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Gaining Muscle Mass with the Best Muscle Building Foods

by Dr. Surya Bhagwati on May 17, 2022

Gaining Muscle Mass with the Best Muscle Building Foods

To gain muscle mass effectively, your body will need plenty of nutrients that aren't found in your average Indian diet, according to studies. But, eating the right muscle building foods can give your body the fuel it needs to bulk up and get stronger. 

In this article, we will dive into the world of muscle building foods for vegans, vegetarians, and non-vegetarians. Whether you are a die-hard fan of protein powders or want a more natural way to gain muscle, this guide has the answers you need. 

But before listing down the foods you should be eating for muscle gain, let’s understand the importance of muscle building foods.

Chapter 1: Importance of Healthy Muscle Building Foods

Both, healthy muscle-building food as well as physical activity are equally important when it comes to bodybuilding. Only strenuous workouts without adequate nutrition will not suffice. Only ‘protein foods for bodybuilding’ is another myth that needs to be busted. Fats, carbs and other nutrients are a vital part of muscle building foods too. Depending on your goal, whether you want to build a lean or a bulky muscular body, a lean bulk diet can be customised. 

Nutrients Required for Framing a Muscle Building Diet

A mix of the following nutrients can be considered the best foods for muscle gain:

Protein 

Without a doubt, one of the most essential macronutrients for a muscle-building diet is protein. It is a crucial part of all muscle-building foods because of its muscle restoring properties. Amino acids are the main component of protein and amino acids are the muscle builders and repairers. Therefore, the practice of drinking protein is popular amongst ongoing gym-goers. 

You can get protein from Chicken, eggs, dairy, legumes, beans, soy and seafood are some protein foods for bodybuilding.

Calcium

Calcium is a mineral that triggers muscle contraction. It facilitates an increase in ATP (adenosine triphosphate) which is required to keep the muscles moving. ATP is the way the body stores and uses energy, therefore for more exercise, more ATP is required. Calcium creates a reaction between the myosin and actin (two protein filaments muscles are composed of), this friction is then converted to ATP (energy).

You can gain calcium from dairy products such as yoghurt, milk, and cheese are great sources of calcium. Vegan options are tofu and spinach. 

Magnesium

agnesium also plays a vital role in regulating muscle contractions. Magnesium acts as a natural excess calcium blocker and therefore helps the muscles to relax from excess muscle contractions aka workouts. It balances out excess calcium.

You can get magnesium from hole grains, legumes, beans, leafy greens, nuts, and seeds are rich magnesium sources.

Glutamine

Glutamine is a unique amino acid that needs to be added to muscle building foods. Glutamine has components that help muscle metabolism as well as facilitate protein absorption in muscles. Like other nutrient levels, balanced glutamine levels help during intense workouts by protecting and recovering the muscle from injuries. 

You can get glutamine from brussel sprouts, chicken, beef, eggs, spinach, and fermented foods pose as muscle building foods with glutamine. 

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is known for strong bones but studies have shown that Vitamin D supplements have increased muscle strength and improved sports performances, specifically amongst people with Vitamin D deficiency. 

You can get Vitamin D from oranges, eggs, fatty fish (salmon, mackerels etc.) milk.

Potassium

Potassium, an electrolyte, also used in Gatorade, helps muscles retain water and nutrients by bringing them to the muscle cells. Apart from increasing cell volumes, it also helps flush out excess sodium from the kidney.  Low potassium levels can lead to hypertension. 

You can get potassium from broccoli, salmon, sweet potatoes, bananas

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are key in the facilitation of muscle repair and growth. Carbs are a source of glycogen that assists in gaining energy and muscle rebuilding. However, muscle building foods with carbs (complex carbs) should be consumed hours before an intense workout. It is the pre-workout food for muscle gain.

You can get carbohydrates from oats, brown rice, quinoa yams, oats

B-12 (Cobalamin)

Vitamin B12 assists not only transfer of oxygen to the muscles while they are in use, but also, in creating red blood cells. RBCs with haemoglobin bind to oxygen being carried to the muscles, which metabolises fat and protein. Thus, muscle building and repairing. A considerate amount of B12 ensures the smooth running of our bodies. 

You can get Vitamin B12 from chicken kidney/liver, fortified cereal, tuna, salmon, dairy, and non-dairy milk for vegan bodybuilder diet

Iron

Iron and Vitamin B12 work hand in hand. Iron is the mineral that brings oxygen to the muscle tissues, regulating metabolism and a healthy immune system. 

You can get Iron from seafood, lean meat, nuts, beans, vegetables, and fortified grain products.

Beta-Alanine 

Beta-alanine works as an antioxidant, an anti-ageing component in the body. It also acts as an immune system enhancer. When included in a muscle building diet, it reduces muscle cramping after intensive muscle-building exercises. 

You can get beta-alanine from whitefish, pork, asparagus, edamame, watercress, seaweed.

Chapter 2: Muscle Building Foods That Can Help You

A muscle building diet will vary from person to person. Depending on your fitness goals, and your body structure, a nutritionist will give you a customised diet. Only consuming protein foods for bodybuilding is not the way forward. The importance of healthy food in a balanced proportion is overlooked by bodybuilders in many scenarios. 

Bodybuilding Breakfast Ideas

One of the most important bodybuilding mealsBodybuilding breakfast makes the body ready for the day it is about to take on. Breakfast improves one’s concentration ability, reduces fatigue and is helpful in losing weight and gaining weight. 

Hence common in both are  lean-bulk diets. It is safe to assume that one cannot build muscle without healthy muscle building foods for breakfast. 

Below are a few vegan bodybuilder diets, vegetarian bodybuilder diets and meat diet options for breakfast. 

Vegan Chickpea Avocado Toast

Chickpeas are rich in Vitamin B, fibre, protein, and amino acids. Similarly, avocados are a great option to add to your muscle-building foods list. They are rich in potassium and  dietary fibre, which also promotes fat reduction. 

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup boiled chickpeas
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Parsley / Coriander
  • ½ Avocado 
  • Toasted bread (multigrain or whole wheat)

Recipe: 

  1. Mash the avocado, chickpeas in a bowl.
  2. Add the olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and mix again
  3. Add some chopped parsley, coriander or rosemary to the mix
  4. Spread evenly on the toasted bread.

Nutrition: 

510 kcal / 65 g carbohydrate / 20 g protein / 20 g fat

Greek Yogurt with Nuts and Berries 

Yogurt is yet another source of protein, potassium and calcium. It also contains healthy bacteria that are good for the gut and body. 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup nonfat Greek yoghurt (not flavoured as they have added sugars)
  • ½ cup nuts
  • 1 ½ Tbsp mixed seeds
  • 1 Tbsp honey
  • 1 cup berries

Recipe:

  1. Transfer greek yoghurt in a bowl, mix the honey.
  2. Add the berries, seeds and nuts.

Nutrition: 

645 kcal / 55 g carbohydrate / 35 g protein / 35 g fat

Chicken Omelette

Chicken has amino acids that work as protein building blocks, thereby assisting in building muscle tissue. Eggs similar to chicken are also protein-packed. If you are on a low carb diet, just an omelette works or combine it with whole wheat bread slices.

Ingredients:

  • A tbsp olive oil
  • 50 gms chicken
  • ¼ cup grated cheese (optional)
  • 1 cup greens (coriander/ spinach/  arugula)
  • 2 eggs 
  • Salt and Pepper

Recipe:

  1. Whisk the eggs after adding salt and pepper.
  2. In a pan, add some oil, and coat the pan with it.
  3. Cook the chicken, add greens and then add the cheese.
  4. On this cooked filling pour the eggs.
  5. Wait until cooked.

P.S. One can add mushrooms to this recipe too. 

Pre Workout Food for Muscle Gain

What to eat and when to eat it? Before a workout or after? Have always been a big mystery. The trick is to eat healthy muscle building foods but not stuff yourself up either. The right nutrition will help you perform better and minimise muscle damage. 

Carbohydrates, Proteins and Fats are important for muscle gain too. But the intake should be 2 - 3 hours before a workout. In scenarios where this is not possible, one should eat smaller portions and easy to digest muscle building foods depending on how close they are to their workout schedule.

The kind of food and quantity depends on the intensity and duration of the workout. A small number of carbs and protein foods for bodybuilding  can be consumed before a workout, however, fat consumption should have a 3-hour gap at least.

A few examples of pre-workout food for muscle gain:

  • High Protein Oatmeal
  • Energy / Granola Bars
  • Yoghurt
  • Fruits
  • Avocado
  • Carrots
  • Hummus

Post-workout Snacks for Muscle Gain

A post-workout meal is equally important as the pre-workout meal. A post-workout muscle building diet plan should include the right amount of carbs, protein and fats. 

Foods to eat to gain muscle post-workout:

A mix of the following carb foods, with protein and fat foods, will work wonders.

Carbohydrate-rich Foods:

  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Whole Grains
  • Quinoa
  • Fruits (Pineapple, Banana, Berries)
  • Rice (Brown preferably)
  • Pasta 
  • Edamame

Protein-rich Foods:

  • Eggs
  • Cottage cheese / Paneer
  • Greek yoghurt
  • Salmon
  • Chicken
  • Tuna
  • Protein Bar
  • Animal or plant-based protein powder 

Note: Protein powder should be taken as advised, too much protein powder can affect the kidneys. 

Fat-rich Foods:

  • Nuts
  • Avocados
  • Dried Fruits
  • Nuts
  • Seeds

Stay Hydrated:

The source of life form, water is required for hydration before, during and post workouts. Additionally, if one is dehydrated the nutrients do not reach the muscles, therefore keeping yourself hydrated not only helps in quenching thirst but also carries nutrients to the muscles and succours digestion. 

One should include ample amounts of water or watery vegetables and fruits in their diet. 

A healthy meal will promote muscle protein synthesis, repair of tired muscles and energy gaining for the next workout.

One should eat something light a few minutes after the workout.

Chapter 3: Foods to Lead a Healthy Lifestyle

In Ayurveda, Aahar meaning ‘diet’ has the foremost importance, food is the sustenance of life and the right kind of food is different from person to person. It is important that bodybuilders understand their Aahar based on these two concepts; their body type and their fitness targets (lean-bulk diet).

Aahar is the first step to leading a better lifestyle. By decoding the importance of healthy food, a body responds positively to physical and mental needs. Not only is the body regulation on track but also our moods and general mental health. 

The following general eating habits and foods can help you live a clean living:

  • A balanced diet - consume food from the five food groups.
    • Eat ample amount of vegetable
    • Fruits
    • Legumes/Pulses/Beans
    • Whole Grain
    • Fish, eggs, tofu, and lean meats
    • Dairy - milk, cheese or substitutes, anything that is reduced fat (this is different for every person)
    • Hydrate yourself with water
  • Switch heavy fat food (saturated fat) with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats.
  • Limit saturated fat consumption. Fast food, fried foods, processed meats etc. are risk-prone.
  • Reduce sugar (foods with sugar) and salt intake

In Ayurveda, our ancient scripts show us the most ideal way of living a healthy lifestyle. There is a 3 component principle in Ayurveda, Aahar (diet), what an individual should eat based on their body type (Pitta, Vata, Kapha), Vihaar (lifestyle changes) and Chikitsa (medication). Following a customised plan with these three components will simplify living a healthy life. 

The importance of healthy food was mostly overlooked in the 90s and early 2000s, this showed a spike in non-communicable diseases (NCDs), lifestyle diseases like obesity, cardiac diseases, cancer, and diabetes. These diseases are a byproduct of bad Aahar and Vihaar. However, the NCD statistics have moved people towards adopting a cleaner lifestyle. 

Vegetarian Foods for Bodybuilding

As mentioned earlier, nowadays there are many options for a vegan bodybuilder diet as well as a vegetarian bodybuilder diet. A few muscle-building foods in this category are; low-fat dairy products, banana, sweet potato, asparagus, oats, nuts, quinoa, beans and legumes, tofu, full-fat paneer (cottage cheese), leafy greens and other vegetables, fruits, seeds, brown rice.

A few bodybuilding tips for muscle mass:

  • Consume enough calories, otherwise, the body will turn to protein for fuel, leading to a deficit. 
  • Swap white rice with quinoa
  • Short-intense workouts
  • Add broccoli, spinach and peanuts to your diet
  • Plant-based protein powders or egg whites 
  • You might need extra iron, supplements are an option but after consulting your doctors
  • Eat small portions but frequently
  • Monitor body fat levels in the body
  • Do not depend on processed foods
  • Nuts are your best friend for energy

Protein Foods for Bodybuilding

By now you must be aware that bodybuilding is heavily dependent on proteins in our body. However, drinking only protein powder or too much of it is not the correct approach. One should build a protein-rich diet with other sources of protein. A few protein sources are.

High Protein Dairy

  • Eggs
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Yoghurt
  • Low Fat Milk

Seafood

  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Octopus
  • Sardines
  • Anchovies

High Protein Meat

  • Chicken Breast
  • Tuna
  • Steak
  • Ground Beef
  • Pork Chops
  • Turkey Breast
  • Bacon
  • Pepperoni

Note: A high intake of certain meats (especially beef and pork) can lead to cardiovascular diseases. One must consult a nutritionist for a proper balance. Dr. Vaidya’s offers free doctors consultation for the same and many more such queries. 

Plant-based Protein

  • Peanut Butter
  • Quinoa
  • Peas
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Soba Noodles
  • Edamame

Chapter 4: Bonus Bodybuilding Tips

As we have shared various muscle-building foods (Aahar) to eat, there are a few must not eat food for a muscle-building diet too. As indispensable as Aahar is for bodybuilding, so is physical activity (Vihaar) and medical guidance (Chikitsa). 

What Not to Eat for Muscle Building 

While a muscle building diet includes almost everything, there are a few muscle-building foods that a bodybuilder should restrict.

  • Alcohol
  • Added sugars
  • Deep-fried foods
  • High-fat foods
  • High fibre foods
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Excess protein powder
  • All Purpose Flour (Maida)
  • Premade smoothies - juices
  • Butter

Exercises for Muscle Building at Home 

The current work lifestyle doesn't give people the freedom to visit the gym for physical workouts. Hence, various gyms try to provide an almost 24-hour service. Regardless, finding the time to work out under a trainer and giving a dedicated fixed time to working out can get difficult. A solution to this? Muscle building and weight loss exercises at home. Below are a few muscle building exercises that bodybuilders can perform in their comfort zone, at their own time, without any fancy apparatus.

  • Beginner level: 2-3 days a week full-body strength training + 2 days cardio
  • Mid-level: 3–4 days a week split strength training + 3 days cardio
  • Pro-level: 4–5 days a week strength training + 2 days cardio  

Muscle building exercises at home without dumbbells:

Push-up (Sets: 3-6 || Reps: 6-12)

  1. Hands-on the floor (slightly wider than shoulders, facing down, weight on feet, parallel to the ground)
  2. Push up lifting your torso, shoulders and legs till your arms are fully extended. 
  3. The plan and toes are the only parts in contact with the floor. 
  4. Then lower your body till the chest touches the floor, then repeat.

A beginner can try wall or knee push-ups. 

Burpee (Sets: 3 || Reps: 8 to 12)

  1. Arms on each side, feet shoulder-width apart, pushing back your hips, bending your knees, squat down, take a position with palms to the ground, straighten the body, facing the floor.
  2. Immediately pull back the lower body into a squat. 
  3. With hands shoulder-width on the floor directly in front of your feet, shift your weight to jump back out and land on the plank.

Jump feet forward so they land just outside of hands. Jump reaching out, hands overhead, lead by sides.

Plank-up: (Sets: 3 || Reps: 5 to 10)

  1. Parallel to the floor, facing the floor, place your palms and toes in position. 
  2. Lift torso, hip and legs in a plank position. Hold for a few minutes, and repeat.
  3. To raise the level a bit, from this position, raise to a push-up position and then come back to a plank position. Repeat.

Triceps dip: (Sets: 2 || Reps: 10 to 12)

  1. Grab a firm bench, staircase or platform at a park.
  2. Sit on the platform, and grab the edge, with hands-on either side on the hips.
  3. Lift your torso with legs on the ground, come up and out of the chair, and bend your knees further down from 90 degrees (acute-angled) and up again.
  4. Repeat

Inchworm: (Sets: 3 || Reps: 4 to 6)

  1. Stand with knees slightly bent. 
  2. Bend your hips.
  3. Slowly reach down and touch your toes.
  4. Placing your palms on the floor, crawl forward with the palm and move away from your torso until you get into a plank position. 
  5. Then crawl your toes ahead closer to the torso and palms, gradually coming back to the starting position. Repeat.

Step-up: (Sets: 3 || Reps: 15)

  1. Find a fleet of stairs. 
  2. Stand parallel to the platform or stairs. 
  3. Place your right foot on the first step and place it back
  4. then you're left. Reverse, stepping back down with the right foot, then left. Repeat, switching the leg you start with each time.

Lunge: (Sets: 3 || Reps: 12-14 each side)

  1. Arms on the wait, standing tall with feet hip-width apart.
  2. Step forward with the right leg. Keeping the spine erect, bend your knees and thus the lower body, till the front and back legs are at a  90-degree angle.
  3. Come back to starting position and then the alternate side

Squat: (Sets: 3-5 || Reps: 8 to 12)

  1. Arms on the waist or grasped together in the front of your chest
  2. Bending your knees, back straight, sit on the hips, up to a point where the thighs are parallel to the floor. The knees should remain in line with your toes, not too ahead or behind. 
  3. Slowly go up and down again.

Ayurvedic Medicines to Boost Stamina and Build Muscle

The historical roots of India, Ayurveda is dependable for any health issue in life. When confused, one can turn to Ayurveda for the least harmful yet most effective solution, even when it comes to bodybuilding. Chikitsa in Ayurveda is a concept wherein ayurvedic medicines (natural medicines) are required for healing doshas and bringing them to a balanced state. 

Here are 10 Ayurvedic Medicines that support bodybuilding and help build strength and stamina:

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha revitalises the body while promoting health and longevity. It helps in muscle growth by improving strength, performance and cardio-respiratory (blood pumping and breathing, both are stressed while doing physical activities). This herb also works as an adaptogen, reducing cortisol levels, simultaneously boosting testosterone, thus, fostering muscle growth.

Shatavari

Like Ashwagandha, Shatavari revitalises the body too. Shatavari has stamina boosting properties, it helps increase energy levels and strength. Steroidal saponins in the herb raise testosterone levels too.

Eleuthero

Eleuthero, a herb from Siberia, is an adaptogen that lowers stress levels and improves exercise and sports performance. It also reduces recovery time while it breaks down lactic acid accumulated during workouts (lactic acids are the reason for muscle soreness). 

Guarana

Guarana, a native herb of the Amazons has high caffeine contents, therefore helping fight fatigue, lethargy and increase alertness. The herb helps burn fat and improve energy levels. 

Bitter Orange

Losing fat, without affecting muscle growth, is tricky. Anabolic steroids ensure this however they can be very fatal to the liver. Bitter Orange is a substitute for anabolic steroids without the bad side effects. It helps you burn fat without the risk, this is facilitated by the natural plant alkaloids it contains. 

Safed Musli

Safed Musli (Chlorophytum borivilianum) acts as an agent that increases testosterone levels. It also helps increase human growth hormone (HGH) levels. HGH plays an important role in muscle growth. 

Salab Punja

Salab Punja (Dactylorhiza hatagirea), is a rare, endangered herb that helps raise testosterone, hence contributing to muscle mass increase and higher energy levels. 

Echinacea

In recent research, Echinacea is shown to boost athletic endurance, making it a valuable natural supplement for athletes. This improved physical performance leads to an increase in erythropoietin (EPO) levels, which regulates red blood cell production. The increased oxygen supply to muscle tissue ultimately boosts endurance. 

Jiaogulan

A native Asian - Chinese medicine, jiaogulan is part of the cucumber family. It helps boost stamina and endurance performance. It reduces exercise fatigue by  strengthening cardiovascular function. The herb also encourages the release of nitric oxide, which dilates blood vessels and improves cardio output.

Gokhru

Gokhru is used to treat kidney disease, diabetes, and female reproductive disorders.

The herb also raises testosterone levels without causing any known side effects. The herb is also being researched on its properties to increase anaerobic muscle power. 

Herbobuild DS

Though you might be aware of these herbs, it is not safe to consume them without advice from an ayurvedic practitioner or a doctor. Instead, one can try Herbobuild DS, a powerful ayurvedic muscle builder by Dr. Vaidya’s that helps build visible muscle mass. It is the perfect concoction of the above-mentioned herbs.

Herbobuild DS contains the following key ingredients:

  • Ashwagandha to boost muscle size and strength.
  • Safed Musli for testosterone boost.
  • Kaunch Beej to  increase muscle mass and size.
  • Shatavari to boost muscle growth and strength. 

With Herbobuild DS, you can get the most out of your workouts for better athletic performance and gains. When you regularly take Herbobuild DS for 3 months, while continuing a personalised diet and a powerful workout routine, you can see the difference in your performance, muscle gain and mass gain. With Herbobuild Ds, you can achieve your fitness goals safely and effectively, without using synthetic steroids and supplements.

Building a lean or bulky muscular body is not easy, there lies a huge scope of being misguided especially when it comes to the diet and supplements. It is important to understand your body before taking on any physical aspirations, consulting a doctor is the first step. Dr. Vaidya’s provides free consultation on call and on their website chatbot. We hope this health guide helped detail a way to plan your Aahar, Vihaar, and Chikitsa for bodybuilding. 

Chapter 5: FAQs on Muscle Building Foods

What are good meals for muscle building?

Meals are rich in protein but also rich in water, calcium, carbohydrates, glutamine, unsaturated fat, magnesium, glutamine, beta-alanine, Vitamin D, B12 and Iron.

What are 5 bodybuilding foods?

Lean Meat, eggs, Soybeans, Tuna, Cottage Cheese

What do bodybuilders eat every day?

Chicken, fish, eggs, vegetables, grains, low-fat dairy, full fat cottage cheese seeds, nuts, beans and legumes

Is peanut butter good for bulking?

Yes, peanut butter is a great muscle building food for vegans and vegetarians. Peanuts however are associated negatively with Pitta Ahar, so one should determine whether their bodies are suitable for peanuts. 

Which food is protective food?

Protective food is rich in vitamins and minerals that build the body’s immune system, protecting them from various diseases and health issues. Vegetables, fruits, dairy, chicken, fish etc.