When you are trying to pack on muscle, you need a combination of lean protein and good carbs, which helps fuel your body so that you can kick up your workouts to another level. Here are 15 essential foods to eat as you try to Hulk-out.
1. Plain Yogurt
Plain yogurt is loaded with calcium, Vitamin D and protein, all of which nourish your muscles and help them recover from strenuous workouts. Yogurt also contains probiotics, which help regulate your digestion and increase the amount of good gut bacteria essential to good elimination.
2. Cottage Cheese
It’s no wonder that cottage cheese often appears in popular diets, because it’s low in fat, low in sugar and high in time-release protein that you need for muscle growth. You can eat cottage cheese straight out of the cup, or put it on whole wheat crackers as a topping. It also provides you with energy right before a workout, without adding a lot of fat to your diet.
3. Olive Oil
Huh? What? Relax, musclehead, olive oil has anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories, both of which help your tired muscles heal and recover in a shorter period of time. It is also classified as a good fat, because of its high level of monounsaturated fat, and lack of trans fat and saturated fat. You can drip it on a salad, or use sparingly to cook a high-protein meal.
4. Lean Red Meat
It’s no secret why professional bodybuilders will load up on lean cuts of red meat when they’re bulking up for a competition. Red meat is packed with iron, protein and amino acids, all essential building blocks for muscle growth. The trick is to choose lean cuts and to limit your intake to 6 ounces per day.
An apple a day will not only keep the doctor away, it will fill you up with good carbs, make you feel fuller quicker because your stomach takes longer to digest the skin, and provide you with tons of fiber to keep your digestive system regular. Reach for an apple before and after a workout, and load up on rich nutrients.
Bananas are high in sugar, but they are an excellent source of potassium and carbohydrates that you need to help fuel your workouts. Potassium helps your muscles relax so that they are less prone to cramping during and after a hard exercise regimen. It’s best to eat bananas right before and right after your workouts, because your body rapidly uses what it needs and burns off the rest.
7. Raw Almonds
Raw nuts in general are a great source of fiber, carbs and protein, so as you’re trying to bulk up, you should be eating at least a handful every day. Raw almonds don’t have sodium, which causes your body to retain water and makes it more difficult to build lean muscle.
8. Brown Rice
In general, brown rice, brown pasta and brown bread are all staples of a diet that is geared toward muscle building. Brown rice doesn’t metabolize into sugar the way white rice does, and the whole grains in brown rice take longer for your stomach to digest, which is why you will feel full much quicker when you eat brown rice. It also has good carbs that you can use to drive your intense workouts.
9. Chicken Breast
The white portion of a chicken is loaded with protein and low in fat and sugar. Chicken is a staple of bodybuilders everywhere because it is lean, nutritious and low in calories. But you need to avoid the dark portions, such as the thighs and drumsticks, which are much fattier and higher in calories.
Eggs have gotten a bad rap in the past, but fitness experts have reclaimed eggs from obscurity by touting the benefits of this simple wonder. Many bodybuilders will eat the yolk because nearly half of the protein in one egg comes from the yolk, so going with the white part only, deprives you of nearly half the protein you need to bulk up.
11. Natural Oatmeal
Mom was right, oatmeal does a body good, especially a body that is in the midst of adding layers of muscle. Oatmeal is made from whole grains, which are healthy and filled with good carbs. Oatmeal is an outstanding pre-workout food that gives you energy. Avoid the instant oatmeal, and buy natural, steel-cut oatmeal that you can cook in 10 to 15 minutes.
12. Peanut Butter
Turns out that a good old PB&J sandwich is a healthy, nutrient-dense meal if you choose a natural fruit jelly and spread it on whole wheat bread. Peanut butter is a wonder of good fats and protein. After a workout, eat a PB&J sandwich, or just eat raw peanut butter out of the jar to help curb your hunger, and to help prevent you from snacking on something sugary like a cookie.
A post workout meal of brown rice, salmon steak and a salad is about as perfect a combination as you could eat to build muscle, limit fat and quell your hunger. Salmon is a good source of protein, and also has omega-3s, which are fatty acids associated with health benefits, including lowering high blood pressure. If you’re trying to get big, fish such as salmon and albacore tuna in water is the way to go.
Yeah, they’re not the best-tasting food out there, but beets are loaded with nitrates that help reduce the amount of oxygen you need during intense workouts. Beets help you sustain your peak performance for a longer period of time, which is key when trying to break down your muscles in order to bulk them up. Beets are also high in potassium, carbs, fiber and Vitamin C, all cornerstones of a healthy diet.
Whether you like it in guacamole form, or you just slice it into a salad, avocados are an essential muscle-building food that you have to add to your diet. In the past, bodybuilders avoided avocados because they are high in fat, but researchers now know that the monounsaturated fat in avocados is a good fat. Avocados also contain carotenoids, which are antioxidants that also help your cells grow, a major aspect of the tearing and building up process that adds bulk to your muscles.