Bodybuilding is a long-term commitment. It is not a sport that you can enter and succeed overnight. And when you talk about muscle gain and building muscles, it requires you to eat right and eat in moderation. If you are looking for the right food choices, here are a few things that will help you go through your bodybuilding journey with success.
Food For Muscle Gain
To build muscle, individuals need to consider nutrition alongside resistance training. Protein is a key macronutrient, but a person also needs to eat carbohydrates to replenish glycogen and avoid fatigue.
The importance of nutrition
Eating the right foods can help someone build muscle, recover from training, and maintain their energy levels.
The International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) advises that consuming 1.4–2.0 grams (g) of protein per kilogram (kg) of body weight per day is sufficient for most exercising individuals to build and maintain muscle mass.
People performing high-intensity resistance training may benefit from up to 3 g of protein per kg of body weight per day.
To build muscle optimally, individuals also need to consume enough carbohydrates. Carbohydrates replenish glycogen stores in the muscles and liver and help to avoid fatigue during training.
The ISSN suggests that consuming 45–55% of daily calories as carbohydrates is sufficient for a general fitness program. However, people who take part in high-volume training may require more than this.
The following are foods containing protein to help someone build muscle. Some also contain carbohydrates and fiber, while many others contain beneficial micronutrients.
A boiled or poached egg contains 6.28 g of protein.
Eggs contain the amino acid leucine, which research indicates is essential for muscle synthesis.
Eggs are also a suitable source of B vitamins that people need to produce energy.
A medium chicken breast without skin weighing 120 g contains 35.5 g of protein.
Chicken without the skin is a low fat protein source that someone can easily add to different meals and recipes.
A cup of chopped turkey contains 37.23 g of protein, while a turkey drumstick contains nearly 27 g of protein.
Like chicken, turkey is a low fat protein source that is adaptable to different meals and recipes.
Five ounces (oz) of Greek yogurt contains 12–18 g of protein.
A person could add some carbohydrate-rich banana to their Greek yogurt for a healthy snack after training.
Part-skimmed cottage cheese contains 14 g of protein per half-cup.
Cottage cheese is also rich in calcium for healthy bones.
A 227 g salmon steak contains 58.5 g of protein.
Salmon also contains omega-3 fatty acids, which have health benefits, including preventing muscle loss in older adults.
Tuna fish is a suitable source of omega-3 fatty acids besides their benefits for general health and inflammation.
Research suggests omega-3 fatty acids may also improve muscle size and strength.
Tuna contains 7 g of protein per ounce.
Skimmed or 1% fat milk contains 8 g of protein per 8 oz, and high protein milk contains 13 g of protein per 8 oz.
As long as individuals tolerate milk, it can be a healthy choice to boost protein and hydration after exercise.
Milk also contains calcium which people require for healthy bones.
Dried beef or turkey jerky contains 10–15 g of protein per oz.
Jerky can be a protein-rich snack that people can easily transport when going to the gym.
Whey protein powder
Whey protein isolate powder contains 50 g of protein per 3 scoops.
If someone tolerates whey protein powder, they can boost their protein intake by making shakes and drinks.
Soy protein powder
Soy protein powder contains around 25 g of protein per scoop.
People who eat a plant-based diet may find soy protein powder a valuable addition to boost their protein intake. They can add it to a smoothie along with some fruit and plant-based milk.
Lean beef contains just over 23 g of protein per 4 oz. It also contains selenium, zinc, and iron, which are essential for energy and recovery.
Best Foods to Build Muscle
Striking the right balance between protein, carbs and fats is muscle food 101, but less familiar is the influence of nutrient partitioning – how your body decides whether calories from those nutrients are burned as fuel, stored as fat, or used to build new muscle tissue.
You might already be regularly munching some of the foods below, others may come as a surprise – but trust us, all of them will fuel your mission to build lean muscle. Load up your shopping trolley with our best muscle food picks.
The Best Foods to Build Muscle
1. Whole eggs
Another day, another article touting the benefits of eggs. Those golden orbs contain large amounts of the amino acid leucine, which is essential for post-exercise muscle recovery. Whole eggs in particular are considered to be something of a protein synthesis powerhouse. In fact, eating whole eggs after a workout elicits a 40 per cent greater muscle-building response than consuming egg whites alone, a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found.
As well as a huge helping of complete protein (around 20g per 100g serve), salmon is high in omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, which optimise nutrient partitioning by reducing inflammation. Omega-3 increases insulin sensitivity, a study from Harvard University found, resulting in less insulin floating around in your bloodstream. A good thing, because insulin boosts fat storage. Just try to avoid reheating it in the office microwave.
3. Soy beans
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If your goal is building lean, green muscle, soybeans are your most dependable option. Unlike other vegetarian sources of protein, those little legumes contain all nine essential amino acids, making them an essential vegan muscle food. Tofu, tempeh, and most vegetarian meat alternatives are made out of soy, which boasts around 36 grams per 100g serve.
Fruit isn’t your a-typical bodybuilding fare, but an exception can be made for pineapple. It’s the only food known to contain bromelein, an enzyme that digests protein. Fun fact: pineapple is often uncomfortable to eat because the bromelain is digesting the skin on the inside of your mouth. Plus, its anti-inflammatory properties will help soothe post-workout pain, tenderness and swelling.
5. Greek yogurt
As well as being loaded with fast-digesting whey protein and slow-digesting casein protein – around 10 grams total per 100g serve – Greek yogurt is a source of vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium and phosphorus. Calcium is crucial for muscle contractions, while phosphorus is essential for creating ATP (the form of energy your body uses). According to research by Baylor University, a mix of whey and casein protein is the optimum combination for increasing lean mass.
Your co-workers may not thank you, but your biceps will. In a study published in The Journal of Nutrition, garlic was shown to increase testosterone and lower cortisol in rats on a high-protein diet. How? It’s all to do with a compound within garlic called allicin, which reduces the amount of ‘stress hormone’ pumping around your body. Cortisol competes with testosterone in your muscle cells, so essentially less stress results in better gains.
7. Turkey breast
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At 29 grams of protein per 100g, turkey is another big protein hitter. It’s also high in zinc, which is essential for protein synthesis and helps your body maintain healthy levels of testosterone, according to researchers at the Wayne State University School of Medicine in Michigan, US.
8. Kidney beans
Being higher in carbohydrates, beans and legumes are often overlooked for their leaner cousins. But these fibrous foods are essential for a healthy gut – something you depend on to absorb the nutrients, minerals and supplements required to carve lean muscle. Kidney beans contain the most, with around 8 grams of protein per 100g serve (and around 10 grams of fibre!). Pair them with a whole grain such as brown rice to make a complete protein.