24 High Protein Bulking Food For Muscle Gain and Recovery

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January 22, 2021 Guardian-Elite Fitness

Many people who’s goal it is to put on muscle only consider hitting the gym and lifting weight. This is a big mistake though. Clearly, lifting weight, progressive overload and hypertrophy are very important to put on muscle, but it’s only one half of the muscle gain equation. Food for muscle gain is just as crucial.

Just as important as what you eat, also taking into account how much of that food makes a difference too. If you’re not eating enough calories, it’s possible to eat all the right food, lift weights and never put on a pound of muscle.

The final aspect of muscle gain is how you recover. Working out is hard, and it’s stressful on the body. As we workout to build muscle, we’re first breaking down that muscle tissue.

Every time we break down muscle tissue and fibers, it creates microtears in the fibers that are repaired during our recovery time through synthesis of protein.

This synthesis of protein is what helps to repair and build the muscle.

It’s no mistake then, that most of the food for muscle gain is going to include whole food that’s also high in protein.

Below we’ll first show the best food to eat for muscle gain and then show the best food for muscle recovery and muscle healing.

  • Food for Muscle Gain
  • What Not to Eat/Drink:
  • Food for Muscle Growth
  • Supplements:
  • Food for Putting on Muscle
  • Lean Steak
  • Ground Beef
  • Pork Tenderloin
  • Venison
  • Chicken Breast
  • Salmon
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Quinoa
  • Almonds
  • Whole Eggs
  • Turkey Breast
  • Tuna
  • Beef Jerky
  • Food for Muscle Recovery and Muscle Soreness
  • Food to Eat for Muscle Recovery
  • Sweet Potato
  • Watermelon
  • Salmon
  • Spinach
  • Bananas
  • Flax Seeds
  • Blueberries and Raspberries
  • Cherries
  • Whole Grain Bread
  • Food for Muscle Soreness

Food for Muscle Gain

Building muscle means eating plenty of food to give you body the protein and calories it needs to build the muscle.

As we said earlier, how much you eat is as important as actually what food you eat for lean muscle.

First it’s important to have a baseline on what your daily calorie intake should be, and also what your macro ratio of protein, carbs and fats will break down to.

If you want to learn more about what macronutrients are and how they’re calculated, go on over to this post where we break it all down for you.

Use the below macro calculator tool step-by-step to find out calorie counts and macros for muscle building.

Now that you know what your calorie and macro needs are for muscle gain, you need to know what food for muscle gain and fat loss will be the best.

Before we get into a full list of the best food to eat for muscle gain, here is a list of general whole food categories to stick to when choosing what you should be eating:

  • Meats
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Dairy
  • Grains
  • Fruits
  • Starchy Vegetables
  • Vegetables
  • Seeds and Nuts
  • Beans and Legumes
  • Oils

What Not to Eat/Drink:

  • Alcohol
  • Excess sugars
  • Fried Food

Food for Muscle Growth

It’s hard, but not impossible to get as much protein is necessary for muscle growth through only the food we eat.

However, it’s important to add supplements in with a daily diet to meet protein and muscle building needs.


Whey Protein

Need more options? Here is a review list of the best whey protein available


Food for Putting on Muscle

Lean Steak

lean steak

Most people count beef as an essential food to building muscle. Well known for being high in protein, it’s important to remember that not every cut of beef is created equal. While a ribeye is delicious, it can also be higher in fat.

Choosing a high protein and low fat cut of lean steak can be the best choice to keep calories low while reaping the protein benefits that a lean cut of steak has to offer.

When choosing a lean steak for your next post workout meal, try a round cut or a loin cut.

Look at the color of the meat to determine the overall leanness of the cut. If the meat has a deep red color, then the protein to fat ratio is probably on the higher side.

Ground Beef

ground beef

Ground beef is packed full of minerals such as B vitamins and even creatine. Aside from that there is plenty of protein as well. Make sure to choose ground beef that is very lean, aim for 90% or more.

This way you can hold off the additional calories from fat and get the protein you need to build muscle.

Pork Tenderloin

pork tenderloin

Per every 3 ounces of pork tenderloin, you will be getting a whopping 18 grams of protein and only 2 grams of fat.

Which makes this meat perfect for muscle building. In fact, pork tenderloin is seldom thought of as a muscle building food, but packs just as much protein as chicken breast and beef.



For those that don’t know, venison is deer meat. Which means it’s a very lean cut of meat. A 3-ounce portion of venison is about 129 calories and 27 grams of protein. Which is great, because you can eat a larger portion with less calories and a whole lot of protein.

Chicken Breast

chicken breast

Chicken breast is a staple among weight lifters and bodybuilders for getting the most bang for your buck when it comes to protein and low calories. Even for the regular person trying to put on some muscle it’s a great go-to meat for these very reasons.



You’re going to see salmon several times within this post, but it’s there for several reasons.

Salmon is not only good for it’s protein, but it also contains essential vitamins and healthy fat that aide in muscle recovery, which we’ll cover more later.

Greek Yogurt

greek yogurt

Greek yogurt is the first non-meat item on this high protein foods list. However, you shouldn’t forget about low fat dairy products when selecting whole, healthy, high-protein food.

Greek yogurt contains both fast and slow digesting protein, which means its a great snack before bed or in the morning, when the slow digesting protein can provide nutrients over a longer period of time or in between meals.

Cottage Cheese

cottage cheese

Another dairy product with high protein that’s slow digesting is cottage cheese. Most people will eat cottage cheese before bed for this reason.

As you sleep, your body enters into a fasting state, at which point it’s possible muscle would be broken down for energy.

Eating cottage cheese, which can take 4-6 hours to digest can help protect against this.



Carbs are definitely important for fueling your body, which quinoa provides (up to 40 grams of carbs per cup).

However, carbs is not all you get. Quinoa actually provides nine essential amino acids, which help for muscle building, along with roughly 5 grams of protein for every 100 grams.



Almonds are an extremely nutrient and calorie dense food that should be consumed in moderation if you’re trying to keep a handle on calories. On the other side, almonds provide a ton of vitamins, along with 16 grams of protein for every half cup.

Whole Eggs

whole eggs

Apparently there is some debate over whether whole eggs are actually healthy or not. When it comes to protein and muscle gain, we give whole eggs two thumbs up.

Eggs contain vitamins, high-quality protein and nutrients important to our health, along with leucine, which is a branched chain amino acid (BCAA), vital to muscle growth.

Turkey Breast

turkey breast

Turkey breast is another lean meat that has tons of protein with little fat or carbs. 3-ounces of turkey breast yields about 25 grams of protein.



Underappreciated and forgotten, tuna is actually great for building muscle with 25 grams of protein per 100 grams. In addition to the protein, tuna like other fish includes omega-3 fatty acids.

Beef Jerky

beef jerky

Beef jerky can be a slippery slope for unhealthy snacks (eg: Slim Jims). It’s possible to buy unprocessed beef jerky that’s healthy and high in protein. It’s great for an on-the-go snack.

Food for Muscle Recovery and Muscle Soreness

If you’ve every conquered an intense leg day in the gym, hit the weights hard, or completed a tough HIIT workout, you know the effects that are felt the next day and beyond.

They say no pain no gain and this can never be truer when you’re dealing with a tough bout of delayed onset muscle soreness.

DOMS is the muscle soreness from a hard workout that doesn’t hit you for 24-48 hours after you’ve finished your workout.

In addition to the necessary rest for recovery and sore muscles, you can use food to help muscle recovery too.

Below is our list of food for muscle repair that will help to ease sore muscles and build new muscle for when you get back to your workouts.

Food to Eat for Muscle Recovery

Cottage Cheese

cottage cheese

Sweet Potato

sweet potato

When we exercise, our glycogen stores will be depleted and used for energy. Which is great for losing weight. But when you want to gain muscle, you’re going to want to make sure you replenish those glycogen stores with healthy complex carbs, like from a sweet potato.



Watermelon might surprise you as being a food for recovery. But in fact, watermelon is perfect for muscle recovery and soreness post-workout. This is because it’s made up of mostly water (about 92%) and packed with vitamin A, C, potassium and magnesium.

This means that it can help to re-hydrate and fight inflammation in the body.



Salmon is one of those foods that will help build muscle with the protein it provides, but also to help aide in recovery with the vitamins and potassium it contains.

Salmon is also high in omega-3 fatty acids which will work to reduce inflammation in the body and soothe sore muscles.



Spinach contains vitamin A, C, K1, iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium. So basically what we’re saying is it has a ton of good stuff in it. When it comes to recovery, the potassium and magnesium come in handy, since they are both electrolytes.



Bananas hold that key ingredient to muscle recovery: potassium. What’s great about bananas too is that they can give you energy while helping to reduce and prevent muscle cramps and soreness.

Flax Seeds

flax seed

Seeds and nuts are known for containing healthy fats like omega-3 fatty acids, which is why they are great for muscle recovery.

Blueberries and Raspberries


Most fruit is great for fiber and energy, and all contain some form of antioxidants, but blueberries and raspberries top them all in the antioxidants department.

Reducing inflammation in the body is key to muscle recovery, so mixing in these berries with other foods is a great way to help your muscles recover.



Reducing muscle pain and inflammation is the number one job for any muscle recovery food, and the cherry can definitely do that. Rich in antioxidants, a tart cherry or even cherry juice can aide in soothing sore muscles.

Whole Grain Bread

whole grain

Anytime we talk about carbs, we are talking about healthy, quality carbs like what is found in whole grain bread. Replenishing energy stores can help speed recovery. So eating whole grain bread post workout can actually be a good choice.

Food for Muscle Soreness

The food below can be used for different forms of recovery and soreness. Some food is great for reducing inflammation in the body. On the other hand, a great food for muscle cramps is a banana.

If you’re looking for a complete list of anti-inflammatory foods you should be trying, go here for the 11 best anti-inflammatory foods list.

Here are the best foods to eat for muscle soreness:

  • Almonds
  • Bananas
  • Salmon
  • Whole Eggs
  • Blueberries
  • Oatmeal
  • Cherries
  • Spinach
  • Watermelon
  • Whole Grain Bread