Whole-grain diets result in greater increases in whole-body protein synthesis than refined grains. Whole grains may be more conducive to gaining muscle mass than refined grains.

Whole Foods Grains for Muscle Growth Article Overview

  • Whole foods grains vs refined grains for muscle growth (i.e., muscle hypertrophy) is a common question among lifters.
  • A 2013 study reported that a whole-grain–rich diet was the best food for gaining muscle f compared with a refined-grain diet.(2)
  • A whole grain diet is the best grains was better for muscle hypertrophy compared to a refined grains diet.
  • So, if you want the foods that are best for building muscle, you should consume complete protein and complex carbohydrates.


When attempting to diet for a show, it’s often recommended to consume adequate amounts of high-protein foods rich in essential amino acids to prevent muscle loss. When bodybuilders shop, it’s often convenient to pick up convenient processed foods to cook. Still, processed foods may not be the best lean muscle gainer.

Who doesn’t love a bowl of Captain Crunch cereal? There are healthier whey protein cereals that have more protein than traditional cereal. The best cereal for muscle gain should have adequate protein (i.e., 30-40 grams).

Consuming whole foods such as whole eggs (i.e., combined with egg whites), wheat bread, various types of pasta, various types of bread (i.e., grain bread and wheat flour bread), and black beans with adequate dietary fiber can have potent health benefits. Previously a study found that processed foods cause more fat gain than whole foods when subjects were fed identical calories.(1)

Is it better to eat white rice, cooked wild rice, or brown rice? Do the type of grains you consume influence muscle mass? What is the best muscle-building diet when choosing complex carbs?

Whole Foods Grains for Muscle Growth

There are many questions regarding different carbohydrate foods’ effects on muscle hypertrophy. Do whole foods vs. refined foods impact muscle growth? A 2013 study reported that a whole-grain–rich diet (150 grams) for two weeks reduced muscle tissue breakdown compared with a refined-grain diet.(2) Whole grains complex carbohydrates are composed of 3 primary components: the bran, germ, and the starchy endosperm.(3)

The higher fiber in whole grains is suspected to result in a better glycemic index and more stable blood sugar levels than processed foods. The bran and germ are rich sources of proteins, lipids, fiber, and phytochemicals. The bran and germ are removed from whole grains during conventional milling practices in processing refined-grain products, leaving only the starchy endosperm. Researchers wanted to re-examine the impact of whole grains on muscle protein synthesis and breakdown compared to a refined grain diet.


Participants were randomly allocated to either a whole-grain–enriched or refined-grain diet for 8 weeks, followed by a washout period of≥10 weeks before receiving the alternate diet. Diets were matched for macronutrient composition and were isocaloric for each participant. Diets were closely matched for macronutrient intake, differing primarily in the presence of whole grains at 50 g/1000 kcal in the whole-grain diet and 0 g/1000 kcal in the refined-grain diet.

The main grains included wheat (57%), rice (21%), and oats (16%). The refined grain diet was changed through diets, breakfast cereals, and cereal bars that differed in whole-grain or refined-grain content between each diet.

At the end of the study, overall whole-body net protein balance, a measure of protein synthesis, was higher after 8 weeks on the whole grain diet compared to the refined grains diet.


The whole-grain diet group also tended to build lean muscle mass better than the refined grains diet. The subjects consuming the whole-grain diet had whole-body protein synthesis and whole-body protein breakdown rates elevated by 10–20% in both the fasted-state and integrated over-fed-fasted cycles compared with the refined-grain diet. However, none of these differences reached statistical significance.

whole foods refined foods muscle mass muscle growth muscle hypertrophy

The resultant net protein balance showed a trend to be more negative in the fasted state. Still, it was significantly more positive when integrated over fed-fasted cycles when consuming the whole grain diet. Fat mass decreased in response to both diets equally. (4)

Not all foods are equal in building muscle. For example, extra virgin olive oil increases testosterone in men with insufficient levels.(5)

So, if you want to increase muscle hypertrophy, you should consume complete protein and complex carbohydrates. Make sure each meal is roughly 30-40 grams of protein. Also, choose whole grain products such as whole wheat, rice, and oats and use less refined grain products such as instant rice, white bread, and other highly processed grain products. Whole grains are great sources of vitamins and minerals.

Whole Foods Grains for Muscle Growth KEY POINTS:

· Whole-grain diets result in greater increases in whole-body protein synthesis than refined grains.

· Whole grains may be more conducive to gaining muscle mass than refined grains.


1.         Hall KD, Ayuketah A, Brychta R, Cai H, Cassimatis T, Chen KY, et al. Ultra-Processed Diets Cause Excess Calorie Intake and Weight Gain: An Inpatient Randomized Controlled Trial of Ad Libitum Food Intake. Cell Metab. 2019;30(1):226.

2.         Ross AB, Pere-Trépat E, Montoliu I, Martin F-PJ, Collino S, Moco S, et al. A whole-grain-rich diet reduces urinary excretion of markers of protein catabolism and gut microbiota metabolism in healthy men after one week. The Journal of nutrition. 2013;143(6):766-73.

3.         Stevenson L, Phillips F, O’Sullivan K, Walton J. Wheat bran: its composition and benefits to health, a European perspective. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2012;63(8):1001-13.

4.         Mey JT, Godin JP, Scelsi AR, Kullman EL, Malin SK, Yang S, et al. A Whole-Grain Diet Increases Whole-Body Protein Balance Compared with a Macronutrient-Matched Refined-Grain Diet. Curr Dev Nutr. 2021;5(11):nzab121.

5. Whittaker J, Wu K. Low-fat diets and testosterone in men: Systematic review and meta-analysis of intervention studies. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2021

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