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The Best Protein Foods For Building Muscle

Getting plenty of protein in your diet is key when you're trying to build muscle mass. Your total dietary protein and calorie intakes are most important for effective muscle gains. However, some proteins help build muscle more efficiently than others.

5protein.jpgWhey-Protein Foods


Whey protein is a complete protein, meaning it contains all essential amino acids, and one of the most beneficial proteins when you're trying to build muscle mass. A review published in 2009 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that whey protein is better at supporting muscle growth with resistance exercise than soy protein, and that whey and casein are some of the highest-quality proteins available. To reap the benefits of whey protein for muscle building, try whey protein shakes, low-fat milk, plain Greek yogurt and cottage cheese.

Egg Whites

As with whey protein, egg-white protein is a high-quality, complete protein that helps build lean muscle mass when used in combination with resistance training. A review published in 2012 in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition reports that one study found ingesting 25 grams of a blend of egg-white, whey and casein protein before and after resistance training increases muscle mass and improves physical performance. While whole eggs are also an excellent source of complete protein, egg whites aren't high in cholesterol like egg yolks.

Grilled Chicken

Skinless grilled chicken is packed with high-quality protein, containing 26 grams of protein in each 3-ounce portion (which is about the size of the palm of your hand). Therefore, eating grilled chicken is an excellent way to meet your muscle-building protein needs. However, avoid eating the skin of the chicken, fried chicken or processed chicken in nuggets or patties. Such chicken products often contain extra calories from fat, added sodium and filler byproducts.

Lean Red Meat

As long as you choose lean cuts, adding red meat to your diet is an excellent way to help you meet muscle-building protein requirements. Red meat is also an excellent source of dietary iron, which helps maximize athletic performance. A 3-ounce portion of a Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition reports that to successfully build muscle, consume 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein and 44 to 50 calories per kilogram of our body weight daily. This equates to 0.6 to 0.9 grams of protein and 20 to 23 calories for each pound you weigh.


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An experienced health, nutrition and fitness writer, Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian and holds a dietetics degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She also has worked as a clinical dietitian and health educator in outpatient settings. Erin's work is published on popular health websites, such as TheNest.com and JillianMichaels.com.

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