Eating the right types of foods enhances your ability to build muscle. While strength training is still a must to create a lean, muscular physique, ditching the junk food and selecting high quality proteins, fats and carbohydrates can coax your body to give you better results. Many healthy foods help you pack on muscle, but these eight are easily incorporated into any diet.
Strength-training athletes trying to build muscle need extra protein – up to 2 grams per kilogram of body weight daily, says the International Society for Sports Nutrition. Some sources of protein can be high in saturated fat, too much of which can cause fat gain and raise your cholesterol levels. Chicken breast and lean turkey are lean sources of protein with minimal saturated fat. A 1-ounce serving contains 9 grams of protein and 1 gram of fat, 0.3 of which is saturated.
Salmon and tuna are two types of fish that can help you build muscle. Water-packed, chunk light tuna contains just 99 calories, 1 gram of fat and 23 grams of protein per 3-oounce serving. The low-calorie nature of tuna is especially valuable during a cutting phase for a competition when you are trying to trim calories. Choose light tuna, rather than albacore, because it is lower in mercury. Salmon may be higher in calories, with 155 calories per 3-ounce serving, but it contains heart-healthy omega-3 fats. These fats help stimulate hormones to promote muscle growth and help prevent the body from burning off amino acids for energy.
Because it is high in fiber, oatmeal digests more slowly than more refined grains. When training to build muscle, you need to consume about 55 to 60 percent of your calories from carbohydrates to fuel your workouts, according to a review published in the 2004 issue of “Sports Medicine.” Oatmeal can also help you feel full for longer, which prevents overeating and the consumption of sugary or junk foods that do not support muscle growth.
Plain, low-fat yogurt contains up to 13 grams of high-quality protein per cup to encourage muscle growth. Greek-style yogurt may contain up to 20 grams per cup because it is strained and thus the protein is concentrated. In addition, to provide your body with the essential bone-building mineral calcium, eating yogurt may help you lean down due to the high content of a specific amino acid called leucine.
Whey protein powder comes from the liquid leftover during the cheesemaking process. This protein source is easily digested and contains all the amino acids you need to help build muscle. Whey protein powder conveniently mixes into water, milk or juice, or blends into a post-workout smoothie to deliver amino acids to worked muscles quickly. A study in the journal “Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism” published in December 2007 concluded that consuming whey protein after strength training can stimulate muscle protein synthesis, resulting in an increase in muscle mass over the long term.
A study in the “Journal of the American Dietetic Association” found that consuming 4 ounces of beef containing 30 grams of protein increased muscle protein synthesis by 50 percent. When muscle protein synthesis is greater than muscle protein breakdown, growth occurs. Stick to lean beef cuts such as eye of round or tenderloin to keep saturated fat intake in check.
Cottage cheese contains a mixture of whey and casein, the two proteins found in milk. These two proteins help stimulate muscle growth as shown in a study in the December 2004 issue of “Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.” Researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas, found that ingesting whey and casein together after exercise increases muscle protein, which can lead to muscle growth. One cup of cottage cheese contains 28 grams of protein. Choose low-fat varieties, as full fat contains more saturated fat and calories.
Eggs contain about 6 grams of protein each. Eggs are also rich in the amino acid tryptophan which helps you get a restful night's sleep. Adequate rest is essential to muscle growth as it allows your body to repair. In addition to being a quality protein source, eggs provide numerous vitamins, minerals and the antioxidant lutein to support eye health.
- "Muscle and Fitness"; 7 Best BB Foods: For Building Muscle Mass and Boosting Energy; Chris Aceto; January 2006
- “Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism” ; Minimal Whey Protein with Carbohydrate Stimulates Muscle Protein Synthesis Following Resistance Exercise in Trained Young Men; J.E. Tang; December 2007
- "Journal of the American Dietetic Association"; A Moderate Serving of High-Quality Protein Maximally Stimulates Skeletal Muscle Protein Synthesis in Young and Elderly Subjects;T. Brock Symons, PhD, et. al.; Jan. 30, 2009
- “Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise”; Ingestion of Casein and Whey Proteins Result in Muscle Anabolism After Resistance Exercise; K. D. Tipton; December 2004
- "Sports Medicine"; Macronutrient Considerations for the Sport of Bodybuilding; C.P. Lambert; 2004