We always tell kids to eat up so they build strong muscles, but do you take your own advice?
Regular strengthening exercise is vital to building strong muscles, but your diet plays a big role too. And you might be surprised at the winning foods that are bound to boost your muscle mass.
Does protein help build muscle? It sure does, but there are a lot of other nutrients that are essential to building and maintaining strength. Here are a few tasty foods that help you get ripped.
Cottage cheese is great for muscle-building because it works on two fronts. First, it is a great source of casein, the slowest-digesting protein, which keeps your muscles for being used as an energy source, particularly during times of inactivity.
Second, cottage cheese has live cultures that help you breakdown and absorb all of the nutrients your body needs to grow stronger. Make sure when you buy cottage cheese that it has live cultures in it to receive the full benefits of this delicious dish.
Although beets don’t have the highest protein content, they contain a lot of other nutrients that help you gain strong muscles.
Beets contain betaine, also called trimethylglycine, which helps to enhance liver and joint repair, as well as increase muscle strength. They’re also a good source of nitric oxide, which can give you energy and help your muscles recover after a workout.
Beef has long been a standard for muscle-building diets. This savory meat not only contains plenty of protein, it also brings amino acids—the building blocks of protein—B vitamins, creatine, zinc and iron. Beef also has monounsaturated fat, which is vital to heart health.
When shopping for beef, look for cuts from grass-fed cattle. They have much higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) to help you drop body fat while building lean muscle.
For sustained energy all day, reach for brown rice. This slow-digesting whole grain provides lasting energy, as well as boosts your growth hormone levels, which aid in lean muscle and body tissue growth while reducing fat.
Lentils are a great dish that embodies simplicity and efficiency. Just one cup of cooked lentils contains 18 grams of protein and 40 grams of slow-digesting carbohydrates.
Besides the health benefits, lentils are inexpensive, easy to cook and store well for a long period of time. You can add lentils to almost any dish or eat them as a healthy snack at work when you’re feeling drowsy.
To get a dose of both kinds of protein, whey and casein, reach for a tall glass of milk. This dairy drink also contains the muscle-building, amino acid glutamine and omega-3 fatty acids. The reason you want to go organic is because it has 70 percent more omega-3s than non-organic milk.
For even more benefits from dairy, try fermented milk products. Foods like kefir and Greek yogurt give you all of the nutrients typically found in dairy as well as the good bacteria from probiotics that aid in digestion and gut health.
Quinoa, an ancient seed with myriad health benefits, has more protein than any other grain or seed around. It’s also a complete protein, which means it contains all the essential amino acids our bodies need, but can’t make on their own.
In addition to being a great source of protein, quinoa also has calcium, lysine, B vitamins and iron. It has also been tied to an increase in insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), which may aid in lean muscle gains.
Meat is a great source of protein and it’s easy to find for quick, muscle-building meals. The director of the Center for Human Nutrition at UCLA, Dr. David Heber, recommends about two ounces of fish, chicken or turkey a day, and double that if you’re at risk of muscle deficiency.
Chicken can easily be bought pre-cooked, so it’s a great choice of meat if you need a simple, yet nutritious meal.
Although nutritional supplements aren’t quite food, they can be added to your diet to fill holes that food can’t. If you’re diet-restricted or simply struggle with building muscle, supplements may be able to help.
Potassium bicarbonate is a buffering agent that may prevent continuing age-related muscle loss and help restore lost muscle mass. Nature’s Sunshine’s Collatrim is another muscle building supplement. It contains bovine collagen to help strengthen bones, increase your protein intake using amino acids and manage your weight.
“Exercise combined with adequate protein intake can lead to increases in muscle mass and performance, even in the very old,” says Dr. Heber.
There isn’t one trick to building toned, strong muscles, but a complete diet combined with strengthening exercises will have you looking a feeling indestructible in no time.