Muscles do not grow during a workout like lifting weights at the gym. When lifting weights or doing other types of muscle building exercises, the muscles are stimulated. What happens is that the muscle cell fibers get damaged. When the muscle is at rest, the muscle cells get repaired. But they don’t just get repaired to the way they were before the damage. They end up bigger and stronger than before.
So in order for muscles to grow bigger they need to adequately recover. This recovery is the process where the muscle is being repaired to come out bigger and stronger. For the muscle to recover, it needs two things. These are proper rest and proper nutrition.
In this article we are focusing on nutrition.
For muscular growth the body needs nutrients with which to use to grow. These nutrients are proteins, carbohydrates and “healthy” fats. Of course vitamins and minerals are important for the body as well. Muscles are built using proteins, while carbohydrates provide fuel pr energy for muscle activity like working out. Healthy fats are good for testosterone which is an important hormone for muscle growth.
You may ask which foods are best for providing these nutrients. Following are a least of foods that are good sources of these nutrients.
It is important to note that the foods listed below are not the only ones that contain these nutrients. There are sooo many different options available all over the world. We shall cover more varieties of foods sources in later articles. So don’t worry food lovers, for there are a lot of food and nutrition discussions we shall have in the future.
With that said, let’s begin.
Eggs are a very good source of proteins, about six grams of protein in a good large egg. The body digest, absorbs and assimilates the protein found in eggs quite easily. The cholesterol in the egg yolk has positive benefits as well. It maintains muscle cell membrane as well as keeping the bodies testosterone levels high. Eggs provide lean mass and strength. They also provide omega 3 and 6, iron and zinc. The best eggs are the ones from free range hens or kienyeji.
2. LEAN BEEF
Beef has a high protein, cholesterol and fat content which all increase testosterone levels in the body. It’s also easy to digest and absorb into the muscle cells. Beef also contains natural creatine which boosts muscle performance. The saturated fat in the beef helps boost testosterone. But here look for lean cuts that will not over stuff you with too much fat especially if looking for lean muscular gain.
Shrimp is another great source of protein. It is actually almost consists entirely of protein, with a bit of carbohydrates and no fat. It is also high in leucine which is very important for muscle growth. Another good thing about shrimp is that although it is very dense in nutrients, it is low in calories which make it ideal for lean mass growth.
4. CHICKEN BREAST
This is another good protein source. This is a favorite with many bodybuilders. I personally love chicken very very much. My ethnic community is known for their love of chicken or ingokho as we call it back home. But out of the chicken parts, the chicken breast is the master protein source. A 3 ounce serving provides around 27 grams of protein and just 1 gram of fat. But the skin as it is high in fat. So if you want to be lean avoid chicken skin.
Chicken also contains important vitamins and minerals for promoting muscle growth. These include vitamin B6 that helps convert stored fat into energy, selenium (Se) that repair damaged muscle cells which means its good for muscle recovery and zinc (Zn) which promotes the release of muscle building hormones.
Salmon is packed with quick digesting protein. 3 ounces of salmon contain around 17 grams of proteins. Salmon is also rich in the essential omega 3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA which provide muscular strength and insulin sensitivity which leads to greater protein uptake by the muscle cells. Omega 3 also help promote muscle and joint recovery that are good for helping prevent injury during a workout. They also provide much needed fuel for the muscles.
6. PORK TENDERLOIN
Pork in general is a good source of protein. However pork tenderloins provide you with the most amount of protein with the least amount of fat than any other part of pork. A 3.5 ounce serving will give 21 grams of protein vs. 4 grams of fat. It also contains vitamin B2 which helps to digest protein.
Tuna is another good source of protein. A 3 once serving provides 21 grams of protein as well as vitamin A, niacin and vitamins B6 and B12. These vitamins provide energy for working out. Tuna also contains omega3 fatty acids. Omega3 fatty acids promote leanness, improve heart health and slow down muscle loss. Muscle loss occurs as we age through a process called atrophy.
We need carbohydrates to give our muscles energy to workout. Without adequate carbohydrates the body turns to protein in the muscle for energy resulting in muscle mass loss. So we can see how carbohydrates are important for muscle mass. Not only that but carbohydrates make the muscles make better use of proteins and also assist in the muscle repair process.
Some good sources of carbohydrates are as follows:
1. SWEET POTATOES
A medium size sweet potato contains around 24 grams of carbohydrates and 4 grams of fiber which is also good for the body. They also have lots of vitamins and minerals.
Quinoa contains Lysine which is one of the 9 essential amino acids. Since the body doesn’t produce lysine on its own it is important to have a food source that contains lysine. The interesting thing with quinoa is that it has enough lysine to be considered a compete source of protein. Eating quinoa also helps increase levels of insulin like growth factor 1 which is essential for muscle growth.
Oatmeal is a complex slow digesting carbohydrate thus it provides energy to the body over long periods of time. Oatmeal is also a good source of lipids, much higher than other cereals. Lipids are good sources of energy and unsaturated fatty acids.
There are three types of raw oats, still cut, whole roll and quick oats. Still cut oats are the best for muscle building because they are the least processed, slowest burning or digesting qnd have the lowest effect on insulin levels. A cup of oatmeal contains 56 grams of carbohydrates, 11 grams of protein and 5 grams of fat.
Fruits also play a big role in the muscle building process. Let’s look at just e few.
Apart from helping fight disease, apples also help keep fat at bay while making the body grow bigger and become stronger. Apples contain polythenols that help in muscular endurance and strength. They also help to increase the amount of fat burnt by the body.
Blueberries contain anthocyanadin which is a potent anti oxidant that destroys free radicals in the body and are also good for brain function. Free radicals are unstable molecules that damage muscle cells aside from causing many other problems. Blueberries also help in post workout recovery.
Monounsaturated fats are the kind of fats that are good for us. Consumed regularly they help lower obesity levels. An average healthy avocado contains around 15 grams of monounsaturated fats. In the past, avocados were avoided by athletes like bodybuilders as they were known to be fatty. Until it was discovered that the fats they contain are good fats that are healthy for us.
Avocados also help in muscle growth. Eating healthy fats like those found in avocados can boost levels of testosterone and growth hormone, both of which are muscle building hormones. Avocados are also packed with vitamins and minerals. They are rich in potassium, which assists in proper cell and muscle function.
1. NUTS (ALMONDS)
Nuts are full of muscle building nutrition. One of the best nuts is almonds. They are packed with vitamins minerals and antioxidants that help to control blood sugar spikes after a meal. They also contain unsaturated fats that are good for the heart. They are also good as a protein source with just a handful of them containing more protein than an egg.
They also boost energy levels due to their high content of manganese and copper which fight against free radical damage to the mitochondria. Mitochondria are the energy source of cells.
Beetroots contain betaine and nitrates. Betaine supports muscular strength and endurance. Nitrates on the other hand contribute to the production of nitric oxide which helps to relax blood vessels allowing them to widen and allow more blood to flow through. This increased blood flow allows more amino acids into the muscle cells allowing the muscle to get a better pump during workouts.
Yoghurt contains vitamin D which helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorous. Calcium helps in stronger muscle contraction while phosphorous helps make ATP, also known as adenosine triphosphate, which is the body’s main energy source for doing heavy work like lifting heavy weights.
4. PROTEIN POWDER
A protein shake just after a workout will help repair and grow muscles by getting amino acids directly into the cells to start the rebuilding process. Whey isolate based powders are the best as they have a 90% volume of protein. But remember that protein shakes are not natural foods but food supplements. And thus they should supplement the food in your diet, not replace it. So make sure you have a proper diet with proper food than add a protein powder to the mix.
These are just some of the foods that are good for muscle building. There are many more foods that are good for muscle building. We have looked at these few for a start. We shall cover many more in later articles.