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7 High Protein Meals for Muscle Gain Nutritionists Recommend

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June 24, 2023
Greek Yogurt Banana Split
Courtesy of Health Down South

It’s no secret that exercise plays a vital role in the pursuit of building a strong, lean physique. However, that’s only one piece of the puzzle. Adequate nutrition plays a critical role in achieving optimal muscle gain and protein is particularly important as an essential macronutrient for muscle growth and repair—and these high protein meals for muscle gain can help.

According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition, for most exercising individuals, building and maintaining muscle mass requires an overall daily protein intake in the range of 1.4 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight or about 0.6 to 0.9 grams per pound. Ideally that involves spreading out protein intake every 3 to 4 hours throughout the day, making sure to consume a dose of 20 to 40 grams to refuel shortly after a workout.

From breakfast to dinner and all the snacks and mini-meals in between, these high-protein meals for muscle gain offer something for everyone including vegans, flexitarians, and carnivores.

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1. Chocolate Covered Strawberry Overnight Oats

Chocolate Covered Strawberry Overnight Oats

Courtesy of Nutrition Starring YOU

Overnight oats are the easiest way to get your protein on the go during busy mornings. This delicious combo packs 23 grams of protein from leucine-rich whey powder, Greek yogurt, chia seeds, and old-fashioned oats. Use the same proportion of ingredients and switch up flavors of protein powder and fruit to create endless combinations.

Try the recipe at Nutrition Starring YOU.

2. Wild Blueberry Peanutty Protein Smoothie

Wild Blueberry Peanutty Protein Smoothie

Courtesy of Nutrition Starring YOU

This Wild Blueberry Peanutty Protein Smoothie packs 24 grams of plant-based protein with a whopping 13 grams of fiber. That’s about half of the recommended daily intake in breakfast alone! The secret ingredient is tofu which adds complete plant protein and a creamy texture. This gorgeous and satisfying smoothie is a high-protein meal for muscle gain that’s also vegan, gluten-free, and made with no added sugar.

Try the recipe at Nutrition Starring YOU.

3. Greek Yogurt Banana Split

Greek Yogurt Banana Split

Courtesy of Health Down South

Jessie Hulsey RD, LD, an Atlanta-based registered dietitian and creator of Health Down South shares “this Greek yogurt banana split is a fantastic choice for those looking to gain muscle mass due to the 27 grams of protein mainly from the combination of Greek yogurt and protein powder. The addition of chia seeds provides a boost of omega-3 fatty acids for muscle recovery, while berries and peanut butter offer additional nutrients and healthy fats to support muscle growth and overall fitness goals.”

Try the recipe at Health Down South.

4. No Bake, Four Ingredient Protein Bars

No Bake, Four Ingredient Protein Bars

Courtesy of One Pot Wellness

Wan Na Chun, MPH, RD, CPT of OnePotWellness.com says “these protein bars are great for supporting muscle gain because they use whey protein, which is a complete protein with all the essential amino acids. Along with fast-digesting carbohydrates in dates, this snack promotes muscle recovery and growth after exercise and makes them an effective post-workout snack with 13 grams of protein.”

Try the recipe at One Pot Wellness.

5. Mediterranean Salmon Salad with Artichokes, White Beans & Lemon Dressing

Mediterranean Salmon Salad with Artichokes, White Beans & Lemon Dressing

Courtesy of Nutrition Starring YOU

Meal prep is key for busy people looking for high-protein meals for muscle gain. Your pantry does most of the work for this Mediterranean Salmon Salad providing 30 grams of protein per one-cup serving from the salmon as well as plant-based protein from the canned beans. A bonus is the hearty healthy EPA/DHA omega-3 fats from the fatty fish. It’s a super versatile recipe with many serving options. For a lower-carb meal, scoop over a veggie salad, roll some up in butter lettuce leaves, or serve in half an avocado for a gorgeous lunch presentation to impress guests. Add some salmon salad to a high-fiber pita or tortilla for a quick and portable high-protein meal for muscle gain.

Try the recipe at Nutrition Starring YOU.

6. Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

buffalo chicken meatballs on a plate

Courtesy of Sarah Pflugradt Nutrition

“Chicken is a rich source of leucine, a branched-chain amino acid that can help start the process of building new muscle”, says registered dietitian Sarah Pflugradt. Buffalo Chicken Meatballs are a healthier way to take care of buffalo chicken cravings with the bonus of 29 grams of protein per serving. Pfulgradt suggests pairing this recipe with a roasted sweet potato and a green salad for a complete meal.

Try the recipe at Sarah Pflugradt Nutrition.

7. Air Fryer New York Strip Steaks

Air Fryer New York Strip Steaks

Courtesy of Laura Clevenger

According to Lara Clevenger MSH, RDN, CPT owner of Omni Nutrition LLC,  “a New York strip steak is a good option for those wanting to gain muscle because it’s a great source of high-quality protein and provides all of the necessary nutrients to promote muscle protein synthesis.” Add roasted veggies and a baked potato or whole grain to balance your plate with some extra protein and fiber.

Try the recipe at Lara Clevenger.

Read next: The 3 Best Workout Recovery Tips From a Sports Nutrition Consultant

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