Building muscle is no easy feat. It requires patience, consistency, and an adequate understanding of nutrition and training.

One of the main principles of building muscle is being in a positive energy balance for an extended period. This means that you must take in more calories than you burn.

Building a pound of muscle requires a lot of energy, so it’s often recommended to increase your calories by about 10-15% above your maintenance, though this can be slightly different for everyone.

While this may be quite easy for beginners, it does prove more difficult for more experienced lifters and those who have more muscle mass than average.

This is where weight-gaining hacks come in handy! There are plenty of effective and healthy nutrition strategies that anyone can implement into their daily routine to help add on the extra calories. No need for weight-gaining shakes or unnecessary over-consumption of fast food.

This article looks at some of the best calorie-dense foods that contain key nutrients for optimal muscle building. Let’s get into it!

Top 5 Foods for Muscle Building

1) Almond butter

Nuts and nut butter are top of the list, as they are the perfect choice for anyone looking to pack on the pounds. Just one small handful of almonds can contain around 170kcal, 6g of protein, and a healthy 15g of fat.

Since nuts are so calorie dense, you don’t need much of them throughout the day to boost your calories.

More specifically, almond butter tends to be a popular choice among bodybuilders. Almonds contain the highest about of calcium of any nut, and they also pack quite the punch of magnesium and vitamin E, nutrients that are essential for optimal muscle growth.

2) Whole milk

Milk has been used for decades as a muscle builder and weight-gaining aid. Milk provides an excellent balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fats, and is a great source of calcium and other key vitamins and minerals.

Milk provides both whey and casein protein, which can lead to greater muscle gain than other protein sources.

Similar things can be said for many dairy-rich foods, such as yogurt and cheese.

3) Red meat

Red meat is one of the most effective muscle-building foods available. Many red meat products contain an ample amount of leucine, the key amino acid needed to stimulate muscle growth.

4) Potatoes and starches

Potatoes and starches are a very easy and cost-effective way of increasing calorie intake. Some sources include quinoa, oats, potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter root vegetables, and beans and legumes.

5) Oily fish

Much like red meat, oily fish such as salmon provide an excellent source of protein and fat. While the healthy fats found in oily fish are vital for good health, the calorie count is also one factor to consider when wanting to bulk up!

Nutritional Strategies and Recipe Ideas for Muscle Gain

Now that you know the top 5 healthy, calorie-dense foods, it’s time to put this knowledge into practice!

While each food is versatile enough to simply add to main meals and incorporate into snacks, one of the greatest muscle-building hacks is making homemade high-protein weight-gaining shakes.

Here is an example recipe for a calorie-boosting shake!

What you need:

  • 2 cups of whole milk
  • 2 tbsp almond butter
  • 1 large banana
  • 2 scoops of whey protein powder


Simply blend all ingredients in a bullet or blender.

This simple homemade shake can pack a big punch of calories, protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates, and is a much better alternative to store-bought weight-gainers!