The Best Foods to Help Your Body Build More Muscle

We’ve talked about great ways to get protein into your diet before, but that’s not the only variable in muscle growth. Good fats (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated) and fatty acids (omega-3s and omega-6s) also play an important role. These ingredients are often harder to pinpoint in specific foods, but finding ways to implement them into your weekly diet will go a long way in sustaining healthy, lean muscle.

Beets

This root vegetable is an excellent source of betaine. Officially known as trimethylglycine, betaine can help in muscle strength, in addition to other benefits like heart and liver health.

Meal Ideas: Beets taste great roasted and are a nice addition to many salads. If you want a heavier dose, cook up a bowl of roasted beets and mix with feta cheese and pine nuts. Drizzle in olive oil for taste.

Cantaloupe

Summertime makes this option especially appetizing! Cantaloupe makes for a great picnic and beach snack, and unlike many other fruits, the melon is easy to digest and is naturally low in fructose. Nutrients like vitamins A and C, potassium, magnesium, and fiber all help healthy muscle growth.

Meal Ideas: This treat is so tasty you can eat it all by itself, or try wrapping it in prosciutto for a sweet and savory treat. Cantaloupe will spice up any traditional salad or strengthen a fruit salad. It also tastes great in drinks like smoothies, water, and alcoholic beverages like martinis and sangria.

Quinoa

There’s a reason this superfood gets so much hype, and it’s because it contains all nine of the amino acids your body needs. It also has more protein than rice and oatmeal, so it’s great for vegetarians and vegans. Quinoa is also rich in iron, magnesium, and manganese.

Meal Ideas: If you like eating quinoa all by itself like rice, go for it. If not, there are plenty of other great ways to work it into your diet. Try sprinkling it into your salads or use it as breading for fish and chicken dishes.

Spinach

Spinach is one of the most nutrient-dense foods out there. The calcium, iron, and nitrates in spinach all contribute to muscle growth and recovery. Aim for fresh spinach leaves, rather than eating it out of a can.

Meal Ideas: A good pro tip is to throw spinach into a fruit smoothie. You’ll barely notice the flavor but still get all the nutritional benefits. Plus you’ll feel proud of yourself for drinking something green.

Brown Rice

In general, most whole-grain foods are great for building muscle and boosting energy due to high levels of good carbohydrates. When cooked, brown rice contains five grams of protein, but it’s also high in BCAA’s, which assist the body in processing protein and can help boost stamina as well.

Meal Ideas: Hibachi Brown Rice. Don’t go too heavy on the soy sauce, but mix that with eggs, carrots, celery, and peas for a meal that’s healthy and a hefty portion size. In addition to brown rice, there are plenty of other great whole grain recipes you can try out.

Red Meat

Try to get grass-fed beef as much as possible. Lean steaks are full of protein, iron, zinc, cholesterol, and vitamin B. Sticking to grass-fed cattle is higher in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which have been shown to assist in both weight loss and muscle growth.

Meal Ideas: Homemade burgers (grass-fed patty) on whole grain bun, stacked with tomato slices, alfalfa sprouts, and a slice of your favorite cheese. For steaks, sirloin and filet are best options. Avoid seasoning and sauces as much as possible. The steak’s natural juices and flavors should be tasty enough.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Olive oil is a great source of healthy fat. Try sautéing your veggies to combine great taste with healthy fats. Good fats are essential to a healthy metabolism and blood circulation, which both factor into muscle-building.

Meal Ideas: Sautee healthy foods! Asparagus and whole-wheat pasta are tasty options. Olive oil can be blended into countless tasty dishes like homemade pizza.

About Zac Howard

Zac Howard is a writer on The Path Editorial Team. He is a graduate of Florida State University and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in magazine journalism at NYU. With his passion for lifting and dieting, Zac enjoys writing about all different kinds of exercise as well as keeping up with the latest news in the world of fitness. In addition to his contributions on The Path, he is a fitness beat writer for NYU Magazine. For more of his work, visit NYUMag.com.