25 Must Eat Foods To Naturally Build Lean Muscle

For one to be physically fit, not only physical activities but also a proper diet is necessary. Progress will not be stalled if you indulge yourself to proper nutritional support while challenging yourself from doing lean muscle exercises.

Cutting calorie intake is the primary goal of body weight loss. On the other hand, if you are after gaining lean muscles, there is a must to eat more calories from muscle-building foods apart from exercising regularly. 

These kinds of food should be rich in protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Here are 26 out of many foods that can help you to gain leaner muscles.


Eggs are rich in healthy fats, B vitamins (for energy production needed in an intensive workout), choline (a naturally produced vitamin B-complex member that burns fats), and protein. Each protein contains amino acid and to be exact eggs have amino acid leucine, which plays a significant role for muscle gain.


Not only for one’s overall health, but salmon is also best for muscle building. Every 85 grams (3 ounces) of salmon contains 17 grams of protein and other several essential B vitamins. It is also well-known to be rich in omega-3 fatty acids, a prominent compound that increases muscle gain and supports overall muscular health.


An 85-gram (3-ounce) serving of tuna contains high amounts of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, various B vitamins like B6, B12, and B6. Each of these essential nutrients plays a part in one’s optimal health. One study shows that omega-3 fatty acids on tuna slow down the possible loss of strength and muscle mass, which usually happens with age.


Tilapia is another protein-packed seafood; however, it does not have many omega-3 fatty acids like salmon and tuna. Aside from protein, it is rich in selenium, as well. Studies show that people with low selenium have weaker muscles. It also contains vitamin B12, which can allow a person to perform an exercise he or she needs to gain muscles.


Shrimps, like other animal proteins, is packed with a high amount of amino acid leucine that is needed in your optimal muscle growth. An 85-gram serving of shrimp contains zero carbohydrates, one gram of fat, and a whopping 18 grams of enough protein, a perfect consumption to get a muscle-building protein with less calorie intake.


Scallops also provide a high amount of protein with little fat, like tilapias, shrimps and other lean poultry. Having scallops is one of the ways to add protein without consuming calories in a diet. In 85 grams of scallops, you can gain less 100 calories and about 20 grams of protein.

Chicken Breast

Should you try a home gym or health center membership, chicken breasts will always be a part of your staples in the first stages of gaining muscles. There are a couple of reasons why. Chicken breasts are packed with generous amounts of high-quality protein for fat loss, as well as essential vitamins like B6 and B vitamins niacin for an optimal muscle gain.

Turkey Breast

Similar to chicken breasts, the breast parts of turkeys contain about 25 grams of protein for every 85-gram serving. It has almost no carbs and fat, as well. It is also rich in B Vitamins that help in processing fats and carbohydrates in one’s body and gaining muscle over time through supporting one’s body’s ability to exercise.

Lean Beef

Like other meat, lean beef is also rich in B vitamins, creatine, as well as protein. One research revealed that having lean red meat increases the lean mass amount accumulated with weight training. However, focusing on muscle gain, it is best to opt for beef that does not provide extra calories.

Bison Meat

If you prefer eating red meat for muscle-building and consider heart health, replace beef with bison. Although beef and bison have an almost similar protein content (approximately 22 grams), studies show that beef, compared to bison, has a higher atherogenic risk, which is the development of fatty plaques in the arteries that can lead to heart disease.


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Lean Jerky

Many fitness advisors recommended to snack on lean jerky in between meals. They claimed that it is one of the ideal ways to gain protein, which is at the same time one of the stages of weight loss. Also, these meat snacks are believed to stimulate muscle growth.

There are about 6.6 grams of protein in a piece of jerky. What makes it better is that most fat from it has been removed during processing; hence, almost all calories from it are from proteins. Furthermore, dried lean animal muscle meat does not increase insulin levels, which is one of the hormones that influence how one’s body stores fat.

Pork Tenderloin

Similar to beef and chicken, pork is also considered as one of the muscle-building foods. Specifically, you can get 18 grams of protein and only two grams of fat in pork tenderloin, a lean cut of meat. It is an excellent source of niacin, potassium, phosphorus, and zinc.


Typically considered as a vegan meat substitute, raw tofu contains 10 grams of protein, 2 grams of carbohydrates, and 6 grams of fat. It is made from soy milk, so it contains calcium that is great for bone health and muscle function, as well as soy protein—the highest-quality plant protein.


If you are one of those lucky persons who are having a hard time getting calories so you can drive muscle gain, eat peanuts. A 73-gram serving of peanuts is comprised of 425 calories, 16 grams of carbs, and 17 grams of protein. As it contains more than 400 calories, moderation in consumption should be observed.

Even if you are not aiming for extra calories, still, peanuts can provide nutrients that contribute to an overall healthy diet. Similar to other plant products, it contains a hearty amount of amino acid leucine, which is employed in protein biosynthesis.


Blanched almonds provide 16 grams of protein for every half a cup that is about 172 grams serving. It gives a generous amount of vitamin E, magnesium, and phosphorus. Phosphorus plays a significant role in turning fats and carbohydrates to energy principally used during exercises or even at rest. Like peanuts, eat them moderately due to its high-calorie content.


Pinot, black and kidney beans contain about 15 grams of protein for every 172-gram cup of cooked beans. They are common plant-based proteins to add in a lean muscle gain diet. Besides, beans are high in magnesium, iron, phosphorus, fiber, and B vitamins.

Garbanzo Beans/Chickpeas

Garbanzo beans, also known as chickpeas, are excellent sources of protein and carbohydrates. Even 250 grams of canned chickpeas contain about 12 grams of protein and 50 grams of carbs, not to mention 10 grams of fiber. The protein in these beans encourages a balanced muscle diet, even though considered of a low quality than those of animal sources.


Soybeans, unlike other plant-based proteins, is a complete protein and considered as one of the high-quality plant proteins. Meaning, it has essential amino acids that one’s body cannot produce and needed to get from food. These beans can also give completely lean muscles, rather than fat muscles, due to its high protein content.

A 2:1 ratio of whey to soy protein from soybeans is recommended to be taken twice or three times a day for enhancing muscle building. Soy protein is the best alternative to whey protein if you have a dairy intolerance or bodybuilding on a vegan diet.


Wondering what this food is? Edamame is a term used to refer to immature soybeans, which are common to some Asian cuisines. A 155-gram cup of frozen edamame can give 8 grams of fiber and 17 grams of protein, aside from being high in manganese and vitamin K.

What is more, it also contains a high amount of folate. Folate is one of the B vitamins that helps one’s body to process amino acids, which are the primary building blocks of proteins. It also plays a fundamental part in gaining optimal muscle and strength.




Milk is known for an excellent source of calcium that supports bone and muscle growth. Not only that, but it also contains a combination of carbohydrates, fats, as well as slow- and fast-digesting protein, which is common to any dairy products. Researchers discovered that people who consume milk with weight training encountered an increase in their muscle mass.

Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese is considered to be one of the muscle-building snacks due to to its hearty dose of the crucial muscle-building amino acid leucine. You need to keep an eye on its total amount of calories. There are many kinds of cottage cheese varied depending on their fat contents. Creamed cottage cheese is the high-fat versions that provide more calories.

Greek Yogurt

Dairy products are made of high-quality protein with a combination of slow-digesting casein protein and fast-digesting whey protein. Researchers showed that many individuals had experienced lean mass increase when they consume this kind of products.

Not all dairy products have the same nutritional contents, though. There are a few other dairies like Greek Yogurt that contains an amount of protein twice as the total amount of regular yogurt. Hence, eating Greek yogurt is a recommended snack to have to satiate hunger before bed or after a workout.


Buckwheat is a remarkable seed that can be an alternative for traditional flours. It is well-known for its impressive mineral and vitamin content, including high amounts of phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, and B vitamins. All of these nutrients help one’s body to remain healthy and effectively perform muscle-building activities.


You need a source of healthy carbohydrate to fuel up and get active while building leaner muscles. Quinoa is one of the safe carbohydrates that you can have. A 185 gram-cup of cooked quinoa has 40 grams of carbs, 5 grams of fiber, 8 grams of protein, as well as hearty amounts of phosphorus and magnesium (supports nerve and muscle functions).

Brown Rice

Brown rice has lower protein content (around five grams/195 grams cup) but has a high carbohydrate level. Having enough carbohydrates would allow you a greater stimulus to exercise harder, resulting in improvement on muscle growth. The International Society of Sports Nutrition suggested consuming healthy carbohydrates in hours before exercise.


You need to plan your meals based on your workout. Every day, you need to have 300 to 600 calorie-breakfast within an hour and a half (90 minutes) of waking up. Put in mind that you should not store fat, but instead get a leaner body.

Also, you need to take meals two hours before every your workout. Include lunches or healthy snacks to have enough time digesting and using the calories from these foods while working out.

Grab a protein snack every after working out. High protein snacks, like whey powder, eggs, almond butter, fish or poultry, low-fat cottage yogurt or cheese, ease sore muscles quicker. It is preferable to eat a protein-rich meal within one hour of working out, though.


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