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The best bulking foods (Including a grocery list)

Make the bulking diet work for you with these shopping lists (Template inside)
By Dean Phillips
Evidence Based

It can be difficult to know what to have as part of a bulking diet.

Which foods are the best?

How do you know you’re getting enough of them to reach your goals?

How do you buy enough of everything without having to go to the store every day to top up on vegetables?

These are all important questions when it comes to bulking successfully.

We've covered how to bulk on a budget before, but in this article we're going to look at the other side of that, give you the best foods to buy for bulking and give you some shopping lists (plus tips on how to build your own, including a free template).

How many calories and what macros do you need?

Depending on your goal, your calories and macros will change. Not only that, but the kinds of foods you’ll want to have during the bulk will change.

If you’re trying to gain mass as fast as possible and aren’t bothered if it’s purely muscle growth, then you might look at doing a dirty bulk. If you’re trying to avoid fat gain then the clean bulk might be a better idea.

In this article, we’ll be covering a standard bulk’s shopping list.

And no matter your goal, for a healthy eating plan, you need protein, carbs and fats.

So without further ado, let’s get into the best ones for bulking up.

The best bulking foods youshould have on your shopping list

I’m going to break down the best foods to have on a bulking diet.

And don’t worry, I’ve categorised them by macros.

Protein sources

Chicken - The most obvious source of lean protein. It’s full of essential amino acids, and includes minerals such as niacin, selenium and B6 which can help with energy levels, and helping the immune system

Turkey - Even leaner than chicken, turkey is an often forgotten about protein source. However it has a lot of health benefits due to its mineral and vitamin content (folic acid, B vitamins, zinc and potassium)

Beef - This is the one with the biggest bang. When farmed correctly (grass-fed) it can be a powerhouse for helping muscle growth. Due to its iron, magnesium, zinc, leucine and saturated fat it could potentially boost testosterone and be a highly anabolic food source

Salmon - Atlantic salmon is rich in both unsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, yet also a great source of protein. Pacific salmon has less fat content. You’ll want to go for wild atlantic salmon. Unlike other fish, you can also eat it frequently without the risk of mercury poisoning

Oysters - I’m not a fan of Oysters, so you won’t find me having these. They are however great for boosting testosterone as they’re full of zinc. I wouldn’t recommend eating this often, but they make a great appetiser when you’re out having a meal

Tuna - I ate far too much of this at uni (with brine and out of a can 😷). It’s a great source of convenient protein, you’ll want to focus on limiting your intake to a few times a week though

Eggs - A breakfast staple for most. Quick to cook, can be cooked in many ways, easy mobile when boiled and fully jacked with muscle building nutrients. To get the most out of them you’ll want to have the whole egg. A whole egg is full of antioxidants, B-vitamins, vitamin A, folate, choline, lutein, calcium, iron, phosphorus, zinc, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamins A, D, E and K. If you’re trying to have a higher protein meal, and have already maxed out your fat intake for the day, then you can have egg whites, but just know they’ll be missing any of the important nutrients you’ll want 

Jerky - Although not incredibly healthy when found at a gas station, there are some brands that do this well. On the odd occasion when you’re in a pinch for something protein rich, these can be a fine thing to have. I just wouldn’t recommend it as your main protein source

Tofu -  For the plant-eaters amongst us, this is a great protein source that includes all nine essential amino acids, making it great for repairing and growing muscle. It also has a host of vitamins and minerals such as iron, calcium, manganese and phosphorus, zinc and vitamin B1. You’ll want to opt for flavoured versions or find some recipes that drown it in sauce, as it’s a very bland food

Tempeh - Another soy-based food for the plant eaters. High in protein and similar in nutrients to tofu but with a different texture (similar to cooked chicken in my opinion) 

Cottage cheese - This is a slow digesting protein, that’s formed of high casein protein content (the cheese curds are made up of casein). A lot of people have it before bed 1 due to the fact that casein protein tends to drip protein out over a slower period vs. other types of protein

Greek Yogurt - Unlike natural yogurt, this is packed with protein and low in sugar. It makes a great snack to have and is easy to get from most places. It can be filling, so if you’re trying to build muscle and are finding yourself too full, often, then I wouldn’t recommend it. You’ll want to make sure you don’t mistake it for greek style yogurt, which has the same texture but not the same nutritional content

Carb sources

Rice - Easy to consume, high in carbs and simple to make. Rice is probably one of the best carb sources out there. You can choose between wild rice, long-grain, flavoured rice, and wholegrain. The choice is really yours. Sure, there is a nutrient difference but overthinking rice isn’t worth the fuss vs. picking what you enjoy the most 

Pasta - Not healthy for you, but not bad for you neither. It can be a great filling food source, easy to make and cheap to buy in bulk. Plus, like rice, it has many varieties

Fruits - The benefits of fruits is a whole article by itself. There’s a tonne of tasty, nutrient-dense fruits to choose from. Bananas, apples, grapefruits, berries, figs, kiwi, oranges are some of the fruits you can choose from for a carb source

Quinoa - Usually said to be one of the healthiest carbs you can get. It’s packed full of nutrients and is a complete protein source. It’s also high in fibre and antioxidants. It’s a unique texture and quite nutty, but works well as a rice substitute

Oats - Slow digesting and full of dietary fibre. Oats are the best thing to have for slow released energy and early in the morning. Pair it with almond milk for a healthier breakfast or if you’re on a dirtier bulk, with dairy milk

Raw (aka “unpasteurised”) Honey - Honey is used as an alternative to sugar. Although it’s got many health benefits such as being anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and antifungal. It’s still a simple carb though, so I wouldn’t recommend it too much if you want to have consistent energy throughout the day

Legumes - These are full of fibre, and slow to digest. These include beans, lentils and chickpeas - ideally you don’t want them from a can and should aim to get them fresh or dried

Yogurt - This is a carb, protein and fat, depending on the type you choose. I’d recommend getting the full-fat version, to maximise calories and getting the most health benefits. Yogurt can be a great probiotic which can aid in digestion

Milk - If you’re not lactose intolerant then milk packs a punch with muscle-building nutrients, calories and it’s easy to get. It can be used for times when you can’t get in a meal or as extra calories on top of your other meals (which is preferable when trying to get in calories)

Fat sources

Saturated Fat

Contrary to popular belief, saturated fats aren’t all bad for you. They’ve not been shown to cause major health issues with healthy individuals (study), they increase strength and muscle generation (study, study) and can even regulate cholesterol levels (study):

  • Butter
  • Coconut oil (the best oil for high temperature cooking)
  • Milk
  • Cheese

Monounsaturated 

These are what health magazines and dieticians refer to as health fats. They are good for your heart, lower your blood pressure and help improve the health of your skin (study, study, study, study, study).

  • Olive oil (the king 👑 of monounsaturated fats)
  • Avocados
  • Almond butter
  • Peanut butter

Polyunsaturated fats

The healthiest of all the fats, with incredible health benefits.  They improve our health markers, skin, hair and even our composition. 

  • Fish-oil
  • Flax-seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Salmon, salmon, mackerel, tuna

For more on fats during a bulking diet. We’ve written about them in great detail here.

Creating a bulking diet shopping list

Now that we’ve got some great food sources to choose from in each category. We’ll need to look at putting them together.

Now below is a really simple example. Of course, you’ll likely want to make these up out of recipes, but the example foods and their food groups are something you want to think about.

Let’s take a look.

Meal #

Macro

Meal Idea

Meal Breakdown

Meal 1

P.C.F

Peanut Butter Protein Oats

P= Whey C= Oats F= Peanut Butter

Meal 2

P.C.F

Quick Avocado Tuna Sandwich

Quick Avocado Tuna Sandwich

Meal 3 

P.C.F

Lemon Herb Chicken + Noodles

P= Chicken C= Noodles F= Olive Oil

Meal 4

P.F

Cottage Raspberries

P+F = Cottage Cheese + raspberries

The portions sizes would be dependent on who you are, but a general good rule of thumb is:

  • 2 palms of protein foods
  • 3 cupped handfuls of carb dense foods at each meal;
  • 1 thumb of fat dense foods at each meal.
  • 2 fists of vegetables

THE LAB SUMMARY

No matter the plan you follow or your budget, in order to build muscle you’ll need to get in enough calories and protein. For best results, a high-carb diet is going to help with reaching your goals faster.

3 example bulking shopping lists

Now let’s do a breakdown of some shopping lists:

Each shopping list scales in cost, with a wider range of food and foods that typically cost more.

Why haven’t I included prices?

Prices vary between stores and locations dramatically. If you’re hitting 3000 calories vs. 4000 calories, your price and ranges of these foods would differ from one another.

$ - Bulking Shopping List

Vegetables

Broccoli

Green Beans

Fruits and Fruit Juice 

Bananas

Frozen fruits

Dairy Products

Cottage cheese

Whey protein powder

Whole-fat milk

Butter

Natural yogurt

Protein

Boneless chicken thighs

20% beef mince

Eggs

Carbs

Maris Piper Potatoes 

Rice

Honey

Pasta

Flapjack

Oats

Fats

Peanut Butter

Olive oil

Butter

$$ - Bulking Shopping List

Vegetables

Broccoli

Green Beans

Fruits and Fruit Juice 

Banana

Frozen fruits

Lemon juice

Dairy Products

Cottage cheese

Whey protein powder

Reduced fat milk

Butter

Greek yogurt

Protein

Chicken breast

20% beef mince

Eggs

Egg whites

Tuna

Carbs

Maris Piper Potatoes 

Rice

Honey

Pasta

Sourdough bread

Oats

Fats

Almond butter

Mixed nuts

Light mayonnaise

Olive oil

Avocado

$$$ - Bulking Shopping List

Vegetables

Tomatoes

Cucumber

Carrots

Lettuce

Garlic

Broccoli

Green Beans

Fruits and Fruit Juice 

Banana

Strawberries

Pineapple

Oranges

Apples

Lemon juice

Raspberries

Dairy Products

Cottage cheese

Parmesan cheese

Goat cheese

Cheddar cheese

Reduced fat milk

Butter

Cream cheese

Greek Yogurt

Whey protein powder

Protein

Chicken breast

Tuna

Lean mince

Egg

Egg whites

Salmon

Lean Diced Lamb

5% lean pork mince

Carbs

Whole-wheat bread

Sourdough bread

Macaroni

Whole Wheat Spaghetti Pasta

Light Vanilla ice cream

Honey

Rice

Maris Piper Potatoes

Oats

Fats

Almond butter

Almonds

Light mayonnaise

Olive oil

Avocado

Coconut Oil

Why no amounts?

That really changes depending on your weight and how much you need to eat to reach your goals. 

For more on this, check out our bulking guide.

THE LAB SUMMARY

Use these shopping lists as a guideline and plan your meal plan using a tool like MyFitnessPal to determine how much you need to be buying.

This only needs to be done once and you can then repeat it weekly (swapping some ingredients and recipes).

Final Thoughts

So there you have it.

That’s a selection of foods to have in a bulking diet, how they would be part of a daily plan and some example shopping lists. 

Focus on getting in your calories and protein when building your shopping list and you’ll stand a good chance of gaining muscle.

Planning will help you to stay consistent and also save you time and effort. It’s a win/win for busy skinny guys.

  1. Although a lot of people have claimed it gives you nightmares, don’t worry, it’s not proven.

Evidence Based

This article is based on scientific evidence, written by experts and fact checked by experts.

Our team strive to be objective, unbiased, honest and to present both sides of the argument.

This article contains scientific references. These are usually shown through (sources, study) which are clickable links to peer-reviewed scientific papers.