Last updated on March 11th, 2019
Foods for Bulking Up and Gaining Muscle Mass
Do you know what foods are good for bulking you up? If you do, you probably won’t need to read any further. Having said that, my list of ten muscle-building foods may give you a few ideas you would not normally consider.
When I’m on a quest to gain muscle mass, I eat the foods that can help me the most and anything is fair game—even horses.
That doesn’t mean I don’t consider the vegetarian-friendly sources of protein. There can be a life without meat and there are some very good plant-based proteins out there.
It’s not good to rely on meat all the time. Eating too much of it too often is not healthy. That’s why I like to mix things up a bit and eat plenty of plant-based proteins too. Apart from anything else, it adds a little variety to my diet and keeps life interesting.
Read on and I’ll share with you some of my top foods for bulking up and gaining good, high-quality muscle mass.
When it comes to foods that are good for bulking up, steak is an obvious choice. Every 100 g of steak you eat will provide you with around 25g of protein and, as with all red meats, it will be a complete protein.
Complete proteins provide all the amino acids your muscles require for growth. Steak takes a little longer to digest than some of the other foods that are good for gaining muscle mass. It can also be higher in fat but, as a “muscle food”, steak is one of the best.
Apart from being high in protein, steak is also a good source of iron. Iron is one of the nutrients your body needs for manufacturing hemoglobin.
The red blood cells need hemoglobin to carry oxygen around the body. This may not sound important, but it is. Your muscles need oxygen and the harder you work them the more they need. So, by providing the iron your body needs to produce hemoglobin, steak helps you to workout with greater intensity. [SOURCE 1, SOURCE 2]
2 Turkey Breast
Turkey is also one of the best high-protein foods for bulking you up and increasing muscle mass. All turkey meat is good, but the breast is the best because it’s incredibly lean. In fact, it’s normally only around two percent fat and a 100 g serving will give you up to 30 g of protein.
Turkey breast is also very low in calories. That means you don’t need to worry about gaining a lot of extra body fat alongside your improvements in muscle mass.
As a muscle building food, turkey breast ticks all the right boxes because it helps with bulking up while keeping you lean.
However, although the breast is good, the skin that covers it is not. If you eat the skin you will be giving yourself a lot of unnecessary fat. You will also risk pushing up your cholesterol level. So discard the skin and boil the meat instead of roasting or frying.
Okay, we’ve already got two of the best foods for bulking up out of the way and both of them were meats. This seems like a good time to start talking tofu.
Eating tofu is a very good way to boost your protein intake and don’t go thinking it’s not a complete protein. Apart from being one of the best vegan-friendly proteins, tofu has all the amino acids included.
If you’re not a vegetarian or vegan, don’t dismiss this nutritional powerhouse out of hand. A typical serving of tofu is around eight percent protein and it does not contain any cholesterol at all. It does provide reasonable amounts of iron, magnesium, and calcium though.
If you can’t remember why iron is important, skip back to the section on steak. If you don’t know why magnesium and calcium are important I’ll tell you. Both minerals have the ability to boost natural testosterone production. [SOURCE 1, SOURCE 2]
No list of foods that are good for bulking up would be complete if it didn’t have tuna. It’s high in protein and very low in fat. Even if you forgo fresh tuna steaks and go for the canned variety instead, a 3-ounce serving of tuna that has been canned with water provides roughly 20 g of protein.
Lots of bodybuilders swear by canned tuna and it has the advantage of being very easy to prepare. All you need to do is open the tin, drain off the water, and you are good to go. It goes great with a salad and can make a quick and nutritious sandwich. Alternatively, you can combine it with sweetcorn and low-cal mayonnaise and serve it on top of a baked potato.
The other good thing about tuna is it provides omega-3 fatty acids. Research suggests Omega-3 fatty acids can help prevent the decline of muscle mass and strength that is often a normal part of aging. So, apart from building muscle, tuna may also help you hang on to it for longer. [SOURCE]
5. Beans on Toast
The problem with baked beans is, although they are a good source of protein, the beans are not a complete protein. However, a slice or two of bread contains the amino acids the beans lack. That means a serving of beans on toast can serve all your muscles’ protein needs.
If you can, it’s best to use wholemeal bread for the toast instead of white. Wholemeal bread is higher in fiber and a good source of complex carbohydrate. Choosing wholemeal bread to accompany your baked beans will make the meal better for providing ongoing energy.
Due to it’s higher fiber content, wholemeal bread is also more filling. Eating it should help you avoid the urge to snack in between meals. If you want a good vegetarian-friendly alternative to steak, beans on toast fits the bill.
6. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is another good vegetarian-friendly source of protein. It also provides a reasonable dose of testosterone-boosting calcium. It’s a good food choice for anyone who is busy bulking up and it also has the benefit of being a low-fat protein option.
Like all dairy proteins, cottage cheese is a complete protein so there is no need to worry about a lack of amino acids.
Additionally, this lumpy-looking cheese curd provides a hefty dose of selenium. If you don’t know why that’s good, don’t worry, I do and I’m willing to share the information.
Selenium is a vital mineral and antioxidant that helps protect the body from oxidative stress. Rigorous training causes oxidative stress, that’s why the selenium content of cottage cheese is worth mentioning. [SOURCE 1, SOURCE 2]
Cottage cheese is also a versatile food option. You can have it on toast at breakfast time or with a baked potato at lunch. It also works well with a salad and is a healthy low-fat sandwich filler you can enjoy any time of the day.
Need a good food to help get you gaining some serious muscle mass? Squeeze some cottage cheese into your day.
When it comes to dairy protein, milk is king. Cheeses and yogurts are made from milk. It’s the primary source of their protein-packing power. Milk is also probably the only real food you serve in a glass.
Food? Milk? How can this be so? Apart from being a complete protein, milk also provides all the other nutrients your body needs. It’s got the lot. If you wanted to you could live on milk. That makes it a “complete food“.
The chances are I don’t need to tell you that, when it comes to bulking up, this dairy king of foods is as good as it gets. Milk has always been one of the main go-to bodybuilding proteins.
Milk is also a muscle-builder that keeps you looking lean and mean by helping your body to burn fat. That’s not just me saying that. It’s the men in white coats over at the University of Tennessee.
They ran some clinical trials and discovered milk’s rich calcium content allows it to help you lose fat from your trunk region. [SOURCE]
Do you know what works incredibly well alongside milk? Eggs. Of course, they are also a good food for bulking you up when you eat them alone, but they make a kick-ass combination too.
Both are complete proteins that are easily assimilated and get to work fast. Bodybuilders have been using milk and egg protein shakes for years.
However, you may have heard the scare stories that mixing these two proteins is a dangerous thing to do. Don’t worry, it’s not. It’s only dangerous if you use raw eggs to make your shake. Doing so is unhealthy because there could be implications with bacteria. If you make your shake with boiled eggs everything is safe as houses.
Apart from their other virtues, eggs are a damn good source of choline. Two eggs can provide up to 300 mg.
Choline is a precursor to the neurotransmitter Acetylcholine. That’s interesting because research suggests acetylcholine precursors of this nature can boost human growth hormone (HGH) production. [SOURCE]
I’m sure I don’t need to explain why that’s good. We’re talking growth here and growth is what gaining muscle is all about.
If you are surprised to see beetroot on a list of foods that are good for bulking you up, don’t be. These little, red wonders are good stuff. Okay, they turn your pee pink, but nothing is perfect and there’s nothing wrong with adding a little colour to your life every once in a while.
Beetroot is high in nitrate. That allows it to function as a natural NO (nitric acid) booster. Many supplements contain ingredients chosen for their ability to boost NO because higher levels of NO relax the walls of the blood vessels and, in so doing, increase blood flow to the muscles.
The blood has the job of providing the muscles with the nutrients they need to grow. By increasing nutrient flow to the muscles, beetroot speeds up recovery times and helps your muscles to grow. [SOURCE]
10. Horse Meat
Yeah, I know. I’m a terrible man. It’s not cool to suggest you should eat the flesh of dead horses. But how does that taboo work anyway? Unless you are a vegetarian, eating the flesh of dead cows is a socially acceptable practice. Fluffy white sheep too.
Most animals are seen as fair game, why are horses supposed to be different? Personally, I blame TV shows like Champion the Wonder Horse and The Black Stallion.
However, even if you can get past the taboo, taking advantage of this excellent source of protein may not be an option. In many countries, horse meat is not easy to obtain. In others, all it takes is a trip down to the local supermarket.
If you can get it though, horse meat is a really good food for bulking you up. Apart from being high in protein, it contains around 50 percent less fat than beef does and twice as much iron.
As for the taste, it’s pretty good and, where horse meat is available, there may be smoked options too. I can’t say I care too much for smoked horse meat, but many horse eaters love it.