Ultimate Diet Guide: Foods for Weight Loss and Muscle Gain

Ultimate Diet Guide: Foods for Weight Loss and Muscle Gain
December 30, 2023
Viking Beast

So… you decided it’s time to lose some (or perhaps a lot depending on your situation) weight.

Assuming you’re not skinny already, that’s awesome!

Since you’re here I guess the next step for you is to learn about the best foods to lose weight and gain muscle, for a diet that works.

Well, you’ve come to the right place!

There are many “top 20 weight loss foods” articles on the web, but in my opinion, these leave you without an actual plan to tackle your goals.

Therefore, I’m going to take a different approach. I won’t be going into the individual science of certain foods, but instead, give you a complete list of what it is you can do and eat to finally crush your weight loss goals.

Eating fewer calories

Let me start with the most fundamental rule of weight loss.

No matter which of the best foods to lose weight and gain muscle you’re going to eat from the complete list below, they won’t magically make you lose weight.

If your body needs 2000 calories a day to have enough energy to do everything you’re doing, and you eat more than that, it doesn’t matter which food you eat. You will gain weight.

I’ve seen this mistake so many times. People follow a diet they don’t like, and/or go to the gym 3-6 times a week and do their absolute best, but after months or years of hard work, they still haven’t achieved their weight loss goals.

To have sustainable weight loss, you need to eat fewer calories than your body needs, this is also known as a caloric deficit.

Don’t make the mistake of underestimating how many calories you eat in a day.

You can find an estimate of how many calories your body needs to stay at the same weight by using an online calorie calculator. Simply search for a calorie calculator in Google.

Just subtract 300-1000 calories from this number and see if you’re losing weight.

If you aren’t losing weight, then reduce the number of calories again by 300.

If you’re losing weight too fast add some calories back into your diet.

Note: Don’t drop your calories by more than 1000 a day. On average 500 calories/day will mean 1lb or 450 grams of fat loss a week.

What the best foods to lose weight and gain muscle have in common

You’ve probably heard about a lot of diets that you can do to lose weight, e.g. keto diet, low carbs, Mediterranean diet, low fats, etc.

Perhaps you’ve tried some of them. But none of them will magically make you lose weight.

One thing these diets have in common is that they all deem protein essential enough to not do a low-protein diet.

Most of the “top 20 weight loss foods” lists will therefore give you an overview of foods containing protein, which is great, but it’s not all you need to make a diet work.

To lose weight most effectively you need a combination of weight loss foods that have protein, carbohydrates, and fats.

Allow me to explain why.

Why foods high in protein will help you lose weight and gain muscle

A healthy chicken recipe

Your body uses energy to break down and use the nutrients of the foods you eat. This is called the thermic effect of food.

For protein, this lies a lot higher (15-30%), than for carbohydrates and fats (5-15%).

This means that for every 100 calories of proteins you eat, your body uses 15-30 calories.

Also, eating more high-protein foods will reduce your hunger levels and cravings, by lowering the hunger hormone ghrelin.

Protein is also of crucial importance to sustain the amount of muscle you have. It’s a common misconception that it’s only important for bodybuilders.

Protein is indeed important for everybody. Especially if you’re combining your dietary efforts with working out in the gym.

The amino acids in protein will help your muscles to repair and make sure (most of) your weight loss comes from fat.

The goal is to lose fat, not just weight. This is what’s going to make your body look amazing.

The best weight loss foods high in protein are essential for a diet that works.

Why foods high in carbohydrates will help you lose weight and gain muscle

Delicious pancakes with fruit and coconut flakes

The first thing a lot of people do when they want to lose weight is ditch carbohydrates altogether.

This is more often than not done, because of the misinformation going around about carbohydrates.

The problem is not carbohydrates in general, it’s simply eating too much of them that makes you gain weight.

They are essential for your body to function properly and can perfectly fit into a healthy weight loss diet.

They provide the energy your body needs to complete its daily tasks. Besides, without this energy source “glycogen” your body will be more likely to use muscle tissue instead, which we want to avoid.

The best carbohydrates are complex (slowly-released energy) such as oats, whole grains, etc. which also contain a lot of fiber.

Vegetables and fruits are also great, because they’re full of vitamins and minerals, and due to the volume they will help to keep you full for longer.

The main thing we’re looking for here is high volume, but low-calorie foods.

These are perfect for weight loss foods because you can eat a lot of food for a low amount of calories. This is very important in creating a diet that works.

Oh, and pancakes.

Why would you ever banish pancakes from your diet? – Viking Beast

Why foods high in fats will help you lose weight and gain muscle

Painted eggs in emoji style

You shouldn’t eat fats, because they make you fat, right? Well, yes and no.

Fats contain 9 calories per gram, compared to 4 calories per gram for protein and fats. However, fats are very important for your health and for your body to function properly.

Your hormones, such as testosterone, can’t be at optimal levels without having enough “good” fats in your diet.

They boost your good cholesterol “HDL”, which in turn boosts growth hormone and helps you build/retain muscle.

The fats in your food are also a source of essential fatty acids, and these are simply not produced by your body.

They’re necessary though to help your body absorb Vitamins such as A, D, and E. They’re also essential to keep your cells functioning properly.

While you don’t need to eat all the fat that crosses your path, a minimum amount of healthy fats each day is essential for your weight loss journey.

That's why I'll also show you the best weight loss foods high in fats because they're crucial for a successful diet.

Well, that’s all great, but now just tell me which foods I can eat.

Best protein sources to lose weight and gain muscle

Best Animal-based foods to lose weight and gain muscle

  • Eggs (BEST of all)
  • Chicken, turkey
  • Salmon, tuna, kinds of seafood (fish, lobsters, etc.)
  • Greek yogurt, Cottage cheese
  • Milk
  • Beef jerky
  • Whey protein powder, isolate protein powder
  • Lean beef, lean pork
  • Bison
  • Certain cheeses.

Note: Eggs and lean meats are best when trying to lose weight and gain muscle, because they won’t have much excess fat added to them, e.g. chicken, seafood, beef, etc. Greek yogurt has slow-released proteins (casein protein), which is ideal at night.

Best plant-based foods to lose weight and gain muscle

  • Edamame
  • Quinoa
  • Chickpeas
  • Tofu
  • Pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds
  • Peanuts, walnuts, almonds, etc.
  • Lentils
  • Beans, black beans, kidney beans, lima beans, etc.
  • Soy protein powder, soy milk, vegan protein powder
  • High protein vegetables (broccoli, spinach, etc.)
  • Tempeh
  • Corn

Best carb sources to lose weight and gain muscle

Best for (complex carbs) health

  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Popcorn
  • Roasted chickpeas
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Oats, Quinoa
  • Whole wheat bread, whole grain cereals, and whole wheat pasta.

Note: we’re arming for complex/healthier carb sources, that will provide your body with energy for longer and help to keep you full.

You can eat other carb sources too. You won’t immediately get fat. It’s about sticking to your diet most of the time over a long period that will get you the results you want.

Best fat sources to lose weight and gain muscle

  • Fatty fishes (omega 3-6)
  • Eggs
  • Seeds (chia, pumping, etc.)
  • Nuts (peanuts, walnuts, almonds, etc.)
  • Nut butter (peanut butter, almond, etc.)
  • Healthy oils (olive oil, extra virgin olive oil, coconut oil, etc.)
  • Cacao (80%+ chocolate or powder).

Note: fats are very important for your body, but keep in mind they’re 9 calories a gram. Calories can add up pretty quickly and sabotage your weight loss efforts even with healthy food choices.

How much to eat from each to lose weight and gain muscle

How much of these weight loss foods can you eat, so you’ll achieve your weight loss goals?

I’ll give you a simple guideline to follow to accomplish your goals simply and practically.

You want to keep your protein intake at around 1.8-2.2 grams per kg or 1 gram per lb. of bodyweight.

For your fat intake, it’s very important to keep it at or above 20% of your total calories for the day. Your body needs fats to function properly.

For the remainder of the calories, you can freely choose to divide it between carbohydrates and fats as you wish.

An example

A female, around 60kg or 130bs, needs 1600 calories a day to lose weight.

130 grams of proteins (130 grams * 4 calories/gram) = 520 calories or 130 grams of protein.

30% fat intake of daily calories (1600 calories * 30%) = 480 calories.

Fat is 9 calories/gram (480 calories / 9 calories/gram) = 53 grams of fats.

The remaining calories from carbohydrates (1600 calories – 520 calories - 480 calories) = 600 calories of carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are 4 calories/gram (600 calories / 4 calories/gram) = 150 grams of carbohydrates.

Final words

We’ve reached the end of this article, but your weight loss journey has only just begun.

I sincerely hope I’ve been able to provide you with more, than just acomplete list of foods to lose weight and gain muscle.

Now you can start creating a diet that works, with the foods you love.

A short recap of the article: you should eat fewer calories to lose weight, why all three macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat) are important, the best foods to eat for each, and how to divide your calories between them.

There will be obstacles on the path to your weight loss goal, but with enough dedication and discipline, I’m sure you’ll crush it. I wish you the best of luck.

What’s your favorite approach to fat loss?