12 Best Foods to Gain Muscle Mass – Backed By Science

best foods for muscle gain

It is very essential to push your body to stimulate muscle growth, through exercises or training. However, you also need to eat the right food, for proper nutrition and energy to thrive through the muscle building process.

There are two essentials for gaining muscle mass:-

  • Proper Nutrition
  • Enhanced Physical activity through workouts or exercises

Irrespective of the reps you do or the weights you train with, if you do not have a good diet, you are not going to gain from it.

Thus, it becomes important to consume foods that help you to build muscle mass. This includes protein-rich foods, combined with essential carbohydrates and fats to fuel you during the workouts.

Here are the 12 best foods to gain muscle mass

1. Eggs

Eggs are the perfect protein source;it also contains healthy fats and other essential nutrients such as Vitamin B and choline. (1)

Proteins found in eggs do help in increasing strength and muscle building, but there are other substances in it that contribute equally. (2)

Egg yolk contains cholesterol (dietary cholesterol) that does not increase the blood cholesterol levels; it helps the bodybuilders to have a balanced diet. Body builders looking to gain muscles do need fats to comply with their energy requirements. This is essential, especially during the growth stage.

Vitamin B present in eggs, assists various processes in the body that helps in the production of energy. Eggs also contain amino acids that enhance muscle recovery and other essential minerals like zinc, iron and calcium.

2. Lean beef

Keeping muscle building in mind, beef is the best food that one must add to its diet.

Beef is essential for muscle building, specifically because of its high-protein content. Other essentials include amino acids, Vitamin-B and Creatine, which plays an important role in increasing muscle mass. (3)

Individuals doing weight training exercise to gain muscle mass can increase the benefits by consuming high protein diet, such as beef. However, if you want to gain muscles, it is important that you consume beef that helps muscle building by supplying less calories. (4)

Red meat from grass fed cattle comparatively has higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid. It helps in reducing the fat content in the body and gain muscle mass. (5)

Additionally, beef also contains saturated fats that help to maintain healthy testosterone levels. It is an androgenic hormone that is very important for building muscle mass. (6)

3. Chicken Breasts

Chicken is another effective food for muscle building. Being a good source of protein, it should be added to the diet.

It is a viable source of protein, as chicken contains the highest amount of it. For an instance, every 3 ounce serving of chicken breast has 26gms of high-quality protein approximately.

Additionally, it also has other nutrients such as Vitamin B (Niacin) and B6, which are essential for muscle building. Vitamins, thus consumed enhance the body functions effectively and assist in the muscle building process.

Studies also show that consuming high-protein diet also helps to burn more fats and prevent muscle loss during workouts or training. (7)

4. Salmon

Salmon is not only good to maintain overall health, but also becomes the best food choice for muscle building.

It is rich in high-quality protein and also contains long chain of omega-3 fats such as DHA and EPA. The basic function of the omega 3 fatty acids is to ensure a healthy heart. Additionally, it also helps in the muscle synthesis or breakdown process by increasing the anabolic ability of the amino acids. (8)

Eating foods like salmon shall help you to increase the omega-3 fatty acid content in your body. It helps to maintain lean muscle mass and enhances the muscle building processes during workouts or training. (9)

5. Cottage cheese

Cottage Cheese is a popular food among heavy weight trainers or individuals that workout to gain muscle mass.

It is a great food to add to your diet. It is highly recommended for individuals looking to gain muscle mass, simply because of its high protein content. Protein filled diet is found to be very effective for muscle growth when combined with heavy weight training.

A major part of the cottage cheese is formed with casein, a very slow digesting dairy protein. Thus, as you eat casein, the amino acids levels in blood rise slowly and stay elevated for a prolonged period. The slow absorption property makes it more effective for building muscles and stimulating muscle breakdown. Hence, it works better than eating Whey protein. (10)

As cottage cheese, contains a slowly digesting protein, it is recommended to be eaten before going to bed. This maintains the production of amino acids in the blood during sleep and prevents any catabolic activities in the body that reduces muscle breakdown. (11)

6. Greek  Yogurt

Similar to Cottage Cheese, Greek Yogurt too is prepared from the same dairy source, milk.

These dairy products become the best source of high-quality proteins. Greek yogurt is a mixture of whey protein (fast digesting protein) and casein (slow digesting protein).

According to a study, eating a mixture of fast and slow digesting proteins, increases muscle gain and strength in an individual. (12)

Greek Yogurt has more protein (20gms per serving) as compared to the regular yogurt (16gms per serving).

7. Milk

Milk is a dairy product, which is a combination of protein, carbohydrates and fats.

Likewise, it too contains both fast and slow digesting proteins i.e. whey and casein respectively. Additionally, it also contains amino acid (glutamine) and omega-3 fatty acids.

These factors do contribute to muscle growth.  Moreover, individuals that drink milk before and after heavy weight workouts are found to increase their muscle mass effectively. (13)

8. Brown rice

Although the protein content of one cup cooked brown rice is only 5gms, the carbohydrate that you get from it, is what makes it beneficial.

Brown rice consists of good carbs. These are slow digesting whole grains, which keep you energized for a longer period. Hence, it provides you with the essential fuel during workout.

Having enough energy allows you to exercise better and create enhanced stimulation for muscle growth. Studies also suggest that rice protein works similar to whey protein in terms of muscle gain in a resistance training exercise. (14)

9. Quinoa

Foods rich in proteins are very essential for muscle gain. But, we also need to understand the importance of carbohydrates to provide the needed energy. Therefore, consuming foods containing carbohydrates also becomes important.

Quinoa contains slow digesting carbohydrates, sufficient amounts of proteins, fiber and essential minerals like magnesium and phosphorous.

Quinoa is found to increase the insulin-like growth factor levels in the body. This is an important factor that supports strength and muscle gains. Moreover, the magnesium content helps to enhance various processes in the body related to muscle and nerve function. (15)

10. Beans

Beans are available in a wide variety and a lot of them can be added to the diet to gain muscle mass.

Moreover, beans contain high fiber, low fats and rich in muscle building proteins. It also consists of vitamins like Vitamin B and minerals like Magnesium, phosphorous and Iron. These are the essentials for stimulating muscle growth and gain muscle mass.

Therefore, beans become the essential plant based protein that you must add to your diet.  Additionally, beans also promote long term health and prevent several diseases. (16)

11. Peanuts

Peanuts are very rich in proteins, carbohydrates and are a good source of unsaturated fats.

Per half-cup serving of Peanuts contains around 400-500 calories. It becomes the right food to supply your body with the needed energy. This can additionally help you in the muscle building process, keeping you active throughout the workouts or training.

Peanuts also contain high amounts of amino acids i.e. leucine, in comparison to other plant products. It plays an important role in muscle building process by stimulating protein synthesis. (17)

12. Spinach

Spinach is found to be a good source of amino acid i.e. glutamine. This amino acid is very essential for building lean muscle mass. (18)

Glutamine is the most widely available amino acids, which acts as building blocks for protein in the body. It helps the individuals seeking muscle gain with heavy weight training.

Additionally, it is also rich in calcium and iron, which are essential to increase the bone strength.


Foods choices can vary from one person to another, as there are several foods that help to gain muscle mass. There are a lot of foods that are rich in protein, which are very essential for muscle building.  But you cannot ignore the importance of carbohydrates and fat consumption to provide you with the needed energy.

Consuming the right food shall also help you to get the essential vitamins and mineral to maintain overall health.

Exercises are important to gain muscle mass, combine it with the best food sources to get the desired results.