19 best foods for muscle gain that are low in calories

19 best foods for muscle gain that are low in calories
  • PublishedApril 25, 2020

Muscle gain is centered on majorly two factors, foods for muscle gain and exercises especially weight lifting.

Your diet is a major key in muscle growth and choosing the right foods will get you good results. Yet a bad choice of foods will lead to stunted muscle growth or fat gain instead.

Choosing the foods for muscle gain should be done carefully selecting foods that are low in calories and yet high in nutrients.

Foods like whole eggs, tilapia, beans, lean beef, tuna, shrimps, tofu, brown rice are some of the examples of healthy foods for muscle gain.  

What are the best foods for muscle gain?

If you aim at gaining muscles rather than fat, choosing foods that are rich in proteins yet high in fat may be a disaster.

Here is a carefully chosen list of foods that will help you build muscles.

1. Whole eggs.

foods for muscle gain
Image by RitaE from Pixabay

Another article talking about the health benefits of eggs. Eggs are so nutritious and provide amazing benefits to the body of which muscle building is among them.

Eggs contain high-quality protein, choline, vitamins like vitamin B12, B6 and many other important nutrients for muscle building.

Amino acids in protein and of which are found in eggs are essential for muscle gain. Other nutrients like vitamins are also important for the process of muscle gaining and a healthy body.

2. Greek yogurt.

Greek yogurt is healthy for muscle building most especially if you lift weights. It keeps your body hydrated and it has a lot of health benefits.

It contains high-quality proteins which are a mixture of fast-digesting whey protein and slow-digesting casein protein. Consuming a combination of fast and slow-digesting dairy proteins increases lean mass.

Greek yogurt doubles the number of proteins found in the same quantity of regular yogurt. The addition of fruits like strawberries will make a better taste and addition of more nutrients.

3. Lean beef.

Beef is known to be a great source of high-quality proteins, B vitamins and creatine but it can have lots of calories if it is not lean.

Consuming lean beef increases the amount of mass gained if you are weight lifting. With around 26 grams of proteins per 100 grams, lean beef is a great muscle booster.

Higher levels of zinc found in beef are used by the body to produce testosterone. Testosterone helps the body recover quicker from exercise fatigue and tear.

Choosing lean beef will help you increase muscle gain without exceeding your calorie intake because in the end you will want muscles not fat.

4. Tuna.

In addition to high-quality proteins of 25 grams of proteins per 100 grams, tuna contains high amounts of Vitamins like A, B12 and B6.

These are the nutrients necessary for muscle building, energy and exercise performance. Large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids which support muscle health.

5. Extra virgin olive oil.

Olive oil is a great source of muscle-building nutrients most important are healthy fats for muscle gain.

These are monounsaturated fats that stimulate the production of muscle growth proteins. They are also essential for maintaining muscle-building testosterone and preventing muscle degeneration.

The presence of anti-inflammatory properties in olive oil makes it a great immunity booster protecting your muscles from diseases.

6. Beans.

With a cup of beans (about 170 grams) containing 15 grams of proteins, beans are excellent plant-based sources of healthy muscle-building proteins.

They are also packed with essential amino acids necessary for muscle growth. Beans also have nutrients like fiber, B vitamins, magnesium, iron and phosphorus.

7. Chicken breast.

A skinless chicken breast which weighs around 175 grams provides approximately 55 grams of proteins.

They contain large amounts of B vitamins and niacin which are essential for muscle growth. The vitamins also help the body to function well during physical activity and exercise for maximum muscle gain.

It is leaner than the thighs and drumsticks which helps you avoid unnecessary calories.

8. Protein powders.

Protein dietary supplements are very good muscle gainers and are used by many bodybuilders and athletes.

For faster muscle gain, adding protein shakes is known to speed up the process. Whey and casein are the most popular dairy protein shake while plant-based protein powders include pea, soy and others.

9. Milk.

Image by Gábor Adonyi from Pixabay

Milk is a source of proteins, fats, and carbs. Like other dairy products, milk has got fast and slow-digesting proteins, basically casein and whey.

Drinking milk is one of the best ways to grow muscles. A cup of milk roughly contains 8g of protein.

10. Almonds.

They are packed with healthy proteins with a cup (about 172 grams) containing 16 grams of proteins necessary for muscle growth.

Almonds have also got other important nutrients like phosphorus, magnesium, and vitamin E. Phosphorus is used by the body to turn carbs and fats into energy during rest and exercises.

Important note

Even though almonds are a good source of protein, they are also high in calories with half a cup containing around 400 calories. This means they should be consumed in moderation especially when bulding muscle or trying to lose weight.


Tofu is produced from soy milk and is often substituted for meat. Soy protein which majorly makes tofu, has the highest quality plant proteins. It is great for vegetarians.

It is a good source of calcium necessary for proper muscle function and bone health.

12. Shrimps.


Shrimps are loaded with omega-3 fats that can help regulate muscle growth.

Healthy fats found in shrimps make it healthy seafood that has fewer calories according to the nutrients it gives. From 85 grams of shrimps, you can get 18 grams of proteins and a gram of fat.

They are also packed with protein and amino acids help the body build muscles without too many additional calories.

13. Brown rice.

Brown rice has high fiber complex carbs that exact energy needed for the body to fuel physical activity and pump muscle building power.

This rice is filled with energy-giving carbs essential for muscle growth through physical activities like workouts. However, brown rice has got very low proteins with only 5 grams of proteins per 195 grams of brown rice.

14. Bison.

Buffalo or bison has got high-quality proteins yet it is lean and provides a few calories.

Eating bison meat is known for a healthy body such as reducing the risk of heart disease that is caused by eating beef.

15. Avocadoes.

Avocadoes are one of the healthiest fruits and have got a lot of health benefits for the skin of which muscle gain is included.

They are packed with omega-3 fatty acids and healthy fats which are used by the body to produce testorene and growth hormone.

Avocados have essential nutrients like magnesium and numerous vitamins like Vitamin C, E, B6and beta-carotene.

16. Quinoa.

Quinoa provides high-quality fiber carbs and proteins. It contains all the 9 essential amino acids necessary for muscle growth and maintenance.

When cooked, quinoa contains 40 grams of carbs, 8 grams of proteins and 5 grams of fiber.

Magnesium that is found in quinoa plays an important role in the function of muscles and nerves.

17. Cottage cheese.

Cottage cheese is a great source of protein necessary for muscle gain. A cup of low-fat cottage cheese (226 grams) contains 28 grams of proteins and most important a muscle-building amino acid leucine.

It contains the slow-digesting protein casein essential for muscle gain and used in most dietary supplements for bodybuilders.

18. Tilapia.

foods for muscle gain
Image by Courage Agamah from Pixabay

Tilapia is another protein-packed seafood with around 21 grams of proteins per 85 grams of serving.

It is packed with vitamins B12 and selenium. Tilapia is great for muscle gaining and unlike many animal protein products, tilapia has low-fat content and it is low in calories.

19.Pork tenderloin.

Pig products are known to be very fatty unlike tenderloins which are relatively lean yet with a lot of proteins making it a great muscle building food.

Pork tenderloins are effective as chicken or beef with 18 grams of proteins per 85 grams of serving.

What drinks help build muscle?

Many drinks are recommended for muscle gain but the most essential are protein shakes and water.

  • Protein shakes.

During muscle building, many articles will recommend protein shakes. Protein shakes have high-quality proteins with amino acids which are necessary for muscle growth.

When protein shakes are supplemented on the right weight gain diet, you can bulk up much faster than one who doesn’t take them.

Read on: How to choose the best protein powders for weight loss.

  • Water.

Water is very healthy while on a muscle gain course.  Hence taking water during and after workouts helps to keep your body hydrated.

Lack of water causes improper muscle pump and bad results from workouts. Hydrating while working out will give your body the required energy to exercise.

Drinking water improves muscle growth since a great percentage of our body mass has a composition of water therefore water is essential for muscle formation.

Read more on the benefits of water for muscle build-up.

Other Drinks for muscle growth.
  • Smoothies
  • Milk.

What should I not eat to gain muscle?

Working hard and hitting the gym may all go to waste if the food choice is bad. Meals contribute a great percentage of your muscle growth.

This article will not be complete without foods to avoid for muscle gain.

  • Deep-fried foods: French fries, onion rings, chicken strips, potato chips.
  • Foods with added sugar: soda, ice cream, cake, candy, cookie
  • Alcohol.
  • Pepperoni pizza.
  • Butter.
  • Granola bars.
  • Cured ham
  • Processed cheese.
  • Pre-made smoothies.
  • Sausages

Does fat turn into muscle?

Your body can’t turn fat into muscles nor the reverse of turning muscles into fat. The reason is for this is fat and muscles have got different types of tissue that can’t be directly converted into another.

However, what are a person can do is gain muscles while losing fat. They are two different processes that may happen around the same time if you start a bodybuilding routine.

To lose fat, you must burn more calories than you consume. Bodybuilders who lift weights or involve in cardio always burn more calories.

On the other side, to gain muscles, you must continually challenge your muscles to deal with higher resistance or weight.

A process called muscle hypertrophy occurs when muscle fibers sustain damage or injury. When the body repairs and fuses fibers together, muscle mass and size increase.

How can you gain muscle fast?

Patience is a virtue but not when it comes to muscle building. Spending months at the gym without visible progress is heartbreak and that’s why you should do these things;

  1. Increase your training; the number of repetitions and sets will determine your muscle growth. Going easy on yourself will give you slow muscle growth.  While increasing your workout volume and time will give you a faster muscle gain.
  2. Eat more proteins; your diet plays a very important part in the growth of muscles. During workouts, muscles are broken but proteins build them up to increase mass and size. Therefore, eating enough high-quality protein sources will help you gain muscles faster.
  3. Aim for a calorie surplus, not deficit; Counting and excessive of limiting calories can downshift the body’s tendency to build new muscles. When the body senses a calorie deficit, it will not build muscles. Always aim at eating around 250-500 extra calories to prevent your body from going to a muscle gain dormant stage.
  4. Get enough rest; resting allows the muscles to repair and increase in size. It is recommended to get around 8 hours of sleep for the body to release growth hormones.
  5. Use dietary supplements; protein shakes help in increasing muscle growth which means people who use supplements gain muscles faster.

Should I eat more to gain muscle?

foods for muscle gain
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Simply yes, you need to eat more proteins to gain muscle mass.

To build muscle mass you need to consume enough calories to prevent your body from getting into a dormant stage of no growth.

On a diet of a bodybuilder, proteins are a must have as they are the muscle-building nutrients the body needs.

This is so because proteins have amino acids that help the body to build and repair muscles. Therefore, getting enough proteins gives the body the building materials for muscle tissues.

However, don’t neglect other important food nutrients sources like carbs which are the energy giving foods that will boost your physical activity.

Why am I building muscle and not losing fat?

It is frustrating working so hard in the gym but you only get able to build muscles with that annoying fat still on. Worst case maybe when your muscles don’t show through the fat like you may have wanted.

First of all, here is what you should know, muscle gain and fat loss are two different processes.

Muscle gain requires the consumption of enough bodybuilding foods yet fat loss requires a calorie deficit.

There are many reasons as to why you may be building muscles and not losing fat but let me give you an overview.

In most cases, people who lift weights tend to have an increased appetite due to the body’s demand for food.  The fact that muscle growth requires proteins, people tend to consume animal-based protein sources that are high in calories and fat content.

This where many people go wrong by consuming foods that are high in quality proteins yet are also high in calories.

Not being able to burn most calories consumed in a day will lead to fat formation and therefore,  pick protein food sources that are low in calories and fat content.

The bottom line;

Combining foods for muscle gain and effective workouts will go hand in hand in muscle growth. Workout alone will not make you achieve muscle gain nor will foods alone even though they may be labeled muscle gain foods.

It is also important to note that choosing foods with low calories as selected above will help you gain muscles while not gaining fat weight.

Foods with high calories and fat will cause fat weight growth.


Subscribe for weekly insights on faster weight loss and good health.

[activecampaign form=3]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *