When it comes to gaining muscle, while lifting weights is very important, diet plays a huge role in providing the fuel to build your muscles. These high protein foods are great for muscle building.
Protein plays a role in many functions of the body, but is especially important when it comes to building muscle. Even if you are training super hard in the gym, you will not be able to gain muscle unless you have the proper amount of protein to fuel this muscle growth.
This is because when you workout, your muscle fibers are broken down. And guess what your body needs to build these fibers back up? That’s right, protein! So, while working hard at the gym and increasing your strength is essential in muscle growth, we need protein to help us get there.
How much protein do I need?
There is a lot of mixed information out there on how much protein an athlete needs. Of course, protein needs are going to vary depending on various things, such as gender, weight, intensity of exercise, type of exercise, etc.
But, there has luckily been plenty of research studying the proper amounts of protein you need for optimal muscle growth and recovery. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American College of Sports Medicine agree on the following recommendations:1.2 – 2.0 grams of protein per kg of body weight for athletes depending on the type of training.
For weight lifters, it is probably best to stick more to the higher end of that range. To calculate how much you need, simply divide your body weight in lbs by 2.2 to get kg and multiply it by 1.2, and then by 2.0 to get a range of protein amounts.
- 125 lbs / 2.2 = 56.8 kg
- 56.8 kg x 1.2 = 68 grams of protein
- 56.8 kg x 2.0 = 114 grams of protein
So, if you are 125 lbs, you would want to eat between 68-114 grams of protein per day.
How do I apply this information to my actual diet?
This may look like 20 grams at breakfast, 25 grams at lunch, 10 grams for snack and 25 grams at dinner. In total this would be 80 grams of protein, which would fit in this range.
If you do not want to track your calories (even I don’t track), you can always aim for servings of protein per meal. One serving of protein is equal to 1 oz of meat, 1 egg, ½ oz nuts, 1 tbsp nut butter, ¼ cup cooked beans or 2 tbsp hummus. This one serving is equal to 7 grams of protein.
Therefore, if you want to get 68-114 grams of protein daily, you should aim for 9-16 servings of protein daily, right? Well, this would be true, but we also need to consider that other high protein foods for muscle building such as whole grains and dairy products contain protein.
A good place to aim is 6-8 servings of protein daily. As long as you are eating dairy products and whole grains, you should be able to reach your protein requirements with this much protein.
So, what does this look like? Maybe 2 tbsp of peanut butter with breakfast, 2 oz of meat at lunch, 2 tbsp hummus with snack and 3 oz of meat at dinner. This can make it easier to track protein if you prefer not to calculate everything out by grams!
Is there such a thing as too much protein?
Yes, and no. There really isn’t much evidence to suggest too much protein is that detrimental to your health. This being said, there are no benefits of eating more protein that you need.
Your body will likely convert excess protein into glucose to be used at the body for energy or it will be eliminated from the body. So, don’t eat more protein than you need to! It will not make you gain more muscle, it will just be used elsewhere!
Should I spread it throughout the day?
Yes, absolutely!Research has actually shown that your body can’t utilize more than 20-25 grams of protein at a time.
Anything over this amount will likely be converted to glucose or eliminated through your urine. So, it’s best to spread your protein throughout the day in smaller amounts instead of packing it into one big meal.
If you are eating three large meals and two snacks throughout the day, you may try having 20 grams at meals and 15 grams at snack time. This would be equal to 90 grams for the day.
17 High Protein Foods for Muscle Building
Ok, now onto the stuff you came here to see! What are some high protein foods for muscle building? Protein amounts were found with this resource.
1 cup = 21-36 grams of protein
Depending on the type, cheese can have a lot of protein. The lowest being feta, highest being Swiss cheese.
1 cup = 36 grams
Peanuts are chock full of protein. Plus they are super delicious and make for a delicious spread (I’m talking about you peanut butter).
3. Pumpkin seeds
1 cup = 35 grams
You may not know that pumpkin seeds are an awesome source of protein! They are great for on the go.
1 cup = 29 grams
Almonds are a great alternative to peanuts if you have an allergy, plus they are super delicious and also a great on the go snack.
5. Sunflower seeds
1 cup = 27 grams
Another great on the go snack, sunflower seeds are packed with protein. They are a great addition to granola and trail mix as well.
6. Turkey or chicken breast
3 oz = 26 grams
Turkey and chicken breast are great ways to pack in a lot of protein with not a lot of volume. Great for main meals and snacks!
3 oz = 25 grams
Steak is also packed with protein in a small amount of volume. Though realistically steak may not be a daily option, it’s great to have every once in a while.
3 oz = 24 grams
Canned tuna is a wonderful protein packed option that is also very affordable as well as shelf stable.
3 oz = 23 grams
Salmon is not only packed with protein, it is full of healthy fats that support your overall health!
3 oz = 24 grams
Tofu is a wonderful vegetarian option if you are looking to boost your protein intake. Great for main meals and stir fries.
11. Trail mix
1 cup = 21 grams
Want an easy and delicious on the go snack? Trail mix may be a great option for you! Throw in nuts, seeds, and some fun, such as chocolate chips.
3 oz = 20
Though crab may not be an everyday option, it is a wonderful source of protein. It is great by itself as well as in sushi.
13. Whey protein powder
1 scoop = 17 grams
If you are looking for an extra boost, whey protein powder is a great way to up that protein intake. Have it with water or throw it in a smoothie!
1 cup = 17 grams
Edamame can be eaten by itself or throw into various dishes such as stir frys or pasta salad.
15. Whole wheat pasta
1 cup = 13 grams
We don’t often think of grains being high in protein, but whole wheat pasta has a surprisingly high protein count!
16. Baked beans
1 cup = 13 grams
If you like beans, baked beans can be a wonderful way to add some protein into your diet.
1 cup = 9 grams
Milk is actually surprisingly high in protein. Have it by itself or throw it in a smoothie to help it go down easier.
How will you increase your protein intake for muscle growth?
Now that you know how much protein to each and what foods are particularly high in protein, how will you increase your protein intake? I would suggest starting with protein foods you are familiar with and enjoy.
Then, venture into sources you aren’t so familiar with and see how you like them. Eventually, you will find a variety of high protein foods for muscle building you enjoy and incorporating them into your diet will be like second nature.