If you want to gain lean muscle or maintain the lean muscle you already have, physical activity and healthy nutrition are mandatory.
High protein foods are one of the key elements. They play an important role in muscle retention and building. However, carbohydrate and fats are also important and necessary source of energy. Your diet also needs to include a healthy serving of all these.
Working out/weight lifting, damages the muscle fibers and activates the repair process that forces individual muscle cells to grow. This growth requires lots of amino acids, the basic building blocks of life.
Here’s a list of foods that your body requires if you want to rebuild and maintain your muscle in the strongest and healthiest state possible:
Foods that Build Lean Muscle:
Eggs: Eggs are no longer the villain once thought. In fact, this powerhouse super-food offers a rich source of protein, providing approximately 7g per egg along with omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals. The yoke offers the greatest amount protein at 1/2 the total protein as well as vitamins A, D, E and cholesterol.
Yogurt: Ignore any yogurt choices that have added sugar or syrupy fruits on the bottom. Opt for plain low fat yogurt. It’s best to be in control so you can eliminate the unnecessary sugar. It’s easy to add your own choice of berries or seeds (flax and chi are great choices). Yogurt also contains much needed bacteria that improves the gastrointestinal health.
Wild Salmon/Fresh Fish: Salmon is a great source of lean protein…the building block of life. Along with wild salmon, fresh fish such as rainbow trout and even sardines offer important omega-3 fatty acids. Salmon is also a great source of niacin, Vitamin D and B12 and works to improve memory while reducing cholesterol. Scallops, Tilapia and Shrimp are all healthy choices.
Cottage Cheese: Just 1/2 cup of low-fat cottage cheese provides 14 grams of protein in 80 calories with less than 2 grams of fat. A favorite among many serious body builders.
Lean Red Meats: Protein is the main attraction when it comes to red meat, but lean red meat also provides us valuable vitamins like B12, zinc, iron, and carnosine. Those enjoying grass-fed beef will also benefit from some omega-3 fats as well.
Sweet Potatoes: This is definitely a super-food and should be included at your meals a few times weekly. These colorful super-stars provide us vitamins A and B as well as fiber. This starchy, complex carbohydrate helps to keep you filled up and satisfied. An awesome choice for pre and post work-outs.
Nuts: Nuts are a great choice when it comes to building muscle. There seems to be an endless variety available. Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts along with a string of other choices can easily satisfy the most intense hunger, boost energy levels and sharpen cognition. They offer zinc, magnesium an potassium along with vitamin E and fiber. Nut butters are also an excellent choice and once again, there are many varieties to choose from. The important thing is to stay clear of any added sugars or salt.
Quinoa: This whole grain has gained in popularity. It is full of protein.provides a healthy dose of iron and potassium. It will boost your energy and keep you feeling full. This protein-rich food also offers about 40 grams of carbs per cup (185 grams) along with 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber.
Beans: Just like nuts, there seems to be an almost endless variety of beans, and they are the perfect plant-based protein source to add to your diet. Many of them, such as black, pinto an kidney beans contain approximately 15 grams of protein per cup of cooked beans. This works out to be about 172 grams. They are also an excellent source of fiber, magnesium, phosphorus, iron and B vitamins.
Protein powders: Although whole foods are always the best choice, there are times when dietary supplements are helpful, especially for those that struggle to get enough protein from foods alone. Whey and casein protein powders are favorites, however, there are other options to choose from such as soy, pea, beef and chicken.
The main objective is to focus on eating whole foods and stay away from processed, chemically laden foods that offer nothing in regards to building muscle or improving overall health.
Bottom line is this:
The ability to build lean muscle has as much to do with what you eat as how hard you work your muscles.
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