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What Are The Best Types of Protein for Building Muscle?

What Are The Best Types of Protein for Building Muscle?

The best types of protein for building muscle are those that are both digested and absorbed well by the body and that provide an abundance of essential amino acids, and of leucine in particular.

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This last point is important essential amino acids are the key building blocks of muscle, and leucine is the one that directly stimulates muscle growth. This is why studies show that the leucine content of a meal directly affects the amount of protein synthesis that occurs as a result. In other words, high-leucine meals have a higher muscle-building potential than low-leucine meals.

So, the foods that best meet these criteria are lean meats (beef, pork, chicken, and turkey), dairy, fish, eggs, soy, tempeh, tofu, rice, quinoa, almonds, and beans, and more or less in that order.

As you can guess, that’s a lot of animal products, but you can build plenty of muscle as a vegetarian or even vegan if you make good protein choices. Many people think that plant proteins are “incomplete” and thus incapable of building muscle, but research shows otherwise. Plant proteins are not incomplete, but some aren’t digested and absorbed very well, and some are too low in essential amino acids, and in leucine in particular, to make them viable options for muscle building.

For example, 275 calories of broccoli–which is about 18 cups, I might add–will provide you with just 1 gram of leucine, whereas the same amount of calories of steak will provide you with about 2.5 grams.

We also know that plant proteins generally aren’t absorbed as well as animal proteins, but again, if you’re smart in your meal planning, you can do just fine with little or no meat or animal products.

As far as protein supplements go, your best bets are egg, whey, casein, pea, and rice, and my personal favorite for general muscle-building purposes is whey isolate, because it’s almost pure protein, it’s digested and absorbed incredibly well, and it’s rich in essential amino acids and leucine in particular.

That’s why I created a 100% whey isolate protein that’s naturally sweetened and flavored, and sourced from small dairy farms in Ireland that produce exceptionally high-quality milk.

It’s called WHEY+, and you can learn more about it here.

What’s your take on the best protein for building muscle? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

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  • Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

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  • Rene

    Have you ever experimented with or looked into Beef isolate protein as an alternative protein supplement? If so, where would if fit in your list?

  • SP

    Hey Mike, I’m a big fan of yours. Thanks for not just creating BLS but also introducing your readers to work from Rippetoe and Starett – I’ve learnt a ton in the last couple months and I’m really enjoying my workouts in a safe and sustainable way while still making strength gains. Beginning week 9 of BLS now – (Male, 39y, 165lb, 18% BF) – and I’m starting my cut now.

    I had a question about your protein intake recommendations. I’ve read a couple of articles from Menno Henselmans (who’s on your science panel) where he cites a number of studies that showed that protein intake that goes beyond 1.8g/kg/day is redundant. That will put my need at 135g/day vs. if I go by your calculator, that number is closer to 180g (1.1g/lb/day during cutting).

    Now, being a vegetarian _and_ trying to follow your advice to get more than 50% of protein from natural foods, it is (obviously) far easier for me to get to 135g than it is to get to 180g. I’ve been hitting the 120-130g/day range since I started and I continue to see linear strength/mass gains but understand that it could be the newbie effect too. I’d prefer to stay in the 135g range but wanted to know if this is something you’ve encountered and have seen studies that prove otherwise.

    • Hey there! I’m glad you’re enjoying my books and making good gains with BLS! Keep ti up 🙂

      When you cut, I like to play it safe and recommend sticking with 1 to 1.2 grams per lb. Check this out:


      0.8g/lb might be adequate, but higher intakes don’t hurt, and there are studies showing additional benefits, like improved satiety. I hope this helps!

  • OneWingedAngel

    Hi Mike! I’m most of the way through reading BLS and I love it, thank you very much. I’d been struggling with building confidence to do compound exercises such as squats and deadlifts for a long time, but the book set out how to do them step-by-step and with correct form so nicely. I find the recommended workout routines excellent as well.

    Just one thing. I bought BLS on my Kindle, and it said in one of the last chapters (I didn’t read BLS entirely chronologically but skipped to the areas I struggled the most with) to ‘click the link to read the free bonus report!’ I believe the Bonus Report was Beyond BLS: Year One Challenge? I never got to find out because unfortunately, my Kindle would always crash when I clicked on the link…

    Was the Bonus Report available for Kindle purchasers? If so, anyway I could access it please? (After proving receipt of purchase to you, of course.)

    Thanks in advance 🙂

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