It hasn’t been long since people started chanting the lean muscle mantra, and the fact is that a good percentage in the crowd doesn’t even what lean muscles mean.
The complete definition and a thorough understanding can be found in the next section of this article.
Cosmetic beautification of the physique is the prime motive behind lean muscles, and yet people aren’t fully aware of it.
People go gym for a number of reasons of which defining a lean physique is one of the complicated processes to accomplish.
A workout isn’t enough for attaining lean muscles, and with more technological advancement, newer knowledge regarding lean muscles are being added every day.
Micromanaging the diet, workout planning, and methodology are the three factors that could help in building lean muscles.
But other than above three genetics also play a crucial role in determining the physique of a person irrespective of the workout and diet.
Let’s cut the intro here and move into the crux of this article.
What are lean muscles?
Before understanding what lean muscle means, you must learn the basic anatomy of a human muscle.
A muscle system is basically made up flexible cells which can contract and relax depending on the signals from the brain. They are usually classified into three types viz. are smooth, skeletal, and cardiac cells of which the last one is only found in the heart.
Actually, the term ‘lean muscle’ is a misnomer, and it is supposed to be lean muscle mass; however, the verbal propagation of this term made it just lean muscles.
Lean muscle is developed when the fat content inside or around a muscle is reduced to a healthy minimum.
This way, more protein2 is accommodated in the construction of the muscle, thus giving it a stronger and compact structure.
Normal muscle or sometimes the bulk muscle lacks detailing or cuttings which are because of the excess fat deposited above the muscle or underneath the skin.
But by changing the workout strategy, diet, and supplementation, one could easily tune for lean muscle development.
Those people with lean muscles have more defined physique with aggressive cuttings and ripped structure.
Also, ripped muscles have more strength from a structural point of view since they have higher protein content than the bulk muscle.
10 foods for building lean muscles
When building lean muscles, the first priority goes to the diet and supplementation.
The lean muscle doesn’t want extra fat to be added into your system every day; that means the food must be low in fat but high in other nutrients.
The 10 best foods for gaining lean muscles are:
This seafood is a family of finned fish with high protein and omega-3-fatty acid in it.
Each 100gm of Salmon meat3 has 20gm of protein, 55mg of cholesterol and has 2gm of omega-3-fatty acids.
Also rich in minerals like potassium, & sodium, salmon meat contains Vitamin B12, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin C.
Omega-3-fatty acid has a crucial role in muscle development and helps in improving muscle gain during a workout.
2. Greek yogurt
Unlike regular yogurt, this product found a place on this list because of one scientific finding.
In a study, it was found that consuming a mixture of slow and fast-digesting dairy protein had a positive effect on lean muscle development.
Usually, the dairy products, especially the Greek yogurt4, contains a mixture of slow-digesting casein protein along with fast-digesting whey protein.
Studies have found a beneficial effect in using this yogurt post-workout and before bedtime, which helps in lean muscle growth.
3. Lean beef
Beef5 is a big no by some bodybuilders if you want to develop lean muscles, but what else is better than lean beef meat when it comes to developing lean muscles?
Beef meat fulfills all the nutritional requirements needed for muscle development, ripping, and bulking.
It packs in some high-quality protein along with vitamins, creatine, and minerals.
Beef meat provides enough calories for a rock-hard workout session, and 100gm of beef meat has around 235 calories of energy.
However, if the beef is 95% lean meat, then it contains only 150 calories with just 5 grams of fat suitable for lean muscle development.
Soy dishes are a perfect vegan alternative for meat products for bagging some good quality protein.
100gm of soybeans6 contains nearly 36 grams of proteins with a high content of iron, magnesium, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and has healthy levels of unsaturated fats.
Because of high iron content, the blood’s oxygen-carrying capacity is enhanced; thus the muscles are well oxygenated, which helps in faster recovery and increased muscle gains.
The soy protein is rich in branched-chain amino acids which is an important energy source for muscle development.
5. Turkey breast
Turkey breast is an excellent alternative for chicken breast with marginally less fat content and almost similar protein content.
100gm of turkey breast has nearly 29 gm of protein with a good iron, vitamin B6 and potassium content.
The vitamin B content helps in better metabolic utilization of carbohydrate and fat in the body, thus preventing their unwanted deposits.
With enough protein, the muscle development takes place properly, and with less fat being added into the system, lean muscle development occurs faster.
Beans7 are of various types like kidney beans, lima beans, pinto beans, etc. which are high in nutritional value and help you sculpt the lean physique.
An average bean plant will have anywhere between 10 ~ 20 gram of protein per cup when cooked and has very little fat, thus favoring lean muscle development.
They are also an excellent source of fiber and vitamins, especially rich vitamin B content other than phosphorus magnesium and iron.
Moreover, they have the right balance of nutrients that can help the functioning of immunity and prevent lifestyle diseases.
For building a muscular physique, you need to work out really hard, and for that, some clean energy is required.
Quinoa8 is an energy pack with enough carbohydrate and a wide range of vitamins & minerals that can readily help in energy production.
100gm of this grain packs 222 calories of which the major share is contributed by 39.4 gm carbohydrate.
Other significant nutrients include fiber, magnesium, manganese, folate, phosphorus, and copper.
All of the above nutrients help in signaling and general functioning of muscle fibers and associated nerves.
8. Chicken breast
Easily accessible, cheap source of protein and wide popularity among bodybuilders, these three factors are more than enough to put the chicken breast in the top of the list.
What makes them unique is the 31gm of protein in 100gm of meat with a fat content of just 3.6gm, which constitutes only 5% of total mass.
In lean muscle development, B vitamins are very important in muscle repair, faster recovery, and fat burning; surprisingly, the chicken breast is a powerhouse of B vitamins.
Also, with a higher protein diet, the muscle formed will have less fat deposit, thus giving a more aggressive physique with less muscle bulking.
Another seafood in our list that has a potential capability in aiding lean muscle development.
With 22 gm of protein in 100gm of meat, tuna is a powerhouse of vitamin A and B (B12, B6, and niacin).
All these nutrients would give a helping hand during physical exertion.
The omega-3-fatty acid in the tuna9 is a crucial nutrient which actively promotes muscle cell division and grants good health.
10. Cottage cheese
For all cheese lovers out there, this one is especially for you.
Cottage cheese10 is an excellent source of protein with 11gm in 100gm of cheese and also has other vita nutrients like cobalamin, calcium and muscle-building amino acids like leucine.
For lean muscles, you must go with the low-fat cottage cheese instead of the high-fat version.
Also, they can be an excellent source of calories required during an intense workout which is another factor relevant in lean muscle formation.
The list is not complete, and we have only included the best 10, but there are lots of other foods out there with high protein/carbohydrate content and less fat content.
The basics are simple, you need to eliminate as much fat as possible from your system; so, look for foods that have low-fat content at the same time rich in muscle-building proteins.
Micronutrients are very essential for lean muscle formation; therefore, legumes, beans, cereals, leafy veggies, and grains should be included in the diet.
Never forget to consider the protein and other supplements in the market, because they are the easiest sources for lean muscle nutrition, but comes with a price tag higher than these raw foods.
- Clarkson, Priscilla M., and Eric S. Rawson. “Nutritional supplements to increase muscle mass.” Critical reviews in food science and nutrition 39.4 (1999): 317-328. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10408699991279196
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- Foran, Jeffery A., et al. “Quantitative analysis of the benefits and risks of consuming farmed and wild salmon.” The Journal of nutrition 135.11 (2005): 2639-2643. https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/135/11/2639/4669888
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- Messina, Virginia. “Nutritional and health benefits of dried beans.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 100.suppl_1 (2014): 437S-442S. https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article-abstract/100/suppl_1/437S/4576589
- Navruz-Varli, Semra, and Nevin Sanlier. “Nutritional and health benefits of quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.).” Journal of Cereal Science 69 (2016): 371-376. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0733521016300662
- Afonso, C., et al. “Benefits and risks associated with consumption of raw, cooked, and canned tuna (Thunnus spp.) based on the bioaccessibility of selenium and methylmercury.” Environmental research 143 (2015): 130-137. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0013935115001425
- da Cruz, Adriano Gomes, et al. “Probiotic cheese: health benefits, technological and stability aspects.” Trends in Food Science & Technology 20.8 (2009): 344-354. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0924224409001770