Building muscle has just as much to do with your diet as it does with your training. You can train as hard and heavy as you want, but if you're not eating right, you won't grow. When constructing your muscle-building meal plan, the foods you eat play a pivotal role and there are certain ones you want to avoid.
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While vegetables may have a plethora of health benefits, not all will help your muscles grow. The main mistake many newbie bodybuilders make is not eating enough, notes personal trainer Nate Green. Low-calorie vegetables such as celery, spinach and lettuce may be healthy, but fill you up without providing many calories. Look for higher-calorie veggies instead. Nutrition consultant Mike Jackson suggests beets, broccoli, butternut squash, avocado, potatoes and beans.
Say No to Soy
While it's often used as a replacement for meat in vegetarian diets, soy is something you may want to avoid when gaining muscle. Soy protein has less of an impact on muscle protein syntheses -- the rate at which your muscles process protein -- than animal-based proteins. This means that you need more protein from soy-based foods and supplements than from animal-based foods to get the same muscle-building effect. Additionally, soy is an incomplete protein, meaning you need to mix it with other protein sources to get all the amino acids that you would get from meat, fish or dairy.
Not So Simple
Carbohydrates play a vital role in building muscle, as they're your body's main source of energy. Not all carbs are created equal though. Avoid simple, sugary and processed carbs and stick to mainly un-refined, minimally processed ones. Simple and refined carbs, such as white bread, sweets and candy or vending machine snacks can cause rapid rises and slumps in energy levels, which can negatively affect your performance in the gym. Unrefined and whole-grain carbs digest more slowly however, giving longer lasting energy.
Lean, natural meats, such as chicken breast, lean ground beef or steaks and even fish such as tuna and salmon should be the cornerstone of a muscle-building diet due to their high protein content. Processed meats are a different matter entirely though. Consumption of processed red meat may even contribute to the risk of premature death, warns a report from the Harvard School of Public Health. This means ditching your bacon, baloney and pastrami and opting for good quality turkey, venison, lamb or other similar meats instead.
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- Sports Nutrition Society: Mighty Meals for Optimal Anabolism
- Experience Life: Pick Your Protein Powder
- Today's Dietitian: Helping Clients Beat the Post-Lunch Slump
- Harvard Magazine: Don't Pass the Bacon