The art of true living in this world is more like a wrestler’s than a dancer’s practice.Marcus Aurelius
So what is the best food to build muscle? In this post, I’ll be answering a timely question and advising you about which food you should or shouldn’t eat if your goal is gaining muscle mass.
First and foremost, I must inform you that I am not by any means a physician nor a nutritionist, so if you have any health issues, or if your knowledge in the subject is little to none, I highly advise you to consult professional help, or at the very least, please inform and educate yourself in the matter!
With that said and before jumping on the post’s topic, I’d like to add that my primary motivation to make this post is the fact that by the time I am writing, I am too working my way to building more muscle mass and something that I (finally) had to accept is:
Despite your workout methods and the quality of your sleep, if you don’t have a proper diet, odds are you will not achieve your goals in terms of getting your desired frame as an athlete.
Due to my perfectionist nature, when I started to educate myself on how to have a proper diet that would meet my ends, I did a long and deep research, tried some regimes, and I studied other cases of people that adopted healthier habits at the table intending to gain muscle mass too.
After all of that and with the results of a gazillion hours educating me and a few trials, I found myself in a position where I can actually help someone struggle with similar issues pursuing their dreams (inclusive the dream of becoming a professional wrestler) via a good dose of information about what is the best food to build muscle.
So after this unusual long introduction, let’s jump on the sauce!
What Is The Best Food To Build Muscle – The Macros
As many of you have heard, the macronutrients are the energy you take from every food you eat, and they are divided into three groups: proteins, carbs, and fats.
Starting with the proteins, proteins are present and every organ and cell in the human body. Being used to create enzymes, hormones and antibodies, build and repair tissues like bones, cartilage, muscles, skin, and blood, transport oxygen through the body, and even your hair and nails are basically made of proteins.
So as you see, proteins are not only vital, but with their limitless benefits, they are the powerhouse among the macros.
Thankfully we have at our reach many sources of proteins despite the diet we want to follow. Lean beef, chicken breast, tofu, eggs, soybeans, and greek yogurt are just a few of them.
On the other side, foods like bacon, sausages, and processed meats should be avoided as they often contain saturated fats and trans fats, which are bad for our health. More on that later.
Signs or symptoms of lack of proteins could be many; I will leave you a list of the most common ones:
- Hair, nails, and skin problems
- Aches and pain
- Muscle loss
- Sleeping issues
- General healing issues
- Mood and energy changes
- Persistent hunger
Now let’s take a look at the carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are responsible for your energy levels. It turns the macros into glucose (the body’s favorite fuel) before entering the bloodstream, boosting in that way our muscles and organs and saving in the process proteins and fats for other tasks.
In case you have a low carbs diet and want to build muscle mass, it will be a difficult task. In the absence of carbs, our body starts to be fueled by fats and ultimately is the proteins on our body that will be used to, having kind of cannibalistic behavior that will result in muscle mass lost, as proteins are being used as fuel and not to recover and heal tissues among other tasks.
That’s one of the reasons that a low carbs diet is arguably more efficient for weight loss than a low-fat diet, but that’s a matter for another post.
Carbohydrates can be found in a wide range of aliments though not all types of carbs are healthy.
If fruits, vegetables, potatoes, or whole grains like quinoa or oat are excellent examples of a good source of carbs, we can’t say the same about white rice, white pasta, white bread, and pastries, or sugar-sweetened beverages. All of the products to be on your blacklist!
Here’s again a list of signs and symptoms, this time resulting in lack of carbs:
Last but not least, we have the fats, often misunderstood fats are essential to a good and healthy diet. Without them, we lose the ability to absolve a lot of vitamins, control energy levels, or even keep the cells’ structure.
Like proteins and carbs, we can’t simply live a healthy life without a moderated dose of fats.
At present, we have diverse types of fats, so it can be hard to know which ones we should eat and which ones we shouldn’t, so I’ll sum up the “good” and “bad” fats.
Starting with the “good” fats, we have monounsaturated fat and polyunsaturated fat, often found in nuts or fatty fish like salmon, sardines, or tuna, for example.
Bad examples of fats are saturated fats and trans fats.
Saturated fats can be found in fatty meats (beef, lamb, pork, etc.), ice cream, sour cream, or tropical oils like cocoa butter and palm oil.
Trans fats you can find them mainly in french fries, fast food in general, cakes, cookies, margarine, and processed snacks like candy bars, crackers, and microwave popcorn.
Once again, I provided you a list of signs and symptoms of lack of fats:
- Dry eyes, hair, and skin
- Unusual feeling of cold
- Unusual feeling of hungry
- Lack of concentration
- Fatigue (mental and physic)
- Low levels of fat-soluble vitamins
As a disclaimer, I must inform you that are many reasons to have the symptoms mentioned above, so if you are experiencing one or multiple signs mentioned above doesn’t necessarily mean you lack proteins, carbs, or fats, so I highly advise you to consult a physician or a nutritionist to know the reasons behind your symptoms!
Rather, your goals are gaining or losing weight, you have to regularly consume all the three macros, though you want to keep some attention on the carbs and fats you ingest, and if your goal is to gain muscle mass, you should always consume food with high protein levels.
And more than eating food rich in high protein levels, you need to ingest a daily amount of calories superior to the ones you burn throughout your day. This ingestion of more calories than the body needs is defined as calorie surplus and is a basic requirement if you really want to build muscle mass and gain weight.
But keep in mind something, to your body make the most of the macros you ingest, you need to consume as well food rich in micronutrients as they are vital to all body processes.
Since our body doesn’t produce them and, in many cases, doesn’t store them either, it is highly important to consume aliments rich in micronutrients daily too.
Next, we will dig in on the world of micronutrients to give you a good perspective of their importance.
What Is The Best Food To Build Muscle – The Micros
Micronutrients are present in almost all types of foods. Although you don’t need to consume huge amounts of micros as you need to consume macros, you want to be sure that you consume them daily as they are essential to the body’s good functionality.
Jo Tavers, an evidenced-based nutritionist states in her book “The Low-fad Diet“ the following:
“Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals that are used as catalysts and co-factors in reactions: nothing can happen without these nutrients. So if you want oxygen to be carried to vital organs, then you need iron. If you want better skin, then you need vitamin C and zinc.”
Now that you have an idea of how important micronutrients are, let’s check how they are organized. To begin with, they are divided into two groups, vitamins, and minerals.
Within the vitamins, you have two forms of it, the water-soluble vitamins and the fat-soluble vitamins.
Water-soluble vitamins are easily lost, and our body doesn’t store them, so we have to consume them daily. Examples of some water-soluble vitamins are vitamin C, B6, and B12.
Unlike their pairs, fat-soluble vitamins tend to be stored by our body and are not so needed daily though they have equally an important role in your body. Examples of fat-soluble vitamins: A, D, E, K.
Consequences of lacking vitamins could result in:
- Hair loss
- Coarse hair
- Scaly patches and dandruff
- Muscle cramps
- Restless leg syndrome
Minerals are broken into two subgroups, too, the macro minerals and the microminerals.
The two macro minerals are the ones we need to consume in larger amounts like calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and sodium.
The micro or trace minerals as the last name suggest we only need small traces of them; included in that group are cobalt, copper, fluoride, iron, selenium, zinc, etc…
Here are some signs or symptoms if you lack minerals:
- Abdominal pain
- Weakened immune system
- Muscle cramps
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and/or vomiting
Once again, I remind you of the possibility of having one or multiple symptoms from the ones mentioned above due to other reasons, so if you’re experiencing any of them once again, I highly recommend you consult a physician or a nutritionist!
Without entering into detail the role and benefits of micronutrients, as I can write an entire post about it, you should know by now that you want to have them on your diet to take the utmost of the macronutrients that you ingest.
Now that we know what macronutrients and micronutrients are, their roles, and their importance in the body, we will finally jump on the table and see which foods they are more present and which foods we must avoid as well.
The Best Food To Build Muscle
I had provided you throughout this post with some foods you should eat and some you should avoid, nevertheless on this chapter, I will leave you a list of foods that you must have on your diet to build lean and strong muscle and a list of foods that you should avoid as some aren’t what they look like, and others are simply bad to health in general.
So now we arrived at the most delicious part of the post, the part we take a look at the food behind macros and micros, so without further ado, la carte.
What is the best food to build muscle? To finally answer that question, I elaborate on the following list in any particular order:
- Lean Beef
- Porc Tenderloin
- Chicken Breast
- Turkey Breast
- Greek Yogurt
- Cottage Cheese
- Soy Beans
- Kidney Beans
- Chia Seeds
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Extra Virgin Oil
- Fruits In General
I know how taste changes from person to person, but if you can eat most of the foods on the list in a balanced and healthy way, your body will have everything it needs to work like a swiss watch.
Now let’s take a look at the downs à la table with a list displayed in any particular order:
- French Fries
- Chips Potatoes
- White Bread
- White Rice
- White Pasta
- Juice Fruits
- Gluten-Free Junk Food
- Junk Food
- Industrial Pizzas
- Pastries, Cakes, and Cookies
- Sweetened Breakfast Cereals
- Agave Nectar
- Candy Bars
- Ice Cream
- Low-Fat Yogurt
- Processed Meat
- Processed Cheese
- Highly Processed Food In General
If you consume any of these products daily, I highly recommend you stop it right away!
Despite your life goals, we shouldn’t expose our bodies to this type of food; showing some love and self-respect by adopting good habits at the table are more than half away from the path to greatness in life!
Some Personal Words
Now I will leave you some words of experience that I learned on my path that might help you. In case you already have good habits, you can take it as a reminder, but if you’re struggling to do it well, I ask you to use the next paragraphs to motivate you and boost that iron will you have inside of you!
Firstly you have to understand that it is not always easy to have the right mindset to make the needed choices. Still, with resilience and will, everything is achievable. After a life of making often doubtful choices concerning my diet, I can assure you that the hardest it’s taking the first step! The step towards changing!
An equation for life in general that I learned and I always keep close and helped me greatly (especially in my quest to found the right diet attending my needs) is:
Knowledge = Actions = Results! Meaning that first, you have to educate yourself to acquire knowledge, then put into action what you had learned, make the due adjustments if needed, and only after you will have results!
Considering this equation, you can argue that in some foods you can’t simply stand the taste or the texture, which invalidates your knowledge but don’t forget you always have similar options and different ways of consuming them. For example, I always had a hard time eating fruits, mainly the tropical ones, as I’m not too fond of the texture and the final taste that stays on the mouth.
Mango, pineapple, kiwi, blueberries, Koko, passion fruit are just a few fruits that I cannot simply eat as whole fruit, but my knowledge tells me they’re essential in a good diet.
So if I can’t eat them, I look for other ways to consume them; the due adjustments led me to try to drink them, and guess what? Actually, I like their flavor in a smoothie blended with other fruits of my taste.
That led me to consume essential and equally important foods that, in another way, I will simply not do, which led me to results!
With this example, I try to show you that there’s always a way, and each one of us, via this simple life equation, can find ways to apply our knowledge and get results. And the magic is: the more you apply it and the more results you see, the easier things get, so there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain!
Remember that you have to be comprehensive with yourself, too; not always, we make the right choices. Hence, if somehow, time by time, you found yourself eating some crappy food, think that a sporadic dose of it can be positive as that provokes a shock on our system, which ultimately will lead to some improvements in our general metabolism.
So don’t be too harsh with yourself if you sin once in a while, and don’t forget, with small changes, we can attain big things! So don’t be afraid and dream big!
And there you have it, the best food to build muscle mass and some words of advice and motivation!
I didn’t detail the role of every macro and micro that exists in food, nor did I try to suggest a meal plan, and there are some reasons for that.
Firstly, to provide you with good in-depth knowledge in the world of macros and micros and their subgroups, as previously said, I must write a few posts on the matter, which by the way, I’ll be more than happy to do if requested!
As I wrote in the beginning about a meal plan, I’m not a physician nor a nutritionist, so I don’t find it wise nor ethical to start to pop out with a meal program that supposedly will meet your ends, nor that was the post’s goal.
Nevertheless, I do have my knowledge in the matter, so I’ll be more than happy to share it with you, give you my thoughts on a specific question or situation, help you with some words of encouragement, or even recommend you what I consider a good and professional help.
For that to happen, you just have to “eat” me in the comments section, and I’ll be glad to help you!
Concerning this post, if you are more aware of what you should eat to build muscle mass, what you should avoid at all costs, and mostly:
If your brain was triggered by an avalanche of questions and doubts that ultimately will lead you to inform and educate yourself more on the matter and lead you to a more aware and respectful state of mind towards the food you ingest and your body in general, in that case, I could affirm that this post found its goal!
Did you enjoy this post? Do you think I should go more in-depth? Or do you think I should resume myself to write about professional wrestling? : )
I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic and personal stories, too, so as usual, don’t hesitate to superkick me in the comments section below, and I will chop you back as expected!
And just before you go, I want to THANK YOU for your time reading another of our posts and giving us your feedback to help us improve our work continuously! It means a lot to me!
If you like our content, you can check more here, and please consider following us everywhere (except on the street, that’s weird:)) and I’ll catch you in our next post; until then, stay strong and keep eating healthy! Amor Fati! : )
Founder of Against the Ropes.