Muscle growth is no easy task. It is a long process that involves consistent bouts of intense resistance training over the course of many weeks, paired with a consistent caloric surplus. Lifters often find that the latter element is the more difficult part of the bulking journey. To help make things easier, we’ve compiled some of the best macronutrient sources to include in your meal plan. These foods are some of the most reliable for adding lean muscle and increasing exercise performance. Get your diet in top shape, and let the muscle mass roll in.

High calorie sources

Now, we’re sure you’ve probably heard the old adage of calories in calories out. This is spouted as fitness gospel all around, but mainly because it’s simple, and it works. Muscle gain requires the body to be in a caloric surplus, which requires a lot of food for some. Eating your bodyweight in red meat or other animal protein sources isn’t going to be the most optimal way of getting this done though. Focusing on calorie-dense options will make this whole journey that much easier, keeping your body in an anabolic state.

Muscle building foods

Protein power (.7-1 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight to make sure you’re getting enough protein)

Adequate protein intake is necessary as protein is the building block of muscle. Whole eggs mixed with egg whites for extra protein are a great option. They are also naturally high in anabolism-inducing leucine. Greek yogurt is another solid option, especially with toppings such as granola or magnesium rich chia seeds to add calories. This also works to add micronutrients such as calcium and probiotics. This is great to time right before bed as well, since it is mostly comprised of slow absorbing casein protein.

Quinoa, legumes, lentils, or chickpeas are great for vegetarian sources of protein. Plant-based protein shakes are another invaluable option. Soy protein or pea protein are two common types.

While protein is invaluable for muscle growth, it also has the tendency to induce satiety. This makes it more difficult to eat enough, so we recommend centering your protein mainly post-workout. Lean mass requires protein, so get it in how you can.

Healthy fats

Peanut butter is the premier bulking food. It is extremely calorically dense, containing 100 calories per tablespoon. It can be easily enjoyed as a spread, with calorie dense and potassium rich bananas, or included in smoothies.

Olive oil is another healthy fat that brings upon much needed calories. It can be drizzled on a salad as a nutritious dressing or used in cooking.


Whole grains are your best bet when trying to maximize the health benefits of carbs. They are best timed before and after workout to get the most out of performance.

Sweet potatoes are full of carbs and calories yet retain great health benefits, including rich b vitamins.

Brown rice is another great carb source. It can be easily added to nearly any dish, adding calories and sustained energy.


Whey protein shakes, some marketed as mass gainers, are the most obvious bodybuilding boosters. High-quality protein powder is often necessary for athletic performance. Dietary protein is difficult to fit in, so utilizing supplements as part of a balanced diet is a great way to ensure your muscle tissue is being maximally fueled. Having a solid creatine monohydrate is also great to support muscle protein synthesis. Essential amino acids are another great supplement to round out muscle recovery.

Going Forward

Keeping your calories high yet maintaining good nutrition is a tough balance. Thankfully, it is not an impossible one. Try including some of the foods from this list into your diet, but most importantly, find what works right for you and your goals. Go forth and build muscle with confidence.

About the Author

Jake Stewart

Jake Stewart

Jake is an author and weightlifter from the San Diego area. He has been in the gym for the past eight years, experimenting with weight training focused on aesthetics and strength. He...

View all articles by this author