Here’s the truth: No matter how hard you train, you will always need to support your goals with the right nutrition.
Finding the right fuel for your fitness can be challenging sometimes, but food scientists, nutrition experts and professional trainers are doing their best to help debunk the myths and shed light on your nutritional needs. Here are some of their food faves to help you build lean, powerful muscle without packing on pounds of fat.
It should come as no surprise to you that protein features heavily on this list! Let’s take a look at some of the smartest sources for protein, including some great options for vegetarians and vegans.
EGGS – In addition to being packed with protein, eggs also contain large amounts of the amino acid leucine, which is particularly important for muscle gain. And you can always find creative new ways to incorporate eggs into you diet: scramble them for breakfast, soft boil them for a snack, or hard boil them and add them to a salad.
SALMON – Each 3-ounce serving of salmon contains a whopping 17 grams of protein, as well as essentially omega-3 fatty acids, which are an essential part of muscular health Just be mindful of how your salmon is sourced – wild caught is always better for you than farm-raised.
PUMPKIN SEEDS – Vegans rejoice! Pumpkin seeds are a complete protein source and are also high in fatty acids, making them an excellent option for your afternoon snack or a powerhouse topping for any salad.
COTTAGE CHEESE – Vegetarians need love too, you guys. We couldn’t create a list of muscle building magic proteins without talking about cottage cheese, which packs 28 grams of protein into every single cup. Choose a lower fat option to keep your calories low while filling your diet with protein!
CHICKEN BREAST – Chicken is a muscle building staple, and it’s no surprise! Each 3-ounce serving contains about 26 grams of protein, plus generous amounts of B vitamins to support your active lifestyle.
GREEK YOGURT – Often containing double the amount of protein as regular yogurt, Greek yogurt is an awesome source of fast-digesting whey protein and slow-digesting casein protein. Research indicates that people experience a positive impact on lean muscle building when they consume a combination of fast- and slow-digesting proteins!
BEANS – Power up with plants! Lots of different varieties, including black, pinto and kidney beans, can be incorporated into your diet to deliver around 15 grams of protein per 1 cup serving. Beans are also an awesome source of fiber and B vitamins.
COUNT ON CARBS
Betcha thought this entire list was going to be protein, right? Wrong! Carbohydrates are an essential macronutrient, necessary for providing your body with easily accessible energy. In fact, people who are focusing on strength training at least twice a week should get about half of their calories from carbs!
Don’t forget that timing is important – the best time to consume complex carbs for muscle building is a couple hours before an intense workout.
BROWN RICE – Whole grain rice is an amazing source of pre-workout carbs, with a whopping 38 grams in every cup of cooked rice, along with some extra fiber to keep things moving regularly in your GI tract.
QUINOA – This ancient grain has a good reputation for aiding in weight loss and helping build lean muscle. In addition to being a complete protein – a protein that contains all the essential amino acids – quinoa is also rich in carbohydrates.
THE GOOD FATS
No list of muscle building nutritional powerhouses would be complete without taking a look at some of the good fats that perfect your macronutrient ratios. In fact, your body relies on fat to supply energy to your muscles during workouts, so while portion sizes need to be carefully monitored, you can’t achieve your lean muscle gains without some healthy fats on board.
NUT BUTTER – 100%, no-sugar-added butter from peanuts or almonds offers 5-7 grams of protein per serving, but it’s also an excellent source of the good fats needed to help fuel your body during fitness.
AVOCADO – Avocado doesn’t contain much in the way of carbs or protein, but a serving of the heart-healthy fats in avocado will help aid nutrient absorption and balance your overall nutrient intake.
THE BIG PICTURE
While it would be tempting to only focus on proteins when you’re trying to build lean muscle, it’s important that you don’t sacrifice your macronutrient ratios in order to achieve your gains. Avoid plateaus by sticking with balanced meals that will help power your performance and fuel your fitness.
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