Ten Foods You Should Eat to Gain Muscle Mass

Developing muscle mass is a process that requires exercise and good nutrition. Both must work together in order to get the best results.
Ten Foods You Should Eat to Gain Muscle Mass
Elisa Morales Lupayante

Reviewed and approved by the pedagogue in physical education and nutritionist Elisa Morales Lupayante.

Last update: 26 May, 2022

In this article, you can find out what are the best foods you should eat in order to gain muscle mass and to tone and define your body when you start to train.

This information is especially useful for people who have been exercising for quite some time but still haven’t been able to increase their muscle mass. This may be due to the fact that they have missed out on the most relevant part of working out: Eating a well-proportioned, balanced, and healthy diet.

In order to build muscle should not miss out on eating. This factor is just as important as training is because both elements complement each other.

What Should I Eat to Gain Muscle Mass?

Couple exercising to gain muscle mass
Good nutrition together with physical training are the keys to increase your muscle mass.

People who do physical activity on daily basis should follow a diet that’s rich in macro and micro-nutrients that are essential for the body.

The main nutrients that supply a lot of metabolic energy to your body are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. They’re also useful for other vital functions of the body.

The energy provided by macronutrients should be distributed as follows:

  • Carbohydrates: 1 gram contains four calories.
  • Protein: 1 gram contains four calories.
  • Fat: 1 gram contains 9 calories.

Read this article, too: 7 Foods to Help Define Your Muscles

Ten Foods that Can Help You Gain Muscle Mass

The following foods will help you increase lean tissue.

1. Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates that can help you gain muscle mass
Carbohydrates are the nutritional basis for muscle mass gain.

Specialists guarantee that the daily caloric intake of carbohydrates in an adult should not exceed 50%. For this reason, it’s recommended to consume the following sources of carbohydrates can help keep you healthy:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Legumes
  • Potatoes
  • Cereals and grains

These foods provide “complex” carbohydrates. Unlike “simple” carbohydrates, they release their sugars slowly without producing boosts of glucose that build up in the form of fat.

2. Whole-grain products

They’re a great source of complex carbohydrates and will help keep your appetite satiated for a longer period of time. Keep in mind that they contain fiber, a substance that’s been shown to be able to stimulate the feeling of satiety.

In addition, fiber itself is capable of improving intestinal health, which has a positive impact on the body.

3. Protein

Proteins are molecules made up of essential, semi-essential, and non-essential amino acids that your body isn’t able to create on its own. For this reason, it’s crucial not to miss the daily doses that are necessary for your meals.

Most protein (60%) builds up in the muscles, so you should eat about 1 gram of this macronutrient per kilogram (2.205 lbs) of your body weight daily, according to a study published in the Spanish Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics. It is even possible to increase the intake up to 2 grams. Foods with high protein content are:

Below are protein-rich foods:

  • Dairy products
  • Meat
  • Eggs
  • Legumes
  • Fish and shellfish
  • Whole-grain products
  • Soy products

4. Fats

Fats contain vitamins and minerals that are essential for your body and that can help you gain muscle mass. They should represent around 30% or 35% of your daily caloric intake.

You can distribute them as follows: between 20% or 25% of unsaturated fats (nuts, olive oil, linseed, wheat germ, fish, avocados) and a maximum 10% of saturated fats (dairy products, butter, coconut butter).

  • You should preferably consume healthy fats and not harmful trans-fats.
  • Note that the latter type of lipid has been shown to be capable of damaging health in the medium term.

5. Eggs are crucial

Eggs are one of the most known foods for muscles. If you want to gain muscle mass, then you should include them in your diet. This food stands out for their protein and good fats.

Therefore, it isn’t recommended to just eat the whites, because the yolk is also full of protein and vitamins. This food product is loaded with nutrients.

6. Chicken breasts

Raw turkey on a cutting board with garlic, spices, tomatoes, and onion.
Turkey meat is very similar to chicken in nutritional content, except in fat content.

Even the other parts are also good, chicken breast is rich in protein because every 100 grams can provide you with up to 23 grams of macronutrients.

Chicken breast can be digested very easily because it doesn’t have much fat, which won’t get you to feel heavy. In order to avoid eating any extra calories, it’s best to cook it grilled.

7. Tuna

Tuna is also rich in protein. It can be easily metabolized and it’s ideal for people who have troubles gaining muscle mass.

8. Brown Rice

Brown rice is much more beneficial than white rice. It contains a higher amount of vitamins and fiber, which makes it perfect for your meals.

  • For every 100 grams of cooked brown rice, you can get around 350 kcal, 7 g of protein, 74 g of carbohydrates, 2 g of fiber, and 2 g of fat.

9. Oats

This cereal contains a large amount of macronutrients that are essential for your body, especially when it comes to gaining muscle mass.

However, if you’re not used to this food, it’s recommended to add it gradually to your diet. It can cause constipation if you’re just starting to eat it.

  • For every 100 grams of oats, there are approximately 352 kcal, 11 g of protein, 55 g of carbohydrates, 9 g of fiber and 7 g of fat.

10. Nuts, fruit, and seeds

There are plenty to choose from, such as almonds, nuts or any type of seed like flax, quinoa, chia or sesame seeds. These nuts provide protein, healthy fats, and high-quality carbohydrates. That’s why a well proportioned and balanced diet must contain at least one of them.

  • Meanwhile, banana is one of the fruits that are most recommended in a diet that’s meant to gain muscle mass. Not only do they provide you with a good amount of potassium, but bananas actively participate in the formation of muscles and their respective functions.
  • Also, they can help store carbohydrates that will be transformed into energy. It’s ideal to eat fruit before and after working out.

On the other hand, if you want to lose weight, eating an apple is perfect because it provides very few calories. It’s recommended to eat between two and four fruits a day.

Hopefully, after reading all of these tips, you can increase your muscle mass just as you have been wanting for a long time. Remember that a diet is a very important part of your training. If you don’t feed yourself correctly, you won’t get the results you were expecting.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Warrilow A, Mellor D, McKune A, Pumpa K. Dietary fat, fibre, satiation, and satiety-a systematic review of acute studies. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2019 Mar;73(3):333-344.
  • Urdampilleta A., Vicente Salar N., Martínez Sanz JM., Necesidades proteicas de los deportistas y pautas dietético nutricionales para la ganancia de masa muscular. Revista Española de Nutrición Humana y Dietética, 2012.
  • Wilczek MM, Olszewski R, Krupienicz A. Trans-Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Disease: Urgent Need for Legislation. Cardiology. 2017;138(4):254-258.
  • Burke, L. M., Hawley, J. A., Wong, S. H. S., & Jeukendrup, A. E. (2011). Carbohydrates for training and competition. Journal of Sports Sciences. https://doi.org/10.1080/02640414.2011.585473
  • Macronutrientes: carbohidratos, grasas y proteínas. http://www.fao.org/docrep/006/w0073s/w0073s0d.htm
  • Urdampilleta, A., Vicente-Salar, N., & Martínez Sanz, J. M. (2012). Necesidades proteicas de los deportistas y pautas diétetico-nutricionales para la ganancia de masa muscular. Revista Espanola de Nutricion Humana y Dietetica. http://doi.org/10.1016/S2173-1292(12)70068-6

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.