For the longest time, I was under the impression that my muscles were growing while I was working out. This line of thinking cost me a couple years of hard work with little results.
By thinking that my muscles were growing in the gym, it was only logical to think that the more I did in the gym the more muscle I'd grow. In reality, I should have been shortening the volume of work I was performing (while increase my intensity levels) and adding more calorie dense foods, over and above my calorie expenditure. My downfall was failing to add more and more calorie dense foods to my diet as I improved in the gym. The result was muscle stagnation and eventually, muscle loss.
Suffice to say, I've learned my lesson and have come to respect the power and beauty of proper nutrition in the muscle building equation.
You see, weight training is one part of the muscle building equation. The other part of the equation is nutrition and rest. Think of it this way. Weight training provides the why for your muscles to grow. Nutrition provides the how while rest provides the when. Combine the three variables and you get optimal muscle growth. Miss one or two of these variables and you get sub-par muscle growth.
Without proper nutrition your muscles won't grow This is a fact. Muscle fibre is broken down during periods of stress (such as working out) which causes micro tears within the muscle fibre. In order for your muscles to grow, you need to give them proper nutrition. Proper nutrition rebuilds and repairs the muscle which allows for muscle growth.
With that being said, I'm going to provide you with a list of 8 essential muscle building foods.
This list will break down 8 muscle building foods that will help stimulate muscle growth and will help your body reach its maximum capacity of muscle growth.
Before I start, let me just say that your muscles need more than just protein to grow big and strong. While protein is essential in helping your muscles grow, a good array of healthy fats and complex carbohydrates will really take your muscle growth to the next level. That is why we have included a few key members of the complex carbohydrate and healthy fat family in this list.
I recommend eating everything on this list at least once a week, and many of these can be enjoyed everyday. According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN), you should be consuming at least .7 to 1.0 grams of protein per pound of body weight. In my opinion, you should be consuming at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. According to Alan Aragon (M.S author of Girth Control: The Science of Fat Loss & Muscle Gain) your body will slowly absorb all the protein you can eat, even 125 grams in one sitting! For a more detailed explanation, please see this page here .
Other recent research found that the health benefits of beef (and lamb) are greater when animals are fed totally on grass - their natural food. Omega 3 fatty acids - recognized as essential to good physical and mental health - are higher in meat from grass and the levels of saturated fat are a third of grain fed beef.
Research has also shown that grass based diets can significantly improve the fatty acid composition and antioxidant levels of beef. This explains why grass fed beef contains less saturated fat than grain fed beef. For more information on the benefits of grass fed beef, click here .
In my opinion, the best kind of grass fed beef is the ground sirloin that is at the minimum 90 percent lean, or a grass fed sirloin steak. These cuts are much lower in fat than other forms of grass fed beef and are much higher in protein.
Grass fed beef can be enjoyed for lunch or dinner, and makes for a highly versatile form of protein as it can be enjoyed as the ground beef in pasta, tacos, or even by itself. One 16-ounce package of 90 percent lean grass fed sirloin contains a whopping 88 grams of protein! Eat up and get big.
2) Whole Eggs
Eggs are not only high in protein but also many other muscle building nutrients found in the yolk. That is why for building muscle it is recommended that you enjoy whole eggs. Eggs are also rich in all 8 of the essential amino acids your body needs to recover after an intense workout. Eggs are not only loaded with protein but the amino acids and calcium necessary for muscle and bone growth. Enjoy your whole eggs every morning and your muscles will thank you!
Quinoa is considered a super food and a wonder grain because it is so high in fiber, protein, complex carbohydrates and essential vitamins and minerals. Quinoa is the perfect ratio of complex carbohydrates and protein to help your body rapidly recover from a workout and build lean muscle mass.
Quinoa contains a 5:1 ratio of complex carbohydrates to lean protein. Quinoa can be enjoyed regularly in a very similar way that you enjoy rice, potatoes, or pasta. In fact, it is much higher in protein than all of these. One cup of Quinoa contains 24 grams of protein and almost a full days supply of iron! Eat Quinoa several times per week for a great source of slow digesting energy as well as a proven muscle builder.
4) Chicken Breast
Chicken Breasts are a great source of lean protein. The boneless skinless chicken breasts are 99 percent fat free and contain close to 50 grams of protein for a large chicken breast. Chicken breasts can be enjoyed every single day and for just about every meal if you get creative enough.
You can put them in your omelets for breakfast, eat them plain with your favorite sauce for lunch, and mix them in with your favorite salads, pastas, tacos, and favorite ethnic food recipes for dinner. Chicken is delicious, high in protein, builds lean muscle mass and should be consumed regularly for anyone looking to build muscle mass and ingest more protein.
They are also great for anyone looking to lose fat because they are relatively low in calories, fat, and keep you full.
As far as top vegan sources of protein goes, edamame is at the top of the list. Edamame is the steamed soybean that I'm sure all of you have seen or tried at your favorite Asian or Japanese restaurant. These steamed soybeans are extremely high in vegan protein as well as fiber.
One cup of edamame has a whopping 17 grams of lean protein and an abundance of healthy fiber. Edamame is the perfect snack for anyone looking to build lean muscle mass while keeping his or her body fat at a minimum. Due to its high fiber content, edamame will keep you full and supply you with a great source of protein.
According to Stephen Harrod Buhner, author of "The Natural Testosterone Plan: For Sexual Health and Energy", snacking on almonds may help improve testosterone levels.
Almonds are one of the best choices for muscle building because they are high in protein, healthy fats as well as vitamin E and manganese. One-quarter cup of almonds contains more protein than a single egg! Consume almonds as a muscle-building snack throughout the day.
8) Greek Yogurt
The above noted foods have one thing in common They help build lean hard muscle mass. Combine these foods with a smart weight training program and optimal recovery strategies and I can guarantee you that you'll build slabs of thick, dense beef. Remember, you need to consume a variety of healthy foods that will balance out your physique. I recommend you take a look at our diet and nutrition page for a deeper understanding of nutrition and building muscle here .
Need a Bit of Help?
Don't know where to start? Don't know which type of program to follow to reach your goals? Confused about what you should be eating? Let me help you. I can help you clear away the confusion and provide you with some expert advice on how to get started or what to do next. Just go to this page here and fill out the online form and hit submit. I'll get back to you as soon as I can (I won't collect your email address or spam you) - Blake
All the best,
As the owner of Building Muscle 101, I am committed to providing you the best practical weight training advice. I've been training for over 24 years (and still train to this day!) and the advice and guidance I provide comes directly from my experience and knowledge.
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