Bodybuilding, as an exercise and nutrition strategy, can be extremely effective at helping individuals lose fat and develop lean muscle mass, but it’s not the only approach to losing weight or improving body composition.
Make sure you read to the end to find out the 24 best muscle-building foods!
In fact, some experts argue that diet plays a much more important role in bodybuilding than exercise does!
Here’s why they might be right and what you should do about it.
Is Diet Really That Important For bodybuilding?
As a bodybuilder, you should be focusing on your diet rather than exercise.
Now, wait a minute, what I just said might seem shocking to those of you out there who have been told over and over again that in order to get results from your training, proper nutrition is equally important.
While it’s true that both play an important role in achieving your goals as a bodybuilder, most experts will tell you that nutrition takes precedence.
Why is that?
Because if you’re eating right and training right but still not making progress, it’s more likely due to poor eating habits rather than bad training practices.
Simply put, dieting and bodybuilding go hand-in-hand. Without proper nutritional intake, nothing else matters!
Instead of worrying about how many sets or reps you perform or which exercises to include in your routine, make sure that you eat enough calories.
The good news is: quality matters too so choose foods high in protein, dietary fiber (prebiotics), vitamins, and minerals!
If need be – consult with a health professional before starting any weight loss program – especially one focusing on losing fat instead of gaining muscle mass.
How Much Should You Eat To Build Muscle?
It’s common for people who begin a bodybuilding diet to focus too much on exercise and not enough on eating.
That’s okay—no one starts out knowing what they’re doing—but it can be a problem if you stay that way.
So, how much should you eat to build muscle?
Keep your protein intake at 1 gram per pound of bodyweight daily.
Don’t go any higher than that until you plateau in your fat loss, then bump it up 20 percent as needed.
Don’t neglect fats entirely; keep them at around 20-30% of your diet each day.
Keep carbs at around 40-50% each day, but remember to eat healthy carbs.
Fruits, veggies, legumes.
Try to stay away from too much bread and pasta, keep those for a treat.
No matter how little or much you eat, hit those targets first thing in your meal plan and don’t deviate from them without consulting a doctor or nutritionist first.
What Should I Eat Before My Workout And After My Workout?
The right kind of food is crucial for building muscles.
But, what should you eat before and after your workout?
And, how much protein do you need to build muscle?
These questions can be answered by looking at what happens when proteins are broken down in our bodies.
Amino acids are used to repair damaged muscles.
Thus, we need amino acids (from eating protein-rich foods) that can help us recover from a hard workout.
The best pre-workout and post-workout meals are ones that contain healthy fats (such as nuts), complex carbohydrates (such as oats), and quality proteins (such as chicken).
All these types of food will keep your energy levels up, helping you sustain an intense exercise routine for long periods of time.
Remember: choosing lean meats while avoiding those with skin on them and cooking with olive oil rather than butter or cream is key to keeping fat intake low while still receiving all the benefits listed above.
Eating egg whites one hour after training is perfect because they’re loaded with essential amino acids that improve the body’s ability to use insulin more efficiently—which results in better blood sugar management.
How Much Protein Do I Need For Muscle Building?
Protein is a very important part of building muscle.
But, how much protein do you need to build muscle efficiently?
And, why is protein so crucial to bodybuilders?
The word protein refers to a large group of molecules that come in many shapes and sizes.
One thing they all have in common: they’re made up of chains of amino acids.
We’ve got to get those amino acids into our bodies from someplace—so where does it come from exactly?
Believe it or not, we can actually make them ourselves!
However, there are ten essential amino acids that must be taken directly from food sources.
Without these essential amino acids (which are absorbed by consuming protein), your muscles cannot function properly!
Let’s look at what kinds of foods contain these essential aminos then we’ll discuss what happens when we consume them (or don’t consume them!).
The Best Sources of Essential Amino Acids
Proteins containing high levels of essential amino acids include eggs, fish, meats, and milk products.
These proteins digest more slowly than others (such as sugars) which helps produce feelings of fullness while helping control blood sugar levels.
Always good things for bodybuilders looking to cut down on fat stores without losing lean muscle mass.
Other non-animal proteins such as soybeans and tofu also provide complete proteins, however, their digestibility varies depending on their preparation methods; soy milk is digested quicker than other methods like soy curd(tofu).
Cooking also alters fats found in different types of protein leading to variations in absorption rates.
Fried chicken provides only about 50% protein content whereas baked chicken provides nearly twice as much!
Time to stock up on Amino acids? Shop now.
How Do I Cut Fat Quickly Without Losing Muscle Mass?
Cutting fat is absolutely essential to bodybuilders, but it’s not always easy.
Our bodies are designed to store fat for times of famine and survival, which means that it can be hard to shed those extra pounds.
However, there are many techniques out there for helping you burn off unwanted fat fast.
Here are a few ways you can safely trim your waistline without losing muscle mass or messing up your progress.
- 1. Cut down on carbs—especially simple ones like white bread and pasta. Instead, focus on complex carbs found in beans, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
- 2. Increase protein intake—the best way to keep muscles from shrinking during periods of the caloric deficit is by eating a diet rich in lean proteins that help promote growth hormone production.
- 3. Try intermittent fasting—this is one of the simplest weight loss methods available because all you do is skip meals!
Why Am I Getting Stronger But Not Gaining Muscle?
The first time you begin a strength-training program, especially if you’re someone who doesn’t exercise much in general, you’ll probably notice some pretty dramatic changes.
Even though it’s called strength training, it should actually be called muscle growth because that is what occurs.
The key to building big muscles (even those which will look toned) is progressive overload, which means working out at increasingly greater levels of intensity over time.
If your body isn’t getting progressively stronger by lifting heavier weights each week or by performing more repetitions each set (or both), you won’t grow bigger muscles.
Muscle growth requires that you get continually stronger throughout your workout.
So if you’re gaining weight but not getting noticeably stronger, try increasing either your weights or reps per set and see how it goes from there!
3 Tips For Building Muscle Faster
To build muscle faster, I have come up with these three tips: eat well above maintenance calories.
Take high-quality supplements such as whey protein and creatine.
Use progression on all your lifts such as doing 3 sets of 10 reps instead of 5 sets of 5 reps.
These three things combined can dramatically speed up progress without adding any fat as long as the fat gain is controlled during overeating times!
Hope these tips help! How long does it take to build muscle? Read more here.
Which Muscle Is Hardest To Build?
If you’re new to weight training, you may find that one muscle group is harder to build than others.
This may be because your primary exercises focus on those muscles, or maybe it’s just a fact of genetics.
For example, larger people have a harder time building calves and shoulders because they have more fat on their bodies to burn through before they can get down to their target muscle.
When trying to focus on bulking up, an often overlooked area is the arms.
With dedicated exercise routines, nutrition is key to building muscular arms. One reason some biceps get bigger faster than other muscle groups is due to estrogen levels in men.
The same hormones responsible for reproductive characteristics also increase certain areas’ size (and strength).
Many men make sure not to bulk up too much in certain areas if they are targeting specific goals like looking good at their wedding or playing sports competitively while many women want broader backs with thicker triceps (to go along with great legs) as well as stronger backs and glutes that look like Jennifer Lopez’s!
The 24 Best Muscle Building Foods
While it’s common knowledge that exercise plays a key role in building muscle, nutrition is equally important.
Getting enough protein is essential for muscle growth, but eating too much protein can actually have a negative effect on your health and fitness goals.
That’s why we rounded up 24 of our favorite muscle-building foods that are high in protein but low in calories and fat.
1. Lean Beef
As with any other protein source, lean beef supplies your body with amino acids—the building blocks of protein.
One 3-ounce serving will provide you with 24 grams of muscle-builder amino acids.
This should sound familiar: Lean beef is to bodybuilders what diamonds are to fashionistas.
If you’re looking for lean protein, look no further than a grilled sirloin steak or a filet mignon, both loaded with 25 grams of muscle-enhancing protein per serving.
2. Chicken Breast
Many bodybuilders believe chicken breast is one of, if not THE best source of protein for muscle building.
It has a high protein content of 42% per serving and is low in fat.
Some bodybuilders may even avoid red meat or pork because they feel chicken breast is superior in terms of both taste and nutritional value.
Anyone who’s ever had Chinese food probably knows what tofu is.
It’s a protein-rich, cheese-like substance that vegetarians and vegans love to eat.
It can be used in place of meat in a variety of recipes and has even been approved by American doctors as a viable substitute for red meat in heart patients.
Salmon is a great source of protein, but it also has other nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acids and selenium, that are important for muscle growth.
The body can’t store omega-3 fatty acids, so getting them from food (like salmon) is vital to having healthy levels in your body.
These are a real, not-so-secret weapon when it comes to bodybuilders.
Edamame is usually sold frozen, and they’re packed with all sorts of amazing nutrients, including vitamins A and C and calcium.
They’re also full of fiber and protein—per 100-gram serving, these tasty beans offer up more than 6 grams of protein.
Pound for pound, turkeys are a much better source of protein than most meats.
An entire turkey breast has only 140 calories and 27 grams of protein.
In comparison, 6 ounces of grilled chicken breast has 205 calories and 31 grams of protein.
As a bonus, turkey contains more omega-3 fatty acids than most meats.
When it comes to your bodybuilding diet plan, it’s important to ensure you have an adequate supply of these healthy fats!
Chickpeas are high in protein and fiber, which can help you stay satisfied for longer and make it easier to bulk up.
On average, one cup of cooked chickpeas has 14 grams of protein, 10 grams of fiber, and only 5 grams of net carbs.
It’s a good food to keep on hand if you’re looking to increase your intake of fiber without going overboard on carbs.
You’ll also get 34% of your daily iron, which helps support muscle development and athletic performance.
Beets are often included in weight-loss regimens because they’re an excellent source of folate, potassium, and vitamins A, C, and K.
They also aid in digestion.
Folate is important for cardiovascular health, vitamin A for healthy skin and vision, and vitamin C for a healthy immune system. Potassium helps maintain fluid balance in cells as well as regulates heart function.
This high-protein snack will give you the energy you need to pump iron. Jerky is a healthy high-protein snack to keep you from getting sluggish while building muscles.
The trick, though, is finding a healthy jerky brand: Many store-bought brands contain preservatives, sugars, and sodium that negate their nutritional value.
When buying jerky, look for brands that are made with 100 percent meat or veggies—and don’t contain any artificial ingredients or processed sugars.
10. Peanut Butter
Can you build muscle with just peanut butter?
Maybe. But it will be hard, and it won’t taste good.
Peanut butter is high in calories, yes—but it’s also very low in protein (just 8 grams per 2 tbsp).
High-protein foods like chickenn and beef are much better sources of muscle-building amino acids.
11. Greek Yogurt
Consuming Greek yogurt helps keep your body in an anabolic state, meaning it can better utilize carbs and protein to build muscle mass.
Greek yogurt is also a great source of potassium, which can help maintain fluid balance in your body, increase performance, and aid in recovery after a workout.
Just be sure to look for yogurt that contains live, active cultures to get all of the healthy bacteria that it’s packed with.
Try Greek Gods brand if you can find it!
12. Cottage Cheese
While it may be easy to hate on cottage cheese, many bodybuilders swear by it as a high-protein snack.
A single cup of low-fat cottage cheese contains 18 grams of protein.
Almost three times what you’ll find in an egg.
Cottage cheese has about 80 calories per cup and 15 grams of fat (including 9 saturated fats), so choose low-fat varieties when possible.
A Legitimate Breakfast Food!
Eggs are commonly used in body-building diets and are considered a legitimate source of protein.
If you’re looking to build muscle, eggs can help you get there if you use them correctly.
The best way to incorporate eggs into your diet is to buy pasture-raised organic eggs.
Free-range chickens eat grass and insects which results in eggs that have more nutrients and healthy fats than standard grocery store variety, while organic means they’re free of harmful pesticides and fertilizers.
Due to its high protein content, tuna can also be beneficial in bodybuilding.
Tuna also contains high levels of omega-3 fatty acids that are great for your heart and circulation.
Low levels of cholesterol, low in fat and calories; mercury-free tuna is a great addition to any diet.
Along with these benefits, it has one of the most useful nutrients for bodybuilders called selenium which helps control your thyroid function, regulates metabolism, and reduces fatigue.
15. Sunflower Seeds
High in Vitamin E, zinc, and copper; Sunflower seeds are high in nutrients that aid muscle growth.
You should eat sunflower seeds as a snack between meals or after exercise to boost your energy levels and nutrition intake.
Sunflower seeds are one of my favorite foods to munch on because they’re easy to eat and healthy too!
I try to keep bags of them in my desk drawer at work, my car, and even in a couple of spots around my house.
16. Brown Rice
If you’re looking for a carb source that will maintain your energy and keep you full after a long workout, brown rice is your best bet.
One cup of cooked brown rice contains 220 calories, 35 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams of fiber, and 1 gram of protein.
Plus, brown rice contains magnesium and potassium which are essential nutrients that help with muscle contraction and post-workout recovery.
This superfood also boosts glutathione, an antioxidant responsible for neutralizing free radicals in our body.
Quinoa is a whole grain that looks like a seed but acts like a cereal.
It has one of the highest protein content of any food—more than milk or chicken!
Quinoa has been cultivated in South America for over five thousand years and holds historical significance in many native cultures.
Just one cup of quinoa provides over 20% of your daily allowance for all essential amino acids, making it extremely high-quality protein.
18. Ezekiel Bread
You can lose weight with fiber by switching to Ezekiel bread, which is packed with fiber.
The average American doesn’t consume enough fiber in their diet.
According to a study published in Food Science and Nutrition journal, men should eat 38 grams of dietary fiber each day; women should take in 30 grams per day.
But most adults don’t come close to eating that much—an average adult gets about 15 grams a day.
Beans are high in both protein and fiber.
This combination helps your body feel full longer, which can be important when trying to lose weight.
Plus, beans are low-calorie, which works in your favor if you’re watching your weight or maintaining a healthy diet.
Studies have shown that eating beans and other legumes as part of a reduced-calorie diet plan can aid weight loss by reducing appetite and lowering calorie intake.
Prawns are one of my favorite foods to eat after a workout.
The protein in them is an essential part of muscle building and recovery for bodybuilders.
I recommend eating prawns that are not breaded or fried as it only adds more unwanted calories to your intake.
There’s no denying its importance to bodybuilders who are looking to build muscle mass and boost strength.
Spinach is rich in beta-carotene, which is turned into vitamin A in our bodies.
This nutrient helps boost immunity and vision while strengthening teeth and bones.
No, it’s not just for breakfast anymore.
Research indicates that one serving of milk a day can reduce your risk of heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and various cancers.
Milk also provides protein to help you feel full longer and absorb important nutrients throughout your body.
It can also be used in cooking or turned into butter or cheese!
A glass of milk has eight grams of protein—as much as an egg.
And how do you like them apples?
Oats are one of those wonder foods that can help you lose weight and gain muscle at a much faster rate.
Oats have been referred to as a superfood because they contain antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, high amounts of fiber, and other nutrients that are essential for optimum health.
Oats can also lower bad cholesterol levels and decrease inflammation, which is known to cause heart disease by accelerating atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.
Nuts are known to be a muscle-building food as they contain high levels of protein, amino acids, and essential fatty acids.
Include them in your diet for better results.
Nuts have been seen to increase protein synthesis by about 20% compared to other sources of dietary proteins including meat products, eggs, and dairy products.
Besides building muscles, nuts also help in promoting good heart health by reducing bad cholesterol and increasing HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
Next check out the best muscle-building snacks!
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