Protein is the No. 1 nutrient in a woman's -- or man's -- muscle-building food list. Strength-training women need 0.68 to 0.91 gram of protein per pound of body weight daily. In addition to protein-rich fare, you'll also need other nutrient-dense foods to flesh out your balanced diet and support your workout regimen.
Foods to Choose
Foods such as lean beef, poultry, white fish, eggs, whey protein and low-fat dairy help you reach your daily protein goals. For energy, augment your protein meals with ample carbohydrates, mostly in the form of whole grains. Healthy fats, especially those rich in omega-3 fatty acids, aid in hormone function and also contribute to muscle growth as shown by a study published in a 2012 issue of "Clinical Science." The best sources of omega-3 fatty acids are fatty fish, including sardines and salmon, but walnuts, flax seeds and chia seeds are other potential sources. Fresh fruits and veggies, meanwhile, provide important micronutrients that bolster your health so your body can focus on building a lean, toned figure.
Timing of Food
Spread your protein intake out over the course of all your day's meals, being especially careful to include a small pre- and post-workout dose. A few slices of turkey breast or half a scoop of whey protein before your workout gives your muscles immediate amino acids to use during your session. Don't think a post-workout shake is reserved for hulky men. A snack that combines protein with carbohydrates replenishes your energy stores and coaxes muscle recovery and growth in women too. Whip together a scoop of whey protein, a few frozen strawberries, half a banana and almond milk. Healthy post-workout snacks include half a lean roast beef sandwich on 100 percent whole-wheat bread or a couple scrambled eggs with a sweet potato.