When you think about ways to build muscle mass, what comes to mind? Usual suspects include animal protein or isolated protein in the form of powders — especially whey and soy protein — that are blended into shakes and smoothies.

Is this the only way and a healthful way to build muscle? What’s not considered as often is that our hormones play a big role, not only in our appearance and sexual life, but are a very important factor in how we perform physically.

Hormonal problems interfering with your success:

– The adrenal glands are first to respond when we are under stress and if it lasts long enough, it can lead to adrenal insufficiency (a condition in which the adrenal glands do not produce adequate amounts of steroids). When over stimulated the glands become exhausted and when adrenal fatigue sets in there are direct consequences to the musculo-skeletal system.

Adrenal insufficiency can lead to muscle weakness. It is imperative to actually heal the adrenals glands, to retain healthy muscles, ligaments and joints [1].

– Research shows that physical performance—especially in older folks—is significantly affected by vitamin D levels [2,3]. Vitamin D is actually a pleomorphic (multiple function) steroid hormone.

– Inadequate thyroid function could lead to weight gain or weight loss, weakness and exhaustion, difficulty to build muscle mass [4,5].

Low testosterone. Testosterone (released a LOT more in men) builds massive muscles, and it’s important to maximize this hormone when it comes to building muscle mass. Very low fat (under 25 grams a day) and high carbohydrate diet can really lower testosterone levels [6,7]

Solution – support your hormones and build muscles with these 10 muscle building foods:

1. Monounsaturated and healthy saturated fat like coconut oil and avocado to support healthy testosterone levels. Aim for a diet somewhere between 50-70 percent fat.

2. Egg yolks from organic pasture raised chickens for adequate cholesterol levels necessary in hormone production and choline, which also supports brain health and muscles. With athletes, concentrations of plasma choline can possibly be reduced by nearly 40% during intense training exercises or competition.

This reduced level of choline could lead to a reduction of acetylcholine synthesis and have a negative effect on focus, memory, and performance [8,9].

3. Sea salt or celtic salt to support your adrenals and keep optimal mineral balance, unless you are one of the rare people with adrenal problems and high blood pressure.

4. Chicken or bone broth is chuck full of minerals and electrolytes (calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sulfur, potassium, sodium, hyaluronic acid) important for muscular-skeletal function, supports your adrenals, supports gut health. “Good broth will resurrect the dead,” says a South American proverb.

5. Nuts like brazil are a perfect source not only plant protein but also Selenium for proper Thyroid function . The average person doesn’t get enough selenium in their diet. 2-4 nuts a day will give you days requirement of Selenium.

6. Seafood, especially oysters to raise your “Master Hormone” (thyroid) and restore male hormone testosterone with Zinc [10]. The mineral zinc is important for testosterone production, and supplementing your diet for as little as six weeks has been shown to cause a marked improvement in testosterone among men with low levels [11]

muscle building foods_2

7. Dark leafy greens especially spinach, chard and kale are superior in magnesium. Magnesium is important in more than 300 chemical reactions that keep the body working properly. We know that magnesium must be present for the muscles to contract; a lack of it will lower your work capacity and maximal strength.

Data shows that by increasing your magnesium intake you can gain more strength [12]. Also magnesium is important in protein synthesis.

8. Fatty fish can be a good source of vitamin D. Common options include salmon, trout, mackerel, tuna, and eel. A 3-ounce sockeye salmon fillet contains about 450 international units (IUs) of vitamin D.

9. Boost your intake of Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA). Beginning around age 30, a man’s testosterone levels begin to decline, and continue to do so as he ages. Research suggests that BCAAs result in higher testosterone levels, particularly when taken along with resistance training [13].

The best sources of BCAAs are organ meat from grass fed animals reports NYU Langone Medical Center. Choose heart or liver – they share many similarities with steak, roasts and ground beef, is less expensive and has a higher amount of protein, thiamine, folate, selenium, phosphorus, zinc, CoQ10 and several B vitamins. This mixture of unique nutrients helps build muscle, store energy and boost stamina and endurance.

10. Get a good dose of protein with mediterranean pine nuts. At 34% protein by weight, Mediterranean pine nuts are richer in protein than any other plant food, including soybeans (10%), sesame seeds (18%), sunflower seeds (21%), and even hemp seeds (33%).

This feature of pignolia makes them especially useful as a nutritional supplement for athletes, who have greater than average protein requirements. This is also useful for anyone who wants to add nutrient-rich calories to their diet without adding excessive fat [14].

Exercise is the primary factor that determines muscle mass. But it is important to provide the body with raw materials for muscle growth following a workout, as the muscles begin their recovery period. Use these muscle building foods to get to your goals more easily. And while doing it – remember to have fun!


  1. http://www.ehealthme.com/quick_search/adrenal-insufficiency
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19346976
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2129105/
  4. http://jp.physoc.org/content/481/Pt_1/149.full.pdf
  5. http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/thy.2007.0256
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2917954
  7. http://www.livescience.com/17530-testosterone-treatment-increases-muscle-fuels-debate.html
  8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1997116/
  9. http://www.healthy.net/Health/Article/Effects_of_Choline_on_Athletic_Performance_and_Fatigue/1561
  10. http://www.lef.org/Protocols/Male-Reproductive/Male-Hormone-Restoration/Page-01
  11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7271365?%20%20ordinalpos=33&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubme%20%20d_RVDocSum
  12. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/84/2/419.full
  13. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6538617
  14. http://www.drfuhrman.com/

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