Just about every guy (and girl) who’s trying to build muscle understands the importance of nutrition. Unfortunately, most people still get their diets totally wrong! Lifters usually focus on nothing but their macronutrients and calories, using whatever foods they can get to reach arbitrary totals. Those numbers matter, sure, but the actual foods you’re eating are FAR more important. The “calories in, calories out” approach is total bull, as is the idea that every type of protein, fat, and carbohydrate will produce the same effect.
Want to really start seeing some progress? Do you want to gain as much muscle as possible, improve your health, and avoid unwanted fat gain? If so, you’re going to need to find the specific foods – not just macronutrient ratios – that work for you. For me, and for most people I know, these are the best 5 foods for building lean muscle.
These days, it seems most bodybuilders eat chicken, chicken, and more chicken. Chicken’s fine if you’re severely cutting calories, but if you’re trying to get stronger, you should be eating beef! Beef has more iron, B-vitamins, and creatine – all of what are crucial for tissue repair. Whenever I up my red meat intake, I start seeing faster gains in both size and strength.
As for the fat, there’s no need to worry. Fat does NOT make you fat, and it’s actually critical for healthy hormone levels. If you’re a guy, one of the best ways to naturally boost your testosterone is to eat plenty of saturated animal fat. It’s the polyunsaturated and trans fats you need to avoid, and those are mainly found in pre-packed junk food.
Can’t afford steak? Ground beef is a fine substitute if you’re short on cash. While I’ve always found whole cuts of meats to be ideal, I’d rather have ground beef than a whole piece of chicken. To keep costs low on both options, keep an eye out for sales, and shop at a wholesale grocery store as often as possible.
If you’re a college kid – or you’re on a college kid’s budget – you should be eating TONS of eggs. With around 5 grams of fat and 6 grams of protein each, their nutrient profile is damn near ideal for packing in the calories and building muscle. Prices have risen in some parts of the country, but you can still find eggs for as little as a dollar per dozen in most states.
Don’t even think about throwing away those yolks, either. Studies have shown time and again that eating dietary cholesterol is NOT what raises your LDL (bad blood cholesterol). Plus, the yolk is where the majority of the protein, fat, and essential vitamins are stored. It was going to be food for a growing chicken, after all! Overall, there’s no reason to torture yourself with plate after plate of the nasty whites.
It can be a little pricey, but you should try to eat some salmon at least once or twice a week. The protein is great, of course, but the real magic is in the fat. Salmon is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to improve both fat loss AND muscle growth. It’s a nice change of pace, too, since even steak and eggs can get old when you eat them all the time.
Make sure you’re getting wild-caught salmon, though. The farm-raised stuff is far lower in Omega-3s, almost to the point that it’s not worth buying. If you can’t find fresh, wild-caught fish at an affordable price, check out the freezer section. If even that fails, then get the cans – they’ll be right next to the tuna. Surprisingly enough, canned wild salmon costs around the same price per ounce as albacore.
I don’t think nuts are as much a “superfood” as some would have you believe, but they can be fantastic if you’re trying to gain weight. Have you ever downed a whole can of nuts in an afternoon? It’s easy! Nuts may not be as awesome as meat and eggs, but they are a cost-effective way to pack in tons of quality calories. They’re also highly portable, which is great for people with busy jobs or school schedules.
Just to be clear, though – eating tons of nuts is best for skinny guys who struggle to gain weight. Even “healthy” foods can pack on unwanted pounds if you eat too much, and this is a perfect example. I’ve seen heftier guys and gals totally derail their fat loss diets by going crazy with almonds and cashews. Focus first on the animal foods, then use nuts and other fat sources to fill in the caloric gaps.
No-carb diets are great for fat loss, but if you want to get considerably bigger, you’ll probably need to eat some starch. My top choices? Potatoes and sweet potatoes. I don’t religiously follow a “paleo” diet, but I think there’s definitely something to be said for avoiding grains. Oatmeal and rice can be decent choices, but even they tend to cause some bloating and discomfort. If you’re at all sensitive to gluten, and if you tend to gain fat easily, try making potatoes your go-to source of carbohydrates.
Article by Sixpackfactory’s Muscle Building Expert and Top Fitness Model Justin Woltering. Get more info on Justin at: http://www.justinwoltering.com/