Building muscle, including your abdominal muscles, requires plenty of calories from unprocessed foods. Eating whole foods like fruits, vegetables, lean meats, poultry and fish provides vitamins and minerals to fuel your workouts. Eat low-sodium foods to reveal your ab muscles. Consuming more protein than carbs will reduce your stored body fat and build muscle tissue, according to a 2010 article by registered dietician Jeff Volek, Ph.D. and colleagues, published in the "Strength and Conditioning Journal."
Steak and an Orange
A 6 oz. serving of beef top sirloin, cooked under the broiler, has 324 calories, 52 g of protein and is full of iron. Iron is needed by your cells to convert the energy in the foods you eat to energy molecules your cells can use, called adenosine tri-phosphate or ATP. Flavor your steak using a salt-free rub, keeping the sodium in the meat below 200 mg, according to the book "The NutriBase Complete Book of Food Counts." Eat vitamin C--rich foods, like an orange, along with your meat meal because vitamin C increases the amount of iron your body absorbs, according to a 2006 article by Pamela Hinton, Ph. D., published in the "Health & Fitness Journal."
Chicken and Cashews
Chicken and cashews are rich in magnesium, a mineral essential for your muscle cells to contract. Magnesium regulates the calcium and the pH balance in your cells, facilitating optimal muscular contraction. Magnesium helps activate the enzymes necessary in making ATP in the presence of oxygen, or aerobic respiration, according to a 2010 article by Phil Carvil and John Cronin, Ph.D., published in the "Strength and Conditioning Journal." You also lose plenty of magnesium when you sweat. Eat foods rich in magnesium, protein and fast-digesting carbs, such as a chicken and cashew dish with white rice, after your training; you'll have the energy for your subsequent muscle-building and fat-burning workouts. Six ounces of chicken breast has 280 calories and 54 g of protein. A ¼-cup serving of unsalted cashews has 160 calories, 4 g of protein and 13 g of healthy, unsaturated fat.
A 6 oz. serving of broiled Atlantic salmon has 350 calories, 38 g of protein and 21 g of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids increase the production of anti-inflammatory substances in your body, reducing inflammation, according to a 2007 article by registered dietician Janet Bond Brill, Ph.D., published in the "Health & Fitness Journal." Eating salmon three times a week gives you plenty of protein and helps you heal from exercise overtraining and injuries; this means that when you get hurt, you can get back to your training more quickly, building muscle and losing fat to show your six-pack.
A cup of fresh pineapple has one-third of your recommended daily intake of the antioxidant vitamin C, protecting you against the cold and flu, infectious diseases that can deter your training. Fresh pineapple also has an enzyme that helps prevent inflammation, speeding your recovery from an injury. The glycemic index of one cup of pineapple is 66; this means it raises your blood sugar quickly and causes a surge in insulin production. Insulin facilitates the storage of energy in your muscles. Eat a cup of pineapple after your training to optimize energy replenishment in your muscle cells so you can lift intensely during your next weight-training workout, building more muscle.
- "Strength and Conditioning Journal"; Low-Carbohydrate Diets Promote a More Favorable Body Composition Than Low-Fat Diets; Jeff Volek, Ph.D., RD, et al; February 2010
- "ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal"; Iron Deficiency in Physically Active Adults; Pamela Hinton, Ph. D.; September/October 2006
- "Strength and Conditioning Journal"; Magnesium and Implications on Muscle Function; Phil Carvil, and John Cronin, Ph.D.; February 2010
- "ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal"; Eat Like You're in Crete: Teach Your Clients the Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet; Janet Bond Brill, Ph.D., R.D.; September/October 2007
- "ACSM's Health & Fitness Journal"; Glycemic Index: An Educational Tool for Health and Fitness Professionals; Stephen Wong, Ph.D., and Susan Chung, R.D.N.; November/December 2003