26 Foods That Help You Build Lean Muscle

5. Tuna

In addition to 20 grams of protein per 3-ounce (85-gram) serving, tuna contains high amounts of vitamin A and several B vitamins, including B12, niacin and B6. These nutrients are important for optimal health, energy and exercise performance (4, 13, 14).

Additionally, tuna provides large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which may support muscle health .

This may be particularly important for older adults. Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids can slow the loss of muscle mass and strength that occurs with age .

6. Lean Beef

Beef is packed with high-quality protein, B vitamins, minerals and creatine (16, 17).

Some research has even shown that consuming lean red meat can increase the amount of lean mass gained with weight training .

However, even when you’re trying to gain muscle, it may be best to choose beef that supports muscle gain without providing too many extra calories.

For example, 3 ounces (85 grams) of 70% lean ground beef contains 228 calories and a whopping 15 grams of fat (19).

However, the same amount of 95% lean ground beef contains slightly more protein and only 145 calories and 5 grams of fat (20).

7. Shrimp

Shrimp are almost pure protein. Each 3-ounce (85-gram) serving contains 18 grams of protein, 1 gram of fat and zero carbs (21).

While healthy fats and carbs are important in your overall diet, adding some shrimp is an easy way to get muscle-building protein without too many additional calories.

Like many other animal proteins, shrimp contains a high amount of the amino acid leucine, which is necessary for optimal muscle growth .

8. Soybeans

Half a cup (86 grams) of cooked soybeans contains 14 grams of protein, healthy unsaturated fats and several vitamins and minerals (23).

Soybeans are a particularly good source of vitamin K, iron and phosphorus (23).

Iron is used to store and transport oxygen in your blood and muscles, and a deficiency can impair these functions .

Young women may be particularly at risk of iron deficiency due to blood loss during menstruation (26).

9. Cottage Cheese

One cup (226 grams) of low-fat cottage cheese packs 28 grams of protein, including a hearty dose of the important muscle-building amino acid leucine (27).

Like other dairy products, cottage cheese can be purchased with varying fat contents. High-fat versions like creamed cottage cheese provide more calories.

Choosing which type of cottage cheese is best simply depends on how many extra calories you want to add to your diet.

Regardless of which type you choose, it’s a great muscle-building snack.

10. Turkey Breast

A 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of turkey breast contains around 25 grams of protein and almost no fat or carbs (28).

Turkey is also a good source of the B vitamin niacin, which helps process fats and carbohydrates in your body (29).

Having optimal levels of B vitamins could help you gain muscle over time by supporting your body’s ability to exercise .