In addition to repetitive, heavy resistance training, bodybuilding requires a balanced diet plan. Bodybuilding snacks need to be high in carbs, lean protein and healthy fats. These nutrients provide the energy you need to complete that extra set and recover from intense workouts.
Protein Snacks For Muscle Gain
Protein is the major component in your body cells, tissues and fluids. High-protein snacks provide fuel for the contraction, maintenance and repair of muscles. After a strenuous workout, this nutrient facilitates recovery and helps your body build mass.
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The American Council on Exercise states that the amount of protein you need to support a strength training program is 0.5 to 0.8 grams per pound of body weight. Therefore, a 165-pound person should strive for an intake of 82 to 132 grams of protein to gain muscle mass.
Snacks that contain protein from animal sources provide all the amino acids your body needs. Most plant-based protein sources are incomplete and need to be combined with other proteins to get all the essential amino acids. Choose the following bodybuilding snacks with nutrition information from the USDA:
A glass of 2 percent milk contains about 8 grams of protein per glass (8 ounces). Milk products supply higher quality protein than beef, soy or wheat, according to Dairy Nutrition. This beverage is rich in both casein and whey protein. As with most animal proteins, it provides the amino acids leucine, isoleucine and valine, which support muscle adaptations during training, according to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).
One hard-boiled egg provides 6.3 grams of protein. Cooking eggs improves protein digestion. This superfood contains B vitamins, which are required for the production of energy, and leucine, a critical element in regulating muscle protein synthesis. Eggs are also a source of choline, which is needed for muscle control. The lutein in eggs may help reduce inflammation, as reported in a small study published in Nutrients in July 2018.
One cup low-fat cottage cheese boasts 23.6 grams of protein. It's also a good source of vitamin B12 and casein. The latter has a slower and more sustained absorption rate than whey, fueling your muscles over several hours, according to ACSM.
Half a cup of edamame delivers 15.7 grams of protein. Boiled cold edamame (immature soybeans) makes a convenient high-quality protein snack and is a good source of fiber. Plus, the folate in edamame functions as a coenzyme in amino acid metabolism and cell division.
A serving of low-fat mozzarella (1 ounce) offers 6.9 grams of protein. All cheeses are complete proteins and contain calcium, vital for muscle function and vascular contraction, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Beef jerky has 9.4 grams of protein per ounce. Lean jerky has most of the fat removed during processing, so the majority of its calories come from protein. It also provides iron, which is needed to produce myoglobin in muscles.
Trail mixes have about 10 grams of protein per half-cup, depending on the ingredients used. Nuts and dried fruit are good sources of potassium. This mineral supports normal muscle contraction. If you don't get enough of it, you may experience leg cramps, among other symptoms.
Get Energy From Carbs
In addition to lean protein, carbohydrates form a crucial component of any bodybuilding diet. Some of the carbs you eat are stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles. High-carb snacks can fuel your workout and replenish your muscle glycogen stores after training. If you engage in strength training, you need 2.7 to 4.5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight, depending on the intensity and length of your workouts, body size and sex, according to the American Council on Exercise.
Healthy carbohydrate-rich snacks should consist of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and legumes. Some good bodybuilding snacks that provide quality carbs include:
A medium-sized banana contains 27 grams of carbs. The perfect portable snack, bananas are high in fiber and low in calories. The potassium in these fruits helps balance fluids across cell membranes, keeping your muscles functioning properly, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Pumpkin seeds provide 8.7 grams of carbs per half-cup. They also offer 35 percent of the daily value (DV) of protein and are a good source of fiber, iron and zinc. These tiny seeds pack large doses of healthy unsaturated fatty acids with potential cardiovascular benefits.
A cup of cooked oatmeal delivers 28.1 grams of carbs. This grain is also a great source of protein, fiber and B vitamins, especially thiamin and B5. B-complex vitamins turn carbs into glucose, giving you the energy needed for intense training.
There are 54 grams of carbs in three Medjool dates. Of the total calories in these fruits, 97 percent comes from carbs. Dates also contain copper, a component of the enzymes that play a critical role in energy production, according to Linus Pauling Institute. Almost two-thirds of the copper supply in your body is found in your muscles and skeleton.
Baked beans contain 27.4 grams of carbs per half-cup. Additionally, they provide fiber, iron, calcium, potassium and B vitamins.
Foods to avoid when building muscle are those that contain added sugar. Get your energy from healthy snacks, not from candies and processed foods. A June 2019 meta-analysis of 31 studies published in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews has found that consuming simple carbs from added sugar may actually decrease energy levels.
Read more: 3 Essentials for Becoming a Body Builder
Before, During and After Exercise
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends consuming adequate foods and fluids before, during and after working out to maintain energy production, maximize performance, prevent injuries and recover faster from training.
Your pre-workout snack should include protein for muscle recovery, growth and fat burning, as well as carbs to fuel your energy. By combining carbs and protein 60 to 90 minutes before your workout, you will have sustained energy and experience less muscle breakdown, according to the American Council on Exercise.
AHA suggests that you don't need to eat during exercise if your workout takes less than one hour. But if your training session is vigorous and lengthy, consume between 50 and 100 calories from a high-carb snack every half hour.
Post-workout nutrition is important to replenish glycogen stores, repair muscle damage and build lean mass. According to the American Council on Exercise, the optimal time to eat your post-workout meal is within 30 minutes of finishing your workout. Your snack should contain a mix of fast-digesting carbs and protein at a ratio of 2:1 or 1:1. And remember to drink plenty of fluids.
- American College of Sports Medicine: "Protein Intake for Maximum Muscle Maintenance"
- USDA: "Nutrition Comparison of Low-Fat Cottage Cheese (2%), Snacks Trail Mix Regular, Boiled Soybeans (Edamame), Snacks Beef Jerky Chopped And Formed, Mozzarella (Low-Fat), Low-Fat Milk 2%, and Hard Boiled Eggs"
- Dairy Nutrition: "Milk Products: Source of High-Quality Protein"
- US National Library of Medicine: "Leucine"
- National Institutes of Health: "Choline"
- Nutrients: "Effects of a High-Protein Diet Including Whole Eggs on Muscle Composition and Indices of Cardiometabolic Health and Systemic Inflammation in Older Adults with Overweight or Obesity: A Randomized Controlled Trial"
- National Institutes of Health: "Folate"
- National Institutes of Health: "Calcium"
- Mayo Clinic: "Muscle Cramp"
- USDA: "Nutrition Comparison of Baked Beans, Bananas, Cooked Oatmeal, Roasted Squash and Pumpkin Seeds (Unsalted), and Medjool Dates"
- National Institutes of Health: "Potassium"
- Linus Pauling Institute: "Copper"
- National Institutes of Health: "Copper"
- Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews: "Sugar Rush or Sugar Crash? A Meta-Analysis of Carbohydrate Effects on Mood"
- American Heart Association: "Food as Fuel Before, During and After Workouts"
- American College of Sports Medicine: "Industry-Presented Blog: Half a Dozen Nutrition Myths DEBUNKED"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Protein and the Athlete — How Much Do You Need?"
- American Council on Exercise: "Pre- and Post-Workout Nutrition for Strength Building"
- American Council on Exercise: "Strength Training Post-Workout Nutrition Guidelines"