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Top 30 Foods That Build Muscle

foods that build muscleGuess what? ‘Men’s Health’ published a list of the top 30 foods that build muscle – and it SHOCKED me!!

Because it was good! It contained accurate information and wasn’t, as I had anticipated, a low-fat fare. I believe attitudes are changing out there – about time!

In addition to this article, I highly recommend you see my post, ‘The Top 5 Protein Sources For Building Muscle‘. It ain’t all about the amount of protein you get, the quality is all-important. Luckily for you, I’ve compiled the top sources for gaining muscle and that’s according to the real science.

Of course, don’t forget your whey protein in addition to this list. Whey is a fantastic, cheap, and complete protein that really helps you pack on muscle. For high quality whey proteins that are the cheapest around, I personally recommend are Optimum Nutrition Whey in the USA and Impact Whey from MyProtein for Europe.

NOTE: THT TrainingBefore you go on, download the most growth-promoting workout I know below. THT training is free. After inputting your email, you will be taken directly to the download page for instant access to the workout. There is no need to go and confirm your email. Join 67,000 others and let today be the beginning of a new way of training which will finally bring you the results you desire.


NOTE: If I’ve placed a green tick beside the item, consider it good for the low-carb section of the MANS diet. After the top 30 list, I’ve posted up an infographic of high protein foods with serving sizes and grams of protein – feel free to save it to your device 😀


30 Foods That Build Muscle

(1) Sunflower Seeds – High in protein at 25 grams per 100g and a great little snack.

(2) Mackerel – High in omega 3 fats and protein.

(3) Pineapple – Strange choice. They said it’s good post-workout.

(4) Edamame Beans – Another name for soy beans. Not a bad source of protein but also contains 10 grams of carbohydrate per 100 grams with only 14 grams of protein. They do contain all essential amino acids and are a complete protein, but animal sources of protein are better for MANS dieters i.e. higher protein, less carbs.

(5) Olive Oil – The monounsaturated fat in olive oil helps prevent muscle breakdown and protects joints

(6) Venison – High protein and vitamin B12 content

(7) Broccoli – I’ve blogged about the greatness of these miniature bonsai trees before in ‘Top 10 Reasons you Need Broccoli in Your Diet‘. I was glad to see it included!

(8) Eggs – Cheap, high in protein, fat, and vitamin D which is essential for maintaining healthy muscle tissue! One of the best foods on earth. Go here to learn the top 10 reason you should have eggs in your diet.

(9) Coffee – They stated that caffeine improves endurance by easing muscle pain. I would agree with that and recently wrote about the benefits of a little pre-workout caffeine blast!

(10) Anchovies – Another protein and omega 3 rich food

(11) Turmeric. The explanation is that the curcumin found in turmeric promotes muscle growth and repair. Add a pinch to your chicken curry recipe for added flavor and to experience the benefits.

(12) Full-Fat Organic Milk – Wow! I’m impressed that they actually opted for the full-fat version :) . I’m not a big milk lover but when I do drink it, I take full-fat. Use sparingly on MANS

(13) Ginger – Alleviates muscle pain.

(14) Grass-Fed Organic Beef. Again, I’m impressed! They state, “Nothing beats pure beef protein for building muscles” – exactly right! They also recommend grass-fed beef as it is higher in CLA (conjugated Linoleic Acid) – this is correct.

(15) Live Natural Yogurt – Helps increase good bacteria in the gut which aids protein digestion

(16) Watercress – High in iron and vitamin C.

(17) Quinoa – (pronounced keen-wah) Again, a complete protein and a good choice for high-carb bodybuilders. A good staple of the GLAD diet. Men’s health state, “Forget your usual starchy carbs” – good advice!

(18) Ricotta Cheese – Made from whey protein which, of course, aids muscle growth

(19) Kiwi Fruit – Because of the vitamin C apparently. But broccoli actually provides just as much vitamin C as kiwi (interesting fact).

(20) Tahini – (made from sesame seeds) High in zinc which plays a role in cell growth and protein synthesis.


(21) Cucumber– contains silica which is a component of your connective tissue 

(22) Turkey  – Protein and glutamine which regulates protein synthesis

(23) Almond Nut Butter. I use this to make my low-carb homemade protein bars. High in protein and also magnesium!

(24) Papaya – Contains papain which breaks dietary protein into easily absorbable compounds

(25) Wheatgerm – Contains chromium, which improves glucose intake into muscle cells.

(26) Red Peppers – Red specifically as they contain more vitamin C than their green brothers. My recipes for taco salad and beef chilli both include red peppers.

(27) Spirulina – 65% protein. It’s also about 20% carbohydrate and not needed by MANS dieters. Could come in handy for vegetarians and vegans though.

(28) Water – Definitely too far down on the list for my liking. Water is crucial for peak strength, aiding digestion and maximizing the effectiveness of creatine monohydrate. Read my article ‘Why you Need Water to Build Muscle.’

(29) Cherry Juice – Reduces Muscle Pain. I disagree with anyone recommending fruit juice. Fruit juice is NOT a health food. Fruit is meant to be eaten. Juicing removes the fiber. You end up drinking way more sugar than you’d eat, and without the fiber, the fructose hits your liver much faster. This is a health disaster. Apart from some healthful micronutrients, you might as well drink a Coke. Forget this one.

(30) Spinach – Octacosanol, found in spinach, improves muscular strength and endurance.

This is a great list of foods and I believe it demonstrates the changing opinion of the mainstream 😀 Heck, the low-carb, high fat TNT Diet is a Men’s Health book!

European readers can get Whey, Creatine, Almond Nut Butter, Vitamin D, and Glutamine at The Protein Works.

Additionally, here’s an awesome graphic; it’s a big list of high protein foods. You can share this with your friends on twitter by clicking below…

Here's an awesome graphic showing high protein foods with serving sizes & grams/protein Click To Tweet




Hope This Helps! 😀

Mark McManus

image credit: avlxyz

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Mark McManus
Mark McManus
Mark is now available for 1-on-1 consultations to help you take your results to the next level. Click here for more details.
Mark McManus is a trainer & author from Ireland. His work has been featured in major publications all over the world. He is the creator of the free growth-promoting workout Targeted Hypertrophy Training' (THT) and author of the NEW fat-torching system Total Six Pack Abs.
He has also created the BREAKTHROUGH arm and chest maximizer programs The Arms Blast' and 'Chest Blast' workouts.
And if you're a fan of delicious high-protein recipes to fuel your muscle growth, check out his cook book 'Buff Baking' here.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jamie December 8, 2008, 11:44 pm

    times they are a changing. Thanks for putting this list together man. I’m gonna get into the natural yogurt thing, never even heard of Tahini before! If I see it, I’ll give it a whirl.

  • Mark McManus December 8, 2008, 11:48 pm

    Thanks Jamie. Glad it helped!

  • Rob December 9, 2008, 2:50 am

    It is definitely catching on, a friend of mine went to the doctor the other day, he was told his cholesterol was a big high. The doctor told him to lay off bread, sweets, rice, and baked goods…basically a low carb diet!

  • JosefB December 9, 2008, 4:17 am

    I eat pineapple occasionally post workout. I remember a pretty reliable guy talking about how that’s what he used instead of surge on T-nation.com. It makes sense, since it was relatively cheap, and a good split of simple and complex sugars.

  • Mark McManus December 9, 2008, 7:52 am

    @ Rob. That’s cool. very good news! We need more doctors like that.
    @ Josef. Interesting, I don’t believe that sugars are helpful post-workout but it’s interesting none-the-less.

  • gt_907 December 9, 2008, 9:41 am

    pineapple has an enzyme called bromelin in it, it acts as a mild anti-inflamitory and it also helps digest protein. Watch out for the fiber and sugar content in it though, for one- too much of that fiber and you will be dropping (huge) bombs the next morning lol, also the high levels of sugar will get you really amped up.The good thing is that the crash afterwards isn’t all that bad. Something about it killing tapeworms and parasites as well, they reccomend it for de-worming..nothing but pineapples for 3-4 days!

    Good stuff!~

  • Yavor December 9, 2008, 10:32 am

    Men’s Health is improving :)

  • Tim December 9, 2008, 3:33 pm

    Good list overall. What I don’t see in this list is the amounts of things needed in order to benefit from the positive result. Example: If I have to drink a gallon of cherry juice to reap the benefits of easing muscle pain, it’s not worth it and therefore doesn’t rate well enough to be on the list.

  • David Zavadil December 9, 2008, 6:32 pm

    I am a product of Men’s Health TNT Workout. I started there and have been led to your page. At least the TNT stuff melds pretty well with what you advocate.

  • Son of Grok December 9, 2008, 7:21 pm

    Its nice to see some mags like Men’s Health taking steps in the right direction. They had another article recently that I was suprised and happy to see but I can’t remember what it was now for the life of me.

    The SoG

  • Maxdriver December 10, 2008, 11:47 am

    I’m surprised that chicken did not make the list…? Any thoughts?

  • Mark McManus December 10, 2008, 11:49 am

    That’s the first thing that hit me too Maxdriver. Bizarre and should be near the top!

  • Leederman December 11, 2008, 6:02 am

    As a raw food vegan strength trainer. I can vouch for Tahini blended with Raw chickpeas. Makes Hommus dip you can spread on anything. Also mixed raw nut products such as brazil, almond, cashew etc. And lot’s and lot’s of Spirulina. Not only high in protein but as a superfood it will provide explosive natural energy. The usual recommended daily dose of Spirulina is about 10grams. I would go for about 50-100gms a day. This product does not get much media as it can not be made in a factory, as a vegetable that must be farmed supply options are limited. It is possible to be a Vegan on MANS. Have been doing it for over a year and the results are great!

  • Mark McManus December 11, 2008, 10:00 am

    Thanks Leederman. That’s very impressive that you’re doing MANS vegan style. Thanks for the info.

  • Mik December 11, 2008, 11:58 pm

    Mark- I love your writing, it’s intelligent and entertaining. Thanks for the research also, it’s really helped me and I know many others. I noticed you don’t write much about fish. Any reason? Should a person following MANS avoid it? If not, would you concur with popular wisdom that tuna and salmon are most beneficial of seafood in the MANS sceme of things?

  • Mark McManus December 12, 2008, 12:02 am

    Thanks Mik. Fish is great, no doubt about it! You should be eating tuna and salmon for sure. I hadn’t noticed I had neglected it to be honest. I did publish my ‘tuna burger’ recipe though:

  • Sanjo December 31, 2008, 6:17 pm

    Great list, and encouraging because I eat all of the ticked foods on a regular basis already!! Haven’t been around for a while but your blog is looking really great these days, Mark. Thanks for all your hard work and inspiration, this blog got me focusing on losing weight and building muscle. So far I have lost 25 lbs of fat. Keep up the great work!

  • Mark McManus December 31, 2008, 6:51 pm

    Thanks Sanjo and keep it up, you’re doing great!

  • UrbanMacGyver June 21, 2009, 4:08 am

    Pineapple is good. It has a special property of helping the absorbtion of meat protiens.(Learned this from Jack Lalayne (the Juiceman)) I don’t know to what degree or if the results are negligable, but it might be able to draw more protien from whatever meat you eat it with. Opt For Fresh.

    Great Site, BTW Mark, keep up the good work.

  • Martin August 26, 2013, 9:54 pm

    Is there a link to the article on MH or have I just not seen it?

  • shahin shekerzade August 27, 2013, 9:34 am

    Very good article, all the foods here are healthy, nutritious and promote an environment in the body to allow muscle growth, actually the more you alkalise the body the more efficient it becomes, so eat those vegetables guys and try to eat three times the amount of veg to any protein you consume, ( no excuses, many are low carb and kow cal so dont complain, especially brocolli which mark mentions and actually reduces estrogen levels in the body allowing more T to circulate and whamm more muscle, actually this is a message for Mark McManus, i wanted to know where i could leave a message or review about your TSPA DIET, its changed my life and now im down to 4 percent body fat when i was about 20. I’m shredded and the best part is that after just a month of doing it and getting to 4 percent (that’s right i kid you not). I’m still on it because it’s a great way to eat, and live. It’s super and healthy, I’m always full, and the best part is I can keep my sexy body which means more to me than any slice of carrot cake any day. Oh I must admit I drink on weekends, and after the diet I was terrified of having a drink. During the diet I didn’t touch a single drink or sweet thing, got the body, came back from holiday and then my mates were like let’s go out, I ended up getting hammered, felt sooo guilty and upset the next day, put on weight from the amount of calories and the post drinking binge of food, but then lost it all in 4 days from Mark’s “Fat Flush” secret weapon in TSPA and just carrying on with TSPA. So TSPA is for my life. And Mark btw, my uncle is a top dietitian in Turkey, he appears on tv, he works with celebs and is friends with some of the top doctors in America, he monitored me during my month of TSPA, he has the most incredible technology at his private including being able to measure body fat underwater and the craziest machines for measuring everything. I saw him twice a week for a month when i was out there, and we would both be in shock at how quick the body was melting the fat, how hydrated I was, how my bone density improved, how my mineral and vitamin count raised, and dude best part, when he told me ”Shahin, you have put on a kilo of muscle [2.2lbs] in the month while getting shredded at the same time”. I was speechless, I was like damnnnn Mark man yo shit worksssssss hahahah. Anyway my uncle would be interested in talking to you if you like Mark, and any one reading this TSPA is the one, I’m still gonna be on it in winter when other people get fat and bulky, I’d rather keep my ultra ripped bod, and a chest like Hercules than get fat, thanksssssssssssssssssssss.

  • Mark McManus August 27, 2013, 10:33 am

    @Martin. They published in their UK magazine it a couple of years ago. This article was previously published and I just updated it yesterday.

  • Mark McManus August 27, 2013, 10:36 am

    @Shahin. I’d love to get your testimonial, bud. Give me as much detail as you can.
    Your uncle can get me there as well. But hey, he should use TSPA with his celeb clients for sure (so long as he mentions the book on TV 😉 ).
    Look forward to receiving it.

  • bandan June 15, 2015, 3:22 pm

    Hey Mark, this is my 1st comment on ur page, though I have been following you since 4 years back I am really happy n content with all the information you provide for natural building of muscles. I recommend all my friends and gym rats to especially follow your page for enlightening their knowledge in muscle building. . You are truly an INSPIRATION..

  • Mark McManus June 15, 2015, 3:58 pm

    @Bandan. Thanks so much, buddy. I appreciate the kind comments 😀

  • Kshitij anupam June 15, 2015, 5:02 pm

    Why Apple is not in the list …I was quiet surprised …4 me it is the best post workout fruit

  • Robert Vincelette June 15, 2015, 5:12 pm

    I appreciate the wide range of choices that include vegetarian foods and mostly gluten free foods for the ciliac crowd.

  • Andy June 16, 2015, 12:16 pm

    Its basically all of the wholesome unprocessed food types.

    God call about fruit juice not being healthy, we think just because its the juice of a fruit then it must be, but completely forget about the sugar content.