If you have been trying to bulk up for a while, you’ve likely tried to adjust your diet to give you the best results. Maybe you use protein powders or have cut certain things out of your diet. That’s great; you’re on the right track. But do you know the best foods to eat in order to lose fat and gain muscle mass?
You may or may not already know that protein is essential to building lean muscle mass. But you shouldn’t rely solely on protein shakes to get your daily dose. Some excellent sources of lean protein—and lean is the key—are eggs, liver, beef, poultry, milk, yogurt, cheese, nuts, beans, peas and some grains, especially barley. You should consume some type of lean protein every 2 ½ to 3 ½ hours, and take in a total of 1 ½ grams of protein per each pound of your current body weight, each day.
The key is to keep your body in an anabolic state, which maintains a positive balance of nitrogen. High protein foods are composed of amino acids, which are all rich in nitrogen. Your body takes the amino acids in these foods and selects the ones it needs to build new tissue. The protein your body takes in is rapidly broken down by cell enzymes, so you have to continually give your body more protein in order for your muscles to keep building.
In addition to protein, your diet should include items from all four basic food groups. Eating a lot of fresh vegetables, fruit, low fat dairy and whole grains will provide you with a well-balanced diet that will maximize your muscle mass. You will likely have to consume more calories than you would if you weren’t working out, but these calories should come from healthy, nutrient-rich foods.
Very few, if any, of your calories should be “empty” ones. For this reason, avoid large consumption of sugars and simple, refined carbohydrates, such as candy, soda, cakes, pies, cookies, white bread, pasta made with refined flour and white rice. While some people assume that these things give you energy, any boost you get is from a spike in your insulin, which quickly crashes your metabolism and takes you along with it.
You might also want to include some foods in your diet that you may not have considered before. Many bodybuilders are turning to the following foods as alternatives to their usual meals.
- Ostrich has about the same amount of protein as chicken and is also low in fat. But it has some of the same nutritional value as red meat, such as more creatine, iron and B vitamins than poultry.
- Beef Liver is the most nutrient-dense food around. Liver is packed with carnitine for testosterone support and fat metabolism, B vitamins for energy and metabolism, and iron for production of myoglobin.
- Papaya is not only a delicious sweet treat, but it provides a large amount of potassium, which is needed to manufacture muscle glycogen and assists in muscle contraction. It is also dense in the special enzymes that aid in the digestion of high-protein foods.
- Olives provide monounsaturated fat, the good kind of fat that supports testosterone levels and keeps bad cholesterol down.
- Raw onions are loaded with quercetin, a compound that has been shown to support the burning of body fat in animals. Quercetin is also a strong antioxidant, which fights free radicals that can cause a loss of glutamine in muscle tissue.
- Asparagus is a proven diuretic, which helps the body rid itself of excess water. It is also rich in the antioxidant glutathione, which helps produce prostaglandins that influence muscle growth.
So don’t rely too much on those protein shakes you’ve been drinking. The key to building more muscle mass is not only consuming more protein, but eating a healthy, well-balanced diet that gives your body the nutrients it needs to fight off fat and gain muscle.