Editor & Fact Checker
You probably already know that both physical activity and nutrition play a crucial role in building muscle fast. You should already be exercising regularly – and challenging your body through the type of exercise you choose.
That said, if your body isn't getting the nutrients that are necessary for building muscle mass, your efforts could not be as fruitful as you expect. Knowing what to eat for gaining mass is essential.
The rule of thumb is – if you're trying to gain muscle, you should be exercising regularly and consuming more than your normal calorie intake each day. This means a strategic calorie intake – as well as increasing your consumption of muscle-building foods.
So what are the foods that help you gain mass fast? Let’s find out.
Foods That Will Help You Gain Muscle Mass
When you're trying to build lean muscle, one of the most important things is to make sure you're getting enough protein. Your body is a highly advanced machine that breaks down its tissues and replaces them with new ones from the combination of the foods you consume.
When you're breaking a sweat at the gym, the protein in your muscles breaks down and builds up much faster than it normally would.
So, the key to building muscle is getting more protein than you currently do. That’s why combining a diet that’s rich in protein and high in calories with an effective strength-training program is a proven way to bulk up.
1. Whole Milk
Milk is an excellent source of protein, carbs, and fats – and it contains both fast and slow-digesting proteins. Several studies have shown milk to be beneficial in increasing muscle mass (when combined with weight training). 
2. Cottage cheese
Cottage cheese packs plenty of protein, as well an essential muscle-building amino acid, called leucine. Additionally, it contains vitamin B12, calcium, and many other vital nutrients. 
The high-fat versions of cottage cheese will provide more calories – so which type you buy will depend on the number of extra calories you want to add to your diet.
Salmon is one of the healthiest foods because of its high Omega-3 fatty acid content, as well as other important B-group vitamins it contains.
On top of that, salmon is high in protein – making it an ideal food for those looking to gain muscle mass. If you can, try and go for wild salmon – that's always more nutritious than farmed.
Not a fan of salmon? Try tilapia – it also packs plenty of protein and is a great food to be having when trying to gain muscle. 
4. Chicken breast
If you asked several gym enthusiasts what they think a staple muscle-building food is, they’d all probably say it is skinless chicken breast.
Chicken is very high in protein, as well as other vitamins such as B6 and niacin – and it makes a perfect high-quality protein food for weight maintenance. 
5. Greek yogurt
Just like cottage cheese, Greek yogurt contains high-quality protein – as well as a mix of fast-digesting whey protein, and slow-digesting casein protein. According to this study carried out by Baylor University in Texas, the U.S., people who consume a combination of these fast and slow-digesting dairy proteins, experience an increase in lean muscle mass. 
But beware – not all yogurts were created equal! Greek yogurt packs a lot more protein than regular yogurt (almost double the protein) – so choose that as a post-workout snack instead of regular yogurt. 
6. Nuts and nut butters
Several types of nuts (especially peanuts and almonds) are excellent bulking food since they're high in protein, (good) fat and carbs. Peanuts also contain more of the amino acid leucine (which our bodies need when we're trying to bulk up) than many other plant-based products – so they make the perfect bulking up snack. 
Almonds also contain impressive amounts of protein – as well as various other nutrients (like vitamin E, magnesium, and phosphorus). Getting enough phosphorus will ensure you have enough energy at the gym because it helps your body use the carbs and fats during exercise. 
Eggs are another staple of a high-protein bulking up diet – because they’re high in protein and healthy calories. Having a couple of eggs for breakfast is a healthy (and delicious) way to boost your calorie intake. Add other essential nutrients like vitamin B and choline to the mix, and you have yourself an attractive option if you're trying to bulk up.
Eggs are also high in amino acid leucine – which we've mentioned as necessary for healthy muscle gain. 
Who doesn’t love some sliced avocado on toast with a drizzle of olive oil? Well, lucky for you, avocado is one of the foods you should be having more of if you’re trying to gain mass. It’s high in calories, healthy fats – and contains a decent amount of protein. It’ll help you bulk up – and load up your body with many essential nutrients (like vitamin K, vitamin E, and folate). 
9. Lean beef
Beef is a great food choice for those aiming to gain mass – because it’s packed with high-quality protein, minerals, B vitamins, and creatine – a substance found in muscle cells, which helps produce energy during high-intensity exercise or heavy lifting. Some research suggests that adding lean red meat to your diet may increase the amount of lean mass gained – so go on, and stock up your plate with steak fajitas! 
Shrimp is also very high in protein – as well as healthy fats and carbs. Add it to your diet to boost your mass gain – and help you bulk up fast. Shrimp also contain leucine – which is needed for optimal muscle growth. 
11. Turkey breast
Turkey is almost pure protein – because it has very little fat or carbs. It’s also a fantastic source of niacin (vitamin B), which our bodies need to process fats and carbs. Optimizing your vitamin B levels could be the key to gaining muscle – because it supports your ability to hit the gym. 
Beans are an excellent source of fiber and B-group vitamins, as well as rich in various other nutrients like magnesium, iron, and phosphorus. But the best news is that beans are high in protein – and can help you bulk up the healthy way. So, hurry and add this excellent plant-based food to your diet! 
13. Olive oil
Olive oil is pure fat – meaning it’s high in calories and can be a great addition to a bulking diet. Add to salads, use for cooking and drizzle on your breakfast avocado on toast along with some chili flakes – olive oil is super versatile! Not only will it help you hit your daily calorie targets, but it will also feed your body with healthy fats and antioxidants. You should always aim to get virgin or extra-virgin olive oil; based on the way it is processed – it's the healthier option. 
Oats aren't just one of the healthiest grains on the planet – they're also incredibly useful for those who are looking to gain mass. 
Oats are an excellent source of complex carbohydrates and can make putting on mass easier. They also contain a decent amount of protein – and have a ton of health benefits, from being rich in antioxidants, to reducing cholesterol levels. 
15. Sweet potato
Sweet potatoes are a fantastic source of carbs – but they also contain a decent amount of protein. These starchy root veggies are rich in minerals, vitamins, fiber, and antioxidants – and have been linked to so many health benefits (like promoting gut health and supporting healthy vision). Additionally, if you’re trying to bulk up and are avoiding refined sugar, sweet potatoes can be an awesome way to satisfy a sweet tooth. You could even incorporate them in various recipes (sweet potato brownies, anyone?). 
16. Dark chocolate
Another way to satisfy a sweet tooth when you're bulking up the healthy way is by treating yourself to some dark chocolate (the darker, the better!). It’s incredibly nutritious, has a ton of health-boosting properties, and goes very well with mashed banana and peanut butter (now that’s an ultimate bulking treat!). 
You probably already know that tuna is good for you. It’s high in vitamin A and B-group vitamins (niacin, B12, and B6). Tuna is also rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which may help support the health of your muscles. 
18. Brown rice
One of the best side dishes to have your lean beef or salmon with is brown rice. High in carbs (which are needed to power your physical activity), brown rice is an excellent food to be having a few hours before you hit the gym. You’ll have more energy to push your body harder – and that may lead to more muscle mass. 
Buckwheat has become a popular health food – and with 8 grams of protein per 60-gram cup, it is a great seed to be having when you are trying to bulk up the healthy way. It’s highly nutritious with high amounts of vitamin B, magnesium, phosphorus and manganese, too. 
Whether you’re vegetarian and are looking for a replacement of meat to help you bulk up, or simply want more high-quality protein options, tofu is an excellent nutrient-dense food to add to your diet. It contains plenty of protein and is also an excellent source of calcium (which is important for proper muscle function). 
21. Peanut butter
In all seriousness, you probably wouldn’t find a bodybuilder who doesn’t have a jar of peanut butter in their cupboard. It’s not only a filling snack that’ll keep you full between meals – but it is also packed with protein, and various health-boosting nutrients (such as copper, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, and zinc). It's great for heart health – and excellent for bulking. 
Edamame – or immature soybeans, in other words – are packed in protein and contain high amounts of vitamin K, folate, and manganese. Folate is very beneficial for anyone who is looking to bulk up – because it helps your body process amino acids.
23. Gainer shakes
Last but not least, if you’re looking to pack on muscle fast, high-calorie protein shakes give you a helping hand. They should replace real food, but they're a very easy way of supplementing additionally calories and protein into your diet; as before, protein is key in gaining mass – because it helps repair tissue, build muscle, and make enzymes and hormones.
Clean Bulking vs. Dirty Bulking?
When people who know they’re hard gainers want to gain mass fast – many are inclined to go for the “dirty bulk.”
“Dirty bulking” refers to a casual mass-building approach which is essentially overfeeding. There are no calorie restrictions – meaning you eat things like pizza, burgers, and fried chicken. There are no limits, no real nutritional guidelines – only tons of junk food.
But this way of bulking isn’t the healthiest – as you can probably tell. And it isn’t the only way people who struggle to put on weight can achieve their fitness goals (although it’s a pretty good way to head down the path to diabetes and other health problems).
“Clean bulking,” which refers to eating well, but consuming a high number of calories – is a good alternative. If you’ve decided to put on mass the “clean way,” you will need to eat more than usual if you’re aiming to gain mass fast – even when you’re not hungry. But it’s not about stuffing down greasy pizzas and deep-fried prawns. You’ll need to stick to healthy food choices, such as the ones we’re going to list below.
Your best bet is eating every few hours – which may be hard at first, but your body will get used to it soon enough. You’ll start feeling hungrier because your body will be “expecting” to be fed more often – and that’s when you’re on your way to bulking up.
If your goal is to put on muscle fast – you will want to make sure your daily calorie intake increases, as well as your consumption of quality-protein.
Protein helps you build muscle – but that doesn't mean that it'll happen magically. You'll need to exercise more, too – and balance your diet with foods high in complex carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables. Finding that perfect balance between healthy, muscle-friendly nutrition, and quality time at the gym is the key to achieving your bulking goals.