Muscle Building Foods List – Lean Muscle, Less Fat

“Gym is the easy part” you’ll hear many professionals say. Your training accounts for 30-40% of your physique and you may have heard of the saying “you can’t out train a bad diet” and this reflects the fact that diet is so important. Giving your body the nutrients you need is like that feeling of giving to or helping someone, but this time it’s giving your body a good feeling, and it’s getting stronger.

Here is the best muscle building foods list full of what you need to include daily to get your dietary requirements. There are foods here for everyone!eggs


Eggs are a healthy source of protein and vitamins. One large egg contains around 6.3g of protein. Eggs are fatty but most of these fats are healthy. Furthermore, eggs are high in the amino acid leucine which is an essential amino acid for muscle growth. By an essential amino acid, it means that your body cannot make this and that it must be gained through food. The non-essential amino acids that you will use such as L-Arginine are made by the body and therefore don’t need to be gained from food, unless you are ill or very stressed and then they become conditional amino acids which need to be gained through food as your body might not be able to produce them. Eggs contain both essential and non-essential amino’s, so ill or not, you need to include them!

Lean Beef

High in protein, vitamin B12, iron and zinc which are all essential for your optimum performance. It contains high amounts of essential amino acids like histidine and lysine which are important for muscle building.

Chicken Breast

Another high source of protein and for me the easiest food on the list to incorporate into a meal, but I’m a fan of curries! In a roastes chicken breast there will be around 30g of protein per 100g of meat, and this is similar for grilled chicken. This equates to around a fifth of your daily protein needs if you’re looking to increase muscle size.

Wild Salmon

Many types of fish have high amounts of omega 3. However, wild salmon are one of the best of this selection. They are low in saturated fat and gets you around 20g of protein per 100g serving.

Nuts and seeds

They are a rich source of vitamin E which helps which blood flow and the immune system. Personally not that popular in my diet so I have seeded bread for example. Walnuts and almonds are great, that’s why you may see many athletes and fitness freaks having almond milk, it’s okay in taste as well! Furthermore, pumpkin seeds are a good source for muscle building so if it’s halloween think first before binning those seeds! You could put pumpkin seeds in breakfast bars, salads and crumble to name a few.


Quinoa is a perfect source of magnesium, phosphorus, riboflavin and copper, which all help build muscle. I use quinoa as a substitute for white rice and sometimes brown rice. This is because it has a similar amount of carbs, but a much higher proportion of protein, which is perfect for me trying to build lean mass. It is also suitable if you live a vegan diet!

Flax seeds (linseeds)

Probably the best source of protein on the list for a vegan as these are plant based proteins. Some protein shakes may include the same omega 3’s that flaxseeds do but these are easy to include in your diet! You could add them to your cereal in the mornings, or perhaps if you like home cooking then you could add them to biscuits and muffins etc. One great thing about flax seeds is that they are gluten free and a great source of omega 3’s if you don’t like or can’t eat fish.


Spinach is high in vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin C, iron and magnesium. Per bag you can expect to get 9-10g of protein which doesn’t seem that high but if included in a meal with chicken for example, it’s the vitamins that are what makes it important, including it will balance out your diet and avoid too much protein being stored as fat. I find that spinach is quite easy to include in your meals if you don’t like some of the other options here. Also, if you don’t like milk, spinach is high in calcium so is a good alternative.


You can have these in the form of porridge or breakfast bars for example. I usually have them in the morning as they contain almost all the vitamins I’ve mentioned so far, and breakfast is the most important meal of the day to me also! I often wake up without an appetite but add more milk to my porridge more if this is the case, so it feels much lighter and I can consume it and stay consistent. Use this little trick if you’re struggling to stick to a calorie surplus during a bulk for example. According to many, oats are technically gluten free as they are not a type of wheat, barely or rye grain, however some celiacs have been affected by them so know the product you’re buying if you chose to do this.

You can’t exercise your way out of a bad diet – Mark Hyman

So there you have it, the best foods you can eat to gain muscle. Of course there are even more foods with the nutrients that will help but this is your foundation to go off, and you should be able to make a variety of meals from what’s listed above, so maybe look at buying one of these healthy cookery books too, so you can learn how to eat well but also eat good. Everyone wants food that tastes good, not the same thing over and over, this is boring and demotivating, mixing things up with different recipes is something I’m going to recommend to you now. It will save the hassle myself and many others have faced of stopping and starting a healthy but boring and basic diet that makes you sick of food.

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Hope you enjoyed the read, leave a comment below and share your thoughts and any questions you have!

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Have a good day!


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16 thoughts on “Muscle Building Foods List – Lean Muscle, Less Fat”

    1. After a workout my protein source is mostly a protein shake with either whey protein or vegan protein, both work great! I mostly train in the mornings so my next meal will also be high in protein, so I usually have chicken, eggs, beef or quinoa at lunch time! If you train in the evening then cottage cheese is great because it is a great protein source but also helps your appetite without eating too much late at night! I did a review on both of protein powders which can be found here if you’d like to check it out!

    1. Glad you liked it! Good nutrition is certainly perfect when paired with workouts, and is more important to focus on I think!

  1. Hi Nick, oh my thank you so much for this article. just what I was looking for. so I just had my second child and I can’t stand the way i look right now. I just started intermittent fasting and am still wondering about the types of food to eat. I’m so glad that you pointed some out. but I got a favor to ask. would please tell me the best way to do intermittent fasting. what’s the most effective way to do it?

    1. I’m glad to have helped! Well you could just fast when is convenient for you and work it around your schedule. For example only eat when you’re hungry and not every so many hours like some people. I’ve heard of many techniques such as the 16/8 method, which is fasting for 16 hours and eating during 8 and also fast one day and not the next. Both seem useful. I’d keep in mind to try and consume most of your calories (almost all of your carbohydrates) before 6 o’clock, this has helped me stay lean, hope this helped!

  2. Hi Nick,
    I knew about all the foods on your list except Quinoa and Flaxseeds. I’ve heard of them, but I didn’t know anything about them. Thanks for sharing. I love rice so I will try to substitute it for quinoa. Flaxseeds… in my cereal. Good idea! I bet you can’t even tell it’s in your cereal can you? I hope it’s not like chia seeds in my smoothies.
    I don’t like chia seeds in my smoothies because they are too seedy. Although I recently discovered ground chia seeds that work much better.
    I appreciate this information and will try adding Quinoa and Flaxseeds to my diet. I’m all about diet and fitness!
    Best wishes,

    1. You can also buy rice with quinoa in if you decide you like both. I prefer both together during my midday meal as it boosts my carbohydrate and protein consumption early enough in the day to digest and not store over night (which is useful for staying lean) Nope! I forget they are there now! No I don’t like seeds in my smoothies either, but in cereal I don’t mind! Glad to have helped! Let me know how it works!

      1. I don’t have any quinoa right now, but will add it to my grocery list. I have a certain kind of black rice in my cabinet that I bought because it said Gluten Free and Good health on the package; “Lundberg Black Japonica Rice”. But I’ve always been so conscious of high carbs and calories that it has kept me from trying it. It has 33 grams of carbs and 150 calories in 1/4 cup!!
        I guess when you have a daily workout, you would burn that off pretty easy.
        Thanks for sharing!

        1. I’ve never heard of that one. Black rice is so good for you though! I have lots of rice in my diet but eat it as early in the day as possibly. This works for me because I train early in the day and need the carbs then, if I was training at night, then I’d probably consume a lot more carbs later in the day. This works for me so I wanted to put that out there for you too, let me know if it works!

  3. Hi Nick,
    This is great for me to build my diet around. I am starting to follow an intermittent fasting plan and know that protein is vital to my survival on the plan since I spend only a few hours a day eating. Do you think there is a “right” amount of protein to have in a day or is it possible to have too much protein? I am a total beginner so I have no idea what my goal should be. Thanks.

    1. Intermittent fasting is a great fat burner and lifestyle to live. Do you follow a specific fasting routine or do you just leave it for say roughly 12 hours at a time? The right amount of protein to have in a day is anywhere from 1.5-2.2x your bodyweight in kg. I usually aim for the higher end of that scale for the greatest benefits to my strength and muscle building.

  4. hey nick, thankfully all the things you mentioned like eggs fish chicken i already love, thank you so much for the information regarding building muscle i appreciate it

    1. Good! When I was first looking at foods to build muscle it came as a relief to me that I could eat some of the foods I love and not feel bad about it!

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