Whether you want to be more active, lift more weights or lose less muscle mass as you age, good nutrition can help build muscle strength. The dietary elements that support cellular growth, muscle contraction and wound healing in injured tissue will complement your exercise or body building program. To maintain a balanced diet and build muscle instead of fat, choose low-fat foods that are strong in protein, potassium, calcium, vitamin C and vitamin D in each of the five food groups.
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Nutrient-dense protein foods such as low-fat tuna are ideally suited to muscle strengthening. The high ratio of protein nutrition to calories encourages cellular growth and discourages storage as fatty tissue, helping you emphasize muscle mass in your body composition. Tuna fish has large amounts of protein and vitamin D, a nutrient needed by the body for calcium absorption and moderate content of potassium.
Although milk is in the dairy food group, which is known for calcium content, 1 cup contains significant protein and potassium to build muscle tissue. You need adequate muscle mass to develop strength through exercise. Three cups of milk daily will help you achieve your full allowance of calcium and much of your vitamin D. The American Heart Association recommends buying fat-free or 1 percent varieties to reduce your consumption of the saturated fat and cholesterol that can cause cardiovascular problems that weaken your heart muscle.
Whole grains deliver more nutrition than refined grains, as is the case with barley. Hulled barley’s high potassium and protein contributions are significantly reduced with the steam processing that creates pearled barley. One cup of whole cooked barley delivers as much protein and as little fat as 3 oz. of tuna fish.
Potatoes have even more potassium and less fat than barley per serving when you eat them skin and all -- and avoid adding fat with butter and sour cream. Potatoes are also excellent sources of vitamin C, with 25 percent of the requirement for your body’s daily needs for strengthening injured muscle tissue.
Fortified Orange Juice
Commercially prepared or concentrated and frozen orange juice is another tailor-made food for increasing your muscular health and strength. One cup of ready-to-drink juice provides more than 100 percent of vitamin C daily value to restore structural strength, while enriched content of calcium and vitamin D increase your muscles’ functional strength.