If you’re reading this, odds are that you’re in one of these three situations: The first: you can’t build muscle—no matter what you try. The second: you can build muscle—maybe even pretty easily—but not without adding some extra fat around the gut. Or the third: you’ve never really tried the whole lifting thing out and just want to get big (without getting fat, too.)
To get a better understanding of how to bulk up, check out The Best Muscle-Building Diet: An in-depth look at how you should be eating that debunks common misconceptions. Once you’re dialed in on how to use the foods below, you’ll need a training plan. For that, check out The Winter Bulk Up Workouts: Six routines to help stimulate maximum muscle growth. And while supplements aren’t the end-all-be-all answer to getting the size you desire, they can assist with the process. Check out The Best Muscle-Building Supplement Stack.
THE GENERAL OVERVIEW
Protein is the main ingredient of muscle tissue, carbs power your workouts and prevent muscle breakdown, and fat supports hormones like testosterone that help muscles grow. The following are the healthiest sources of each nutrient.
- Chicken (breasts are popular because they have less fat than do thighs or wings)
- Lean beef (London broil is a good choice)
- Fish and seafood
- Protein powder
- Sweet potatoes
- Nuts (all kinds)
- Seeds (all kinds)
- Oils (including olive and coconut)
*We’ve excluded grains and vegetables from this list. Grains such as oats and wheat contain compounds that make them difficult to digest for many people and can cause stomach upset and bloating. However, if you feel you do fine on these foods, you’re welcome to consume them in small doses, but make starches such as potatoes and rice your main carb sources.
Green vegetables, on the other hand, should be consumed liberally, but because of their very low caloric value, aren’t to be counted toward your daily calorie and macronutrient totals.
**Most of your fat intake should come as a by-product of your protein foods. For instance, egg yolks contain protein and fat, as do even the leanest cuts of beef. However, if you need extra fat to hit your allotment for the day, you can pick from this list of foods.