You’re working hard to get ripped. You’ve been hitting the gym but if you don’t eat the right foods, you’ll slow down your progress. You need to choose meals and snacks that will feed your muscles and fuel your body. A well-balanced diet—that will do just that—includes whole grains, fruit, vegetables, lean protein, and low fat dairy. Muscles also love branch chain amino acids (BCAA) which can be found in foods like lean meats, poultry, low fat dairy, and peanut butter.

Here are some of the worst.


One store-bought bagel has about 400 calories, all of refined carbohydrates. Add cream cheese and you’re not really getting anything more than saturated fat. Neither the bagel or the cream cheese will do much to help build muscles.
Instead: Choose 1 slice of whole grain bread topped with natural peanut butter.


Pretzels don’t provide many muscle-building nutrients—just plain old carbs with next to no muscle-building protein or filling fiber.
Instead: If you must have pretzels, choose whole grain and dip them in peanut or almond butter for protein and a boost of healthy fat.


Regular consumption of alcohol can put more stress on your body, increasing antioxidant demands. The antioxidants that are normally used to help muscle recovery are instead used to help metabolize the alcohol.
Instead: Minimize consumption of alcohol. If you choose to drink, have no more than two servings of alcohol in one day. One serving of alcohol is 12-fluid ounces of beer, 5-fluid ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-prood liquor (like rum or vodka).


This processed meat is brimming with calories, sodium, and saturated fat. Plus it contains nitrites, a preservative that helps prevent bacterial grown and maintain appetizing red colors in meat. Nitrites can lead to the formation of chemicals called nitrosamines, which have been linked to cancer.
Instead: Choose lean cuts of meat whenever possible and if you’re craving sausage, choose nitrite-free varieties.


Forgo these beloved pastries that are made from refined flour, fried, and contain no healthful ingredients for your growing muscles.
Instead: Feed your sweet tooth with protein-packed nonfat plain Greek yogurt topped with fresh fruit and a drizzle of honey.

Ice Cream

One serving (1/2 cup) of ice cream contains 137 calories, 7 grams of total fat, 4 grams of saturated fat, and 2 grams of protein. The amount of saturated fat in one serving is 22-percent of the daily recommended max for the day. Most people eat 2 or 3 cups of ice cream in one sitting, making their saturated fat go well beyond the recommended daily amount, which won’t help you get lean or build muscles.
Instead: Choose nonfat Greek yogurt bars that have BCAA’s to help build muscles.

Cured Ham

Besides being smoked or cured, these hams are usually paired with sodium-rich sauces which can make sodium levels skyrocket. Too much sodium can get you bloated, hiding that gorgeous chiseled looks you’ve been working so hard to achieve.
Instead: Forgo the cured ham and choose a lean cut of pork instead (like pork loin).

Processed Cheese

All cheese contains sodium and fat, but cheese also contains many important nutrients for muscle growth. However, processed cheese contains slightly less protein per ounce compared with unprocessed cheese. Further, processed cheese has a laundry list of ingredient that you just don’t need to be putting into your well kept body.
Instead: Choose 1 ounce of unprocessed cheese like Cheddar, brie, or Parmesan.


This starchy tuber is a healthy addition to your muscle-building eating plan but once processed, they lose much of their nutrients including the antioxidant vitamin C.
Instead: Opt for baked fries or baked whole potatoes.

Artificial Sweeteners

With no nutritional value whatsoever, these sweeteners are several hundred times sweeter than sugar making your taste buds used to sweeter foods. They contribute nothing to muscle gain and should be avoided.
Instead: Opt for small amounts of natural sweeteners when necessary such as 100% maple syrup, agave, or honey.

High Sugar Breakfast Cereals

Some cereals may appear healthy but they can contain much more sugar than you realize. If you find sugar in the top 3 ingredients (or suspect it’s another name for sugar) or 5 grams of more of sugar, then skip it.
Instead: Choose cereals with at least 3 grams of fiber per serving and ideally less than 5 grams of sugar per serving. You can even find some cereals with a nice amount of protein to help build muscles.