Building muscle requires a lot of commitment and discipline to not only endure grueling workout routines but also stick with them until you’ve reached your goal. However, you don't want to neglect adjusting your diet to better reflect your body’s needs, like so many people often do. When it comes to building muscle, you must ensure your body is adequately energized and ready for muscle growth. Once you know the best foods to help you build muscle, your workout routines will become much easier and even more effective.
First, it’s important to identify the nutrients you need. Water is, of course, incredibly important, as it carries the other nutrients to your muscles and aids in digestion. Nutrients such as protein are essential for muscle growth; the amino acids within proteins help your muscles repair and build after your workout. Carbohydrates, contrary to what most people think, are another important nutrient. Carbs are what your body burns for fuel, and they’ll keep you energized for the duration of your workout.
Counting calories is a common practice when people start getting into fitness, but it’s important to determine how many calories are necessary for your body type and lifestyle rather than just cut out as many as possible. If you experience no changes in weight, then you’re at your maintenance calorie intake. When you intend to go into a bulk phase, it’s recommended you increase your calorie intake by 15% and then decrease your calorie intake by 15% when you enter your cutting phase. Adjust your calories each month to match your weight.
So, what should you be eating? Let's start with meat, as it’s the most common source of protein. Pork, beef, and chicken are all viable sources, and not much restriction is necessary. You’ll just want to avoid any meat that has been fried—such as chicken strips—as well as high-fat meats before you exercise, as they may upset your stomach.
If you don’t eat meat or just prefer something else, you can get your protein from most forms of seafood, as fish is very rich in protein. Tofu is another good source of protein, and to get your mornings started right, eggs will always be the way to go.
Leafy greens such as spinach, broccoli, and asparagus are common choices for a muscle gain diet, but as expected, you can include your choice of vegetables in your diet. Starchy vegetables are also plenty viable; these would include potatoes, corn, and even peas. French fries don’t count, unfortunately.
Fruits are like vegetables in that it’s hard to go wrong with them. Common fruits such as apples, oranges, bananas, and berries are all great choices. The biggest difference is that fruits naturally contain more sugar, which sometimes causes people to be a bit cautious of how much fruit they eat. However, this sugar isn’t something to fear, as sugar provides glucose, which is what your body burns into energy. The sugar you want to avoid is added sugars, which you’ll commonly find in junk food such as cookies and doughnuts.
Dairy products such as Greek yogurt, low-fat milk, and cheeses provide not only protein but also calcium. Calcium is beneficial for bone health, bolstering the structure and hardness of your bones and teeth, and it’s also important for bodily functions such as muscle contraction, blood clotting, and even keeping your heart beating.
Bread, cereal, and even popcorn can be beneficial for building muscle. Bread is a good source of carbohydrates for a bulk phase, especially whole-wheat bread, which is rich in vitamins and minerals. Cereal and popcorn can be helpful as long as you avoid the sugary cereals and pass on the butter for your popcorn. A popular grain for building muscle is quinoa, as it’s one of the healthiest and most nutritious foods available, being rich in fiber, minerals, antioxidants, and all nine essential amino acids.
Almonds are without a doubt the best nuts you can eat. They provide decent protein, and half of their carbs come in the form of fiber. As an added benefit, almonds are beneficial for heart health. Alternatively, walnuts maintain healthy cholesterol to ensure your blood flows while you exercise. If you’re looking for more protein, however, you can’t go wrong with peanuts for their high protein and low-carb value.
Black, pinto, and kidney beans are popular varieties of beans when it comes to the best foods that help you build muscle. Popular among hard gainers, they’re rich in protein and fiber and packed with nutrients such as iron, potassium, and zinc, which will do your heart good. Other legumes such as lentils and chickpeas make for good meat substitutes that are low in fat and that aid in weight management while still providing protein and fiber.
If you need some help making up for nutrients you’re lacking, you can make use of a few options. Whey protein powder is an easy way to make up for a diet lacking in protein, while creatine will give your muscles a bit of extra energy to squeeze in that extra rep or two. You can even keep enjoying your morning coffee, as caffeine will reduce fatigue and allow you keep up more intense workout routines for a bit longer.
If you want the kind of muscle gain you get from bodybuilding, it’s important to know that a consistent diet is necessary. Bodybuilders use two phases to maximize their muscle growth. First, the bulk phase is when your diet is high in calories and protein; during this phase, it’s important to pair this diet with intensive weightlifting to get the most out of the nutrients you’ve bulked up. With the pandemic making it very difficult to go to the gym, home weightlifting equipment is important to have before you start.
Then there’s the cutting phase. Once you’ve gained muscle, this phase focuses on weight loss and shedding the extra fat on your body to become leaner while maintaining muscle mass. You can achieve this phase by adjusting your calorie intake.
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