese and yogurt is produced. Consuming dairy protein has been linked to an increase in lean muscle mass – and greek yoghurt is higher in protein than other kinds of yogurt.

6. Cottage cheese

Cottage cheese is another rich and tasty source of dairy protein: you will find around 28 grams in 1 cup. It is also a great source of the amino acid leucine.

6. Soya beans

Cooked soya beans provide around 28 grams of protein per cup and are also abundant in unsaturated fat and iron. The latter is what gives blood its red colour: it plays a vital role in the transportation of oxygen throughout the body.

What to avoid when trying to build muscle


  • Alcohol: too much will build fat and slow down muscle growth.
  • Deep fried foods: too much of these will encourage inflammation, hindering your muscle building efforts.
  • Sugary foods: these are packed with calories, building up fat at the expense of muscle.



Written by Bev Walton

Food Writer and Nutritionist, dietician

A chef of over 35 years with experience in all types of cuisine, dietary plans, recipe development, health and nutrition. I have been writing for over 10 years for both magazines, websites and ghostwriting for ebooks, Kindle and fully published books. I have a degree in nutrition and dietetics and work with restaurants and organisations within the healthcare profession. I am also able to take high quality photographs of recipes created. No writing task is too great, and whilst I specialise in the above, I am able to write about any topic you throw at me. Member of the Guild of food writers.