Main | Q&A | Burn Fat | Build Lean Muscle

The 14 Best Lean-Muscle Building Foods

1. Beef (From Grass-Fed Cattle)

Beef is important for building lean muscle due to its protein content, cholesterol, zinc, B vitamins and iron content.

Beef from grass-fed cattle have much higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) than conventionally raised cattle, which gives you a boost in shedding body fat and building lean muscle.[1]



2. Beets

A good source of betaine, also known as trimethylglycine, this nutrient not only supports liver and joint health, but also has been shown in clinical research to increase muscle strength and power.

Beets also provide an NO boost which can enhance energy and aid recovery.

3. Brown Rice

A slow-digesting whole grain that provides longer-lasting energy throughout the day and during workouts.

4. Oranges

Another good fruit that can actually help to boost muscle growth, strength and endurance, especially when eaten before workouts.

5. Cantaloupe

Due to its relatively low fructose content, this melon is one of the few fruits that is actually a fast-digesting carb. That makes it a good carb to have first thing in the morning after a long night of fasting and one of the few good fruits to eat after workouts.

6. Cottage Cheese

Rich in casein protein, cottage cheese is a great go-to protein source, especially before bed.

Casein protein is the slowest-digesting protein you can eat, so it prevents catabolism while you fast during the night.



7. Eggs

Eggs are known as the perfect protein, but their ability to boost lean muscle and strength gains isn't due to just the protein alone. It gets a lot of help from the yolks, where the cholesterol is found.

8. Milk (Organic)

Milk contains both whey and casein and is rich in the amino acid glutamine. Organic milk has about 70% more omega-3 fatty acids than conventional milk.[2]

9. Quinoa

A complete protein in addition to being a slow-digesting carb, quinoa has been linked with an increase in insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) levels, an important factor associated with lean muscle and strength gains.

10. Spinach

Spinach is a good source of glutamine, the amino acid that is important for lean muscle growth.

11. Apples

The specific polyphenols in apples help to increase muscle strength and prevent muscle fatigue, allowing you to train harder for longer.

Other research also shows that these polyphenols can increase fat burning as well. That's why it's a good idea to make apples a pre-workout carb source.

12. Greek Yogurt

Like plain yogurt, Greek yogurt starts from the same source: milk. Greek yogurt, however, has more protein (a whopping 20 grams per cup) and fewer carbs (9 grams per cup) than regular yogurt (16 grams protein and 16 grams carbs per cup). It's also a good source of casein protein.



13. Ezekiel 4:9 Bread

Ezekiel bread is made from organic sprouted whole grains. Because it contains grains and legumes, the bread is a complete protein, which means it contains all nine of the amino acids your body can't produce on its own—the ones needed for lean muscle growth.

14. Wheat Germ

Wheat germ is rich in zinc, iron, selenium, potassium, and B vitamins, high in fiber and protein, with a good amount of branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), arginine and glutamine.

This makes wheat germ a great source of slow-digesting carbohydrates and a quality protein that's a perfect food before workouts.

The Lean-Muscle One-Week Meal Plan

The following plan is designed for a person weighing 140 pounds. When trying to gain lean muscle during a rigorous exercise program, a good rule of thumb is to shoot for an intake of about 13-15 calories per pound of bodyweight, so adjust up or down depending on your weight.

So for a 110-pound individual, total daily calories would be between 1,430 to 1,650; for a 150-pound individual, about 1,950 to 2,250. Tweak the amounts in the meal plan to hit your desired macronutrient targets, which you can identify using this calculator.

Monday

Breakfast 1
Protein Powder (whey)
1 scoop
Cantaloupe (small or medium)
1/2
Breakfast 2 (30-60 min after B1)
Omelet (2 large eggs, 2 slices low-fat deli ham, 1/4 cup fat-free cheddar cheese)
1
Oatmeal (cooked)
1 cup
Late-Morning Snack
Greek Yogurt (reduced-fat)
4 oz
Blueberries (mixed with yogurt)
1/2 cup
Lunch
Ground Beef (lean)
4 oz
Hamburger Bun (whole-wheat)
1
Mixed Greens (including spinach)
2 cups
Olive Oil
1 tbsp
Balsamic Vinegar
1 tbsp
Midday Snack
Chicken (canned)
3 oz
Mayonnaise (light)
1 tbsp
Crackers (whole-wheat, mix mayo in chicken, eat on crackers)
5
Dinner
Chicken
6 oz
Broccoli (chopped)
1 cup
Mixed Greens (including spinach)
2 cups
Olive Oil
1 tbsp
Balsamic Vinegar
1 tbsp
Nighttime Snack
Cottage Cheese
3/4 cup
Salsa (mix salsa in cottage cheese)
2 tbsp

Nutrition Facts Totals for the Day:

Amount per serving



  • Calories: 1,835
  • Total Fat: 65 g
  • Total Carbs: 135 g
  • Protein: 185 g

Tuesday

Breakfast 1
Protein Powder (whey)
1 scoop
Orange
1
Breakfast 2
Eggs
2
Egg Whites (make scrambled eggs)
2
Waffles (whole-grain)
1
Syrup (maple)
1 tbsp
Late-Morning Snack
Protein Powder (whey)
1 scoop
Wheat Germ (mix wheat germ in whey shake)
1/2 cup
Lunch
Deli Turkey
4 oz
Mayonnaise (light)
1 tbsp
Ezekiel Bread (make turkey sandwich)
2 slices
Midday Snack
Cottage Cheese (low-fat)
1/2 cup
Pineapple (mix pineapple in cottage cheese)
1/4 cup
Dinner
Tilapia
6 oz
Broccoli
1 cup
Mixed Greens (including spinach)
2 cups
Olive Oil
1 tbsp
Balsamic Vinegar
1 tbsp
Nighttime Snack
Casein Protein
1 scoop
Walnuts (halves)
7
Peanut Butter (dip walnuts in peanut butter)
1 tbsp

Nutrition Facts Totals for the day:

Amount per serving

  • Calories: 1,870
  • Total Fat: 60 g
  • Total Carbs: 145 g
  • Protein: 190 g

Wednesday

Breakfast 1
Protein Powder (whey)
1 scoop
Apple (small)
1
Breakfast 2
Eggs (cooked as a frittata)
1 serving
Oatmeal (cooked)
1 cup
Lat-Morning Snack
Greek Yogurt (reduced-fat)
1/2 cup
Strawberries (sliced)
1/2 cup
Lunch
Stir Fry
1 serving
Midday Snack
Cottage Cheese (low-fat)
1/2 cup
Mandarin Oranges (canned)
1/2 cup
Dinner
Steak (top sirloin)
6 oz
Asparagus
20 spears
Mixed Greens (including spinach)
2 cups
Olive Oil
1 tbsp
Balsamic Vinegar
1 tbsp
Nighttime Snack
Greek Yogurt (reduced-fat)
1 cup
Honey
1 tsp
Flaxseeds (mix honey and flaxseeds in yogurt)
2 tbsp

Nutrition Facts Totals for the day:

Amount per serving

  • Calories: 1,900
  • Total Fat: 55 g
  • Total Carbs: 160 g
  • Protein: 180 g

Thursday

Breakfast 1
Protein Powder (whey)
1 scoop
Cantaloupe (medium)
1/2
Breakfast 2
Milk (low-fat)
1/2 cup
Cereal (Kashi Go Lean)
1/2 cup
Protein Powder (whey)
1/2 scoop
Late-Morning Snack (Make salad by adding all ingredients together.)
Mixed Greens (including spinach)
2 cups
Eggs (hard-boiled and sliced)
2
Oatmeal (dry)
1/4 cup
Olive Oil
1 tbsp
Balsamic Vinegar
1 tbsp
Lunch
Tuna (seasoned fillets, packet)
5 oz
Quinoa (cooked)
1/2 cup
Vegetables (frozen, mixed)
1 cup
Midday Snack (Make quesadilla: add cheese to one side of tortilla, cook on medium.)
Pita Bread (10" whole-wheat)
1/2
Cheese (reduced-fat cheddar)
1/4 cup
Dinner
Salmon
6 oz
Mixed Greens (including spinach)
2 cups
Olive Oil
1 tbsp
Balsamic Vinegar
1 tbsp
Nighttime Snack
Cottage Cheese
3/4 cup
Salsa
2 tbsp

Nutrition Facts Totals for the day:

Amount per serving

  • Calories: 1,850
  • Total Fat: 75 g
  • Total Carbs: 130 g
  • Protein: 165 g

Friday

Breakfast 1
Protein Powder (whey)
1 scoop
Apple
1
Breakfast 2
Cottage Cheese (low-fat)
1/2 cup
Mandarin Oranges (canned)
1/2 cup
Celery
2 stalks
Peanut Butter (fill celery grooves with peanut butter)
1 tbsp
Late-Morning Snack
Deli Turkey
4 oz
Cheese (reduced-fat American)
1 slice
Mayonnaise (light)
1 tbsp
Pita Bread (10" whole-wheat)
1
Midday Snack
Cheese (fat-free)
2 oz
Crackers (whole-wheat)
5
Dinner
Tilapia
6 oz
Mixed Greens (including spinach)
2 cups
Olive Oil
1 tbsp
Balsamic Vinegar
1 tbsp
Nighttime Snack
Casein Protein
1 scoop
Walnuts (halves)
7

Nutrition Facts Totals for the day:



Amount per serving

  • Calories: 1,915
  • Total Fat: 65 g
  • Total Carbs: 145 g
  • Protein: 195 g

Saturday

Breakfast 1
Protein Powder (whey)
1 scoop
Orange
1 large
Breakfast 2
Eggs
2
Egg Whites
2
Cheese (shredded reduced-fat cheddar, make cheese omelet)
1/4 cup
English Muffins (whole-wheat)
1
Peanut Butter (spread peanut butter on toasted muffin)
1 tbsp
Late-Morning Snack
Soy Beans (boiled)
1/2 cup
Chicken Noodle Soup
1 cup
Lunch (Add ingredients to salad and eat with pita bread.)
Tuna (albacore in water)
3 oz
Mixed Greens (including spinach)
2 cups
Beets
1 cup
Feta Cheese (fat-free)
1 oz
Olive Oil
1 tbsp
Balsamic Vinegar
1 tbsp
Pita Bread (sliced into wedges)
1/2 large pita
Midday Snack
Greek Yogurt (reduced-fat)
1 cup
Honey
1 tbsp
Dinner
Spaghetti Noodles (with meatballs)
1 serving
Nighttime Snack
Cottage Cheese (low-fat)
3/4 cup

Nutrition Facts Totals for the day:

Amount per serving

  • Calories: 2,000
  • Total Fat: 70 g
  • Total Carbs: 170 g
  • Protein: 180 g

Sunday (High Carb "Cheat" Day)

Breakfast 1
Protein Powder (whey)
1 scoop
Cantaloupe
1/2 medium
Breakfast 2
Sandwich (breakfast sandwich with eggs, ham, and cheese)
1
Late-Morning Snack
Greek Yogurt (reduced-fat)
1/2 cup
Blueberries
1/2 cup
Lunch
Deli Turkey
4 oz
Ezekiel Bread
2 slices
Mixed Greens (including spinach)
2 cups
Olive Oil
1 tbsp
Balsamic Vinegar
1 tbsp
Midday Snack (Make cheese quesadilla.)
Pita Bread (10" whole-wheat)
1/2
Cheese (fat-free cheddar)
1/4 cup
Dinner: Cheat Meal
Pizza
3 slices
Beer
12 oz
Ice Cream
1 cup
Nighttime Snack
Cottage Cheese
3/4 cup
Salsa
2 tbsp

Nutrition Facts Totals for the day:

Amount per serving

  • Calories: 2,500
  • Total Fat: 75 g
  • Total Carbs: 255 g
  • Protein: 160 g

The Recipes

1. Frittata

Ingredients
Eggs
2 large
Egg Whites
1 large
Cottage Cheese (low-fat)
1/4 cup
Broccoli (chopped)
1/2 cup
Onion (chopped)
1/2 medium

Directions

  1. In frying pan on medium heat, cook onions for about five minutes with fat-free cooking spray; add broccoli and cook for about five minutes.
  2. In a large bowl, mix eggs, and cottage cheese and add to pan, lift and rotate pan so that eggs are evenly distributed; as eggs set around the edges, lift to allow uncooked portions to flow underneath.
  3. Turn heat to low, cover the pan and cook until top is set.
  4. Invert onto a plate.

Recipe PDF

2. Stir-fry

Ingredients
Shrimp
4 oz
Eggs
1 large
Brown Rice (whole-grain, cooked)
1/2 cup
Vegetables (frozen, mixed)
1 cup

Directions

  1. In a pan over medium heat cook shrimp in nonfat cooking spray, add boiled rice and vegetables, add scrambled egg and soy sauce if desired.
  2. Cook for about 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Recipe PDF



3. Spaghetti and Meatballs

Ingredients
Ground Turkey (lean)
4 oz
Spaghetti Squash (cooked)
1 cup
Cheese (fat-free ricotta)
1/4 cup
Marinara Sauce
1/2 cup
Spinach (raw)
1 cup

Directions

  1. Mix desired spices with ground turkey and roll into balls; add desired spices to sauce and cook meatballs in sauce until done.
  2. Cook spaghetti squash in a shallow baking pan with ½ inch of water in pan at 350 degrees in oven until tender. Scrape out spaghetti squash with fork to make spaghetti strings.
  3. Top spaghetti squash with meatballs and sauce, and spinach and top with ricotta.

Recipe PDF

4. Breakfast Sandwich

Ingredients
Eggs
1 large
Cheese (reduced-fat American)
1 slice
Ham (low-fat)
2 slices
English Muffins (whole-wheat)
1

Directions

  1. Make breakfast sandwich: toast muffin; fry ham in pan and place on one half of muffin.
  2. Fry egg in pan using nonstick cooking spray and place on ham; top egg with cheese and cover with other muffin half to make breakfast sandwich.

Recipe PDF

Main | Q&A | Burn Fat | Build Lean Muscle

References
  1. Daley, C. A., Abbott, A., Doyle, P. S., Nader, G. A., & Larson, S. (2010). A review of fatty acid profiles and antioxidant content in grass-fed and grain-fed beef. Nutrition Journal, 9(1), 10.
  2. Greene, C., & McBride, W. (2015). Consumer Demand for Organic Milk Continues to Expand—Can the US Dairy Sector Catch Up? Choices, 30(1).

About the Author

Muscle & Fitness

Muscle & Fitness magazine was founded by Joe Weider in 1935, and its content focuses on fitness and bodybuilding.

View all articles by this author

You May Like