7 High Protein Foods for Building Muscle

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By David Thoreau

Updated on

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High protein foods

What are the best high protein foods for building muscle? It’s a question every bodybuilder asks themselves somewhere along the line. Probably more than once.

And it’s a good question.

The truth of the matter is, there’s a lot to choose from. However, what may be best for one person may be an impossible option for another.

Take red meat, for instance. All red meats are complete proteins. That means they contain all of the amino acids the body needs to use as the raw material for muscle.

That makes lean red meat a good option in theory, but it won’t work in practice if you are a vegetarian.

Bodybuilders who are allergic to seafood also have less options than the average guy or gal at the gym. Some protein powders will be out of bounds.

A few of the entries on this list of muscle-building high protein foods will not be suitable for some bodybuilders.

Others most certainly will because it’s not intended solely for meat-eaters or people who are allergy free. It’s intended to have a little something for all.

Steak is high in protein

1. Steak

Sorry vegetarians. Sincere apologies to the vegans too, but steak deserves a place at the top of the list.

When you eat steak you can expect to get seven grams of protein per ounce and it’s a complete protein. Eat some steak and you can be sure your body is getting all the BCAAs and essential amino acids it needs.

Steak is also a good source of iron. Your body needs iron to make the hemoglobin that carries oxygen around the body. Your muscles can’t function at peak capacity without it.

Nothing is perfect though. Steak is also high in fat and calories. That can be good for giving you energy, but it still makes sense to be sure the steak you are eating is nice and lean.

2. Beans on Toast

Beans on toast is an excellent choice for vegetarian bodybuilders and meat-eaters alike. If you want to do some serious muscle-building, like steak, beans on toast is one of the best high protein foods you can get.

Baked beans are actually haricot beans in tomato sauce and, despite the name, they’re usually stewed not baked.

The amount of protein in baked beans varies, depending on which brand you buy. A (130g) serving of Heinz Baked Beans provides six grams of protein. So if you eat a full 390-gram tin it will give you 18 grams of protein.

That’s pretty good, but haricot beans are not a complete protein. However, the bread used to make the toast contains the missing amino acids. So, together, the beans and the toast gives you everything you need. Nifty!

3. Turkey Breast

Lot’s of bodybuilders favor using turkey breast meat as a main source of protein and not without good reason.

When it comes to building muscle, Turkey is one of the best high protein foods there is. It’s also incredibly low in fat so it’s good for building muscles and helping to keep you lean.

In fact, if getting lean is a primary goal, turkey is a much better option than chicken. It contains less fat and provides more BCAAs.

So, if you are interested in packing on some good lean muscle, turkey is an excellent choice. It’s normally around 22 percent protein.

However, there is one possible negative. Like all poultry, turkey contains slightly more cholesterol than most other lean meats or fish.

The cholesterol in lean cuts of meat normally ranges from 53 to 68 milligrams per 3-ounce serving.

A 3-ounce serving of Turkey breast provides around 71 milligrams of cholesterol. It’s not a huge difference, but it’s one you may want to bear in mind if you know your cholesterol level is already high.

4. Tuna

No list of muscle building foods would be complete without Tuna, it’s high in protein food that’s very low in fat. It’s also known as “brain food” because the omega-3 fatty acids it provides are associated with optimal brain function.

So if you want to try and make your muscles grow, alongside your IQ, tuna is a smart choice.

A 3-ounce serving of cooked yellowfin tuna will give you 26 grams of protein. If you opt for some canned tuna steak in water, the same size serving will give you 20 grams of protein.

Canned tuna may not provide quite as much protein as a freshly prepared tuna steak, but it’s top-dog for convenience. Just open the can and you’re good to go.

Tuna from a can is also a very versatile choice. You can put it in sandwiches or serve it up with salads. Alternatively, mix it with some low-calorie mayonnaise and sweet corn and serve it with a baked potato.

There’s a lot of ways you can use tuna as part of a high protein meal or snack.

Tofu high protein for bodybuilding

5. Tofu

You don’t have to be a vegetarian to take advantage of tofu. This high protein soybean curd is another one of the best foods for building muscle. Yet many non-vegetarians avoid it.

Contrary to popular opinion, tofu is a complete protein. It’s got everything your muscles need and a half-cup serving should provide 10 grams of protein.

That half-cup of tofu will also give you 1.82 grams of much-needed iron. If you are a vegetarian bodybuilder, remember that.

If your diet is not restricted by vegetarian or vegan beliefs, try not to discount tofu out of hand.

It’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids and low in calories. Better still, the cholesterol it provides is the good kind. Getting creative with tofu can add some variety to your high-protein diet. Why not give it a try?

6. Milk

Just because you can splash it in a glass, most people would never class milk as a food, but it is.

Milk provides all the essential and non-essential amino acids. It also has all the important nutrients your body needs. It’s actually a classed as a “complete food”.

If you wanted to you could live on milk. Let’s not forget, when they initially enter this world, that’s what babies do.

Most bodybuilders know how good milk is for building muscle. In fact, lots of people say it’s the best muscle-building food on the planet.

Now here’s a fact about milk that’s not so well known: it can help you burn fat. It’s true. The men in white coats at the University of Tennessee have proved it.

It’s actually the calcium that does it and the researchers say calcium from dairy products work better than calcium supplements.

7. Horse Meat

The last entry on this list of high protein muscle-building foods may come as a shock. It’s horse meat.

Depending on where you live in the world, eating horse meat may not be an option. The idea may also fill you with disgust. Get over it! Are horses really so different from cows, chickens, or cute, little bunny rabbits? Most meat eaters are happy to eat all of them.

Not only is horse meat high in protein, the best cuts contain around 50 percent less fat than beef. They also provide twice as much iron and vitamin B12.

In addition to all of this, horse meat also provides a more generous helping of Omega-3 fatty acids.

In a head-on competition between horse and beef steak, horse could be seen as being the better option. Don’t say nay to horse too quickly. If you want a good source of protein, this one should have you chomping at the bit.

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about the author

David Thoreau is a Biotechnologist with a background in life sciences. He has worked for many years on research projects that have helped people improve their quality of life. David has enjoyed collaborating with other scientists around the world, and he loves sharing his knowledge to help educate others about biotechnology.