Which Foods Help Build Muscle and Gain Weight?

Which Foods Help Build Muscle and Gain Weight?

Objective: gain muscle and gain weight. We look at the foods to help you build muscle mass.

If you browse Instagram accounts and nutrition YouTube channels for a while, you’ll find much of the content is aimed at fat loss, which only evidences the needs of the population.

But this is frustrating for the all too often overlooked group of people that seeks to gain weight and muscle mass.

Today we will talk about how to gain muscle mass, focusing on some elements of diet, but without forgetting training.

We won’t talk too much about physiology or complex formulas. The idea is that you take away a practical list of interesting foods and useful habits to build muscle mass.

All fods macronutrients are important to build muscle:

  • The proteins are the bricks, but we need to motivate the workers to build the wall (muscle protein synthesis), and to do this it is best to destroy it first.(strength training)
  • In addition, we need energy for these workers (fats, carbohydrates) and micronutrients so that they can work optimally (vitamins and minerals).

There are two essential requirements for muscle hypertrophy:

  • Calorie surplus: ideally no more than 500 kcal, to avoid too much fat gain.
  • Mechanical stimulus: training.
Now, let’s review a number of interesting and often overlooked foods and food groups to gain muscle mass.

Which foods should I eat to build muscle?


Dairy products get a bad press in general, but scientific evidence tells us that milk and dairy products are one of the most complete foods group for muscle gain due to their protein profile and their mix of fat and carbohydrate.


Strength training combined with milk intake (provided there are no intolerances involved) generates more muscle mass gains than other isoenergy drinks.


Cereals are another food group on which the fury of many has fallen. The reason, it seems, is gluten-phobia, which is still quite prevalent.

If we are objective, there are sources of whole grains that are perfectly healthy and can help you achieve your muscle gain goals.

Yes, white bread or breakfast cereals are not the most recommended examples of cereals (they aren’t wholegrain), but you can include 100% wholemeal bread, spelt, flax, millet, amaranth, teff or pseudocereals such as buckwheat and quinoa in your diet.

More on the best breads for a fitness diet here.


Most legumes will give you 8-12 grams per 100 grams of product.

As an added bonus, they are rich in fibre and micronutrients (phosphorus, iron, magnesium), they are a way of alternating animal and vegetable protein, and, finally, they contain carbohydrates that will help you achieve that calorie surplus.

Their counterpoint: they are poorly tolerated by many from a digestive point of view. Visit this link where we tell you what to do to avoid these problems.

Don’t forget these foods:

  • Eggs: rich in leucine, a very important amino acid for gaining muscle mass by stimulating the anabolic mTOR complex. It’s also rich in B group vitamins, essential for transforming energy substrates into energy.
  • Salmon: few foods are as complete as salmon. Its high protein and omega-3 fatty acid content make it particularly interesting when it comes to gaining muscle mass, as these molecules are also involved in the process of hypertrophy.
  • Greek yoghurt: the combination of whey protein and casein can make you gain more muscle mass. Yoghurt in general and Greek yoghurt in particular meet this protein combination.

Greek yoghurt - Foods build Muscle

Greek yoghurt also has more protein and calories.

  • Seafood: every 100 grams of prawn contains 20 grams of protein. No, we can’t eat prawns every day, but foods from the sea is a good choice when we want to build muscle (and it’s often forgotten about).
  • Quinoa: we’ve talked about whole grains, but pseudocereals such as quinoa or buckwheat also have a role to play in muscle building by providing good carbohydrates, fibre and micronutrients.
  • Tofu: this soybean derivative is rich in protein, a source of calcium and is one of the plant proteins with the highest biological value.
  • Rice and other starches: rice is one of the best tolerated carbohydrate sources in general (especially at the digestive level) and will help you to infuse your workouts with intensity, which is essential for gaining muscle mass..
Potato is another good source of starch, with the small drawback that it’s more filling and will cause you to consume fewer calories.

Which protein to consume to increase muscle mass?

If you struggle to get your protein needs from food alone, you can include whey protein or casein in shakes or by adding it to coffee or yoghurt.

If you’re not a fan of dairy protein, soy, chickpea, rice or even beef protein is readily available.

Regarding total daily protein intake, it’s not difficult to calculate.

There is no exact figure, but to make sure you don’t fall short, or displace other macronutrients in your diet and achieve a surplus, multiply your body weight (in kilos) x1.5..

Protein powder

This will be the number of grams of total daily protein needed to meet your goals, and what the evidence tells us is that you should spread them as evenly as possible over the different meals you eat.

In terms of protein quality, try to vary the sources (the chicken diet is not a good idea), and include both animal (if you’re not veggie) and plant sources. We’ve given you some ideas in the post.

What training should I do to accompany the diet?

No diet will help you gain muscle mass if you don’t train.

This is something that, surprisingly, many people overlook.

If there’s no mechanical stimulus, there is no muscle protein synthesis, no matter how present all the other elements are. Even if you’re loaded up on illegal products, you’ll still need a certain amount of training to achieve hypertrophy.

Needless to say, running or skating is not going to make your muscles grow.

A well-planned strength training programme will. Controlling the training variables and adapting them to your needs is the most important thing if you’re looking for hypertrophy, as we tell you in this post.

As a general message, seek progressive overload in your workouts (always go one step further, without losing technique) and try to add intensity to your workouts. Without intensity, there’s no growth.

A good marker of intensity is the concept of RIR (Reps In Reserve), or how many reps you leave in the chamber in each set.

Gaining muscle mass

Working at no more than 3 RIR is a good way to add intensity to your workouts.

In conclusion, in this post we’ve left you with some useful tools to gain muscle. Now it’s up to you to put them into practice in the kitchen and in the gym.

Sources consulted

  1. Chad M Kerksick, Christopher J Rasmussen, Stacy L Lancaster, Bharat Magu, Penney Smith, Charles Melton, Michael Greenwood, Anthony L Almada, Conrad P Earnest, Richard B Kreider. The effects of protein and amino acid supplementation on performance and training adaptations during ten weeks of resistance training.
  2. Andrea R Josse, Jason E Tang, Mark A Tarnopolsky, Stuart M Phillips. Body composition and strength changes in women with milk and resistance exercise.

Related Entries

  • Do you know these foods rich in proteins for vegans?.
  • Recommendation: Oat Pancakes to Gain Muscle Mass. Go now.
Review of Foods for Gaining Muscle Mass

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About Carlos Sánchez
Carlos Sánchez
Carlos Sánchez has a degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics, and therefore all his actions are rigorously backed by science.
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