If your goal is to build muscle there are essentially two boxes that need to be checked. Those two boxes are (1) a caloric surplus (more calories consumed than burned) and (2) progressive resistance training (you are getting stronger on a multitude of resistance exercises over time). This is an oversimplification of the entire process but if you’re consistently checking those boxes day in and day out, week in and week out, etc. odds are you’re putting on muscle tissue.
For today’s article, we’re going to talk about box number 1. We know we must be consistently eating at a surplus to put on an appreciable amount of muscle, so how can we ensure we’re doing so? In other words, what foods do we need to be eating to achieve this? To answer this question, we compiled a list of the 10 best foods to help you hit a caloric surplus i.e. build muscle:
1) Chicken Breast
In regards to diet, after a caloric surplus, the second most important thing an individual can focus on to optimize the amount of muscle they can build is their protein intake. Good old boneless skinless chicken breast is a good way to get some calories in that are jam-packed with protein!
2) Turkey Breast
Turkey breast is very similar to chicken breast in that it offers a ton of protein (g) per ounce. Some people would prefer the taste of turkey over chicken, so if you’re one of those people, grab a plate!
Chicken and turkey breast are typically considered “leaner” protein packed foods because they possess a ton of protein without a whole lot of calories. If you’re someone who needs a lot of calories in addition to a lot of protein, steak may be your best bet. Depending on the cut of steak, you can typically get just as much protein as you would with chicken/turkey but with more fat, which will ramp up the overall calories!
4) Ground Beef/Turkey
Ground beef and ground turkey offer a lot of versatility in terms of what you can make with them. You can whip up burgers, chili, tacos, and a ton of other foods. They also provide versatility in terms of calories/protein. If you need some extra calories, grab the 85/15 blend but if you’re trying to go leaner grab the 96/4!
While no supplement is absolutely necessary, there is probably nothing better than some quality protein powder to spend your money on supplement wise. The reason being is that it’s often very difficult to get to the higher end of your individual protein requirement (which would optimize body composition results) without supplementation.
There are tons of different protein powders out there with a variety of flavors. Our advice: Buy some smaller sized tubs and test them out independently to see which works best for you!
For the seafood lovers out there, you’re in luck! Seafood typically provides a ton of protein. From crab to tuna to salmon, you’re bound to get in a substantial amount of protein from whichever type of seafood you choose. And if you need some extra calories, add some mayo to that tuna and toss it on a roll!
As high quantity protein consumers we can tell you there are a ton of big benefits to consuming eggs. Here are a few:
- Variety: There is a ton you can do with eggs. You can scramble them, hard boil them, make them sunny side up, etc.
- Protein/calories: Eggs offer a ton of protein and calories, which will aid in muscle building.
- Getting ahead: When you are trying to consume a lot of protein, it is great to get ahead of the game so to speak. By this, we mean eating a lot of protein early in the day so you’re not playing catch-up later. Considering eggs are typically thought of as a breakfast food, they can get you a fairly substantial chunk of your daily intake to start your day!
Bison is pretty similar to beef. It can be cooked in a variety of ways and is typically considered a “leaner” option that provides fewer calories while still offering a ton of protein.
9) Cottage Cheese/Yogurt
Although fairly different, they kind of look the same so we’ll go ahead and group both cottage cheese and yogurt together for the sake of fitting both in the article. Both are great choices to add calories/protein to your diet.
A couple of pro tips: If you want fewer calories but a ton of protein, opt for Greek yogurt. If you want to really add some protein to your cottage cheese, mix some of your powder in with it.
Seitan is basically the richest plant protein source the world has to offer. It is similar to meat and offers a ton of protein for those who vegetarians/vegans.
Some other quality sources for this group of people: Tofu, plant-based supplements, chickpeas, etc.
To reiterate: No single food is going to build you a substantial amount of muscle mass. There are several things that go into packing on actual skeletal muscle but if you’re eating the foods in this list regularly, you’re probably headed in the right direction.