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The Foods Your Body Needs for Lean Muscle Growth

By Sara Butler

Lean Muscle Growth

Some people at the gym refer to building lean muscle as getting “swole.” Of course, swole-ness may not be your ultimate goal when trying to get healthy, but building lean muscle should be.

Building lean muscle is important for a variety of reasons, chief among them is reducing the risk of injury, improving your posture, building stronger core muscles to protect your back, boosting your metabolism, and looking great. Exercise is a must for building lean muscle, but since you are what you eat, certain foods can help promote lean muscle growth when combined with exercise.

Here are foods you may want to add to your nutritional rotation to help you build the leanest, meanest muscles ever.

Grass-Fed Beef

Beef is high in protein, which makes it ideal for building lean muscle. The zinc, iron, and Vitamin B in it are also crucial building blocks for lean muscle mass.

Eating beef that is grass-fed is better for you because the cattle have much higher levels of something called conjugated linoleic acid, or CLA. This has been shown to help boost lean muscle growth while still being low in calories.


In Sylvester Stallone’s most memorable movie role, there’s a reason why Rocky Balboa drank raw eggs -- eggs are pretty much the perfect food, especially for gaining lean muscle. They’re full of high-quality protein, choline, Vitamin B, and healthy fats. They also happen to be high in an amino acid called leucine, a key to gaining muscle. You don’t have to follow Rocky’s lead with a raw egg shake each day, but you should make sure that eggs have a prevalent place in your diet.

Greek Yogurt

Dairy is full of high-quality protein but it also has a secret to help you build lean muscle: whey protein and casein protein. These proteins are fast- and slow-digesting, respectively, which research has shown helps to increase lean muscle mass.

You have to make sure you’re having Greek yogurt and not regular yogurt since the Greek version has twice as much protein as regular old yogurt. Eat it after a workout to maximize its benefits.


Cooked soybeans have a lot of protein, about 14 grams per half cup. They also are full of vitamins, minerals, and healthy unsaturated fats. The iron, phosphorus, and Vitamin K in soybeans, as well as iron, help to keep your muscles healthy and fully oxygenated. That’s why, if you’re working to build lean muscle mass, tofu is your friend -- and you can use it in a variety of ways too.


Quinoa may seem like a trendy food, but there’s a reason it’s so popular: It’s a complete protein. It’s one of the few plant-based complete proteins out there, which makes it a great staple if you want to reduce how much meat you eat each week.

In addition to being a carbohydrate that is slow to digest, quinoa has been found to increase insulin-like growth factor-1, something associated with building strength and lean muscle.

A Few More Great Foods

If building lean muscle is your goal, then the foods you can use to help you get there don’t simply stop with our suggestions above. Some more foods you can incorporate into your healthy, muscle-building diet include:

  • Nuts
  • Cottage cheese (full fat)
  • Chickpeas
  • Chia seeds
  • Brown rice
  • Tuna
  • Lean Pork
  • Flaxseed
  • Almond butter
  • Shrimp
  • Tempeh
  • Turkey
  • Milk
  • Edamame
  • Buckwheat
  • Lentils
  • Cheese
  • Oatmeal
  • Pumpkin seeds

There are many foods out there that can help you grow lean muscle and help your muscles recover from a hard workout. Although protein is often the first thing on everyone’s mind when it comes to muscle gains, it’s important to balance your diet with key carbohydrates and healthy fats to fuel your muscles and your mind to become your best swole self.

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