At a superficial level, protein content seems to determine what to eat to build muscles, but delving a little deeper will take your muscle building efforts to a whole new level. In addition to the quantity of protein, you must also pay attention to the quality of the protein. Furthermore, you must consider nutritional add-ons, such as minerals, vitamins and fiber, before you plan your menu.
Since digging deep requires a lot of time and effort to research, we’ve put together a list of the top eight foods you can use to put together an awesome muscle building diet.
Top Eight Foods in the Optimal Diet to Build Muscles
Here’s a list of foods you can use to create a weekly meal plan to encourage muscle growth.
1. Eggs: The Perfect Protein in a Shell
If you are crafting a diet to build muscle, eggs are your best friends. Eggs are accessible, versatile, and easy to use. Plus, eggs contain vitamins and minerals that boost muscle development. Here are the specifics of all the nutritional goodness of eggs:
- Protein: You will receive 17 grams of protein from one cup of chopped hard-boiled eggs. Eggs also contain all the nine essential amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. So, eggs supply high quality proteins in good quantity.
- Riboflavin or Vitamin B 2: Eight vitamins constitute the group we call B complex vitamins. The B complex vitamins play a key role in converting food to energy. Lack of these vitamins cause fatigue and slow down growth. Within the B complex vitamins, riboflavin is of special significance because riboflavin converts other B vitamins into forms your body can use.
- Cobalamin or Vitamin B 12: Cobalamin is another member of the B complex vitamins. It works with folates, another vitamin, to make DNA, your cell’s instruction genetic instruction manual. Vitamin B 12 helps your body create healthy blood cells. Also, cobalamin keeps your nervous system running smoothly.
- Phosphorus: Your body uses the molecule adenosine triphosphate, or ATP for short, to supply energy to the cells and store energy within the cells. Your body needs three phosphorus atoms to make an ATP molecule. If phosphorus is in short supply, it negatively impacts the energy availability at the cellular level.
- Selenium: When oxygen atoms interacts with other molecules, the interaction may produce free radicals. Free radicals are extremely reactive. Their presence has a corrosive effect on your cell’s DNA and cell membranes. In fact, unchecked free radical activity eventually kills the cell. To prevent free radical induces cell damage, your body needs antioxidants, substances that render free radicals harmless. Selenium is a powerful antioxidant.
On the downside, eggs contain a lot of saturated fats and cholesterol; therefore, don’t rely solely on eggs to get your daily quota of proteins. We’ve included eggs in the list, despite the disadvantage, mainly because of the convenience factor. This article discusses several alternatives to eggs, so don’t worry and keep reading.
2. Almonds: Easy to Pack and Carry
Stocking your pantry with a bag of almonds has many benefits. Firstly, almonds satiate your snacking impulses without endangering your goal to gain mass. Secondly, almond’s crunchiness adds a layer of crunchiness to other foods you consume. Lastly, almonds are nutrient powerhouses, rich in the following nutritional elements:
- Protein: A handful of almonds provides six grams of proteins. Proteins from almonds contain all essential amino acids in the right proportion except the amino acids lysine, methionine and cysteine. Other foods in your muscle building diet will compensate for this shortage.
- Fiber: Along with the six grams of proteins, you also get three grams of fiber from a handful of almonds. Moreover, half of the carbohydrates in almonds come from fiber. This translates to stable blood sugar levels. Stable blood sugar increases energy level, builds lean muscle mass, and breaks down fat.
- Tocopherol or Vitamin E: Vitamin E plays an important role in maintaining your immune system by aiding the differentiation of T cells. At a microbial level, your body is constantly at war with pathogenic assailants. Your body’s immune systems uses an army of cells to combat infections. T lymphocyte, or T cells, form a critical regiment in this army. The T cells destroy infected cells and help your body remember past infections.
- Vitamin B 2 or Riboflavin: Riboflavin plays a key role in transforming food to energy. Strength training and cardiovascular exercises require a large investment of energy. Your body need riboflavin in the required measure to keep your energy levels high.
- Calcium: Any superior muscle building program strengthens the muscles and the tendons, bones, ligaments, and joints associated with that muscle. This makes adequate calcium intake paramount because calcium makes your bones strong. Calcium also prevents bone loss due to aging and facilitates muscle contraction.
- Iron: Iron is a key component of hemoglobin, the cells in your blood stream that transport oxygen. Proper blood circulation optimizes oxygen availability to your muscles. This prevents lactic acid build up and allows you to exert greater effort while exercising. Increasing in time under tension, the time you spend exerting your muscle, is the linchpin of muscle growth. Proper oxygen supply permits you to increase time under tension without fatiguing your muscles prematurely.
A word of caution, though, almonds are packed with calories. You must tightly regulate the amount of almonds you consume per day. Stick to a handful, about 23 nuts, a day. Also, eat the almonds raw because heat treatment reduces the almond’s nutritional value.
3. Cottage Cheese: A Versatile Food
Cottage cheese is one of the top muscle building foods for vegetarians. Even if you prefer a non-vegetarian diet to gaining muscle, consider including cottage cheese in your diet. Here are some reasons why cottage cheese deserves a prominent place in muscle mass nutrition:
High Satiety: One cup of cottage cheese contains 30 percent less calories than one cup of diced roasted chicken. Also, cottage cheese is as filling as chicken. However, because of the low calorie advantage, cottage cheese is a better way to satisfy your hunger pangs.
- Alternative Source of Vitamins: A four-ounce portion of low fat, one percent milk fat, cottage cheese provides about 12 percent of the percentage daily value for riboflavin and cobalamin.
- High Quality Protein: An ounce of cottage cheese delivers three grams of high quality protein. The proteins from cottage cheese contain all essential amino acids in high quantities. In fact, the cottage cheese’s protein quality is higher than hard-boiled egg’s protein quality.
- Supplies Selenium and Phosphorus: Selenium retards corrosive effects of free radicals and phosphorus enhances cellular energy production. You will obtain both these vital minerals in good quantities from cottage cheese.
Cottage cheese is an awesome companion to other foods you eat to gain muscle. You have to watch out for one thing: do not rely solely on cottage cheese for protein. Cottage cheese is high in sodium, and excess sodium intake causes high blood pressure. As long as you limit the quantity to one cup, you’ll remain within the safety limits. You can read this article to know about other ill effects of eating too much sodium.
4. Chickpeas: A Legume Loaded with Nutrients
Chickpea has been around for at least 7,500 years. It is one of the oldest cultivated legumes known to man. It’s also loaded with many positive nutritive qualities. The following list covers the most important nutritional benefits that will help you in building muscles:
- Abundant in Folates: You can get nearly 70 percent of the percentage daily value for folates from one cup of boiled chickpeas. Folates help form red blood cells. Apart from this, folates help create DNA. For this reason, folates form a crucial role in the cell division process and muscle growth.
- Awesome Source of Copper: Chickpea is the first element in the list so far to supply copper in good quantity. Electronic equipment uses copper to connect different components in a circuit. In the same manner, copper is a structural component of many things in your body, such as connective tissues, bones, heart, brain, and other organs.
- Supplies Lots of Manganese: Manganese helps fulfill an array of critical functions. For instance, manganese helps in the absorption of calcium, a must-have mineral for strong bones and smooth muscle contractions. In addition, manganese is a structural component of bones, connective tissues, blood clotting factors, and sex hormones. In males, increase in the sex hormone testosterone promotes muscle gain.Lastly, manganese helps maintain blood sugar levels in the body. This allows for proper development of lean muscles and encourages fat loss. Testosterone boosting supplements, such as Provacyl and TestRX, work best when supply of manganese is optimal.
- Rich in Iron: Decrease in iron decreases oxygen availability to the cells in your body. This depletes your energy, and your motivation to exercise drops. Consequently, your muscle building program falls through.
- Contains Plenty of Phosphorus: Your body can store energy in your cells using phosphorus in the form of ATP. In addition to this, phosphorus also helps keep your bones and teeth strong.
- Augments Protein Supply: One cup of boiled chickpeas yields 15 grams of proteins. Not only this, proteins in chickpeas contain all the essential amino acids. Unlike eggs, proteins from chickpeas contain no cholesterol and has low quantities of salt. These qualities make it a wonderful source of good quality protein.
- Incredibly Rich in Fiber: The same cup of boiled chickpeas supplies 12 grams of fiber, which is 50 percent of the percentage daily value for fiber. By including chickpeas in your diet, you get to maintain a healthy bowel movement and enhance nutrient absorption.
Watch out, though, because chickpeas also contain a lot of carbohydrates. So, avoid consuming more than one cup of chickpeas per day.
5. No Muscle Building Program is Complete Without Lean Beef
Learning how to build muscles involves studying proper exercise routines, as well as proper dietary practices. While reading literature on what to eat to build muscle, one piece of information stands titanic: make sure you get enough proteins.
A serious body builder requires 0.9 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. Lean beef helps them meet such demanding requirements. Lean beef is the food of choice for high protein consumers because of the following reasons:
High Quality Protein: Contains all the nine essential amino acids in abundance except tryptophan.
- Protein Dense: A three ounce serving of pan-browned 95 percent lean meat provides 25 grams of proteins. That’s nearly half the daily percentage value for protein from a mere three ounces.
- Storehouse of Minerals: Lean beef contains minerals, such as selenium, phosphorus and zinc, in good amounts.
- Full of Vitamins: Lean beef has B complex vitamins, such as niacin, cobalamin and pyridoxine, in ample proportions.
- Negligible Carbohydrates: The amount of carbohydrates in lean beef is nearly negligible. If you’re on restricted carbohydrates diet, consider having six to eight lean beef based meals per week. This will help you reduce fat and reveal your muscle tone.
The only negative factor involving lean beef is its high cholesterol content. So, make sure you have it with other protein sources which are low in cholesterol, such as chickpeas, and almonds.
6. Chicken: Your Choice for Protein and Flavor
Chicken is a fabulous source of protein, and is popular among body builders. Chicken is accessible, easy to prepare, tastes delicious, and economical. So, if chicken is not a part of your menu, add it to your diet plan immediately. Here’s a little more on what you stand to gain from this move:
- High Quality Protein: The chicken’s amino acid score is 50 percent more than that of lean beef’s amino acid score. Chicken not only contains all the nine essential amino acids but also contains generous amounts of all nine essential amino acids.
High Protein Ratio: You will receive whooping 31 grams of proteins from 100 grams of roasted chicken. This is almost two third of your daily percentage value for proteins. So, if you have chicken on the plate, be ready for some heavy protein loading.
- Decrease Cell Damage: Chicken contains selenium in high amounts. Selenium reduces cell damage by countering the negative effects of free radicals.
- Strengthens Bones: You can meet a quarter of your daily phosphorus requirement with 100 grams of chicken. Since phosphorus strengthens bones and increases energy availability, eating chicken provides you the same benefits.
- Lowers High Cholesterol Level: Vitamin B 3 or niacin makes energy available to your body’s cells. Niacin also helps lower high cholesterol levels. A cup of chopped roasted chicken provides 96 percent of the percentage daily value of niacin.
- Metabolize Fat and Protein: In addition to niacin, chicken is also rich in another B complex vitamin known as vitamin B 6 or pyridoxine. Pyridoxine helps convert food to energy and plays a vital part in metabolizing fats and proteins.
7. Soybeans: The Miracle Golden Bean
Soybean, dubbed miracle bean and golden bean in America, produces lot more proteins per acre than any other cultivated crop. Soybean is processed and converted into many forms, such as soy milk and tofu. However, the most nutritious way to consume soybeans is in its boiled form. One cup of boiled soybeans comes loaded with the following nutritional benefits:
- High Protein Content: There are 30 grams of proteins in a cup of boiled soybeans. This meets 57 percent of the daily percentage value of proteins.
- High Quality Protein: The proteins from soybeans contain high amounts of all the nine essential amino acids.
- Massive Source of Iron: You can get up to half of your daily iron requirement from a cup of boiled soybeans.
- Helps Build Strong Bones: Soybeans contain a lot of vitamin K, a vitamin that helps build strong bones.
- Rich in Many Minerals: Most of the important minerals, such as, calcium, manganese, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, zinc, and selenium, are found in soybeans.
- High Fiber Content: You can get 10 grams of fiber from a cup of boiled soybeans. This meets nearly half of your daily fiber requirement.
- Low Cholesterol: Soybeans contain nearly no cholesterol. This makes it a great compliment to cholesterol rich protein sources, such as chicken, beef, and eggs.
8. Salmon: A Gem From the Sea
Salmons encompass many species of fish native to tributaries of the Pacific and North Atlantic Ocean. You can eat salmons in many ways. For example, you can grill them on a barbeque, you can dice them and add to salads, or you can make salmon patties.
The website allrecipes.com has more than 600 recipes with salmon in it. Salmon’s versatility and the following nutritional benefits make it the ideal choice for a muscle building diet. Here’s some of the benefits of salmon:
- Protein Dense: Nearly one fourth of the salmon’s weight is protein. Which means, you get approximately an ounce of protein from four ounces of salmon.
- High Quality: Salmon offers the highest quality protein so far in the list. Salmon has all essential amino acids in rich proportions.
- Rich in Vitamins: Salmon contains the vitamins thiamin, niacin, pyridoxine, and cobalamin in good amounts. These vitamins play an important role in converting food to energy.
- Abundant in Phosphorus and Selenium: Since salmon contains a lot of phosphorus and selenium, a diet rich in salmon provides high energy levels, faster recovery, and stronger bones.
- No Cholesterol: Salmon has no cholesterol in it. Therefore, you can substitute cholesterol rich protein sources, such as eggs, chicken, and beef, with salmon. This is especially recommended if you have a poor lipid profile.
Bringing It All Together: What to Eat to Build Muscle
Now you know the top eight foods you can use to craft a healthy muscle building diet. From this point, you can decide what to eat to build muscles based on your personal preferences. Beef, chicken, and salmon forms a great foundation for main courses. Almonds, eggs, chickpeas, soybeans, and cottage cheese allow you to augment the main meals.
From this point, you can look up simple recipes built around these key ingredients. Thereafter, you can watch your muscles grow while eating yummy and wholesome meals.