Protein is an essential part of your diet: this collection of amino acids makes up a large part of our muscle and organ tissues, making it vital for maintaining muscle growth.
But that doesn’t mean you have to download dailyto get enough. While this is certainly one way to increase your protein intake, you can actually find it in many delicious whole food sources.
With little effort, it’s easy to add plenty of foods high in protein and other muscle-building nutrients to your diet. In this article, we’ll look at how different foods help you build muscle—and the best things to eat if you’re trying to increase your strength.
How food helps build muscle
Although protein is essential for, it is not the only important nutritional component in the process. According to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, a good muscle-building diet should also include plenty of carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. A balanced diet that includes all of these will provide the necessary ingredients to help your muscles repair and rebuild after exercise.
In general, the NASM recommends that most people consume at least 0.7 to 0.8and 1.8 to 3.2 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight each day. Total calorie intake also plays a role in building muscle, as it is difficult to build muscle if you burn more calories than you consume.
However, diet alone is not enough to stimulate muscle growth. Exercise—especially resistance training like weight lifting—is necessary to start the process. When you tear the fibers in your muscles, it stimulates cell growth and repair. Your body can then use the food you ate to repair and strengthen muscle tissue. Other factors also affect how effective and efficient this process is, from when you eat your meals and how much rest you give your muscles between workouts to your hormonal and.
8 foods to optimize your gains
While there are many factors that play a role in building muscle, there is no doubt that diet plays a key role. Here are eight muscle-building foods you can eat to optimize your workouts and increase your muscle mass.
Eggs have long been considered a power food, and for good reason. They are incredibly nutrient-dense from fat and protein and include a powerful combination of vitamins such as B12, B6 and thiamin. Their nutrient-rich profile makes them particularly potent, but most importantly, they contain a huge dose of leucine. This amino acid is known for its muscle-building power.
If you’re already getting enough fat in your diet but need to increase your protein intake, look no further than fish. It’s one of the best lean sources of protein you can eat, and it’s full of other vitamins and minerals. Bonus? Fish is full of omega-3 fatty acids. Although known for their many other health benefits, omega-3s can also improve muscle function and help prevent muscle loss. Salmon and tuna are especially great food choices for building muscle.
When consumed in moderation, nuts are an excellent choice for building muscle. These delicious snacks offer a perfect combination of protein, fat and fiber, making them one of the most balanced ways to complement your workouts. However, you should be careful as many nuts (including peanuts, which are actually legumes) are high in calories. For the most nutrient-dense options, try almonds or walnuts.
4. Soy beans
If you’re trying to build muscle on a meatless diet, soy should be one of your closest friends. These are some of the most nutrient-dense legumes you can eat and contain powerful protein that helps build muscle. Soy contains all nine essential amino acids, making it one of the best sources of plant protein available.
5. Greek yogurt
Dairy products are a unique source of protein because they provide a combination of fast-digesting whey protein and slow-digesting casein protein. When consumed together, these two types of protein can enhance and prolong the protein synthesis process your muscles go through when recovering, helping you build lean mass. Greek yogurt is an especially great dairy choice because it contains twice the protein of regular yogurt and boasts additional probiotic health benefits that you can’t find in milk or cheese.
6. Cottage cheese
It doesn’t offer the same probiotic benefits as yogurt, but cottage cheese is a great second choice for dairy-based protein. In fact, cottage cheese contains more protein than Greek yogurt while boasting the same combination of slow and fast digesting. It’s a particularly great source of casein and provides a significant boost in calories if you need to make sure you’re getting enough.
7. Olive oil
It may not sound like your typical bodybuilding food, but extra virgin olive oil has become increasingly popular for its muscle benefits in recent years. Widely known as a source of healthy monounsaturated fats, olive oil also helps reduce inflammation and slows down muscle breakdown. Both of these features can help in any muscle building regimen.
Quinoa is not called a superfood for nothing. This dynamic grain (it’s a seed, but classified as a whole grain) has a little bit of everything, including plenty of protein, fiber and carbohydrates, plus a solid dose of vitamins and minerals. It’s an ideal food for building muscle and maximizing the benefits of your workouts.
Recipe for stronger muscles
Adding these muscle building foods to your diet will definitely help you on your way to increasing your muscle mass and strength. Remember, though, that gaining muscle mass takes time—and diet is only one piece of the puzzle. Combining a balanced diet of high-protein foods with healthy exercise and rest will speed up your journey and improve your overall health along the way.
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.