21 Worst Foods for Building Muscle (with Alternatives)

When you’re trying to build muscle, you obviously want to consume a calorie surplus diet.

But if you quickly fill up your calorie intake by eating junk, salt, or sugary foods, you’ll most likely end up ruining your muscle-building goal and health.

So in this article, I’m going to share with you twenty-one foods to avoid when building muscle with their alternatives so you can easily replace them with healthier options for lean muscle gain. 

21 Foods to Avoid When Building Muscle

21 Foods to Avoid When Building Muscle (With Alternatives)

Here’re the 21 worst muscle-building foods with their healthy alternatives.

1. Bagels

A 100 grams of bagels give you around 250 calories, which has no nutritional value. Adding cream cheese with it, you’ll make it an unhealthier version, and definitely, it can’t much help in your muscle-building goal.

Instead: Choose two slices of whole-grain bread topped with natural peanut butter and add a banana, which can be an excellent pre-workout snack

2. Doughnuts

21 Foods to Avoid When Building Muscle: Doughnuts

When we’re trying to gain lean muscle mass, we don’t want to eat food like doughnuts that are high in fat and low in protein. It adds up too many calories for too little protein or other essential nutrients.

Instead: Feed your sugar craving with nonfat Greek yogurt topped with fresh fruit and honey, filling your daily protein intake for muscle growth.

3. Alcohol

Consuming alcohol on a daily basis can be harmful and put more stress on your body. It increases our body’s antioxidant demands, which is an important ingredient for muscle recovery.

So, regular consumption of alcohol can prevent you build muscle.

Instead: Try to minimize alcohol consumption. But if you choose to drink, have no more than 1-2 servings of alcohol per day and gradually reduce its quantity.

Related: How to Know if Your Muscles are Growing (Not Fat)?

4. Soda

Soda is not good whether you’re trying to build muscle or health in general because it contains lots of sugar. Consuming too much soda may lead to unhealthy weight gain and diabetes.

And, of course, there’s no help in muscle growth.

Instead: Try to minimize soda consumption and replace it with some healthy yet delicious options such as Arnold palmer lite, ice or hot tea, freshly-squeezed lemonade, kombucha, maple water, and fruit and herb infusions.

5. Ice Cream

Ice cream is a high sugar food, which makes up most of its unhealthy carbohydrate content. Consuming too much sugar may contribute to health problems such as weight gain, cavities and delay your muscle growth.

Instead: I know it’s hard to avoid ice cream that why first, I’d recommend you to minimize its consumption. And instead of eating ice cream, you can switch to healthier options like chocolate-dipped frozen bananas, yogurt parfait popsicles, strawberry banana ice cream sandwiches, fruit or yogurt cones, etc.

6. White Flour

White flour has no muscle-building nutrients profile.

When you eat white flour processed foods, it all turns to glue in the intestines, and it congests the system, slows down digestion, creates a sluggish metabolism, and can often lead to weight gain, stress, and headaches.  

Instead: Minimize its consumption and try to have it on occasionally only. Instead of white flour, you can use chickpeas flour, rice flour, and almond flour to make your recipes.

Related: 10 Delicious Muscle Building Breakfast Ideas

7. Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners don’t have an impressive nutrition profile, and they’ll cause you fat gain due to their high calories. Sweeteners may also cause many health problems, including cancer, and the calories it provides can’t help muscle building.

Instead: Replace artificial sweeteners with healthier options like coconut sugar, honey, monk fruit extracts, date paste, maple syrup, and stevia extracts.

8. Potato Chips

Potato chips are high in calories, and most of them are saturated fat, leading to unhealthy weight gain.

And also, burnt chips contain a chemical known as acrylamide that could increase one’s cancer risk. Because of its nutritionless profile, there’s no use in a healthy lifestyle. 

Instead: Make as much distance as you can from the potato chips. You can have some healthier options like cinnamon carrots chips with honey yogurt dip, tomato chips, pineapple chips, baked taro chips, and brussels sprouts chips.

9. Pretzels

Pretzels don’t provide much impressive amount of nutrients to build muscle mass. They’re high in carbs with less protein and fiber.

Instead: If you don’t want to avoid pretzels, choose its healthier version — whole grain and have it with almond or peanut butter which are great muscle-building foods.

10. White Bread

White bread is made of maida or refined flour, which doesn’t offer any nutritional benefits and has negligible fiber content, making it unhealthful.

Consuming too much white bread can contribute to obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

Instead: Replace your white bread with some healthy options like whole-grain bread, corn tortillas, Ezekiel Bread, ray bread, sweet potatoes and vegetables, cauliflower bread, and butternut squash.

11. Pizza

Typically pizza is a salty yet tasty option. Still, it’s loaded with saturated fat, increases your salt, and starchy carbohydrate consumption could cause you to retain water, which could produce weight gain instead.  

Pizza is not only delicious but can also be a healthy meal choice when you prepare it in a healthy way. Eliminate the high calorie, fat, sodium, and other unhealthy ingredients and make it healthy and muscle-building friendly.

Instead: Get inspiration from this video to make pizza healthily. 

12. Packaged Juice

We think packaged fruit juices are healthy, but sadly that’s not the exact truth.

Packaged juices are low in fiber, added artificial sugar, and high in fructose, which increases insulin resistance. And these juices are unhealthy compared to freshly squeezed juice or fresh whole fruits.

Instead: Instead of drinking packaged juice, your focus should be eating whole fresh fruits or freshly squeezed juice.

Related: 10 Best Bodybuilding Fruits That Boosts Your Gains

13. Sugar

Sugar is high in empty calories, which may create many health diseases, including higher blood pressure, inflammation, weight gain, diabetes, and fatty liver disease, all linked to an increased risk for heart attack and stroke.

Instead: Replace sugar with some delicious yet healthy natural sweets like honey, coconut sugar, monk fruit extracts, date paste, maple syrup, and stevia extracts, making different recipes to gain muscles. 

14. Butter

Butter is generally made with cream (milk fat) and sometimes salt, which contains both saturated fat and cholesterol, ingredients that raise blood cholesterol and the risk of heart diseases.

Instead: You can replace butter with healthier alternatives for making cakes, muffins, cookies, brownies, and bread. Your healthy alternatives could be applesauce, avocados, mashed bananas, greek yogurt, nut butter, and pumpkin puree. 

15. Salty Foods

Excess consumption of salty foods or sodium can increase blood pressure because it holds excess fluid in the body, which also may feel heavy. Too much sodium intake will increase your risk of stroke, heart failure, stomach cancer, and kidney disease.

Instead: Instead of taking salty snacks, replace them with some healthy yet feeling foods like unsalted nuts and seeds, edamame, hummus, popcorn, sprouts, and roasted chickpeas — an excellent muscle-building snack.

Related: 13 Common Muscle Building Mistakes to Avoid!

16. Processed Cheese

You may think processed cheese is good and healthful as this is fortified with a selection of vitamins, but this isolated form can’t digest and absorb properly by your body. This processed food contains sodium and sugar, which may cause many diseases.

Instead: One of the great substitutes for processed cheese is tahini spread which you can use in salads, sandwiches, dips, and more. It’s made with just sesame seeds, making it a great plant-based ingredient for your cooking. 

17. Store Bought Muffins

Eating store-bought muffins over time can be harmful to our bodies. It’s filled with processed sugar and saturated fat, which we don’t want when gaining lean muscle mass. As muffins contain sugar and fat, they will cause many health issues.

Instead: Muffins can be healthy to eat. You need to switch to the right ingredient and make it healthy. Check out the healthy muffins recipes here.

18. Flavored Yogurt

Flavored yogurt may seem healthy, but it is often packed with a high amount of sugar in a bit of serving (e.g., a 6-ounce serving can contain nearly 30 grams of sugar), leading to bad weight gain.

Instead: Stick with plain Greek yogurt or low-fat options. You can add berries or a small spoonful of honey to get the flavor in plain varieties.

19. Sports Drinks

Sports drinks are basically a rich source of energy, but they lack nutrients, increasing the chance of gaining fat.

Instead: Unless you’re doing high-intensity cardio for an extended period of time (e.g., marathon training), sticking with plain water can be sufficient for most gym-goers.

Related: 13 BEST Things to Do After a Workout

20. Fried Foods

Typically fried foods are made in unstable or unhealthy oils, which leads to several negative health effects.

Fried foods are high in fat, calories, and salt causes serious health problems like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. And you should completely avoid them if you want to gain lean muscle mass.

Instead: It would be best to completely avoid fried foods as they can affect your muscle-building goal and overall health. Stop eating fried foods in the following ways:

  • Focus on eating healthy foods.
  • Eat healthy fats and proteins.
  • Have coloring fruits and veggies.
  • Remind yourself about the severe impact of fried foods.

21. Too Much Protein Shake

Too much consumption of a good thing can end up results bad.

Overdosing protein shakes will force your body to convert those proteins into fat instead of muscle.

Instead: If you’re a beginner, start by taking one scoop of protein powder in the post-workout while an advanced athlete may need to increase their dose slightly.

Related: The 5 Best Muscle Building Supplements

Final Word

Minimizing unhealthy foods or replacing them with healthier options can be great ways to build muscle and lead a healthy life.

I hope now you’re clear about what foods to avoid (and eat) when building muscle.

If you’ve any questions regarding muscle building, drop them in the comment section below. I will definitely help you out.

Read Next: 16 Foods You Should Never Eat Before (and After) a Workout

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