8 Best Muscle-Building Foods
If you've ever been on a high-protein diet, you've probably developed a powerful hatred for chicken breasts. Chicken breast, while heralded among body builders for its lean protein, is also one of the most bland and boring things you can eat. Spices and seasoning can help, sure, as can tossing the bird on the grill, but there's only so much chicken a person can handle. If you're sick of chicken breast (or that other protein go-to, salmon), here are eight foods designed to shake up your diet, awaken your taste buds, and help you on your way to more muscle. Each is loaded with protein, the key nutrient you'll want to target. Aim for 30 grams of protein at each meal to reap its muscle-building, belly-filling powers. Yes, protein can help you fill up too. That's due to something dietitians call "satiety," which is basically how full you feel after you've eaten a meal. Because protein takes longer to digest then say, the empty carbohydrates from two slices of white bread, the nutrient can delay your hunger signals from firing. There's another side benefit to diversifying your protein intake too: different proteins contain different nutrients. If you're only eating chicken breasts, you're missing the blood-boosting iron in red meat, the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids in seafood, and the antioxidants of certain protein-rich plant foods. So it's time to open your mind and your mouth when it comes to foods that build muscle.
1. Duck Breast
You wanted unsung protein sources, well WE'RE COMING OUT OF THE GATE HARD.
Duck breast isn't as lean as chicken breast, but it is at least 1,220 percent more delicious. And it contains a powerful amount of muscle-building protein—46 grams per breast if you're order the kind from D'Artagnan.
They're soybeans, and soybeans—as evident in soybean-based products such as tofu and tempeh (both also good foods to help you build muscle)—are rich in protein. The beans themselves contain 19 grams per cup, which is understandably a lot of soybeans, but not that much if you're using them as a salad topper or snack.
Plump, briny, and refreshing—these bivalves contain multitudes of flavors, and also about two grams of protein a pop. Which means if you order a half dozen as an appetizer, you'll slurp down 12 grams of protein before your meal even starts.
Lean, but still mightily meaty, ground bison (or steaks, if you can find them) contain a sturdy amount of muscle-building protein. Per just 3 ounces of ground bison, you'll eat almost 22 grams of protein for only 152 calories.
5. Smoked Salmon
Okay yeah yeah yeah the intro said salmon wouldn't be on this list (but who reads intros anyway?). Except that while smoked salmon comes from salmon, of course, it has an entirely different flavor profile that makes it great for everything from scrambling into eggs to flaking atop a mixed greens salad. Three ounces contain about 15 grams of protein.
One cup of chickpeas has about 15 grams of protein. Beyond hummus, they're amazing in chana masala, Moroccan stews, and even added to Tex-Mex chili.
Like, real milk. Not oat milk or almond milk or chia milk or unicorn milk. Cow's milk. Most alternative "milks" contain only a smidge or two of protein. One cup of cow's milk has almost eight grams.
Skeptical, you may be, but these small swimmers actually contain a netful of protein. One can houses a mighty 23 grams of the nutrient, and if you're wondering how the hell am I going to eat an entire can of sardines, well you eat them on top of a good crusty bread with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a hefty sprinkling of sea salt, that's how.