Muscular strength derives from several factors, including genetics, physical activity and diet. While particular foods cannot create muscle, they can provide the necessary "ingredients." According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), muscle-building requires that a person consume 1.4 to 1.8 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight daily as part of a balanced diet, inclusive of complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. Muscle growth also requires an additional 200 calories daily.
Dairy products provide valuable amounts of nutrients, including calcium--a mineral crucial for positive bone health--and protein. According to the ADA, approximately 15 to 20-percent of daily calories should stem from protein in order to increase muscle mass. Eight ounces of low-fat milk provides 8 grams of protein; one cup of low-fat yogurt provides 12.8 grams of protein; and 1/2 cup of low-fat cottage cheese provides 14 grams of protein. Low-fat dairy products are preferred, as whole milk, high-fat cheeses and heavy cream contain saturated fats--unhealthy fats associated with heart disease. People who are lactose intolerant or do not consume animal products can reap similar benefits from soy renditions of dairy products.
Meat and Poultry
Meat and poultry provide rich amounts of nutrients, including B-vitamins, iron and protein. The ADA recommends lean meats and poultry varieties, such as lean ground beef, lean ground turkey and skinless-white meat poultry for optimum health. Meat and poultry provide more protein per serving than most other foods, including dairy products. A 3-ounce serving of lean ground beef provides 21 grams of protein, and a 3-ounce serving of chicken breast contains 27 grams. Meat and poultry baked or grilled in olive or canola oil contain less saturated fat than deep-fried renditions and those prepared in butter or creamy sauces.
Whole grains are grains that have not lost nutrients during food processing. They provide an assortment of vitamins and minerals and rich amounts of dietary fiber. As carbohydrates, whole grains fuel muscles, which allows them to function properly and grow. According to "Sport Nutrition: An Introduction to Energy Production and Performance," by Asker Jeukendrup and Michael Gleeson, Ph.D., complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, are the body's primary fuel for athletic performance and energy. Thus, opting for whole grains over processed grains most of the time can improve athletic capabilities and resultant muscle growth. Examples of nutrient-rich whole grains include whole wheat, bulgur, barley, spelt, quinoa, popcorn, wild rice and long-grain brown rice. The ADA suggests that adult males partaking in weight-training exercise twice weekly reap half of their daily calories (approximately 130 grams) from complex carbohydrates.