Did you know that training at the gym regularly is not enough to help you gain muscle mass? Your diet plays a critical role in your body’s ability to grow muscle tissue. Without receiving proper nutrition from the foods you eat daily, your gym sessions will simply leave you feeling tired, and you may not see any noticeable muscle growth from your workouts.
You can easily build muscle mass naturally through your diet alone. If you’re already taking any health supplements, they will work faster to give you more muscles when you start eating right. If you neglect your diet and eat whatever you want, no supplement will be strong enough to overcome the negative effects of your bad diet. Supplements simply won’t work without a good diet to support them. How do you know what foods are the best to help you build up your muscles?
These days, the information overload about muscle building can seem confusing and contradictory, so we’re going to look at the facts about popular, and newly discovered, muscle-building food choices and why they’re good for you. Finally, we’ll review how to eat these foods so that they’re most effective for you, and we’ll warn you about which foods slow down muscle gain.
The first food on our list to build muscle is not exactly a food, but without it, you couldn’t digest anything you eat! Can you guess what it is?
It’s water! You cannot build up good muscle tissue, or any other tissue in your body, without drinking lots of water on a daily basis. Water is critical for proper digestion and absorption of the nutrients you’re eating so that they don’t go to waste. Lack of adequate water intake results in poorly and underdeveloped body tissues in general.
The next important food category is iron-rich foods. Why? Iron is necessary to build up the healthy blood cells that enhance muscle growth. Your blood is responsible for carrying vital nutrients that directly feed your muscle tissue throughout your entire body. It’s important to combine these foods with vitamin C, from fruits, in order to make iron absorbable for your body.
You can get healthy doses of iron from these foods:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Any bean
- Pure molasses
Foods high in vitamin B-12 are also important to nourish the blood for muscle growth, and it’s abundant in all meats and dairy products. Vegetarians can get plenty of B-12 naturally from these foods:
- Soy products
- Rice, hemp or almond milks
- Fortified cereals
Protein is important, but only in the right amounts.
Dr. Paavo Airo has proven that we only need 45 grams of protein in our diets each day; more than that simply goes to waste because it becomes too much for the body to digest properly. Too much protein creates excessive strain on your digestive organs. Other sources state that the recommended daily intake of protein is up to 56 grams.
It’s not necessary to eat tons of food to get the protein that you need for optimum muscle growth; you just need to know which foods have the highest concentration of digestible protein in them and focus on eating those. Often, the greater the protein density is in any food, the less fat it contains; therefore, highly concentrated protein foods are usually better for people with high cholesterol.
Let’s take a look at the most highly concentrated protein food sources, ranked in order from the greatest protein concentration to the least; the results will surprise you. This information comes from the USDA National Nutrient Database.
1) Spirulina, a salt water algae plant that’s dried before consuming, contains 58 grams of protein per every 100 grams. The average serving size is generally small, however, and most people mix only around one tablespoon into his or her favorite juice or shake. Those who develop a taste for spirulina gradually increase the daily dose over time, and some prefer to take it in capsule form. The added benefit of spirulina is its rich iron content and variety of minerals as well that are also important for muscle development.
2) Believe it or not, parmesan cheese has a higher protein density than meat! Out of all the cheese varieties, this particular cheese packs the biggest protein punch: 42 grams of protein in every 100 grams. You can increase the average serving size, five grams, to suit your taste, and you’ll also receive vital amino acids like lysine that are important for complete protein assimilation.
3) Lean veal and beef has 37 grams of protein in every 100 grams. As most people are used to eating larger servings of beef, many prefer this meat as their main protein source. You only need to eat around five ounces of beef every day to increase muscle mass, if that is your only protein source, of course.
4) Lamb shoulder contains 36 grams of protein for every 100 grams, making it a less-acidic alternative to beef without compromising much on protein content.
5) Turkey and chicken breasts hold 33 grams of protein in every 100 gram batch, and they generally have a lower fat content than other meats as well. The typical chicken breast, around 58 grams, contains about 17 grams or protein. Legs and thighs contain a little less protein.
6) Squash and pumpkins seeds have the same protein density as turkey and chicken breast, surprisingly. They are only ranked lower here because the general public tends to eat them in smaller quantities.
7) Mozzarella has 32 grams of protein for every 100 grams of mozzarella, which is also the same as low-fat cottage cheese.
8) Fish, such as snapper, halibut, salmon and tuna, offer 30 grams of protein in each 10 gram serving. If you have a three ounce fish fillet, you’re consuming around 22 grams of protein with essential fatty acids that help digest the protein better.
9) Pork contains the same protein density as fish.
It’s also worth noting that peanuts have the highest protein density of all nuts: 24 grams for every 100 grams. Almonds, pistachios and sunflower seeds have a little less protein concentration at 21 grams for every 100 grams of nuts.
I’m sure some of you are wondering: “What about eggs and milk? Aren’t they rich protein sources?”
The truth is that eggs contain a protein density of only 13 grams for every 100 gram serving, which is less than most nuts. Even most beans have a higher protein density than eggs. Milk has even less protein concentration: only 6 grams per every 100 grams of milk. The only reason why milk and eggs get more attention on other popular protein-source lists is because many people prefer to drink milk and eat eggs in larger quantities.
Don’t forget these other good protein sources that many people overlook.
1) Grains have protein as well, and quinoa especially has the highest protein content of all grains. Millet is also a good source of iron.
2) Legumes, such as soybeans, fava beans, peas, lentils and chickpeas, have a high nutritional content. Most importantly, when you combine grains and legumes in any meal, you are digesting a complete protein source that has all of the necessary amino acids for total assimilation; that means more muscle tissue can grow faster for you!
3) Hemp seeds, an excellent food supplement sold at most health food stores, are a great protein booster for your smoothies and baking recipes. Hemp seeds are composed of all of the essential fatty acids and amino acids that build muscle.
4) Acai berries have recently become popular after many tourists discovered Brazilian bodybuilders consumed them regularly while working out. Their high nutritional content includes iron, calcium, fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins A, B1 and E. Their antioxidant content is higher than nearly every other common fruit. That’s not all; they have a high omega-3 fatty acid content along with other essential fatty acids. These are the same fatty acids commonly found in fish or flaxseed oil.
What slows down your muscle gain?
Beware of homogenized dairy products, white sugar or artificial sugars, coffee and black tea because they prevent your body from assimilating iron and most other vital nutrients needed to grow muscle. Remember that your entire diet should consist of 40 percent carbohydrates, 25 percent protein, and 25 percent healthy fats, like avocados. Remember too that getting enough sleep is also vital to maintain a good hormone balance for faster muscle growth; otherwise, everything good you just ate is just getting burned up instead of turning into muscle!