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Best Food to Build Muscle and Lose Fat

Best Food to Build Muscle and Lose Fat

Table of content

1. What is a muscle?

Before focusing on the list of muscle-building foods, it is important to highlight in brief the meaning and functions of muscles as well as types of muscles and in addition the effective procedures for building strong and sustainable muscles. Muscle is a soft tissue found in humans and most animals.  Muscle cell contains protein filament of actins ( actins is a spherical protein that forms filaments that are involved in muscle contraction and other important cellular processes) and myosin ( it is a motor protein that is most notably involved in muscle contraction) that slide past one another producing a contraction that changes both the length and the shape of the cells. Until otherwise mentioned, muscle implies skeletal muscle. It is a form of striated muscle tissue which is under the voluntary control of the somatic nervous system. Most skeletal muscles are attached to bones by bundles of collagen fibers known as tendons. They produce all the movements in the body travelling into different parts in relation to each other. In the human body, skeletal muscle is one of the 3 major muscles and the only voluntary muscle tissue which controls every action that a person consciously performs (the other 2 muscles are—the smooth muscle lying in the uterus that helps the pregnant woman to push out her baby during birth.  And the cardiac muscle is located in the walls of the heart that appear striated. Both the smooth and the cardiac muscles are under involuntary control)

2. Functions  of muscle:

The main function of the muscular system is to produce force and movement as well as maintain the position of different parts of the body. Since skeletal muscle is a voluntary muscle, one can control whatever he likes. Tendons are cords made of tough tissue and they work as special connector pieces between bone and muscle. The tendons are attached so well that when one of the muscles is contracted, the tendon and the bone move along with it. To discuss in detail, muscular function includes:  

  • 2.1) Movement and contraction of muscle causing movement of joints.
  • 2,2) Helping the body posture to be held upright.
  • 2.3) Holding bones and maintaining joint stability
  • 2.4) Heat production and causing blood to flow in the heated area.
  • 2.5) Excitability and extensibility

3. How to build muscle:

Muscle building is the conglomerated effect of the physical workout followed by eating a healthy nutritious diet and more importantly, quality sleep at night (Quality sleep is indispensable for survivable just as food and water.  For possessing strong, sound, and disease-free health, one needs to spend 8 hours i.e. one-third of a day in sound sleep). In this connection, it needs to be mentioned that most of the non-teen children (especially referring to boys below 13 years), who have not attained puberty, are physically unfit to lift big weights and hence produce muscles. Simply eating protein-dense foods and carbs (without an intense physical workout) will not produce any desired result pertaining to muscle gain.

4. Muscle-building foods:

4.1) Whole Egg:

For building muscle, the egg is one of the best choices because that is rich in high-quality protein, healthy fats, and other important and beneficial nutrients found in egg yolk. (A nutrient is a substance used by an organism to survive, grow and reproduce. The requirement for dietary nutrient intake applies to plants and animals). Proteins are made up of amino acids (protein in food is broken down into amino acids necessary for building and maintaining muscle tissue). Egg also contains vitamin B (it is good for energy production, immune function, and iron absorption). An egg white contains 57% of the total protein,  whereas an egg yolk contains 43% of the total egg protein. In addition, an egg also contains all fat-soluble vitamins, healthy fats, and cholesterol necessary for the production of hormones, such as testosterone. To sum up, whole-boiled eggs (quantity 100 grams) contain:

  • 155 calories (a calorie is used to measure the energy value of food which our body needs to function. Our body stores and burns calories as fuel)
  • 11-gram fat
  • 13-gram protein
  • 1.1-gram carbohydrate 
  • 373 mg cholesterol
  • 1.1-gram sugar
  • 124 mg sodium (it is an essential mineral for the human body. The most common form of salt is sodium chloride. The normal range of blood sodium is 3.10 ml—3.34   ml)
  • 126 mg potassium  (It helps enhance muscle strength, and metabolism, maintain water balance, and the nervous system).

It may be mentioned that one can easily consume 3 eggs daily provided there are no health problems, such as high blood pressure or heart disease. Moreover, many athletes and bodybuilders (for whom muscle building is essential) are found to consume daily 6 or more eggs.

4.2) Solomon sea fish: 

It is a great choice for muscle building and overall health development. The fish, apart from supplying adequate nutrients, is found to contain omega- 3 fatty acids (it is a fatty acid found in fish oil. It contains both DNA i.e. Docosahexaenoic acid and  EPA Eicosapentaenoic acid which are essential nutrients in lowering high blood pressure and preventing heart disease). Each 6-ounce (170  grams) Solomon fish provides 34 grams of high-quality protein, 350 calories, and 4 grams of Omega-3 fatty acids helping one to build muscle apart from gaining weight. It may be mentioned that China is the largest seafood consumer in the world including Solomon fish (followed by Japan and USA).

4.3) Chicken breast: 

Each 3-ounce (85 grams) chicken breast contains  26  grams of high-quality protein, vitamin--B, and niacin (it is one of the 8 water-soluble B- complex vitamins. It has a wide range of uses in the body helping the digestive system as well as skin and nervous system to function properly)  and Vitamin—B 6 (Apart from overall body development it is needed for normal brain development and helps the body to make hormones that influence mood and melatonin which help regulate body clock) which are essential for those who are involved in a laborious job. For effective muscle building, people generally do physical workouts in which the food value contained in chicken breast plays a crucial role.

4.4) Greek yogurt:

For muscle development, all dairy products are not equal in terms of food value.  Greek yogurt contains approximately double the amount of protein contained in common yogurt. Greek yogurt can be consumed anytime after a physical workout and breakfast in the morning or after a meal at night (before going to bed). Greek yogurt contains not only high-quality protein, but also a mixture of fast-digesting whey protein ( whey protein comes from milk) and slow-digesting casein protein (also like whey, casein protein comes from milk, but unlike whey protein, it is digested slowly). Research studies reveal the fact that some people experience an increase in muscle as they consume a combination of both fast and slow-digesting dairy proteins.

4.5) Tuna sea fish:

A Tuna sea fish weighing 85 grams will contain 20 grams of protein. Additionally, it contains vitamin- A (it is found in both plant and animal sources. It enables the heart, kidneys, lungs, and other organs to function properly. It is good for healthy eyes, teeth, and skin as well as general growth and development including muscle health), vitamin- B, and vitamin-  B 12 (it promotes nerve function and helps the body to make new cells.. In addition, It can help lower risk of heart disease), vitamin- B 6 and niacin. All these nutrients are important for generating optimal health energy and fuelling exercise performance needed for muscle build-up. Over and above Tuna provides omega-3 fatty acids which may support muscle health. It needs to be mentioned that Japan is the largest consumer of Tuna fish in the world.

4.6) Lean beef:

It is packed with high-quality protein, vitamin- B, and creatine (it is found in protein metabolism and present in most living tissue. It helps supply energy for muscular contraction and speed up muscular growth). Some research studies have shown that consuming lean red meat can increase mass,  build up muscle as well as help weight gain.

4.7) Shrimp:

It is mostly pure protein. Each 3-ounce ()85 grams ) shrimp contains 18 grams of protein and 1 gram of fat and no carb. Adding some shrimp is an easy way to get muscle-building protein without requiring too many additional calories. Like many other fish and animal proteins, shrimp contains high amounts of amino fatty acids and leucine which are necessary for optimal muscle growth. (Leucine is considered a vital amino acid for protein synthesis and various metabolic functions.  It is an essential amino acid that regulates blood sugar levels, and promotes the growth and recovery of muscle and bone tissue as well as the production of growth hormone). It needs to be mentioned that so far as muscle building food product shrimp is concerned, China is the largest producer as well as the exporter and Japan is the largest importer in the world.

4.8) Soya- beans:

Soya- beans have been part of civilization for thousands of years in most Asian countries. Half a cup  (85  grams) of cooked soya beans contains 14 grams of protein, healthy unsaturated fats, and several minerals and vitamins including vitamin- K (it is important for blood clotting and promoting bone health), phosphorous  (it helps maintain strong bones, detoxifies the body through urination and excretion and improve digestion and maintains energy level) and iron (iron is used to store and transport oxygen in the blood within the body including the muscles. An iron deficiency can impair these functions. During menstruation young women may be at risk of iron deficiency due to  blood loss.)

4.9) Cottage cheese:

It is rich in healthy fats to build muscles and is high in calories as well as protein. It is incredibly tasty and can be combined with most of the dishes to multiply the calorie content. One cup  (225 grams) of cottage cheese packs 28 grams of protein including a hearty doze of muscle-building amino fatty acids and leucine.

4.10) Turkey breast: 

A 3-ounce (85 grams) Turkey breast contains about 25 grams of protein and no fat and carb. It is rich in vitamins- B and niacin which help process fats and carbs in the body. Having attained an optimal level of vitamin- B, it can be possible to gain muscle over time. 

4.11) Tilapia: It is another protein-packed seafood, although, it does not have as many omega—3 fatty acids as Solomon sea fish. A 3-ounce (85 grams) Tilapia contains 21 grams of protein, vitamin-  B 12, and selenium (it is a trace mineral . It helps the body make a special protein called an antioxidant enzyme. It protects the body from the poisonous effects of heavy metals and other harmful substances). Vitamin- B 12 is important for the health of blood cells and nerves which help gain calories lost in the wake of muscle-building workout. 

4.12) Bean:

There are varieties of beans for muscle gain. Cooked bean has 15 grams of protein per cup (172 grams). it is also an excellent source of fiber, vitamin- B, iron, magnesium, and phosphorous. It is one of the best plant-based proteins to build and strengthen muscle. It also helps in disease prevention. 

4.13) Protein powder:

Although people mostly focus on protein-rich whole food, they sometimes need dietary supplements such as protein shakes prepared with protein powder which is a good choice for building muscle.  

4.14) Edamame:

It is an immature soya bean. These are mostly found in the Asian region and served in a variety of dishes. One cup (155 grams) of frozen edamame provides around 17 grams of protein and 8 grams of fiber. It also contains a large amount of folate (It is naturally present in many foods. A form of folate called folic acid is used in dietary supplements. Our body needs folate to make DNA and other genetic materials. In fact, folate may be important for optimal muscle mass and strength, particularly in elderly people), vitamin- K, and manganese (it aids the formation of connective tissues, bones, blood clotting, and sex hormones and plays a crucial role in fat and carbohydrate metabolism, calcium absorption and blood sugar regulation. It is also necessary for normal brain and nerve function. Manganese deficiency leads to poor bone growth and skeletal defects, slow or impaired growth, low fertility, and abnormal metabolism of carbs and fat). 

4.15) Quinoa:

Although protein-rich foods are a priority for building muscles, it is however quite important to consume carbs as fuel for energy. One cup (185 grams) of cooked quinoa contains about 40 grams of carbs, 8 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber, and a heavy amount of manganese and phosphorous. Manganese plays a crucial role in muscle development and nerve function. Both are used every time a person moves. As regards the production of quinoa, Peru is the largest producer in the world.

4.16) Scallops:

It provides protein with very little fat (like shrimp, Tilapia, and lean poultry). If one thinks to add adequate protein to diet without consuming too many calories, then scallop is the best choice. A scallop weighing one ounce (85 grams) provides 20 grams of protein and 100 calories. Scallop sea fishes are grown in abundance in the Atlantic Ocean along the northeastern USA  and the eastern side of Canada.

4.17) Lean Jerky: 

Different types of meats can be made into Jerky but with varying contents of protein. However, most of the fats are removed during processing. Almost all calories in lean jerky come from protein. These animal sources of protein are of high quality that stimulates muscle growth. 

4.18) Chickpeas:

Chickpeas are good sources of both carbs and protein. One cup (240 grams) of canned chickpeas contains 12 grams of protein, 50 grams of carbs, and 10 grams of fiber. Like many other plant proteins, chickpeas are low-content protein (as compared to animal sources). But still, it can act as a balanced diet for building muscles.

4.19) Peanuts:

It contains a mix of protein, fat, and carb.  Half cup (73 grams) pea nut contains 17 grams of protein,16 grams of carbs, and a large amount of unsaturated fats, leucine, amino fatty acids, and 425 calories. It provides adequate calories for building muscles. Additionally, it is considered overall a healthy diet.

4.20) Buckwheat: 

It is a seed that can be ground into flour.  Half a cup (60 grams) of buckwheat flour contains 8 grams of protein along with plenty of fiber and other carbs.  It is rich in plenty of vitamins- B, magnesium, manganese, and phosphorous which are essential for muscle-building exercise.

4.21) Tofu:

It is prepared from soymilk and used as a meat substitute. Each sup (124 grams) raw tofu contains 12 grams of protein, 6 grams of fat, and  2 grams of carb.  It is also rich in calcium needed for muscle function and bone health. For muscle building, tofu is the best choice for those who are vegetarians. 

4.22) Bison:

Bison weighing 3 ounces (85 grams) provides 22 grams of protein. Research studies show that those who have heart disease should replace beef with bison. It is mostly grown in USA and Canada.

4.23) Brown rice:

Although one cup (195 grams) of brown rice gives only 5 grams of protein it is rich in the carb that is needed to fuel physical activity and exercise for building muscle.

4.24) Milk:

Irrespective of time, place, culture, and religious beliefs, milk has been all along recognized as an ideal food for muscle building in addition to weight gain. It provides a good balance of protein, fat, and carb. Additionally, milk is loaded with plenty of vitamins, minerals as well as calcium. Research studies reveal the fact that milk helps add both strength and muscle for weight lifters. It is wise to drink at least 2 glasses of milk in a day, preferably after a physical workout in the morning and/or after meals at night.  

4.25) Almond:

Half cup (172  grams) blenched almond provides 400 calories,16 grams of protein, and a large amount of vitamin- E, magnesium, and phosphorous. Almonds should be used in moderation on account of their high-calorie content. It may be mentioned that with respect to almonds, USA is the largest producer as well as consumer in the world.

5. Tips 

A strong muscle is quite important in everyday life, such as for opening and closing the doors as well as the collapsible gates, shifting furniture of the house from one room to another room, lifting personal baggage during the journey, chopping wood without getting tired, lifting the baby to set on the lap or on the chair and so on.

Most of the research studies support the view that muscular strength can enhance the ability to perform general sports skills, such as jumping, sprinting, balling and batting (in the cricket game), throwing the ball (in football, volleyball, and basketball games) and change of direction tasks. Greater muscular strength allows an individual to potentiate and perform earlier and to a greater extent.

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Authored By Dr. Tamanna Chowdhury

Dietetics & Nutrition

Dr. Tamanna Chowdhury is an experienced nutritionist with a diverse educational background. She holds an MSC and BSC (Hons.) in Food & Nutrition from the University of Dhaka and is pursuing an MPH in Hospital Management from NSU.


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