You build your muscles at the gym, but your habits in the kitchen play a significant role as well. Stock up on ingredients rich in the macro- and micronutrients that will boost your muscle-building efforts while avoiding the empty calories that junk food provides. Focus on foods rich in protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates -- but don't forget to include veggies as well.
Start your muscle-building shopping list in the dairy aisle, where you can find a bounty of calcium- and protein-rich products. Pick up a carton of eggs, which have a bad reputation for high cholesterol. For muscle-building, however, “Men’s Fitness” says that cholesterol, in combination with the nutrient leucine, actually helps build your muscles -- as does the protein in eggs. Add a tub of cottage cheese to your cart too. Casein, a slow-digesting dairy protein in cottage cheese, elevates the amino acids in your blood longer than whey, the other type of dairy protein.
Wind your way to the inner aisle of the grocery store, where you’ll find high-protein foods such as nuts, chickpeas and lentils. The last contains more than 18 grams of protein per cup, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Nutrient Database, as well as 40 grams of carbohydrates -- which provide energy for intense weightlifting sessions -- and 16 grams of fiber. Chickpeas are another source of slow-acting carbs, which “Men’s Fitness” recommends consuming in place of some of the rice or grains in your diet. Finally, nuts are a blend of protein, fat and fiber. “Muscle and Fitness” recommends almonds, which are high in protein as well as the micronutrients manganese, copper and vitamin B-2, all of which benefit muscles.
Meat and Seafood Case
Meat and seafood should be on your grocery list when trying to gain muscle mass. “Men’s Fitness” recommends beef and salmon; both are rich in protein, but beef also contains B-vitamins and creatine as well as a mixture of saturated and monounsaturated fat, which it says supports testosterone levels and heart health. “Muscle and Fitness” specifically recommends purchasing London broil, also known as top round steak. Salmon offers omega-3 fatty acids, which inhibit muscle breakdown. Fat might sound like the enemy, but avid lifters are too often deficient in this micronutrient.
Vegetables round out a balanced diet plan, so stop by the produce section before you check out. Bag up some sweet potatoes, which provide a boost in micronutrients and slow-digesting carbohydrates. “Muscle and Fitness” also recommends asparagus, broccoli and spinach as part of a regular meal plan.