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Foods to Avoid When Building Muscle

Foods to Avoid When Building Muscle

Posted by Leonard Shemtob on Apr 25, 2023

Foods to Avoid When Building Muscle

When hitting the gym with  the goal of building muscle and losing fat, it's important to know the foods to avoid when building muscle. Your diet plays a crucial role in your success, and there are some foods that can hinder your progress. This article will outline the worst foods for muscle growth and the foods to avoid when building muscle and losing fat.

Processed Foods

Fast Food

Fast food is one of the worst foods for building muscle. High in unhealthy fats and low in essential nutrients, it can lead to weight gain without any health benefits. Opt for lean protein sources, like chicken breast, fish, lean beef, or turkey instead.

Sugary Snacks and Drinks

Sugary snacks and drinks contain empty calories and can cause insulin spikes, making it harder for your body to build muscle. Stick to healthier options like water, amino acids, or green tea, and if you need a sweet treat, try a protein shake or make some homemade granola bars using healthy fats, like olive oil or coconut oil.

Refined Grains

Refined grains, such as white bread and pasta, have been stripped of nutrients and fiber. This can lead to overeating and hinder muscle growth. Choose whole grains for their health benefits and higher amino acid content.

High-Fat Dairy Products

Whole Milk, Full-Fat Cheese, and Ice Cream

These dairy products are high in saturated fat and calories. While dairy can provide protein and calcium, opt for lower-fat versions to support muscle growth without the extra calories.


In addition to putting stress on the liver, alcohol can impair muscle recovery and dehydrate your body, slowing down muscle gain. It also provides empty calories that don't contribute to muscle mass. Limit alcohol consumption to maximize your progress.

High-Sodium Foods

Canned Foods & Convenience Foods

High-sodium foods, such as canned soups and vegetables, convenience foods, deli meats, and frozen dinners can cause water retention and increase blood pressure, which can negatively affect muscle growth. Furthermore, many of these processed foods can be high in unhealthy fats, preservatives, and additives, which can be detrimental to overall health. To promote better muscle recovery and general well-being, it is advisable to stick to fresh, whole foods that are lower in sodium and free of harmful ingredients.

Foods High in Added Sugars

Candy, Cookies, and Sweetened Breakfast Cereals

Foods high in added sugars can lead to insulin resistance and inflammation, making it harder for your body to build muscle. Choose healthier snack options, like Greek yogurt with fruit or homemade granola bars.

Trans Fats

Deep Fried Foods, Baked Goods, and Margarine

Trans fats can cause inflammation and have a negative impact on heart health. Avoid deep fried foods and opt for cooking methods like grilling or baking with healthy fats like olive oil.

Ice Cream

Although ice cream might be a delicious treat, it's high in saturated fat and sugar, making it one of the worst foods for growing muscles. Choose a healthier dessert option, like a protein-packed smoothie or fruit salad instead.

Foods to Exclude From Your Diet

Some foods can greatly hinder your progress in building muscle and losing fat. Here are some foods you should avoid or limit in your diet:

  1. Fast Food: Fast food is typically high in unhealthy carbs and can cause digestive issues. Stick to healthier, whole food options for better muscle gains.
  2. Fried Foods: High in fat and cholesterol, fried foods can contribute to inflammation and heart disease. They can also upset your stomach and affect your workout performance.
  3. Alcohol: Alcohol can lower testosterone levels and interfere with muscle protein synthesis. It can also disrupt sleep, which is essential for muscle recovery and growth.
  4. Sugar: Refined sugars provide empty calories without any nutritional value. Consuming excessive sugar can lead to weight gain and hamper muscle growth.
  5. Diet Soda: Artificial sweeteners in diet sodas can negatively impact insulin production and reduce the effectiveness of the nutrients you consume for muscle growth.
  6. Refined Carbohydrates: Refined carbs, like white bread and cakes, are low in fiber and can contribute to fat gain. Choose whole grains and other complex carbohydrates for sustained energy and better overall health.
  7. Bagels: Bagels are high in simple carbs and can contribute to weight gain. Choose whole-grain bread with a source of protein and healthy fats for a more balanced meal.
  8. Dehydrated Fruits: Dehydrated fruits are often high in added sugar and can lead to excessive calorie consumption. Opt for fresh fruits instead.
  9. Pre-made Salads: Pre-made salads can be high in calories and unhealthy additives due to dressings and toppings. Prepare your salads at home with fresh, nutrient-dense ingredients.
  10. Premade Smoothies: Store-bought smoothies can be high in sugar and calories. Make your smoothies at home using whole fruits, leafy greens, and a healthy protein source like Greek yogurt or a protein powder.
  11. Processed Cheese: Processed cheese is lower in protein and contains artificial additives that can be harmful to your health. Opt for natural, high-quality cheese in moderation.

Foods to Include in Your Diet

To support muscle growth and fat loss, include nutrient-dense foods in your diet, such as:

  1. Lean Meats: Lean meats like sirloin steak, lean ground beef, and pork tenderloin are high in protein and essential for muscle growth.
  2. Vegetables: Vegetables provide essential vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants to support overall health and muscle growth.
  3. Grains: Brown rice, oatmeal, and quinoa provide complex carbohydrates for sustained energy during
  4. Fish: Fish like mackerel, salmon, herring, and tuna are rich in protein and omega-3 fatty acids, which support muscle protein production.
  5. Poultry: Eggs, chicken breast, and turkey breast are high in protein and essential amino acids like leucine, which is crucial for muscle growth.
  6. Fruits: Bananas, strawberries, and citrus fruits provide energy, vitamins, and antioxidants to support your workouts.
  7. Dairy: Dairy products like Greek yogurt and cottage cheese provide protein, calcium, and other nutrients to support muscle growth and bone health.

How to Calculate Your Protein Intake

The amount of protein individuals should consume varies depending on factors like age, sex, weight, and activity level. In general, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (0.36 grams per pound) for adults. This is the minimum amount required to meet the body's basic needs.

However, if you're looking to build muscle or are engaged in regular physical activity, you may need more protein. Many experts suggest that active individuals and athletes consume between 1.2 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (0.54 to 0.91 grams per pound) daily.

It's important to note that these recommendations are general guidelines and individual protein needs can vary. It's best to consult a healthcare professional, registered dietitian, or sports nutritionist to determine the optimal protein intake for your specific goals and circumstances.

To Wrap Things Up...

Building muscle and losing fat requires a balanced diet rich in whole foods, lean proteins, and healthy fats. By avoiding the foods mentioned above, you can maximize your muscle growth and enjoy the many health benefits that come with a well-rounded diet. Remember to always prioritize muscle recovery and be mindful of the foods you consume to achieve your fitness goals.

Written and Sponsored by Leonard Shemtob

Leonard Shemtob is President of Strong Supplements. Leonard has been in the supplement space for over 20 years, specializing in fitness supplements and nutrition. Leonard appears on many podcasts, written over 100 articles about supplements and has studied nutrition, supplementation and bodybuilding. 

Leonard's articles have been published in many top publications around the web. Leonard enjoys weight training, playing basketball and yoga, and also enjoys hiking. In his free time he studies and works on improving himself. For more detailed information, visit his official blog.

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Muscle Building Food FAQs

Protein is essential for muscle growth and repair, providing the building blocks needed for new muscle tissue.
The recommended daily protein intake varies depending on factors like age, gender, and activity level, but a general guideline is 1.2-2.0 grams per kilogram of body weight.
While convenience foods can be a part of a balanced diet, they often contain excess sodium, preservatives, and unhealthy fats. Opt for whole, minimally processed foods when possible.
Carbohydrates provide energy for workouts and help restore glycogen stores, while healthy fats support hormone production and overall health. A balanced diet includes both macronutrients.
Resistance training, such as weightlifting, bodyweight exercises, and resistance bands, can effectively promote muscle growth when combined with proper nutrition.
While it is beneficial to consume protein within a window of 30-60 minutes post-workout, overall daily protein intake is more important for muscle growth and recovery.
Yes, plant-based proteins like legumes, nuts, and seeds can provide the essential amino acids needed for muscle growth when combined with a balanced diet.
Staying hydrated is essential for overall health, including muscle function and recovery. Drink water consistently throughout the day to support optimal performance.
Yes, it is possible to build muscle and lose fat simultaneously by maintaining a caloric deficit, consuming adequate protein, and engaging in regular resistance training.
Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night to support muscle recovery, hormone regulation, and overall well-being.

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