What are the best foods to gain muscle mass?
Many people that start practising bodybuilding end up disappointed after a while, when they don’t see the expected results. They work out, and work out, and work out, but still have the feeling they aren’t going anywhere, or notice a very slow evolution.
Have they been divinely marked to not gain muscle mass or, maybe, is there another problem? We are optimists, so we believe there is actually another problem. And, in most cases, that problem is in the diet.
Let’s do an analogy. Think about your body as a car. A car needs fuel to work. But not every fuel is good. Your car needs the right fuel or, otherwise, it will not work properly and some problems can come from that.
With your body happens the exact same thing. It needs the right nutrients to work correctly and to gain muscle mass. The nutrients are obtained through food or supplementation. But not all nutrients are ideal to the muscle-building process. If you get 4000 daily calories, but 70% from carbohydrates, you won’t gain lean mass, but fat mass, guaranteed.
Proteins are essential to gain muscle mass
Consuming high-quality proteins is essential to building muscle. Every meal of yours should have as a key purpose the consumption of quality proteins. They will repair the damaged muscle tissue in training and build new tissue.
Accordingly with the American College of Sports Medicine, for athletes that practice strength workouts, like bodybuilding, the protein intake should be 1,5g to 2g per bodyweight (*1).
Training and diet must go hand-in-hand. There is no point in doing an insane workout and eat fast-food afterwards. In fact, there are some people who advocate that diet is even more important than training.
Carbs and fats should also make part of the diet
There are studies that show a direct connection between dietary fat and testosterone, the hormone that has an important role in the increase of muscle mass.
What are the best foods to gain muscle mass?
Not all sources of protein are at the same level. There are better proteins than others when it comes to their bioavailability (speed with which the nutrient is absorbed into the bloodstream). Next, we are going to list the best foods to help you gain muscle mass:
The egg protein – albumin – presents a higher biological value available, being one of the best choices when it comes to protein sources. The egg yolk is rich in important vitamins and minerals in the energy metabolism. In the other side, the egg yolk has DHA omega-3 (needed for the good function of the brain and the eye’s retina), and omega-6.
The egg whites should not be consumed raw once they contain inhibitors of the digestive enzyme trypsin, which must be destroyed by the heath.
2) Fat fishes
By fat fishes, we mean fishes rich in essential fats, like salmon, tuna, mackerel and herring. They have essential fatty acids, such as omega-3. These fatty acids promote the testosterone production and reduce the muscle inflammation.
Tuna, in particular, virtually as no carbs and it can be eaten at main meals or as a morning/afternoon snack.
3) Red meat
Red meat contains the main amino acids needed to the muscle growth. It is rich in iron, B12 vitamin and zinc, an essential mineral for the testosterone production. Besides, it is rich in creatine, an essential amino acid for the energy production and for the development of muscle mass.
The red meat downside is the fact of containing a lot of saturated fat and cholesterol. For that reason, do not have more than two to three doses per week.
4) Chicken or turkey
Lean meats are an excellent source of high biological value protein and should make part of any muscle-building diet. The chicken breast is a very common food in the bodybuilding universe due to its richness in proteins. However, you should always remove the skin once it has a considerable amount of fat and cholesterol.
5) Sweet potato
Forget the white potato. Replace it with the sweet potato. It is one of the best complex, slow-release carbs that gives you a constant energy supply. For that reason, is one favourite in the pre-workout meal.
Besides its good glycemic index, the sweet potato also contains a high content of vitamins A, B and mineral salts like calcium, iron, potassium and phosphorous.
6) Olive oil
The olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fats, good quality fats that protect the heart. They contribute to decrease the bad cholesterol level (LDL) in the blood and to increase the good one (HDL). But the olive oil benefits don’t end here. It also stimulates the liver function, regulates the sugar levels in the blood and improves the intestinal transit.
Bodybuilders shall ensure that their cardiovascular system is working properly. The fats in the olive oil guarantee that.
Nuts are large providers of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and, inevitably, a high-calorie food (average 600 kcal per 100g), but quite rich in some minerals, such as calcium, iron and phosphorous. Besides, they also contain a considerable amount of protein.
The choices are diverse: walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, pine nuts, pistachios and peanuts. Eat 15 units daily, as an afternoon snack or in the salad.
8 ) Pastas
Whole-wheat pasta is an excellent choice for those who want to gain muscle mass. It is quick and easy to prepare, rich in complex carbohydrates and it also has a good amount of protein. Serve it with minced meat or tuna and you will get a very good meal.
9) Cheese and ham
The cheese and the ham are practical ways to add protein to your breakfast or snack (along with whole bread, for example). Each cheese and ham slice has about 3 grams of protein. Go for the low-fat cheeses because they have less saturated fat. Turkey or chicken breast ham are good choices.
Water? Yes, water! What is the point of eating a large amount of meat and fish and go to workout dehydrated for lack of liquids?
A bad hydration method will compromise the athlete’s performance, both physically and mentally. The muscles will not work as they should and your focus won’t be at its maximum level. It is crucial to be always well hydrated.
To complement your new diet plan, check out our suggestion of training plan for muscle development.
- American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance, Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise Vol. 41 – Issue 3, págs. 709-731, Março 2009.