By now, most men understand the importance of protein in building muscle. When working out, the stress of weight lifting damages muscle fibers. This damage activates a special repair process that eventually forces individual muscle cells to grow. All of this growth requires loads of amino acids, the basic building blocks of life.
But the process of muscle growth requires more than just protein. Weight lifting burns fat and energy in the form of muscle glycogen, so your diet also needs to include a healthy serving of carbs to both replenish muscle glycogen stores and to boost insulin, a hormone that helps shuttle amino acids into the muscles. This means you should not only focus on incorporating protein into your diet, but also pay just as much attention to avoiding unhealthy foods – this combination of attention to your diet will be a winning combo.
So, which foods help you build muscle?
Well, AskMen has already explored foods make the best post-workout meal as well as the best pre-workout food, so in this piece, we’ve decided to focus on which specific foods pack the biggest protein punch.
5. Lean ground beef
Red meats, like lean ground beef, are an excellent source of protein, so completely avoiding them because of the “red” stigma might be a mistake. Just 100 grams of lean ground beef contains upward of 27 grams of protein! Although such a serving is also high-fat (it contains 11 grams of fat and around 200-plus calories) what separates beef from its other meat competitors are all the additional vitamins and minerals it contains. Beef is teeming with vitamin B12, zinc and iron — all of which are important for muscle growth and development.
Whether served as edamame, tofu or soy milk, the muscle-building benefits of the soybean simply cannot be paralleled by any other plant source. As one of the few plant sources that provide complete protein, soy packs its protein in style. Just one cup of cooked soybeans contains over 20 grams of amino acids. Soy is also stacked with other important vitamins and minerals, making this meat alternative one of the healthiest muscle-building foods around.
Quick and easy to prepare, delicious and fun to eat, eggs are a key dietary component of any muscle-minded male. Each egg comes loaded with around five to six grams of protein at the very low caloric cost of only 60 calories. But it’s not just the amount of protein that makes eggs so special, it’s also the type: Egg protein is considered to be the most readily utilizable protein with the highest biological value of any whole food. This means that the protein in eggs is used most efficiently for muscular growth.
What can we say about chicken that hasn’t already been said? Chicken is the staple muscle-building food. A nice, lean 100-gram slab of this white meat will fill you with a hearty serving of 31 grams of protein with only — wait for it — four grams of fat. So, as far as protein-to-fat ratio is concerned, you’re looking at a superstar. Combine chicken’s great taste and its meal versatility and there’s really no arguing that chicken belongs among the top muscle-building foods.
When it comes to building muscle, fish really crushes the competition. Take salmon, for example. Not only is salmon a protein powerhouse yielding around 25 grams of protein per 100-gram serving, but it’s also packed with so many other healthy nutrients that you’d be a fool to avoid it. Salmon is loaded with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. It’s also an excellent source of vitamin D, a current media darling. All in all, fish, such as tuna or salmon, are simply the best.