Such fitness goals, as most fitness goals in fact, are not a matter of starving or loading yourself with dangerous supplements like steroids. Health and a balanced lifestyle, plus intelligent effort, are the keys to a harmonious and strong physique, whether you are a man or a woman.
Why is diet so important?
Your body needs the right kind of fuel – not only to produce energy, but also to feed its every organ and tissue.
Your muscles have specific requirements which you should be aware of. First of all, the building block of muscle is represented, in rough form, by protein.
If you’re not getting enough of it, your muscles simply can’t grow.
Here is what happens: intense physical exercise leads to small tears in the muscular tissue. The body then has to repair these and rebuild the fiber, through adequate nutrition.
As this process completes, muscles become bigger and stronger than they were before, in order to handle incoming stress. Your goal is to eat so that you can gain muscle, not body fat, which is why it’s important to focus on specific foods while ditching others.
The best foods for muscle gains
It’s important to know that there is a muscle building diet for everyone, even for vegans. Both plant and animal protein can help you gain mass in a way that is good for you. However, not any kind of food will work; those ripped gym guys rarely eat hamburgers and pizza to look the way they do. Below are the natural foods that are generally known and definitely proven to support your muscle gain goal:
Cheese is usually on the “no” list, but cottage cheese is a breed apart. Its strength is in its casein protein content and a low quantity of fats.
Casein is a type of protein that’s slow to digest, so it provides nutrition to muscles for a long period of time. Besides, it’s a good source of calcium, too. Plus, you can eat it right before bedtime.
Although they’ve been having a bad reputation due to cholesterol claims and so on, eggs are, after all, nutritious and healthy.
There are 9 essential amino acids in eggs, high quality protein that’s easier to absorb than from meat (egg whites have a 60:1 protein to fat ratio), plus choline, Vitamin D and good fats.
Besides, cholesterol found in eggs belongs to the good type and can actually reduce the bad kind.
This has never been a joke – although it’s so light and green, spinach is a great glutamine source and there’s enough proof of how important this amino acid is to building muscle mass and strength. To consume enough spinach, simply blend it in smoothies.
In many ways, this is similar to spinach. Also incredibly light and easy to digest, broccoli delivers large quantities of protein.
Better than milk, yogurt, especially Greek, is far richer in protein: it has about 20 g per cup, which is impressive.
It’s like concentrated milk, if you like. What’s even better about Greek yogurt is that it has the lowest count of carbohydrates.
With a low glycemic index and a lot of carbohydrates, oatmeal keep you full for long and gives you a steady amount of energy for many hours without blood sugar spikes.
It’s also got a high fiber content and gives you plenty of energy while preserving muscle. Combine oatmeal with nuts or nut butters to meet your macronutrient needs.
Beans are highly nutritious and pack a lot of fiber and protein that’s readily available. The nutrients in beans regulate insulin release and the fiber aids digestion.
In one cup of kidney beans you have 14 g of protein. Keep in mind that you’ll also get plenty of carbs along with it.
Often employed in weight loss diets, whole grains are excellent for building and maintaining muscles too, because besides protein, muscle tissue also needs plenty of minerals and vitamins, which you will find in the outer layers of grains.
When these layers are removed, you get refined grains, lacking in nutrients and fattening. Whole grains support lean muscle gains and boost your growth hormone production.
Tuna and salmon
You’ll always hear bodybuilders talk about the benefits of eating tuna and salmon. Even the fats in these are good for you, considering that fat is essential to hormone production, including testosterone (which has a major role in boosting muscle gains). The Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids in fish will also support your fitness goals.
The first bodybuilders relied on it and people today still; do the same. Beef is packed with protein, as well as with zinc, iron and B vitamins.
The type of protein found in beef is much better than, for example, pork protein and you get a lot less fat than with other types of meat.
The amino acids in it work in conjunction with insulin in order to make muscles grow. If you’re trying to lose fat, beef is also good.
Hardly anyone ever talks about, it, but there’s research that shows the benefits of eating beets. The betaine content aids with joint repair, which is vital to your recovery and ability to carry out intense training. In addition, it increases muscle power and supports liver health.
The importance of fruits and vegetables
Fresh fruits and vegetables are still the best source of vitamins and minerals; they will give you good quality carbohydrates and fiber too and will enhance your digestion, ensuring proper nutrition for every tissue. Variety is key, you don’t have to limit yourself only to chicken and broccoli meals, that will leave you deprived. It’s not all about protein. Muscles require sugars and fats for energy.
Meal recommendations and strategies
When and how often you eat has a huge influence on your metabolism and how your body makes its energy and stores or burns fat. To gain lean mass, increase your breakfast size and have a good, replenishing post-training meal.
Breakfast is essential to take the body out of the fasting stage and speed up the metabolism. The post-workout meal gives the body the nutrition it craves and aids the recovery process.
Do not eat much when you are not training, this will lead to fat gain. Also, having six meals a day is more like a myth. Three big meals are sufficient, but some people can rather have more frequent but smaller meals.
Choose that which makes you feel best. Combine foods and aim to have protein with every meal. You may supplement with whey protein and similar products but never abuse these.
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The recommended caloric strategy for building muscle
Experts have finally reached a conclusion and found the best rule to follow, according to a precise formula. For mass building, you must aim for 16 calories per lb of bodyweight (14 for maintenance and 12 for fat loss).
If you’re typically lean and a hardgainer, then you should not worry so much about how many carbs you ingest, as long as there is enough protein (somewhere around 60 g per day).
In any case, carbs and fats are essential and even play a major role in muscle nutrition. You must eat enough to feel energized but not too much, or it will make you sluggish. Remember that, besides the goal of building muscle, your aim is to also feel good, be healthy and have all the needed energy for frequent workouts.
Never eliminate carbs from your diet, keep in mind that you need them for energy especially when training hard. Lower the intake only for the days when you don’t train. As per total calorie count, aim to have more than what you consume. You will find loads of online calculators and smartphone apps to help you figure out every quantity.