29 Healthy Best Bulking Foods to Build Muscle

Building muscle must be one of the key outcomes you look forward to if you are a fitness enthusiast. Putting your body to challenge by engaging in physical activities is a primary way to gain muscle. Nonetheless, that is not enough as you must complement exercising with the right foods.

Ensure you strike the right balance between carbs, fats, and proteins. While genetics is the cardinal factor in deciding how much of the calories from these foods are burnt and converted to muscle, your dieting combination also matters.

Therefore, in addition to exercising regularly, you must include both macronutrients and micronutrients in your meals for maximum food utility.

At this juncture, you’re probably asking yourself what some of the best bulking foods you should eat to add muscle are. The generic response is that high protein foods are crucial but so are fats and carbs. So what are the specific sources of these nutrients that you should consume? I’ve listed them below while explaining their respective role in muscle gain.

The top 29 Best Bulking Foods to Gain Muscle

1. Whole eggs

1. Whole Eggs
Whole Eggs are rich in fats, proteins, and B Vitamins.

Eggs are a rich repository of amino acid leucine, which is essential in muscle-building. Besides the healthy proteins, they are also rich in healthy fats, with two large eggs containing fats in the following proportions:

  • Total Fats- 11 grams
  • Saturated Fats- 3.5 grams
  • Polyunsaturated fat – 2grams
  • Monounsaturated fat – 5 grams

For maximum benefit from the fats, you should focus on eating the egg yolk as this is where it is all concentrated. Besides, the unsaturated fats in the eggs aid in cell growth and function, making them one of the best bulking foods.

And that’s not all from eggs. In addition to the aforementioned nutrients, eggs are also rich in B vitamins which are handy in body metabolic processes, especially those involving energy production. The muscle-building process is energy-intensive, which underlines the cardinal importance of the B vitamins in your bulking journey.

2. Lean beef

2. Lean Beef
Lean beef is protein-rich and has fewer calories.

You cannot ignore beef if you’re to gain substantial muscle as meat is rich in minerals, high-quality proteins, several B vitamins, and creatine. The latter compound guarantees a regular energy supply to the body’s muscles and is also available as a supplement.

From experience, I encourage you to settle for lean beef if you are to gain lean muscle, as taking fat meat can undo all your muscle gains. For instance, if you consume approximately 85 grams of 70% of lean ground beef, you’ll gain about 235 calories and quite a considerable amount of fat.

However, 95% of lean ground beef of the same proportion will be richer in proteins and measure less in calories and fats. Therefore, the latter is the best for optimal muscle building as the former gives you unnecessary calories and lesser proteins.

3. Bison Stake

There’s definitely no significant difference between lean beef and bison meat. Therefore, an 85-gram bison beef serving will give you about 22 grams of high protein.

If you have to choose between bison meat and lean meat, I’d rather you go for the former as it has unique heart disease prevention properties. This is primarily due to its relatively less amount of fats.

4. Chickpeas

A cup of garbanzo beans/ chickpeas will give you 15 grams of protein, but they also have considerable carbs and fiber. Although they have a lower amount of protein than meat alternatives, they can immensely help muscle gain, especially when you are not in the mood to eat meat.

5. Buckwheat

3. Buckwheat
A teaspoonful of buckwheat is fiber-rich for making porridge.

Instead of eating the conventional flours, I recommend you consider shifting to buckwheat during this muscle-building phase. Buckwheat is not too high in proteins, but the seeds are fiber-rich and contain considerable carbs.

They also contain what I’d consider plenty amounts of vitamins and minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium, and manganese. All these will grant you a helping hand in your muscle gain journey.

6. Salmon

4. Salmon
Salmon steak is handy in muscle building.

Not only is salmon important for building muscle, but the seafood is also one of the most nutritious foods for improving general body health.

Taking approximately 85 grams of salmon per serving means that you are helping your body with nutrients in the following proportions:

All three nutrients are essential in muscle growth. Nonetheless, omega-3 fatty acids in salmon, including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), are particularly important for muscle health. Further, they are also handy in bulking when combined with regular exercise.

7. Peanuts

I mentioned that Leucine is among the most important amino acids in muscle build-up, making peanuts one of the best bulking foods as it’s leucine-rich. Peanuts are also protein-rich, with one once containing approximately 7 grams of protein.

Nonetheless, you should exercise caution while taking peanuts as they have a very high amount of unsaturated fats and calories. But if you’re exercising regularly, the high-calorie content will be actually helpful to your muscle-gaining journey.

8. Tilapia

5. Raw Tilapia

While tilapia doesn’t contain as many omega-3 fatty acids as you’ll find in salmon, I rank it among the best bulking foods for muscle building. An 87-gram tilapia fillet will give you about 23 grams of protein and other nutrients like selenium and Vitamin B 12.

Although selenium does not directly influence muscle gain, it is still important. The mineral element is essential in thyroid hormone synthesis. The hormones are handy in enhancing body metabolism, which is central to muscle gain.

Vitamin B12, on the other hand, improves the blood cells and nerves’ health, thus facilitating exercise and muscle gain.

9. Shrimp

When talking of shrimp, I’m referring to a crustacean that will deliver just the right amount of protein necessary for your muscle-gaining endeavor without the excess and unnecessary calories.

An 85 grams shrimp serving will give you about 1.44 grams of fats and a gram of carbs. Further, the serving will contain about 19 grams of proteins (which means a high supply of the muscle growth amino acid- leucine).

10. Pork Tenderloin

6. Roast Pork Tenderloin
Roast Pork Tenderloin

I have no issue if you opt to eat any part of pork as the entire pig meat is protein-rich. Nonetheless, my specific dalliance with pork tenderloin is because this is the part with the least amount of fat. Also, you’ll enjoy eating pork tenderloin as it is the most tender area, given that the loins are primarily designated for the animal’s posture rather than walking.

So what about its protein content? A single pork tenderloin serving will give you approximately 21 grams of protein, enough to significantly add to your muscle. In addition, it’ll offer a handful of your daily Vitamin B12 requirements, which is a critical vitamin in the breakdown of fats, carbs, and proteins.

Lastly, pork as a whole is a handy alternative to beef and chicken for muscle-building enthusiasts, according to a 2014 nutritional health journal.

11. Garlic

I doubt any of your friends (or lover) will want to come close to you after eating garlic but never mind, as it’ll help you bulk (and who cares anyway about your smell when you’re muscular?). Taking garlic results in an increase in testosterone levels while also lowering the levels of the stress hormone- Cortisol.

Primarily, the latter effect is due to the compound allicin, which is unique to garlic. Remember that testosterone and cortisol are adversaries, and you definitely don’t expect to form a bulk of muscles while you’re stressed.

Therefore, when allicin reduces cortisol levels, there’s an ample environment for muscle build-up, and the results will ultimately show up after combining garlic with regular exercise.

12. Almonds

While almonds are not as rich in proteins as other foods on this list, they have large quantities of vitamins and minerals such as magnesium and phosphorus.

Almonds contain a considerable amount of Vitamin E, which is handy in cellular damage repair after exercising.

Phosphorus will aid the breakdown of carbs and fats while you’re at rest and during a workout. However, I don’t recommend a high intake of almonds as they are rich in calories. A cup will have up to 400 calories.

Therefore, take almonds moderately for the best muscle-building results and ensure you exercise regularly.

13. Freshwater Algae

Spirulina and chlorella are some of the two most important freshwater algae for muscle gain, thanks to their high protein content. Also, they are rich in vitamins and other micronutrients that are synonymous with vegetables.

14. Quinoa

7. Quionoa Seeds
Carbohydrates-rich Quinoa seeds

Yes, proteins should be at the top of your priority as you seek to add some muscle, but do not ignore the role of carbs in this process. You need sufficient fuel for this process, and there are fewer foods to deliver it than quinoa which has 185 grams of carbs per 40-gram serving.

Further, I propose quinoa because it also has many proteins and minerals, including phosphorus and magnesium. Both minerals assist in muscle build-up and maintenance.

If you cannot access quinoa, go for millet, as it’s enriched in similar minerals and vitamins.

15. Kidney beans

Unlike lean animal proteins such as beef and fish, kidney beans and other legumes are renowned for their relatively higher carb content than proteins. But as you look for the best bulking foods, you cannot steer clear of these beans as their role in ensuring a healthy gut cannot be rivaled.

Remember that efficiency in muscle building will fundamentally depend on the body’s ability to break down food in the digestive tract. Hence, taking kidney beans boosts the digestive process with a 100grams serving providing approximately 10 grams of fiber.

Beans will also provide the body’s essential protective proteins, thus boosting its immunity. I bet the last thing you’d want during your muscle-building endeavor is becoming sick, which is why kidney bean proteins are just the right accompaniment.

Besides, such a serving will also have about 8 grams of protein, which will further boost the protein levels, a key prerequisite for muscle gain. Take kidney beans together with whole-grain food such as brown rice for best results.

16. Tuna

8. Raw Tuna
Raw Tuna

Like its other fish counterpart (Salmon) that I have covered above, Tuna is also a high-quality protein-laden food with an 85-gram serving having about 20 grams of protein. The fish is also rich in Vitamin A and a handful of B vitamins, including niacin, cobalamin, and pyridoxine.

The above vitamins will greatly improve your body’s general health while boosting exercise performance and energy production. All these processes are critical in muscle growth.

Also, the elderly need to include the omega-3 fatty acids-rich tuna in their diet, as research shows that it boosts muscle strength and limits muscle mass loss.

17. Greek yogurt

It’s an open secret that dairy products are rich in high-quality proteins, but for Greek yogurt, there’s more than just that. The product is a rich reserve of both slow-digesting casein protein and fast-digesting whey protein. Also, this kind of yogurt features double the amount of protein you’ll find in regular yogurt.

The slow-digesting and fast-digesting kinds of proteins are handy in the lean mass building process making Greek yogurt one of the best bullying foods for muscle growth.

Furthermore, Greek yogurt is rich in Vitamin D, an essential nutrient in the body’s calcium and phosphorus absorption process. Both minerals are cardinal in muscle growth, with calcium enhancing muscle contractions, while phosphorus facilitates Adenosinetriphosphate (ATP) synthesis.

Also, for best results, you should take Greek yogurt after a workout or before going to bed.

18. Protein powders

I have met protein supplements skeptics, but I don’t think their worries are founded as these powders are among the safest and most effective muscle-gaining foods. For instance, protein powders are a viable alternative if you cannot derive enough protein from foods.

Depending on your needs and deficiency, you can take any available protein supplements such as casein, beef, pea, whey, chicken protein, or soy.

19. Turkey Breast

9. Roasted Turkey
Roasted turkey breasts from an oven

Turkey meat is one of the important muscle-building foods that I find quite underrated by many bodybuilders. I particularly like it because while it is laden with high protein content, the turkey breast has an insignificant amount of fats and carbs.

Therefore, it’s a handy muscle-building option that doesn’t take you through the pain of burning excess fats and carbs. In addition, it is a rich source of B vitamins such as niacin which is imperative in carbs and fats metabolism.

Besides, B vitamins build up in the body further promote muscle gain by enhancing physical exercises.

20. Soy Beans

Forget all the myths about soybeans feminizing men and others you may have heard of. If you are keen on building muscle, soybeans are one of the best foods to count on, especially for vegans.

Most vegetable proteins lack all nine essential amino acids, but soybeans have them in high amounts. Earlier, I asserted that proteins are the muscle-building blocks; hence, a high proteinous diet will go a long way in improving your muscles.

Such rich are soybeans in proteins that a 100g serving of tempeh, tofu, and other vegan meat alternatives have approximately 36 grams of proteins.

21. Edamame

I should have talked of edamame in the previous section as, essentially, they are immature soybeans, but since they have a different composition, it is imperative to discuss them separately.

Am Edamame beans cup will give you approximately 18 grams of protein. Edamame beans are fiber-rich and have manganese, vitamin K and folate. The latter is important in amino acid processing to form proteins that are at the core of muscle building.

Older adults will benefit more from edamame as the beans’ folate promotes muscle mass and strength.

22. Pineapple

10. Pineapple
A whole pineapple cut into two.

It might sound crazy that there is a fruit on this list, but the benefits of pineapple in bodybuilding (and particularly gaining muscle) are just too good to ignore. Fundamentally, pineapple is included because it is rich in bromelein, a proteolytic enzyme critical in protein breakdown.

Therefore, if you’ve been wondering why pineapple is often uncomfortable to eat, it’s probably because it is mildly digesting the proteins in your mouth. Sounds bizarre, right. Well, I’m not kidding that’s it.

In addition, pineapple is a great bulking fruit because it soothes the swelling, tenderness, and pain common after a workout session.

23. Scallops

11. Scallops

This protein-rich food will give you plenty of fats and little fat, which is just what you need to gain muscle. An 85 grams of scallops serving gives you 17 grams of protein and less than 100 grams of calories.

Combine this with regular exercising, and the results will begin showing.

24. Extra virgin olive oil

Perhaps you’re now surprised that after advising you to take pineapples, I am proposing that taking olive oil is also effective. Calm your nerves if that is the case, as I’m talking about one of the best bulking foods today.

First, olive oil has monounsaturated fats that prompt protein production. Proteins are the building blocks of muscles. Thus, this oil will play a central role in the gain process. Moreover, it improves the muscle insulin sensitivity, thus enhancing their glucose, fats, and proteins metabolism.

Further, in addition to limiting tissue breakdown, the oil has oleuropein, a phenolic compound that uis central to converting white fat cells to brown fat cells.

25. Cottage cheese

12. Cottage Cheese Salad
A young athlete taking a cottage cheese salad.

Taking a cup of low-fat cottage cheese will go a long way in boosting the bulking process. Such a serving will contain about 28grams of proteins in addition to the all-powerful amino acid leucine, which is cardinal in muscle build-up.

I have insisted on low-fat cheese to ensure that you don’t add more fat to your body than necessary. Hence, it would be best if you avoid high-fat options such as creamed cottage cheese.

But again, this primarily depends on the calories you intend to add to your diet. Besides, the other upside of cottage cheese is that you can take it as a post-workout snack or at any time of the day you feel like it.

Nonetheless, it is best to take cottage cheese before retiring to bed for optimal results. The dairy product is rich in casein which is critical in the slow digestion of proteins. Also, during sleep, muscle repair happens; after a while, the muscle is broken down to create energy.

Taking cottage cheese before sleeping ensures that the body has sufficient amino acid reserves throughout the night, thus inhibiting muscle breakdown.

26. Brown rice

It is not one of the best muscle-building foods I’d recommend, especially for anyone who requires more proteins. Still, brown rice is rich in carbs, giving the much-needed energy for physical exercise.

You’re also assured of getting approximately 6 grams of protein when you take a cup of cooked brown rice.

27. Chicken breast

13. Chicken Breast
Fried chicken

Does that ring a bell? Well, if you have accessed several bulking programs to gain muscle, you’ll realize that chicken breast is one of the staple foods for this process. Primarily, I believe this is because the meat is laden with proteins. For instance, a 3-ounce chicken breast serving has approximately 26.7 grams of protein.

Besides, chicken breasts are rich in B vitamins such as Vitamin B3 (Niacin) and Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), which are handy in muscle building. For best results, you should combine the meal with regular exercise as the vitamins in chicken breast facilitate body metabolism.

Again, I recommend that fat loss must be a key target for anyone looking to add muscle. In that respect, chicken breasts are among the most effective foods in encouraging the burning of body fats.

28. Kale

As you have noticed, proteins are important in muscle gain, but iron’s role in this process cannot be undermined either. Kales and other green vegetables such as spinach are iron-rich and will also contribute to your protein needs, albeit to a small degree. The iron in kales will help in the following:

  • First, it will facilitate oxygen circulation throughout your muscles. After a strenuous exercise session, such an efficient oxygen flow will aid muscle repair.
  • Also, iron is central to your body’s muscle fiber synthesis.
  • Further, the iron will significantly boost your muscle endurance, thus enabling you to exercise intensely for longer durations than normal.

In addition to iron, kales are rich in Vitamin K, a cardinal vitamin in eliciting the feel-good factor you require during strenuous lifting routines. It’ll also lessen your muscle inflammation and joint stiffness, which I particularly find annoying during exercising.

29. Lean jerky

If you are traveling, grab a pack of lean jerky to keep you company, and you’ll definitely add some muscle. The best thing about this snack is that it doesn’t add unnecessary fats, as all its fat has been stripped off during processing. Thus, you don’t have to worry about adding weight.

Best Bulking Foods- FAQs

How can I build muscle while eating only three times per day?

Ensure that you take more calories than you are burning to prompt anabolic growth, which is central to muscle gain. Besides, you’ll achieve optimal results if you take a balanced diet comprising healthy fats, carbohydrates, and proteins.

You should also consider consulting a dietician for advice on the specific diet to suit your nutritional needs and boost your muscle mass.

What do the best muscle-building foods actually do?

The right combination of muscle-building foods should contain micronutrients and macronutrients, each suited to a different role in this process. Among their functions include the following:

  • Acceleration of the muscular tissue genesis and growth.
  • Improving the blood flow rate to the muscles. Consequently, this will improve muscle efficiency and repair rate, a cardinal process in muscle growth.
  • Enhance the body’s energy metabolism process.
  • Decrease inflammation which can lower the muscle breakdown rate.
  • Lowering the levels of stress hormones such as cortisol that encourage fat storage.

What’s the right diet if you want to build muscle?

Ideally, adding approximately 500 to 1,000 calories to your daily dietary intake will be a key starting point to building muscle. Nonetheless, for best results, I recommend you identify the nutritional value of what you are presently taking, as it’ll be handy in determining how much more calories you require.

Again, remember that you require both proteins and complex carbohydrates, each playing a complementary role to the other in the muscle conversion process. For proteins, a daily dietary intake of 1.6 grams to 2.2 grams will deliver optimal results in muscle mass build-up. Still, you have to engage in plenty of resistance exercises.

If you realize that attaining the recommended daily protein is arduous, go for the protein supplements I have highlighted above, such as casein or whey.

What foods are best for gaining lean muscle?

Again this brings us to a catch-22 scenario as there’s no alternative to a high protein diet for lean muscle gain. Thus, eat foods like the following:

  • Skim Milk
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Kidney Beans
  • Salmon
  • Any other proteinous food/ supplement.

What foods build muscle mass fast?

Taking whole eggs will accelerate your muscle mass gaining process as opposed to eating egg whites.


Taking any of the above foods will be cardinal to your muscle-gaining initiative. As you have seen, most of them are protein-rich and thus are effective in aiding muscle recovery and growth after a workout session.

Still, don’t discard the carbohydrate and fats sources that we’ve highlighted, as they are driving forces of muscle bulking. In addition, the foods are rich in vitamins and minerals. They thus will take care of most of your body’s micronutrient needs which are imperative not only for muscle gain but also for body metabolism.

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