8 Best Foods for Building Lean Muscle Mass

8 Of Our Favorite Foods For Lean Muscle Growth
Written by Isaac

Building muscle can be tricky business, especially when you have a body that’s particularly good at growing fat instead. If this is an issue you struggle with, the most important place to start making changes is in your diet.

While there’s a wide variety of foods to choose from that promote muscle growth, here we want to share with you the best foods for lean muscle growth rather than fat and muscle growth. Here are our eight best foods for building lean muscle while keeping the fat off.

1. Whey Protein

There’s a reason so many fitness buffs love it. Whey protein is low-calorie and high-protein. It fills you up. 

Whey protein powder is fast to digest in the body and will help boost the muscular repair and growth process as fast as possible.

And it’s often packed with nutrients known to stimulate muscle growth like BCAAs and glutamine. The overall health benefits are wild.

Optimum Nutrition 100% Whey Gold Standard
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2. Skinless Chicken

Chicken breasts on a plate

Eat protein-rich foods.

Grilled, not fried. As any fitness buff will tell you, what you want is a low-fat, high-protein, nutrient-dense food for lean muscle growth. Skinless chicken fits the bill with nutrients like iron, vitamin B-12, and zinc.

3. Grass-Fed Lean Beef

Roast of beef on a plate

Good fats are essential for muscle growth.

You know what they say: you get what you pay for. Although grass-fed beef is going to be more expensive, know that you’re paying for nutrients that aid in that much more muscle growth. Go for 90-95% lean beef. You’ll still get the tastiness from fat, but you’ll avoid growing that pudge.

4. Light Tuna

Sliced tuna on a table

Tuna is a healthy choice for fish.

Save cash and calories by going for that canned light tuna. Skip the oil and buy tuna canned with water rather than cheap, unhealthy oils. Tuna is a great source of protein, and it’s got the B-vitamins that encourage muscle growth that much more.

5. Fat-Free Dairy Products

Eggplant meal with yogurt on a plate

Opt for fat-free dairy products.

You’ll often hear that dairy products like cottage cheese and Greek yogurt are great for muscle gain. This is true, but if you want lean muscle rather than muscle and fat, opt for fat-free dairy products to keep your calorie intake low and your protein intake high. See our guide here:

6. Egg Whites

Woman separating egg yolk and egg white

Egg yolk or egg white?

Ever wonder why so many people are going for the egg white omelet instead of just getting the full thing? Here’s one reason why: eggs are high protein and chockfull of nutrients, but the yolks contain 5 grams of fat.

For a fat-free option, just go for the whites. Not so good at getting the yolk out? Hard-boil your eggs and it’ll pop right out.

7. Lentils

Cooking the lentils

Lentils are magically easy to cook on the stove.

Lentils are one of our favorites, because they’re a true super food. Lentils are low in fat but rich in protein and nutrients, including dietary fiber. On their own, lentils aid in a lot of lean muscle growth, but they also help keep your appetite down, as the fiber makes you feel full.

8. Quinoa

If you’re looking for a great plant-based source of protein, look no further. There’s a reason quinoa is all the rage these days. Quinoa is high-protein, low-fat, and nutrient-packed.

Quinoa dish on a plate

Quinoa is filling, healthy, and really tasty.

Like lentils, quinoa is a great source of fiber that makes you feel full so you don’t overeat.

Pro tip

Quinoa and lentils make for really tasty salads. This simple recipe is ideal – you’ll want to make it in bulk.

Did We Miss Any high protein food for lean muscle?

Although you need a dash of healthy fats in your diet, a lot of protein-rich foods are also teeming with too much fat. Try out these 8 to avoid going over your fat intake while getting lean and fit with nutrient-rich protein.

Did we miss any of your high-protein, low-fat favorites?

About the author


I’m a personal fitness trainer and nutritionist living in sunny Indianapolis, IN. I’ve spent the last 8 years staying at the forefront of the health and fitness industry. In that time, I’ve helped hundreds of people shed the excess weight and get into shape, maintaining their healthy new lifestyle through proper training and eating habits.