If you’re trying to lose weight, it may surprise you to learn more about what you do eat than what you don’t. Yes, you must indeed burn more calories than you take in to lose weight. It seems like a simple equation, but many people fail at losing weight because they also lose muscle. Along with the muscle loss comes an increase in your percentage of body fat. In other words, you must gain muscle while losing weight to achieve your desired outcome.
Muscle drives metabolic rate more than any other factor. When you lose muscle, your metabolic rate drops. You struggle to keep off the weight you lost. Building muscle fires up your metabolism and helps you burn fat. The formula is to eat plenty of healthy food with muscle-building protein.
21 foods to lose weight and gain muscle
Add these 21 foods to your menu to support your weight loss and body sculpting goals.
Eggs are great for a high-protein diet. They contain lots of leucine, an amino acid important for gaining muscle. They also contain healthy fats and B vitamins that are important for energy production.
Studies show that an egg’s protein is of better quality than a beefsteak. One egg gives you 6 to 8 grams of protein. For many years, doctors warned against eating eggs. They said they were unhealthy because of high cholesterol levels. But in reality, consuming eggs has a small effect on your LDL-cholesterol or CVD risk. The benefits of eating eggs far outweigh the risks. Eggs are considered a complete protein containing leucine, an amino acid important for gaining muscle, healthy fats, and B vitamins important for energy production.
2. Chicken Breast
Chicken is an important food to help gain muscle. A three-ounce serving contains A whopping 26 grams of high-quality protein.
Poultry is lower in fat than red meat, with fewer calories and less saturated fats and cholesterol. Chicken breasts are the number one choice of many athletes looking to gain muscle without weight gain. It’s economical and versatile in recipes, whether you grill, roast, or boil it. Chicken breasts should be at the top of your list for the healthiest foods to lose weight and gain muscle.
Salmon is so good for you. It’s packed with super health benefits.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Your body doesn’t make fatty acids, so you need to get them from your diet. Adults should eat 250-500 mg of combined EPA and DHA every day. Eating a 3.5-ounce piece of salmon supplies you 2.3 to 2.6 grams of fatty acids. Fatty acids decrease your risk of cancer, lowers your blood pressure, and lowers inflammation.
- Reduces your risk of heart disease:: Eating salmon helps you lower your triglycerides. Triglycerides are leftover calories that get stored in fat cells for later use. You need some triglycerides, but too many in your blood increase your chance of heart disease.
- Helps you lose weight: Salmon is low in fat, helping you maintain your weight and lose belly fat.
- Good source of protein: Eating a 3.5 ounce of salmon contains 22 to 25 grams of lean, healthy protein.
- Protects your brain health: Eating salmon can help reduce depression and lower anxiety.
Besides this, salmon is a good source of B vitamins, selenium, and potassium.
Like salmon, tuna is high in muscle-building protein and high in fatty acids. A three-ounce serving of tuna gives you 20 grams of protein. Tuna is also vitamins B3 and B12, vitamin D, and minerals. Because tuna is high in protein but low in calories and fat, it’s popular diet food for fitness fans and bodybuilders. Whether you eat it fresh or from a can, tuna is a healthy choice if you’re trying to build muscle and lose weight.
5. Greek Yogurt
Dairy is a good source of high-quality protein. The best choice in dairy food, however, is Greek yogurt. It contains twice the amount as regular yogurt and has a mixture of slow-digesting casein protein and fast-digesting whey protein thought to increase lean mass.
Besides protein, yogurt provides the following nutrition:
- B vitamins
- Vitamin D
Most of the protein in Greek yogurt is casein, a slow-digesting type of protein. Slow- digested protein repairs your damaged muscles and tissue. It prevents muscle breakdown or muscle catabolism while you sleep, which enhances your muscle development.
Research shows that lean red meat may increase lean mass dramatically along with weight training. It’s packed with plenty of protein, minerals, creatine, and B vitamins for energy.
Beef is considered lean and is viewed as lean if it has less than 4.5 grams of saturated fats and 10 grams of overall fat. The leanest cuts of beef include the following:
- Top sirloin steak
- Flat-half brisket
- Bottom round roast
- Eye of the round roast or steak
Be sure to prepare your lean beef healthily. Here are a few healthy prep tips.
- Cut off extra fat: Trim the fat off your meat before you cook it.
- Drain the meat’s drippings after cooking it: The drippings contain any inside fat you couldn’t see before cooking.
- Allow the meat to cool, then put it into the fridge: Chilling the beef will reveal hardened fat on top of the beef juice. Skim off the hardened fat and use the beef juice for gravy, soup, or stews.
Soybeans are popular in vegetarian and vegan diets because a half cup contains 14 grams of protein. The fat in soybeans is unsaturated, and they have a good supply of vitamins and minerals.
Edamame is young green soybeans harvested early to give them a softer texture than the mature beans. Adult soybeans are brown and hard when mature. They’re used in milk and tofu production. Other health benefits of soybeans include these:
- No cholesterol
- High fiber
- Good source of antioxidants
- Good source of omega3 fatty acids
- Great source phytoestrogen
If you’re looking for a low-calorie, low-fat protein, look no further than shrimp. Three ounces of shrimp provide 18 grams with only 90 calories. Shrimp is high in omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation, lower your cholesterol, and your risk of cancer. Steam, boil, or poach your shrimp, but never eat it raw. Raw shrimp carries bacteria, parasites, and viruses. Cooking the shrimp kills off these dangerous contaminants, so they’re safe for you to eat.
9. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese may get a bad rap, but it’s a healthy protein source called leucine, a muscle-building protein found in many dairy products. One cup of cottage cheese gives you 28 grams of protein. The calcium found in cottage cheese is good for building bones and muscles. One downside to eating cottage cheese is that, like many kinds of cheese, it’s high in sodium. So, if you’re eating a lot of it, it may not be healthy, especially if you have high blood pressure.
10. Turkey Breast
This lean poultry is a great source of protein, niacin, and B vitamins. Slightly leaner than chicken, turkey has L-tryptophan, a fatty acid. L-tryptophan is an amino acid that some people swear makes them sleepy. But studies show that it’s not true. Turkey contains less L-tryptophan than chicken. This fatty acid helps produce serotonin, a chemical that helps you feel happier and more relaxed. Low fat and great for muscle building, turkey is only slightly higher than chicken in cholesterol levels and within the recommended amount of cholesterol level for a healthy heart.
Beans have grown in popularity as a healthy source of plant-based protein. There is a wide variety of protein-rich beans, all of which help you keep your weight down and build muscle. Beans health benefits include the following:
- High in antioxidants
- Reduce your risk of cancer
- Good source of fiber
- Helps control your glucose metabolism
- Controls your appetite
- Gives you good heart health
- Good source of folate
- Source of iron, thiamine, copper, and manganese
All beans are good sources of protein, but here’s a list of the best sources.
- Kidney beans
- Black beans
- Pinto beans
- Navy beans
Like shrimp, scallops have lots of protein and without a lot of fat. They are excellent for adding protein to your diet while keeping the calorie count low. Three ounces of scallops give you around 20 grams of protein with only a hundred calories. Scallops are super easy to prepare. Steam, broil, or sear scallops in a hot skillet with a bit of avocado oil. Scallops are good post-workout food to relieve your tired, sore muscles. They contain magnesium, which prevents muscle cramps and helps repair your muscle tissue.
13. Lean Jerky
If you’re looking for a high-quality protein snack for your on-the-go lifestyle, it’s hard to beat lean jerky. Since most of the fat is removed from jerky during processing, almost all calories in lean jerky are derived from protein. It’s high in phosphorus, folate, iron, and B12 vitamins. Jerky is also high in sodium, which isn’t a bad thing for athletes who sweat a lot during workouts. Here are some fun ways to add lean jerky to your diet.
- Crumble on salads as a bacon alternative
- Crumble jerky and add it to your pasta salads
- Add jerky to tomato sauce for extra meaty flavor.
- Cut up jerky and add to beans casserole
A good source of protein and carbs for energy, chickpeas, or garbanzo beans are perfect for losing weight and gaining muscle. One cup of canned chickpeas has 12 grams of protein and 50 grams of carbs. Dump one can of chickpeas into your food processor with salt, pepper, a little olive oil, and garlic powder for a yummy hummus dip. Dip veggies, pita bread, or crackers in the hummus for a healthy protein-rich snack in the afternoon.
Peanuts are high in protein, fiber, and healthy fat. Although they’re high in calories, they’re packed with nutrients, including
- B vitamins
Low in cholesterol, peanuts are a great plant-based protein if you’re eating vegan or vegetarian. Eating peanuts helps you control your weight because you don’t feel as hungry. They also help you manage your blood sugar and give you good heart health.
Produced from soy milk, tofu is a popular meat substitute for vegans and vegetarians. Not only is it a good source of protein, but tofu also has calcium, important for proper muscle function and bone health. Many people don’t like tofu but are prepared correctly. It’s delicious. Add tofu to your salads, bean casseroles, or in a stir-fried veggie dish.
17. Pork Tenderloin
Pork tenderloin is a lean cut of meat with not a lot of fat. A three-ounce serving gives you 18 grams of protein with only two grams of fat. Researchers say it is similar to beef and chicken when it comes to high-quality protein. High in B vitamins, niacin, riboflavin, potassium, and zinc, limit your portion size of this meat to keep your calories down.
Milk has the reputation of being one of nature’s perfect foods. Like other dairy products, milk provides those fast and slow-digesting proteins so good for muscle growth. It’s a great post-workout drink to build muscles and promote healthy bones.
This tree nut is considered a superfood. Almonds contain protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. A half-cup of plain almonds has 16 grams of protein. Other benefits of almonds include
- High in vitamin E
- Low in cholesterol
- A good source of antioxidants
- Lowers your risk of cancer
- Reduces blood pressure
- Promotes good heart health
- Helps lower your appetite
Rich in protein and low in carbohydrates, quinoa is a healthy rice alternative. One cup of cooked quinoa provides eight grams of protein. It has twice the protein of white rice. It’s overall healthier than rice because it’s higher in fiber and protein.
21. Brown Rice
Brown rice is packed with protein. This whole grain is rich in fiber, which helps reduce belly fat and control your weight. It has fewer carbohydrates than white rice, plus it’s gluten-free. Eating brown rice before exercise is a good source of healthy carbs for energy and muscle health. Eat brown rice to help manage your blood sugar and improve your heart health.
Eating foods high in protein is a great way to reduce your appetite and lose weight. Protein also builds and repairs your muscle tissues. Why not add some of these healthy protein foods options to your diet today?
Final Thoughts on Eating the Best Foods to Lose Weight and Gain Muscle
If you are trying to gain a slimmer, more muscular physique, exercise is only part of the equation. Protein and whole-grain foods will help you to shed extra fat and also support muscle growth. Thus, you will enable yourself to have that sculpted body you want.