These Are 19 Of The Best Muscle Building Foods Right Now
Yaaaas – there is a way to ramp up your muscle-building without having to live at the gym. The secret is in your nutrition…
Yup, what you put in your mouth is just as important as the time you spend sweating. Think about it: if you spend hours on the treadmill but you’re hitting up the drive-thru on the way home, that time you spend training is kinda wasted.
So, what should you eat? We’ve chatted to an expert and sourced the foods you need to make muscle building a breeze.
Registered dietician and Association of Dietetics in South Africa (ADSA) spokesperson Lila Bruk says that, for muscle-building in general, you should aim for 1.2 to 2g protein per kilo of body weight. So, a 60kg woman would need 72 to 120g of protein per day for muscle gain.
So, how does this muscle-building formula work exactly?
As soon as possible after your exercise sesh, combine a high glycaemic index (GI) carb source (say, a glucose-based drink) with a source of protein (like whey protein). Protein should also be ingested at three-hour intervals throughout the day to maximise muscle building and recovery.
But be careful – you don’t want any of that extra fuel being stored as fat. “Your eating plan should focus on good-quality lean protein sources (eggs, fish, chicken), moderate amounts of fat and moderate amounts of low-GI carbs. If you’re monitoring your body composition regularly, you should be able to tell if your programme is ‘working’ – ie. if you see an increase in your muscle mass with minimal increase to your fat mass,” says Bruk. The ideal is to get an individualised eating plan from a registered dietitian.
So, what are these magic muscle-building foods? Add these to your shopping list asap.
1. Brown rice
Although cooked brown rice provides only 5g of protein per cup (195g), it has the carbs you need to fuel exercise. Consider eating it in the hours leading up to your workout. Bonus: Research has shown that rice protein supplements can result in as much muscle gain as whey protein when weight training.
2. Lean beef
This should be your “go-to” if you’re looking to gain muscle mass. Lean beef is loaded with iron, zinc (which supports your immune system and muscles), magnesium (this plays a role in metabolism and muscle health and helps manage sleep) and B-vitamins. Most importantly, it’s a high-quality protein source (not all proteins are equal) and its amino acids work with insulin to promote muscle growth.
3. Skinless chicken
Like beef, chicken is an excellent source of high-quality protein, which is important for muscle maintenance and repair, bone health and weight maintenance. Plus, it’s super-versatile so you won’t get bored easily.
Oatmeal is a great source of carbs because it’s low GI and minimally processed. Low-GI foods can aid fat loss (they keep you fuller for longer) and provide a constant source of carbs for muscle preservation.
5. Fruit and veggies
Fruit and vegetables are a rich source of antioxidants, which are important for the healthy functioning of your immune system. They also pack a bunch of other nutrients, such as vitamins C and E, and beta-carotene. Best part? The fibre for optimum digestion.
6. Healthy fats
We know – the idea of adding fat to your diet sounds a little counterintuitive, but we need good fats for muscle growth. FYI: they play a vital role in hormone production, which helps drive muscle growth and strength gains.
Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are the good ones. You’ll find them in salmon and other fatty other fishes, nuts, leafy veggies, oils such as flaxseed, avocado, seeds and nuts.
7. Cottage cheese
Cottage cheese is almost entirely pure casein protein. Casein is a slow-digesting protein, which means it’s great for maintaining and growing muscle.
Our fave brekkie food, eggs contain “good for you” fat. They’re also a high-quality protein source, have nine essential amino acids, choline and vitamin B.
9. Whey protein
There’s a reason fast-absorbing whey protein is popular among athletes, bodybuilders and fitness models. It increases the release of anabolic hormones, which can stimulate muscle growth.
Each half-cup (124g) serving of raw tofu contains 10g of protein, 6g of fat and 2g of carbs. Tofu is also a good source of calcium, which is important for proper muscle function and bone health. FYI: Soy protein, found in foods like tofu and soybeans, is considered one of the highest-quality plant proteins.
Which leads us to… Half a cup (86g) of cooked soybeans contains 14g of protein, healthy unsaturated fats and several vitamins and minerals. Soybeans are also a particularly good source of vitamin K and iron.
12. Tuna and other fatty fish
In addition to 20g of protein per 85g serving, tuna contains high amounts of vitamin A and several B vitamins, including B12, niacin and B6. These nutrients are important for optimal health, energy and exercise performance.
Fish in general are high in protein, low in fat, and rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which assist with metabolism and fat loss.
While protein-rich foods are a priority for building lean muscle, it’s also important to have the fuel to get active. Foods with carbs, like quinoa, help to provide this energy.
Like shrimp, tilapia and lean poultry, scallops dish up protein with very little fat. If you’re looking to add protein to your diet without consuming too many calories, these very lean sources are good choices. Around 85 of scallops provide around 20g of protein and fewer than 100 calories.
15. Pork tenderloin
Pork tenderloin is a lean cut of meat that provides 18g of protein and only 2g of fat per 85g. Some research has even shown that pork has effects similar to those of other muscle-building foods, such as beef and chicken.
Half a cup (about 172g) of blanched almonds provides 16g of protein and large amounts of vitamin E, magnesium and phosphorus. Phosphorus helps your body use carbs and fats for energy while at rest (bonus!) and during exercise.
17. Greek yoghurt
Dairy is a mixture slow-digesting casein protein and fast-digesting whey protein, so snacking on it after or before a workout could be beneficial in building muscle. Fast fact: Greek yoghurt packs double the protein of regular yoghurt.
An 85g serving provides around 21g of protein, along with good amounts of vitamin B12 and selenium. Vitamin B12 is important for the health of your blood cells and nerves, which allows you to actually perform the exercise you need to gain that prime muscle.
19. Protein powder
Sometimes getting protein from food isn’t enough. You can add protein shakes to your daily routine for optimum results.