Toning up is not just a matter of exercising and lifting weights. A healthy diet is essential for all types of activities, including sports and strength training. Proper eating habits not only improve the quality of your workout, but they can help you shed fat to reveal the muscles underneath. As always, talk to your doctor before making any changes to your diet, especially if you have a medical condition.
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Punch Up the Protein
Protein is important for muscle tone. It helps your muscles repair themselves and grow stronger and bigger after a workout. Eat at least 1 gram of protein for every pound of your body weight per day in combination with a strength-training program. You may need even more protein if you're heavier and are lifting more intensely. For best results, eat protein immediately following your workout. Good protein sources include lean beef, fish, eggs, poultry and dairy products like low-fat milk and cheese. Protein is also found in soy, casein and whey protein powders.
Fat helps you to tone up by providing your body with energy during low- to moderate-intensity workouts. Because you are energized, you can exercise with greater intensity and endurance, and this can help improve strength and muscle tone. Between 20 percent and 35 percent of your daily calories should come from fat. Healthy sources of fat include peanut butter, fish, seeds, vegetable oils, avocados and vegetable-based spreads.
Go Crazy With Carbs
Fuel up on carbohydrate-rich foods every day. Carbohydrates are stored in your muscles as glycogen, which your body uses for energy during your workout. Getting the proper amount of carbohydrates every day can also help prevent injury and early fatigue when exercising. For best results, aim for 2.3 to 3.6 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight. For example, if you weigh 140 pounds, eat about 320 to 500 grams of carbohydrates each day. Stick to the lower end of the spectrum if you are a recreational exerciser and the higher end if you engage in high-intensity or endurance exercise regularly. Good sources of carbohydrates include whole-wheat bread, brown rice, oatmeal, pasta and sweet potatoes
Fill Up on Vitamins and Minerals
Be sure you are getting adequate amounts of vitamins and minerals each day. B vitamins -- found in foods like whole-grain cereal, milk and beans -- help to produce energy, which your body then uses during your workout. Intense exercise can interfere with muscle growth by affecting your body’s levels of calcium, potassium and iron. Combat this by consuming at least 1,000 milligrams of calcium from foods like low-fat milk and yogurt each day. Get at least 4,700 milligrams of potassium from foods like bananas, oranges and potatoes daily. In addition, eat between 8 and 18 milligrams of iron from foods such as clams and lentils every day.
REFERENCES & RESOURCES
- Colorado State University Extension: Nutrition for the Athlete
- Harvard School of Public Health: Three of the B Vitamins: Folate, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B12
- Muscle & Fitness: 5 Ways to Eat for Strength
- Cooking Light: Strength-Training Foods
- Eat Right Academy of Dietetics: Eat Right for Resistance Training
- MedlinePlus: Thiamine (Vitamin B1)
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
- MedlinePlus: Niacin and Niacinamide (Vitamin B3)
- National Institutes of Health: Calcium
- Colorado State University Extension: Potassium and the Diet
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Iron and Iron Deficiency