Is Cheese Good For Building Muscle?

Are you a cheese lover and a fitness enthusiast wondering if your favorite snack could also be your ally in muscle building?

The answer is yes. Cheese, packed with protein and essential nutrients, can indeed contribute to muscle growth, especially when consumed mindfully and in moderation.

But there's more to the story! Continue reading for a deeper dive into how exactly cheese helps in muscle building, its potential drawbacks, and how to incorporate it effectively into your diet.

Cheese as a Source of Protein

When we think about protein, images of steak, chicken, or even protein shakes might pop into our heads. But, hey, what about cheese?

That's right, the delightful addition to your pizza or pasta is also a significant protein powerhouse.

Let's dig into the world of cheese to explore how it serves as a fantastic source of protein and how different types of cheese stack up in terms of their protein content.

Different Types of Cheese and Their Protein Content

There's an entire universe of cheese types, each with unique flavors, textures, and yes, protein content.

Here's the protein content for some common types of cheese per 100 grams, according to the USDA FoodData Central:

  • Cheddar: 25g
  • Mozzarella: 22g
  • Blue cheese: 21g
  • Swiss cheese: 27g
  • Brie: 21g

While these values may vary slightly depending on the specific brand or product, these numbers give us a general idea of the protein content in common cheeses.

Highlighting Cheese Types with the Highest Protein: Cottage Cheese, Ricotta, and Parmesan

While all cheese offers some protein, a few types shine particularly brightly in this regard.

  • Cottage Cheese: This cheese isn't just a diet food staple for nothing! It's low in fat and calories, and high in protein. With 11g of protein per 100g, cottage cheese is a clear winner for anyone looking to add protein to their diet without extra calories.
  • Ricotta: Made from the whey leftover from making other cheeses, ricotta is a protein star with 11g per 100g. Plus, it's versatile! Use it in sweet and savory dishes alike.
  • Parmesan: This hard cheese is protein-rich, offering a whopping 38g per 100g. It's great grated over pasta, salads, and more. Remember, though, that Parmesan is also high in sodium and fat, so use it sparingly.

How Cheese Contributes to Muscle Building

Cheese isn't just a tasty snack or a pizza topping—it's a surprising ally in muscle building, too!

But how does this dairy product contribute to muscle growth?

Let's peel back the layers of this cheesy mystery, drawing on scientific research and our understanding of muscle protein synthesis.

Dive into the PubMed Study and Its Findings

A fascinating study published in PubMed looked specifically at cheese's impact on muscle protein synthesis.

The study involved healthy, young males who ingested cheese, and the findings were illuminating.

Both at rest and during recovery from exercise, cheese consumption increased muscle protein synthesis rates.

In simpler terms, eating cheese helped the body create more muscle protein, both when the participants were lounging around and recovering from a workout.

Breakdown of Muscle Protein Synthesis at Rest and During Recovery

Muscle protein synthesis is the process of building new proteins, which are the building blocks of muscle tissue.

At rest, your body is in a constant state of turnover, breaking down old or damaged proteins and creating new ones.

After a workout, this process ramps up—the body needs to repair the muscle fibers stressed during exercise and build new ones to strengthen and grow the muscles.

That's where protein-rich foods like cheese come in.

They supply the necessary amino acids—the building blocks of proteins—that your body needs to carry out muscle protein synthesis.

The Role of Cheese Intake After Exercise

Post-workout nutrition is a hot topic in fitness circles.

The goal is to replenish the nutrients lost during the exercise and provide the body with what it needs to repair and grow muscles.

As the PubMed study suggests, consuming cheese after a workout can boost muscle protein synthesis, making it a good post-exercise snack.

Why? When you exercise, you cause microscopic damage to your muscle fibers.

The body responds by ramping up muscle protein synthesis to repair the damage and build stronger muscles.

The protein from your post-workout cheese can provide the necessary raw materials for this process.

The Flip Side: Cheese's Fat and Calorie Content

While cheese certainly has its benefits for muscle building, there's a catch—its fat and calorie content.

Yes, like every superhero with its kryptonite, cheese too has its downside.

It's essential to consider this when incorporating cheese into your muscle-building diet.

Let's unravel the details behind the high fat and calorie content in cheese and how to navigate this in a balanced diet.

Explanation of the High Fat and Calorie Content in Cheese

Cheese, particularly full-fat varieties, is high in both fats and calories.

This is because cheese is a concentrated form of milk, and thus, the nutrients—including fat and calories—are in a much denser form than in the same volume of milk.

For example, 100 grams of cheddar cheese, a common choice, has around 400 calories and about 33 grams of fat, according to the USDA FoodData Central.

This high caloric and fat content is similar across many types of cheese, making cheese something to consume judiciously if you're monitoring your calorie intake or trying to limit fats.

Discussing the Need for Moderation in Cheese Consumption for Muscle Building

While cheese can contribute beneficial protein to a muscle-building diet, its high fat and calorie content requires a balancing act.

Consuming too much cheese might lead to excess calorie intake, which can lead to weight gain if it's not balanced out by your overall diet and activity levels.

If your goal is muscle building, it's not just about eating protein-rich foods but also about maintaining a diet that supports your training and overall health.

This means watching your total calorie intake and the balance of macronutrients—proteins, carbs, and fats.

Guidance on Choosing Low-Fat Cheese Options

If you're concerned about the high fat and calorie content of cheese but still want to enjoy its protein benefits, consider choosing low-fat cheese options.

These varieties, made from low-fat or fat-free milk, offer the same protein content with fewer calories and less fat.

For example, low-fat cottage cheese provides a good amount of protein with significantly fewer calories and less fat than regular cheese.

Skim mozzarella is another option that's lower in fat and calories than its full-fat counterpart.

Cheese in a Balanced Muscle-building Diet

So, you're armed with the knowledge that cheese is protein-rich and can aid in muscle building, but how does it fit into the bigger picture—a balanced, muscle-building diet?

Here, we're going to unpack the importance of dietary balance for muscle growth and overall health, and how to incorporate cheese wisely into your diet.

The Importance of a Balanced Diet for Muscle Building and Overall Health

When it comes to building muscle, a balanced diet is as crucial as your workout routine.

Why? Because your body needs a variety of nutrients to function properly and support muscle growth and recovery.

Protein is a key player, of course, but carbohydrates provide energy for your workouts, and fats are needed for hormone production and nutrient absorption, among other things.

Plus, a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can provide a wealth of vitamins and minerals necessary for countless biological processes, including those that support muscle health.

Think of your diet as a team—with each player contributing to the goal of muscle growth.

A balanced diet is also important for overall health. It can help you maintain a healthy weight, support your immune system, keep your heart healthy, and much more.

So, while cheese can be part of this balanced diet, it shouldn't be the whole picture.

How to Incorporate Cheese into a Muscle-building Diet Wisely

Cheese, with its protein content, can be a useful player in your muscle-building diet.

Here are some ways to incorporate it wisely:

  • Post-workout snack: As we've learned, cheese can help support muscle protein synthesis after a workout. Pair it with a carbohydrate source to replace the glycogen stores used during your workout. An example might be a slice of whole-grain bread with cottage cheese or apple slices with a piece of cheddar.
  • In moderation: Because of its high fat and calorie content, cheese should be enjoyed in moderation. Stick to reasonable portion sizes—usually a couple of ounces.
  • Choose lower-fat options: If you're concerned about the fat and calories in cheese, opt for lower-fat options like low-fat cottage cheese or skim mozzarella.
  • Balance it out: Make sure cheese is just one part of a diet rich in lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. This ensures you're getting a wide range of nutrients to support muscle building and overall health.


In the quest for muscle building, cheese emerges as a surprising ally, offering an abundance of protein to aid in muscle growth and repair.

However, it's not a magic bullet. Its high fat and calorie content call for mindful consumption, and it's best enjoyed as part of a balanced diet.

So, don't be shy about adding some cheese to your post-workout snack or dinner, but remember—moderation is key.

Enjoy the delicious world of cheese while staying on track with your fitness goals. It's all about balance, after all!