5 Easy Recipes That Help Build Lean Muscle

When it comes to keeping your muscles nice and lean, depriving yourself of food is not the answer to killing the bulge. Rather than limit your daily calorie intake, focus on consuming the right kind of foods to help you stay slim and build lean muscle. Men’s Health advises sticking to whole foods, including protein-rich options, fibrous veggies, starchy foods, fat-rich foods (nut, seeds, oils, avocados), low-fat dairy products, and fruits. In regards to protein, it’s important to make sure you’re getting an adequate amount of branch chain amino acids (BCAAs). You can get these in the form of a supplement, or by choosing the right meal options. Try some of these foolproof recipes from Men’s Fitness, to boost your BCAAs and begin to build that lean muscles.

1. Balsamic Chicken Salad

Chicken Salad

Chicken salad | iStock.com

What could be a better protein-packed dish than some tasty chicken salad? While most chicken salad recipes include lots of unhealthy mayo, this one uses greek yogurt for a lightened-up version. Not only is Greek yogurt a great way to make this salad healthier, but it also gives your body an extra dose of non-fat dairy — another promoter of lean muscle. Plus the addition of nuts and fruit makes this chicken salad a lean, mean, muscle-building powerhouse.


  • 3 cups finely chopped cooked skinless chicken
  • ½ cup toasted chopped nuts
  • ½ cup chopped apple
  • ¼ cup dried cranberries
  • 2 tablespoons nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • ¾ to 1 cup lite balsamic vinaigrette
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions: In a large bowl, toss together chicken, nuts, apple, and cranberries. Stir in Greek yogurt. Drizzle with vinaigrette and toss until combined. Add salt and pepper to taste. Chill, covered, 15 minutes or until ready to serve.

2. Asparagus and White Beans with Cilantro Pesto


Asparagus | iStock.com

To get a nice dose of BCAAs, legumes (peas, beans, and lentils) are a great way to go. This dish is bursting with different flavors and textures, but it’s still super easy to make. If you want to save yourself some work, you can always go for pre-made pesto.


For the pesto

  • 1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • Dash sea salt and pepper

For the beans and vegetables

  • 2 cups canned white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 pound asparagus, chopped
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil

Directions: To prepare the pesto, place ingredients in blender or food processor and blend until well combined. To prepare beans and vegetables, melt coconut oil in sauté pan. Add chopped asparagus and sauté until softened. Then add beans and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Then add cherry tomatoes and cook for a few minutes more. Add pesto and stir well. Cook everything together for a few minutes and serve.

3. Smoked Salmon Sandwich Spread

fish pate, salmon, cheese spread, bread

Salmon spread | iStock.com

Salmon is a great choice when you’re working toward a fit physique because it contains tons of BCAAs. Plus, it’s filled with omega-3s that have anti-inflammatory powers, which is great news for your slim bod. And just like the chicken salad recipe, this salmon spread gets its creamy texture from Greek yogurt, making it an ideal way to meet your protein needs in one meal.


  • 1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 ounces organic or wild smoked salmon (no added nitrites), finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill weed or 1 tablespoon fresh dill weed
  • ½ cup fresh tomatoes, chopped (optional, for garnish)

Directions: In a medium bowl, combine ingredients and divide evenly. Serve over multi-grain toast. Garnish with optional chopped tomatoes and serve.

4. Peanut Butter Granola Bites

Granola Protein Ball, Energy Bites

Granola bites | iStock.com

For an extra boost of energy before a workout, these no-cook granola balls are the perfect choice. The combination of whole grains (for energy), chia seeds (for anti-inflammatory powers), and peanut butter (major BCAAs), make these compact bites the perfect snack for promoting lean muscle. And at only 100 calories a piece, they’re a great way to sneak in some extra nutrition any time of the day.


  • ⅓ cup natural creamy peanut butter
  • 1 cup instant oats
  • ⅓ cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds

Directions: Mix all ingredients until combined well; refrigerate mixture about 30 minutes. Form about 1 tablespoon of mixture into small balls. Roll between finger tips to make ball shape. Store leftovers in refrigerator.

5. Peaches and Cream Smoothie

Milk tea Smoothie, drink

Smoothies | iStock.com

To get another dose of lean-muscle-building nutrition for breakfast or after a workout, whip up one of these delicious smoothies. The combo of fruit, fat-free dairy, and some extra protein makes this simple smoothie a fantastic choice. For an added nutritional bonus, you could even toss some chia seeds into the blender!


  • 2 cups peaches
  • ¼ cup fat-free Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup orange juice
  • 2 scoops vanilla whey or egg-white protein powder

Directions: Place all ingredients in blender in order listed. Blend on high until smooth. Serve.

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