Most people think that for a food to be a great muscle-builder, it has to contain meat. These people couldn’t be more wrong. True, beef and chicken and salmon are great for bulking up. But as Tom Brady knows, there are lots of meat-free nutritional options that still help you pack on lean muscle mass. Add these six to your diet today. And feel free to forward this list to that puny vegan friend of yours.

1. Water

Water: not just for cute stock photo girls anymore…

Much like the earth, you body is made up of around 70 percent water. So if you want to stay hydrated, fight fatigue and rock that “full muscle” look, you’ve got to drink lots of water—before, during and after your workouts. (Good rule of thumb: drink half of your body weight in ounces of water per day.) And make it cold water. It’ll stay in your digestive system for a shorter amount of time so you can hydrate the rest of your body faster.

2. Milk

Q: Is this the most idyllic milk photo we could find? A: Yes!

Those commercials were right: milk does a body good. And when it comes to building muscle, whole milk is your best choice. That’s because scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston found that drinking whole milk after lifting weights boosted muscle-protein synthesis, an indicator of muscle growth, 2.8 times more than drinking skim milk. So hit the weights, then reach for whole milk. Or even chocolate milk. It’ll get the job done.

3. Eggs

Not for the faint of heart—or, you know, strict vegetarians.

When Rocky woke up at the crack of dawn and pounded raw eggs, he was on the right track. Eggs are inexpensive, each one contains about eight grams of protein (essential for building muscle), and the choline in the yolk helps with memory, muscle control and overall health. I like to start my day with an egg white omelet, and sometimes I’ll get an egg boost later in the day as well. Bottom line: eggs are among the best muscle foods on the planet.

4. Oatmeal

“You know, that actually looks pretty good.” —health-food-eschewing photo editor

Oatmeal is an awesome muscle builder. I like to take it first thing in the morning because it’s a complex carbohydrate, so it helps sustain my energy throughout the day. (Shameless plug: I also like to add it to my JCore Body-Lite shakes after my workouts.) In addition to its muscle-building benefits, oatmeal has also been shown to lower cholesterol, and it may even reduce the risk of heart disease when combined with a low-fat diet. Tip: for best results, go with steel-cut oats.

5. Yogurt

“Damn, so does that.”

Yogurt is an excellent source of protein. One cup of plain yogurt contains about 14 grams. (It also contains bacteria that provide gastrointestinal relief, in case you’ve been having stomach problems… or you want to avoid them.) You can eat yogurt by itself or mix it into a post-workout shake. One thing, though: stay away from the fruit-on-the-bottom yogurts. They’ve got too much sugar. Instead, go with a low-fat one. My favorite is Olympic yogurt.

6. Broccoli

“And so does that! In its own way…”

Broccoli is a pretty amazing food. It’s low-calorie. It helps with fat loss. It has as much calcium as a glass of milk (and calcium helps build muscles). Plus, it’s a good source of iron and a great source of fiber, potassium and electrolytes. I usually eat it first thing in the morning, along with my egg white omelet. It’s got a lot of upside and really no downside. I even like the taste. (Individual opinions may vary.)


Jay Cardiello is Made Man’s fitness and nutrition expert. As a top certified strength and conditioning coach, personal trainer and sports nutritionist, Cardiello has worked with Hollywood A-Listers, Fortune 500 CEOs and NFL stars. His accelerated body transformation program, JCore, is available here, and his new book, Cardio Core 4×4, is available here. Got a question for Jay? Leave a note in the comment section, and he’ll do his best to address it in a future column.