It is simple... put good in, get good out. The following foods (which we have broken down by proteins, carbs, fats, and liquids) are a good place to start. Each one is a nutritional powerhouse that you should be incorporating into your diet as often as you can. Read on, then shop and eat accordingly.
Protein is critical for providing the building blocks that make up your muscle, and building muscle requires roughly 1 gram per pound of body weight daily. Some protein sources provide other ingredients that will improve muscle strength and growth even more.
8 oz of salmon: 416 calories, 45g of protein, 0g carbs, 24g fat
Salmon is rich in the essential omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acids (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acids (DHA). Higher omega-3 amounts help improve muscle strength, enhance insulin sensitivity, and increase glucose and amino acid uptake. They’re also readily burned for fuel, which protects muscle glycogen to keep muscles big.
3 oz of kippered herring: 185 calories, 21g protein, 0g carbs, 11g fat.
Herring is rich in omega-3s and has the highest content of creatine—which can boost muscle growth and strength—of any food source from land or sea.
3 oz: 173 calories, 9g fat, 21 g protein
When buying ground turkey ensure that the percent leanness is specified as lower quality ground turkey products omit this information when they mix in turkey parts other than the breasts. The uber leanness of 99 percent lean ground turkey can make it very dry when cooked as meatballs or burgers. To combat this problem, add finely diced red peppers and onions for more flavor and moister meat.
3 large eggs: 255 calories, 21g protein, 1g carbs, 18g fat.
Though originally demonized, the cholesterol found in eggs can help maintain testosterone levels and the integrity of muscle cell membranes. Subjects who ate three whole eggs a day while following a strength-training program produced twice the muscle mass and strength gains than those who ate only one a day.
Carbs are crucial to any diet. They provide the energy that muscles need to keep going while training, as well as keep muscles fuller by stocking them with glycogen to pull water into them, maximizing their volume. The foods highlighted here will help take your strength and size to new levels.
1 cup of cooked brown rice: 218 calories, 5g protein, 46g carbs, 2g fat.
Brown rice is a whole grain that provides fiber to help slow down digestion and keep insulin levels steady, so you have energy all day long. It’s high in gamma-aminobutyric acid, an amino acid that works as a neurotransmitter and can boost growth hormone levels by up to 400%. For best results, soak brown rice in hot water in a slow cooker for two hours before cooking.
2 slices of Ezekiel Bread 4:9 bread: 160 calories, 8g protein, 30g carbs (6g fiber), 1g fat.
Made from organic sprouted whole grains, such as wheat, millet, spelt, and barley, and from legumes, such as lentils and soybeans, this bread is a slow-digesting carb and contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein as well. The whole grains and legumes also promote superior fat burning throughout the day.
2 watermelon wedges: 172 calories, 4g protein, 44g carbs. 1g fat. 3g citrulline.
Most fruits are best used as pre-workout carb sources because they are slow-digesting, but watermelon is the exception. It’s fast-digesting, so it spikes insulin levels. The red flesh and white rind are rich in L-citrulline, an amino acid that is readily converted to arginine inside the body and amazingly can boost arginine levels better than taking arginine directly. Arginine boosts nitric oxide levels and GH levels post-workout. This means there’s more blood flow to the muscles, which enhances recovery and aids growth.
1 cup of broccoli: 31 calories, 3g protein, 6g carbs, 0g fat.
Broccoli works great as a side for any meal and contains a phytochemical that gets converted into diindolylmethane (DIM), which reduces the strength of estrogens by converting them into weaker versions in the liver. That helps diminish water retention and fat gains. It also strengthens testosterone’s anabolic effects (muscle strength and growth). Plus, it contains the antioxidant sulforaphane, which works with DIM to perform anti-inflammatory properties, thereby enhancing your body’s joint and muscle recovery as well as fighting cancer.
10 oz of raw spinach: 65 calories, 8g protein, 10g carbs (6g fiber), 1g fat.
Popeye was onto something. Spinach promotes overall good health through its rich supply of antioxidants and has ingredients to help boost muscle size and strength. It has lots of glutamine, the amino acid that is important for muscle growth, immune function, and GI health. Plus, spinach boosts the body’s metabolic rate and stimulates protein synthesis.
½ cup of wheat germ: 207 calories, 13g of protein, 30g carbs (almost 8g fiber), 6g fat.
Wheat germ is rich in zinc, iron, potassium, and B vitamins and is high in protein, with good amounts of branched-chain amino acids, arginine, and glutamine. It’s great to have before workouts: It provides octacosanol, an alcohol that can help increase muscle strength and endurance, plus it can enhance athletes’ reaction time by increasing the efficiency of the central nervous system.
Water is the most essential nutrient you can get. The more water you consume, the fuller your muscle cells will be, which promotes growth. Any liquid you drink provides water, but it’s the other ingredients that can make or break your progress. These worthy beverages should be in your plan.
2 oz of pomegranate juice: 34 calories, 0g protein, 8.5g carbs, 0g fat.
Though it might be a bit tart for some, this juice has a potent antioxidant content, which promotes health and wards off many diseases. Research has also shown it to be effective at protecting nitric oxide against oxidative destruction and enhances its levels in the body. This makes it a great beverage to drink before your workouts.
1 cup of black tea: 2 calories, 0g protein, 0.5g carbs, 0g fat.
Black tea helps blunt cortisol levels by half. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone boosted during workouts, which increases muscle breakdown and interferes with testosterone’s ability to stimulate muscle growth. Blunting cortisol essentially raises testosterone, which can improve muscle strength and growth. Four cups a day is optimal in combating cortisol.
1 cup of low-fat milk: 102 calories, 8g protein, 12g carbs, 2g fat.
Milk contains both whey and casein protein. It also has the potent anabolic factor insulin-like growth factor-1, which is important for muscle growth. Great with breakfast or in protein shakes, organic milk is higher in both omega-3s and CLA.
We all know by now that not all fats are bad, and some are actually quite good for us. They can be critical for enhancing muscle size and strength, particularly polyunsaturated omega-3s and monounsaturated fats.
1 oz of walnuts: 185 calories, 4g protein, 4g carbs, 18g fats (almost 3g omega-3 fats)
These can be a great snack before bed. Walnuts are one of the few nuts truly rich in omega-3s, which can be critical for muscle-building efforts as well as strength gains.
1 oz of Brazil Nuts: 186 calories, 4g protein, 3g carbs, 19g fat (6g monounsaturated).
These nuts are a solid snack in between meals, providing monounsaturated fats. Those promote heart health and joint healing while minimizing body fat. Brazil nuts are also abundant in selenium, which helps convert the thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4) to the more active hormone triiodothyronine (T3). Thyroid hormones are important for keeping the metabolic rate high and supporting muscle growth. Selenium can also support your strength efforts.