10 Best Muscle Building Meals At Big Chain Restaurants

Brad Borland
Written By: Brad Borland
July 23rd, 2015
Updated: June 13th, 2020
Categories: Articles Nutrition
259.8K Reads
10 Best Muscle Building Meals At Big Chain Restaurants
Road trips and lunch meetings don't have to derail your diet. These 10 muscle friendly meals from popular chain restaurants will keep you on track!

To support all of your efforts in the gym, you follow a set eating plan to a T.

But what about when you find yourself with no other choice but to eat on the road or stop off with friends to grab a bite?

Your options for eating out are no longer limited to diet-destroying foods. More restaurants are offering healthier fare with more protein and fiber and less fat than ever. But navigating the daunting and often tempting menus can be challenging.

Below are 10 healthy options from popular chain restaurants to get you going in the right direction. Read on to find the diamonds in the rough.

1. Chipotle

This Mexican grill has gained serious steam as of late. It’s Mexican food fast, but many see it as a step or two above Taco Bell. Although many think of it as health food, Chipotle still has some high-calorie, high-fat items that will bust your waistline much like traditionally unhealthy establishments. The trick is to choose side items wisely and nix any fattening additions.

10 Best Muscle Building Meals At Big Chain Restaurants - Chipotle

Top Pick: Burrito Bowl with chicken, brown rice, pinto beans, and fajita vegetables

  • Calories: 515
  • Protein: 42g
  • Carbs: 57g
  • Fat: 15g

2. Buffalo Wild Wings

Beer and wings may sound good for game day, but making it a regular habit can wreck your gym efforts. Luckily this restaurant has some better options – just avoid the calorie-laden sauces and side items.

10 Best Muscle Building Meals At Big Chain Restaurants - Buffalo Wild Wings

Top Pick: Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Side Salad

  • Calories: 680
  • Protein: 57g
  • Carbs: 64g
  • Fat: 22g

3. McDonald's

Ah yes, Mickey D’s. The granddaddy of the fast-food world. McDonald’s has surprisingly been on the forefront of offering healthier options, causing others to follow suit. With plenty of salad and grilled chicken options, it’s easy to choose something that won’t have you tipping the scale in the wrong direction.

10 Best Muscle Building Meals At Big Chain Restaurants - McDonald's

Top Pick: Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken and Fruit n’ Yogurt Parfait

  • Calories: 440
  • Protein: 31g
  • Carbs: 58g
  • Fat: 10g

4. Burger King

Burger King is another traditional “gain-killer,” but there are some surprising options there. Grilled chicken, fruit, and skim milk would do any body good. With ample supplies of protein and complex carbs, this meal is great in a pinch.

10 Best Muscle Building Meals At Big Chain Restaurants - Burger King

Top Pick: Premium Grilled Chicken Sandwich (without Mayo) with Apple Slices and Skim Milk

  • Calories: 515
  • Protein: 40g
  • Carbs: 49g
  • Fat: 24g

5. Chick-fil-A

As the go-to place for chicken (not beef!), Chick-fil-A has offered fit fare for a while now. If you opt for the grilled and green items, you can’t go wrong.

10 Best Muscle Building Meals At Big Chain Restaurants - Chick-fil-A

Top Pick: Grilled Nuggets - 12 count with Side Salad and Fruit Cup

  • Calories: 370
  • Protein: 40g
  • Carbs: 38g
  • Fat: 10g

6. Subway

Subway is famous for its healthy eating campaigns. With the ability to customize any sandwich, your options are virtually endless. Still, it can be easy to slip up and start piling on unwanted calories.

10 Best Muscle Building Meals At Big Chain Restaurants - Subway

Top Pick: 6-inch Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki with Apple Slices

  • Calories: 405
  • Protein: 26g
  • Carbs: 63g
  • Fat: 5g

7. Panera

It’s tough to find a low-calorie option in a place that specializes in bread. But if you read the whole menu, you’ll find a healthy breakfast that you can eat any time.

10 Best Muscle Building Meals At Big Chain Restaurants - Panera

Top Pick: Power Breakfast Egg Bowl with Steak and Half Classic Salad

  • Calories: 370
  • Protein: 30g
  • Carbs: 17g
  • Fat: 17g

8. Taco Bell

What on earth could be healthy from Taco Bell? Well, satisfying your late-night hunger pangs doesn’t have to be something that satisfies your fat stores as well. Go with high protein and fiber and you won’t feel the need to order more.

10 Best Muscle Building Meals At Big Chain Restaurants - Taco Bell

Top Pick: 2 Steak Soft Tacos with a Side of Black Beans

  • Calories: 460
  • Protein: 30g
  • Carbs: 48g
  • Fat: 14g


Everybody loves breakfast! Often considered a guilty pleasure, IHOP has many healthy items as well. If you order a la carte, you can get a simple egg and meat dish with wheat bread and fruit.

10 Best Muscle Building Meals At Big Chain Restaurants - IHOP

Top Pick: Simple and Fit Two-Egg Breakfast (Scrambled egg substitute, 2 strips of turkey bacon, whole wheat toast and fresh fruit)

  • Calories: 350
  • Protein: 25g
  • Carbs: 48g
  • Fat: 8g

10. Chili's

Chili’s has been known for its high-calorie food for some time, but with a little know-how, you can find a few muscle-friendly meals to suit your needs. You can’t go wrong with grilled fish and veggies.

10 Best Muscle Building Meals At Big Chain Restaurants - Chili's

Top Pick: Lighter Choice Grilled Salmon with Broccoli and Rice

  • Calories: 480
  • Protein: 49g
  • Carbs: 37g
  • Fat: 17g
Posted on: Mon, 03/18/2019 - 10:52

Pushing skim milk? What is this, the 90s?

Posted on: Thu, 07/30/2015 - 17:34

I like how you dont mention sugar in any of these. Which is the main thing you should be avoiding. Not to mention that the redicilous dirty carbs you're getting here.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Fri, 07/31/2015 - 09:34

There is no such thing as a "dirty" or "clean" food. I would recommend checking out the work of Alan Aragon as he's one of the top performance nutritionists in the field and has addressed these dirty/clean and sugar myths many times.

Posted on: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 13:54

That is absurd, clean foods are significantly more nutritionally dense and that's not even mentioning the micronutrient profile that is borderline non existent in dirty foods. That's not a myth, that's a fact.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 11/23/2015 - 16:28

No one is debating the fact that certain foods have higher ORAC values (i.e. nutritional density) and should compose a higher percentage of your nutritional intake.

However, the point of my post was that you shouldn't be demonizing certain foods, macronutrients, and/or ingredients. Sugar doesn't make you fat, neither do fat or carbs. Caloric is the most important concept to understand when it comes to weight gain or loss.

Labeling certain foods as "good/bad" or "clean/dirty" is a breeding ground for dichotomous thinking and a restrictive mindset.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Thu, 07/23/2015 - 14:02

What are your favorite healthy fast food options?

Posted on: Fri, 07/24/2015 - 11:27

I like getting a baked potato and chili at Wendy's. Yes, the chili does have a bit of sodium in it but you can't go wrong with the baked potatoes.

M&S Team Badge
Posted on: Mon, 07/27/2015 - 12:36

Hi Erik. Thanks! I have had that before. Good choice!

Posted on: Tue, 11/24/2015 - 09:40

I try to get healthy eats when I choose fast food, but typically end up letting my sweet-tooth make decisions for me. Thanks for this list of options so that it's easier to have a template to run off of when I need to hit one of these places for convenience :) BTW the Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki is probably one of my favorites - rock on!