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11 Foods that Help You Build Lean Muscle

11th September, 2023

Food for Lean Muscle

Are you ready to add size to your body frame? You better start eating like you mean it.

When it comes to lean muscle gain or bodybuilding, your diet plays a pivotal role. The right nutrition fuels your body for rigorous training in the gym and the nutrition required by muscles to recover after the workout. Moreover, the food you eat also prevents you from getting sick and improves immunity.

Whether it is competitive or recreational bodybuilding, you need to focus on your diet to maximize your results at the gym. Unless you optimize your diet to support bodybuilding, all your efforts will go in vain.

This is exactly why many bodybuilders fail to get the results they intend even hours after the training. Supplements may give you instant results, but for sustainable muscle gain, you cannot neglect the most important factor for bodybuilding—NUTRITION!

Do you want to know how exactly your food can be optimized for muscle growth? Let's start with the basics.

Despite all the misconceptions surrounding muscle-building food and the science behind building muscles—it is quite simple. However, it does not mean you need to stick to eating boring food every day.

There is a range of food options that you can add to your 7-day muscle gain diet plan. However, before you go to that list, you need to understand the basics of nutrition.

Importance of Nutrition

Striking the right balance between the macro and micronutrients depends on how your body reacts to each nutrient. Your body decides whether the nutrient is burned as fuel, stored as fats, or utilized to build new muscles. They regulate important hormones such as insulin, testosterone, and cortisol. Several other factors also influence this decision, such as genetics, activity level, lifestyle, gender, age, etc.

The deficiency of nutrients can create havoc in your body. It can affect your calorie-sorting abilities and the muscles. Every nutrient plays a significant role in the body. For example, Vitamin E deficiency can cause leg cramps and muscle weakness.


Macros or macronutrients are three essential nutrients that are the building blocks of our body. They are:

  • Proteins
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fats

A muscle growth meal plan for a bodybuilder is based on these three macronutrients. Depending on your activity level, a person must derive the following percentage of calories from the macros in their bodybuilding diet plan during bulking and leaning phase:

  • 55-60% of calories from carbohydrates
  • 25-30% of calories from protein
  • 15-20% of calories from fat


Micronutrients support the muscle to repair and grow. Micros are essential vitamins and minerals that provide the muscle with the raw ingredients required for the bodybuilding and recovery phase. Below is the list of eight such micronutrients that assist in muscle growth and fat loss at the same time:

  • Magnesium
  • Beta-alanine
  • Vitamin C
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin D
  • Glucomannan
  • Iron
  • Vitamin B12

11 muscle-building food that can get you lean muscle mass

There is a stereotype regarding bodybuilders' meals: they only feast on chicken, protein shakes, and green vegetables. The claim is far from the truth. All bodybuilders eat a variety of things such as eggs, nuts, plant-based protein, and yes, carbohydrates.

You can push the limits and get the six-pack you always wanted by adding these 11 nutrient-rich ingredients to your diet. Our nutritionists develop the following list. All these ingredients are an essential part of our weekly meal plan for muscle gain.


Not just Sylvester Stallone in Rocky, but all bodybuilders can swear by the benefits of eggs. Eggs are a rich source of high-quality protein, healthy fats, and essential nutrients like Vitamin B and choline.

Eggs contain high amounts of amino acids like leucine, which is important for muscle gain and can't be skipped. It is also one of the foods known for boosting metabolism in your body.

Chicken Breast

There is more than one reason chicken breast has become the staple diet for gaining muscles. Chicken breast is the leanest part of the chicken and has maximum protein. 85 gm of serving contains 26 gm of protein.

Chicken contains a generous amount of Vitamin B (niacin and B6), which are essential if you maintain an active lifestyle. Both vitamins help in the proper functioning of your body and enhance the benefits of exercise.

Lean Beef

Lean cuts of beef are popularly known as lean beef. These cuts have a lesser amount of saturated fats. Though extra lean cuts like eye round roast and steak contain less fat, they are also good for muscle gain.

Beef contains high-quality protein, several B Vitamins, minerals, and creatine. However, it all depends on which cut you choose. You need to choose the cuts that offer maximum protein and lesser calories. 100 gm of 85% of lean beef contains a whopping 26 gm of protein.


Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese made from low-fat milk is a rich source of protein for vegetarians. Cooked or uncooked cottage cheese can be easily added to your vegetarian meal plan plan for muscle gain. Add it to your salads or grill it and have it with pan-fried veggies.

226 gm of low-fat cottage cheese contains 28 gm of protein. The casein is the main part of the protein in cottage cheese, and it is slowly absorbed. Research shows it exhibits the same benefits are whey protein. Moreover, due to slower absorption, it prevents muscle breakdown.


Fatty fishes like salmon are a rich source of essential fatty acids and one of the tastiest foods from the sea and is a staple in a pescetarian diet. Salmon is an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids. According to some studies consuming food rich in omega-3s can increase muscle volume. Apart from being heart-healthy, these fatty acids can accelerate the muscle-building process.

Salmon is an obvious choice as lean protein. The 113 gm serving packs 22 gm of protein. It has all the potential to be the quintessential part of your weekly muscle growth meal plan. Salmon can become your new staple for heart-healthy protein.


Tuna is low-fat fish that contains a generous amount of protein. 85 gm of serving includes 20 gm of protein. Additionally, the fish contains Vitamin A and Vitamin B (B12, niacin, and B6). According to various sources, these nutrients are instrumental in maintaining optimal health and energy for your training.

Just like salmon, tuna is also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids that supports your muscle health. Tuna is a great food choice for aging bodybuilders, and it prevents the loss of muscle mass and strength that happens due to aging.

Plant-Based Protein

There are endless plant-based options for those preferring a vegan diet who are or trying to build muscles. Proteins derived from plants can help with oxidative stress and inflammation, which is common for bodybuilders. Some of the richest sources of protein in the plant kingdom are:

Legumes: Kidney beans, lentils, and split peas are all rich sources of protein. There are an endless variety of legumes available; you will be spoilt for choices. In general, 198 gm of cooked lentils provide 18 gm of protein and 16 gm of fibre.

Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds are powerhouses of dense nutrition packed in small sizes. All nuts provide fat-soluble vitamins such as A, D, K, and E.

Whole grains: Whole, unpolished, and unrefined grains are a source of healthy that provide sustainable energy to your body. They are also a good source of protein and amino acids.

Potatoes: Potatoes carry a bad reputation among health enthusiasts, but when cooked in the right manner and consumed in the right amount, potatoes are a great source of nutrients such as carbs, proteins, and amino acids.

Protein Powder

Dietary supplements can give you added nourishment to reach your muscle gain goals. People aiming to gain muscles and are regular at the gym already know the benefits of protein powder. It is a critical ingredient in their gym meal plan for muscle gain.

Anyone who struggles to get enough protein from food can add protein powder to their smoothies, vegetable juices, etc. The most popular choices of protein powders are:

  • Whey
  • Casein
  • Soy
  • Pea


Tilapia is another protein-packed fish that comes from freshwater. Just 85 gm of cooked tilapia provides 21 gm of protein. Like salmon or tuna, it does not have many omega-3s. However, it is a rich source of Vitamin B 12 and selenium.

The high protein content and low-fat composition make it an exceptional addition to your meal plan for muscle gain and fat loss.

Brown Rice

Although protein is essential for muscle gain, you need carbs to provide fuel to keep you moving. Brown rice offers healthy carbohydrates and a stimulus for the muscle to grow. Many bodybuilders prefer white rice over brown as it's higher in sugar content and provides instant energy.

However, no studies claim brown rice is inferior in any aspect. However, studies do claim that for developing lean mass, brown rice may work better than white rice.

Soy Products

Soy is the main source of protein for vegans. However, it is consumed by people with varied food choices. Soy products are produced from soybean, which is a good source of protein, Vitamin K, iron, and phosphorous. Soybean can be consumed in different ways. Popular ones are:

  • Tofu: 124 gm of raw tofu contains 10 gm of protein. Apart from protein, tofu also contains a good amount of calcium, essential for good bone health.
  • Soy Milk: Soy milk is one of the most popular plant-based milk that helps in the steady rise of amino acids, which are building blocks for muscles.
  • Edamame: The immature soybeans are called edamame. These green pods can be used in a variety of preparations, especially if you are craving something South Asian. 155 gm of frozen edamame contains 17 gm of protein, 8 grams of fibre, and a high amount of folate, Vitamin K, and manganese.
  • Soybeans: The nutrition-rich beans can be consumed on their own. You can boil them, add them to your curry, salads or make hummus. 86 gm of cooked soybeans provide 14 gm of protein, unsaturated fats, and many vitamins. Soybean is also high in iron which is used to store and transport oxygen to your muscles. Female bodybuilders who lose iron during menstruation can add soybean to their diet during this period.

Folate present in soybean plays an important role in processing amino acids (building blocks of protein). Because of all these reasons, soy protein has become a popular food choice among vegans and vegetarians.

Bottom Line

Your diet is one of the most important factors for gaining muscles. We have listed only the ones which are the highest source of protein and are easy to incorporate into any muscle-building meal plan. Many other sources can help you gain lean muscles. They contain necessary macro and micronutrients that provide energy for training and help you recover and grow lean muscles.

The vitamins and minerals present in these food items protect you from diseases and keep your body in the best shape. You can include these foods in your pre-workout and post-workout meals.

But do keep in mind that you consume the right portion size and do not overdo your diet. Excess of anything can be detrimental to your fitness goals. Consult with our nutritionists to help you curate the right muscle-gain diet chart or you can try our muscle-gain food delivery services in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Sharjah.

Reach out to start your fitness journey with us!

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