While it’s important to have a workout routine that develops your muscles to their fullest potential, it’s just as important to give your body the nutrients and vitamins it needs in order to meet those goals. You wouldn’t spend hours at the gym, eat only fast food hamburgers and fries and expect great results right? Of course not.
However, even if your diet is relatively healthy, you could be limiting your muscle building efforts if you don’t eat foods with the right nutritional make-up. So, if you’re trying to bulk up, what are five essential foods you should add to your diet to help you reach your muscle building goals?
Protein helps your muscles grow and one egg has about 6 grams of this necessary dietary component. In addition to having high protein, eggs also have vitamins A, E and K and some B vitamins, which help break down fat in your body. They also have nine amino acids that assist in muscle recovery.
Some people shy away from eggs because they have fat in them. While the white part has no fat, the yolk has around 5 grams. However, less than half of those are saturated, or bad fat. Remember, some fat in your diet is necessary, and even good for you.
Eggs have also gotten a bad rap for years because of their cholesterol. While numerous studies contradict each other about whether dietary cholesterol affects blood cholesterol, it doesn’t hurt to be on the safe side. According to Dr. Thomas Behrenbeck, M.D., Ph.D, a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic, “eating four egg yolks or fewer on a weekly basis hasn’t been found to increase your risk of heart disease.”
How can you include them in diet? Start your day with a fluffy egg omelet made with peppers, mushrooms and onions. Want to make the omelet without exceeding your four yolk a week max? Only use one or two eggs with the yolk intact and just use the whites from the remaining eggs. You can also scramble, poach or hard boil eggs and eat them as snacks.
Some people eat them raw, by adding them to shakes, but be aware that you are putting yourself at risk of salmonella by doing so. If you want to add them as a drink- filler, scramble them and cook them in the microwave then add them to the blender with the rest of your ingredients.
Spinach contains a lot of iron which affects hemoglobin, which in turn, carries oxygen to the cells. The more you work your muscles, the more oxygen they need. So, spinach helps to keep your muscles properly oxygenated so they are able to give it their all during a tough workout.
It also contains calcium which is an important nutrient for people who lift weights . Have you ever experienced a muscle cramp? It’s most likely the result of a deficiency in calcium or potassium. Ensure that your body gets the amounts it needs of this key nutrient by including calcium-rich foods like spinach in your diet which will save you from some unnecessary pain.
In addition to calcium, spinach also has vitamins C and K. Lifting weights can irritate conditions like asthma and arthritis. Eating a diet with these two vitamins helps reduce the possibility of that inflammation from occurring as they are anti-inflammatory.
And, eating high alkaline foods supplies more oxygen to your body, resulting in improved muscle recovery. It just so happens that spinach is one of the most alkaline foods you can find.
While Popeye just squeezed spinach cans to open them and poured it down his throat, that really doesn’t sound appetizing to most people. To add this muscle- building food to your diet, have fresh spinach in place of lettuce for your lunchtime salads. Boil or steam it and add it to your lasagna or top your pizza with it. Put it in a frying pan with other mixed greens and add a little olive oil and some seasonings for a nice side dish.
Like eggs, salmon is very high in protein and the key to building muscle is getting protein into your body faster than you break it down with your workouts. One, three- ounce serving of salmon packs a whopping 19 grams of this muscle- building nutrient!
In addition to being high protein, one 4 ounce filet of salmon has over 80% of your recommended daily intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Why is this important? These are the acids that reduce the breakdown of muscle-protein after your workout. The result?
Better muscle recovery.
Tuna used to be the canned fish of choice for bodybuilders, but not anymore. Salmon has now taken the top spot. Why? It contains less mercury. You can use canned salmon to add to salad greens for a nice light lunch. Or, if you have time and like to cook, you can form it into a patty and fry it up using a little bit of olive oil.
If you buy the salmon filets, you can broil them with lemon slices and a touch of garlic powder for a heart healthy dinner option. Or, if you’re looking for a satisfying snack, try some salmon jerky.
Almonds are high in absorbable vitamin E, which helps fight free-radicals that commonly exist in conjunction with high intensity exercise routines. In layman’s terms? More vitamin E means speedier recovery for your muscles.
Not only are they high in vitamin E, they are also high in fiber. So, eating a handful of these nuts helps control your appetite and, because they take so long to digest, keep your blood sugar stable. These are two very important aspects for anyone trying to watch their weight.
A lot of people shy away from almonds because they’re higher in fat. However the fat that they contain is monounsaturated, which is the ‘good’ fat. It’s the saturated fat you want to stay away from.
So, grab a handful of raw, unsalted almonds for a satisfying snack on the go. Slice them up and use them to top salads. Chop them into small pieces and add them to your yogurt to give it a little crunch. Got spare time and want a sweeter treat? Make roasted cinnamon almonds. Yum!
5. Greek Yogurt
Not only is the Greek version thicker and creamier than regular yogurt, it also contains more protein. In fact, most Greek yogurts pack almost double the amount of protein in one serving as their traditional counterparts.
In addition to the high protein, it’s also high in calcium. This helps to lower your cortisol production. Cortisol is the hormone which increases your body’s production of blood sugar, which is exactly what you don’t need to happen when you’re trying to reduce fat and build muscle. So, adding a sufficient amount of calcium to your diet makes it easier to get, and keep, a lean physique.
Just as with regular yogurt, there are many kinds to pick from so make sure you choose a fat-free sort. Mix it with berries and some crushed almonds for a filling mid-morning snack. Use it to top your baked potato in place of sour cream. Or, add it to your shake mix for a protein kick.
Building muscle takes more than just lifting weights. It’s about fueling your body with the necessary vitamins and nutrients to help it work as efficiently as possible. By adding foods like the ones listed above, you’ll get great results at the gym because your muscles will get exactly what they need to grow big and strong. So stock your fridge and pantry and soon you’ll achieve your weightlifting goals!