If you’re looking to add more muscle to your frame, you know the importance of nutrition. Proper nutrition is critically important for building muscle mass and without it; you’re simply not going to see the results you’re hoping for. When it comes down to the details, it pays to know which foods to eat to get the job done.
If you’re wondering which foods top the list for muscle building, we’ve got you covered! Let’s look at our top seven foods for hitting those PR’s in the gym – and on the scale.
Of all the protein sources you could consume, salmon easily ranks in as one of the best. The reason this protein source earns five stars is that it’s a terrific source of omega-3 fatty acids.
These omega fats should not be undervalued in a good muscle building program. Beyond the healthy calories they provide, they also help to boost insulin sensitivity1, which means your body will be more apt to efficiently use carbohydrates rather than store them as fat.
Being insulin sensitive is incredibly important for recovery from your intense training sessions, and will also help keep you as lean as possible while you’re in a calorie surplus.
Oats are the next food on the list for building muscle. Raw oats should be the variety you consume as they’re more calorie-dense, helping you to meet your muscle building quota without increasing the volume of food you need to eat.
Oats are a fantastic source of carbohydrates as they provide no sugar and offer a good dose of dietary fiber as well.
Furthermore, raw oats are quick and easy to prepare – just put them in a bowl like regular cold cereal, and pour some almond milk over top. For an extra muscle-building boost, try mixing some protein powder into the milk. And if you have the calories for it, add in some dried cranberries, a handful of almonds, and a tablespoon of peanut butter for a solid breakfast that will easily keep you satisfied until your next meal.
Don’t shun the yolk! That should be your mantra when it comes to muscle building nutrition. Too many people think that egg whites hold the most value since they’re a lean protein source.
While it’s true that egg whites are great for protein, the yolk holds most of the nutrient value that eggs have to offer. Most importantly, eggs are a rich source of choline, which is imperative to foster strong muscle contractions.
In addition to that, egg yolks also provide a good dose of iron and zinc, two more minerals that are essential to the muscle building process.
Additionally, zinc is correlated with testosterone levels. If you are deficient in zinc, it’s very likely that your testosterone levels will decline, too. This has a direct impact on your ability to build muscle tissue.
Speaking of testosterone, no diet would be complete without healthy fats. Healthy fats help to keep testosterone levels where they need to be, ensuring optimal muscle is built.
Research2 has shown that men who consume diets that are very high in fiber and low in fat tend to have lower overall testosterone levels compared to men who consume diets that are higher in fat and lower in fiber.
This doesn’t mean you should shun all vegetables – they’re necessary for vitamins and mineral - but try and strike a good balance. Avocados are great because they provide a healthy dose of dietary fat and provide a few grams of fiber and antioxidants along with it. This allows you to get the benefits of both worlds in one food.
Avocados are also a rich source of vitamin E, which is a powerful antioxidant in the body and can help you combat periods of high stress.
Olive oil is the next great food to include in your muscle building diet plan. Olive oil is another healthy fat source that will go a long way towards reducing inflammation3 (which can slow muscle growth) as well as improving insulin sensitivity.
Having good insulin sensitivity is critical when it comes to building muscle as it will ensure that you’re able to direct nutrients to the muscle tissues where they’re needed.
Eating a higher carbohydrate diet almost always produces better muscle building results than a very low carbohydrate diet does, but you need to have good insulin sensitivity to make use of those carbs.
Adding olive oil to your food helps you do that – and also helps you hit your calorie goals. At 120 calories per tablespoon, it’s an easy addition to your meals that won’t leave you feeling bloated or overly full.
Another protein source you can’t afford to miss out on is chicken breast. Chicken is a classic staple food for bodybuilders, and for good reason: it’s high in protein, low in fat, and easy to prepare.
There is an endless number of ways to cook chicken to prevent you from getting bored with your meals. It’s hard to get bored when you’re constantly experimenting with new recipes, so don’t let yourself get stuck in a rut of plain chicken!
Best of all, chicken is a relatively cost-effective source of protein, when compared with other sources such as beef or fresh fish.
Finally, don’t let yourself miss out on the benefits that bananas have. This is one fruit that is great for building muscle thanks to the combination of carb types it offers. You’ll get a dose of simple sugars from the banana, which will provide immediate energy when you need it, as well as a slower digesting source of energy from the complex carbohydrates.
Loaded with potassium, they’ll also help to foster strong muscle contractions while keeping your blood pressure in check.
Bananas make an excellent pre-workout carb choice or blended into your post-workout protein shake. However, you choose to eat them, just be sure to get them in.
There’s your list of the seven best foods to eat to build muscle. Are you missing out on any of these in your diet plan? If so, make a few changes and start ensuring that they make their way onto your menu.