Superfoods for Muscle Strength

The basic process to getting stronger is:

-Gradually overload your muscles through training to create an adaptation response

-Allow enough time for those muscles to recover and become stronger before training them again.

-Adequately fuel that training and recovery with nutritious foods! (the focus of this post)


Strength is specific to the muscles and movements that you train, and generally improves in one of two ways initially through better neural drive (communication between your brain and muscles) and ultimately through greater muscle size. Adequate fueling is essential to building strength, since chronic calorie restriction usually stagnates muscle growth and may even cause muscle loss.

Check out the following five foods that can lend a hand to your strength-building efforts, and the nutrients they contain that allow them to be considered super strength foods:

Greek Yogurt

  • Protein (the building block of muscle)
  • Calcium (improves bone health, and since muscles attach to bones, your muscles benefit)
  • Probiotics (good gut health leads to better nutrient absorption and less risk of getting sick while training)
  • Vitamin B12 (helps maintain nerve and muscle cells, involved in red blood cell production)


  • Protein
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (anti-inflammatory, beneficial for recovery between training sessions if you recover faster, you can train more)
  • Calcium
  • Vitamin D (bone health)
  • Vitamin B12 (helps maintain nerve and muscle cells)
  • Iron (exercise capacity and red blood cell production)
  • Selenium (antioxidant, aids in recovery)

While you’re in good hands with any dark leafy green or dark green vegetable, spinach is rich in a large range of nutrients involved with recovery and muscle growth including:

  • Plant-based protein (about 50% of calories)
  • Fiber (good for gut health)
  • Vitamin A (antioxidant, immunity and recovery)
  • Vitamin C (antioxidant, immunity and recovery)
  • Folate (involved in protein metabolism)
  • Iron
  • Magnesium (involved in protein synthesis, as well as nerve and muscle function)

Grass Fed Beef

  • Protein
  • Iron
  • Zinc (involved in protein synthesis and immunity)
  • Selenium
  • Grass-fed beef also tends to have higher rates of omega-3 fatty acids

Quinoa has one of the highest protein contents among grains, and is also a good source of:

  • Folate
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc
  • Iron

All nutrient values from:

Jason Machowsky is a sports dietitian, certified strength and conditioning specialist, and certified personal trainer at the Tisch Performance Center. He has an undergraduate degree from Cornell University and a masters degree from Columbia University, and has authored a book on nutrition and wellness.

Topics: Featured, Nutrition
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  1. Hi Jason, just wondering if you can give me some info on what light cardio I should begin,
    I fractured my pelvis in February of this year, it was a stress fracture, not due to fall, to be exact
    it was the pubis bone that was fractured, im 100% now but still feel a little something, depending on what position I sit in, my job is very physical, and i just went back to work last week, i need to build up my stamina because of being so inactive for so long, the stationary bike will put to much of a strian on my pelvis, thinking about the treadmill, what do you think?
    Thank so much for the great article!

    1. Hi Denise- Glad to hear you are feeling better. I am assuming you have been cleared by physical therapy to resume your normal daily activities including exercise. If not, I would recommend having an evaluation done. Without knowing your history, my general advice would be, start slowly and continue if everything feels ok. If it hurts, don’t do it. -Jason Machowsky

  2. Hi Jason, There are great athletes who are vegans. Usually they follow the medical advice of medical doctors who subscribe to a plant based whole food, non processed, no oil, no refined food diet such as Michael Greger, Neal Bernard, Cauldwell Essselystein, Dean Ornish, Robert Ostfeld, John Mcdougal, Joel Fuhrman, etcl

    However, if done wrong one can have substantial muscle and bone loss. Besides a heathy exercise program, dark green leafy vegetables such as cllards, kale and bok choy, beans and legumes, grains such as quinoa, nuts, and seeds, how does one make sure one has adequate muscle and calcium on a vegan diet to prevent muscle and bone loss?

    1. Hi Ken- I would say your general description is a great place to start as foods like dark leafy greens, legumes and grains provide a lot of those important nutrients. I would like to note that a vegan diet does not necessarily have to be low in fat, though some people may recommend it (i.e. avocado, olive oil, etc.). General recommendations for calcium are 1000-1200 mg per day for adults and anywhere from 0.8 g/kg to 1.8 g/kg of protein for a healthy adult depending on your activity level, sport, age, etc. In general healthy vegans would benefit from having at least 1 g/kg of protein, as absorption is not as ideal compared to animal-based products. -Jason Machowsky

  3. Thank you for this article – so useful to me as I am still recovering from severe proximal humerus fracture (with blunt force trauma to chest wall) in 2014 & now recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery with IT band problems/frozen hamstring(s) + “screw home” disorder. Difficult to work all muscle groups for overall fitness so good nutrition is top priority now. Need all the help I can get.

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