Foods That Help Build Lean Muscle

Despite what you have heard, proteins, carbohydrates and fats are all important in your diet when you’re trying to build lean muscle mass. The key is differentiating between the good and bad, and proportioning how much of each you are taking in.


Protein is the most important organic compound you can ingest, because, with exercise, it rebuilds muscle mass that you break down while working out to greater proportions, over time. While working out, you should aim to consume 1.5 to 2g for every pound you weigh to meet your body and muscle’s protein needs. Try to plan meals with twice as many grams of protein as those from fat. Foods consisting of high levels of protein and low levels of fat include egg whites and meats, such as turkey, chicken, pork, fish and lean slices of beef.


Carbohydrates are nearly as important as protein when it comes to building lean muscle mass. Without a sufficient amount of carbohydrate in your system, your body will burn protein, negating the original purpose of building and maintaining muscle. Carbs also are an important source of energy during workouts. A good intake of carbs for each meal would be three times the amount of fat.

When putting a meal together, remember that in addition to an appropriate carb intake, you also need to include complex carbohydrates, not simple ones. Cakes, cookies, sugars, sweets and processed foods are simple carbs made up of empty calories, which are of little nutritional value to your body and will be stored as fat. Good carbs–complex carbs–which are critical for strong workouts in certain increments include wholewheat bread or pasta, oatmeal, brown rice, potatoes, yams, fruits and vegetables.


It is important to keep fat in your diet and, like carbohydrates, there are good forms of fat that benefit your body and help with building lean muscle. Fat is important because if it is greatly reduced, it can do a number of things to harm your body, such as reduce testosterone or make your body crave food to a greater extent. Fat intake throughout the day shouldn’t exceed 30 percent or fall below 10 percent of your calories. By following the correct proportions with proteins and carbohydrates, this will not be a problem.

Stay away from saturated fats which can be found in meats, dairy products and most prepared foods. Saturated fats, unlike unsaturated fats, are bad for your heart, increase your cholesterol and don’t help your workouts. Unsaturated fats taken in moderation will help you maintain good body chemistry, and offer certain health benefits such as maintaining healthy joints, increasing your energy and repairing muscle tissue. Those benefits come from certain fatty acids, particularly omega-3, which can be found in certain nuts, fish and olive oil.

About this Author

Philip LeBlanc graduated with a degree in Mass Communications and Journalism from Kansas State University in December 2009. His passion is in writing, but he continues to work for a local news talk radio station. His work has been published in Statements, K-Stater and Update magazines.