Top Foods to Build Lean Muscle
Proper nutrition is the key to any type of fitness plan. When it comes to building lean muscle, though effective and strategic workouts are necessary, they are only one part of the equation. What you consume after your weight-bearing workout is so important to the muscle repair process. When we lift weights, our muscles endure micro tears (this sounds a lot more awful than it actually is), which is why we may experience muscle fatigue, swelling, or some light pain after a workout. But, the muscle isn’t tearing without benefit: the tears eventually heal, and through that process, the muscle becomes stronger. This is how strength building is accomplished. The repair process, though, needs proper fuel—hence why proper nutrition is essential to build lean muscle. This repair process really relies on adequate macronutrients, specifically protein, before and after a workout, and carbohydrates after a workout. Because proteins are made up of amino acids, you’ll want to be sure to consume as many complete proteins as possible; this means that the protein source contains all the essential amino acids required for growth and muscle repair. Without proper fuel, your muscles run the risk of breaking down and never quite fully recovering, which means you won’t see the hard work you’ve put in at the gym pay off. Include some of these top foods to build lean muscle into your next meal plan and watch your hard work pay off. There’s no better way to refuel than with good, nourishing food packed with protein.
1. Lean ground beef:
A classic when it comes to muscle building. Extra lean ground beef contains all of the essential amino acids required to rebuild muscle and prevent muscles from breaking down. Opt for high quality grass fed beef from a butcher or farmer in your community for maximum nutritional benefits.
Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found individuals who ate whole eggs had a 40 percent greater post-workout muscle building response compared to those consuming the equivalent amount of protein from egg whites alone. The nutrients in both egg whites and egg yolks work synergistically to provide maximum nutrient potential. When it comes to eggs, don’t skimp on the yolks. Together with the whites, each egg offers about 6 grams of absorbable and bioavailable protein.
3. Chicken breast:
A rich source of lean protein, one serving of chicken breast offers roughly 27 grams of protein per 3 ounces. Skinless chicken breast is ideal for muscle repair and lean muscle mass, while skin-on chicken breast will offer more fat, ideal for building muscle or gaining weight.
4. Nuts & seeds:
In addition to most nuts and seeds—like almonds, pumpkin seeds, or hemp seeds—being rich sources of protein, nuts and seeds also keep us satiated, helping to curb our appetite to prevent overindulging in less healthy foods. Both nuts and seeds can be super easy to incorporate. Sprinkle 3 tbsp of hemp seeds on top of a salad or add to a smoothie for an extra 10 grams of plant-based protein.
5. Cottage cheese:
Because cottage cheese is a rich source of casein, a protein that is slowly digested, it offers superior nutrition when it comes to muscle recovery. This makes cottage cheese a great option for a late night snack since the proteins will be working to repair muscles and enhance recovery throughout the night while you are sleeping. Just 1 cup of full fat cottage cheese offers roughly 25 grams of protein.
Beans like kidney beans and lentils offer a combination of protein and carbohydrates, which are necessary for post-workout muscle recovery to recover lost glycogen stores. Like meat, beans provide all essential amino acids, but in varying amounts, so be sure to rotate the beans that you eat, especially if you’re on a plant-based diet.
Quinoa is another plant-based protein option, offering about 8 grams of protein per cup, while also containing all essential amino acids. Like beans, quinoa is also rich in carbohydrates that are slow burning. Compared to fast-burning carbohydrates, like bananas, grapes, or maple syrup, these types of carbohydrates break down slower and therefore release their energy at a slower rate, too. Quinoa is great for post-workout recovery rather than giving you a burst of energy before or during your workout.
Both tofu and tempeh are delicious low carbohydrate, plant-based protein options made from soy, and great to add to dishes at lunch or dinner in lieu of chicken, turkey, or even beef. But you don’t have to be vegan or plant based to reap the benefits of these soy-based products. In fact, consider combining soy with other popular animal proteins, like whey and casein. Researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston found that those who consumed a combination of soy, casein, and whey post-workout benefited from prolonging the delivery of select amino acids to the muscle for an hour longer compared to consuming whey protein alone.
Per 100 grams, salmon offers about 20 grams of protein with additional omega-3, anti-inflammatory fatty acids, which benefit performance, muscle recovery, and overall health benefits.
If you are looking to gain lean muscle mass, shrimp is one of your best options. With 24 grams of protein per 100 grams, shrimp is low in fat and carbohydrates, will sustain satiety and curb cravings, and aid in the muscle recovery process. Add it to stir fries or eat them on their own, and for simplicity and ease, don’t forget about the cocktail trays available at grocery stores.
What are your favourite high protein foods that you use to build lean muscle mass? We’d love to know about your go-to high protein recipes! Let us know using the hashtag #ReflexNation on Instagram and Facebook, and don’t forget to follow us @reflexsupplements for more information, recipes, and savings on your favourite supplements.