Feeding your muscles

Here are the 15 muscle-building foods that will facilitate the hypertrophy process in a lean, effective way:

Whey and casein protein powders: Both powders are derived from milk, thus containing high amounts of BCAAs and will elicit a strong insulinemic effect.  Whey is a fast-absorbing variety best for post-weight training workouts, while casein is a slow-absorbing protein, best for bedtime to assure adequate nutrients for muscle recovery during sleep.

Dairy products like milk, cottage cheese, yogurt, etc: Dairy products, though low on the glycemic index because they contain fewer carbohydrates, produce a marked insulin response upon consumption, while contributing substantial protein.

Ground bison or grass-fed beef: Leaner than traditional beef, these natural alternatives consist of quality protein, with key amino acids more abundantly found in red meat: carnitine, carnosine and creatine, important in both energy metabolism and muscle synthesis.

Chicken (ground or breasts): Lean muscle-building protein.

Turkey (ground or breasts): Similar to chicken, turkey provides lean protein with little fat.

Eggs and egg whites: Great sources of protein, include the yolks to boost vitamin D, important for bone and immune health, while additional calories from fat aid hypertrophy.

Spinach: Popeye was onto something! Researchers at Rutgers University (2008) showed that the phytoecdysteroids contained in spinach can increase muscle growth up to 20% when 2 lbs of spinach was consumed each day.  Even smaller amounts will provide a muscle-boosting benefit.

Squash and zucchini: Two of the many starchy vegetables that provide fiber, along with clean carbohydrates for glycogen repletion (also try eggplant, carrots, peas and corn).

Beans: A vegetarian’s key source of protein, beans are also 75% starch (including a large amount of fiber)—a perfect combination for muscle building.

Potatoes (white, sweet, new and red): For hypertrophy, potatoes represent a clean, hypoallergenic carbohydrate source that is quickly absorbed and insulin-producing.

Bananas: This fruit along with other high GI fruits like grapes and pineapple contain more quickly-absorbed natural sugars than others and are beneficial for facilitating protein into muscles for growth, especially post-workout.

Cherries: A recent study published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise (Jan 2011) showed that supplementation with cherry juice concentrate before and after intense weight training hastened recovery time and performance over the course of a week.

Rice (brown rice, white rice, rice cakes): Key starchy carbohydrates for muscle growth, use white rice and rice cakes pre- and post-workout to provide fast-acting carb for energy and glyogen repletion, respectively.  Brown rice is higher fiber version, a good staple of any muscle-building nutrition plan.

Hot cereals (oatmeal, steel cut oats, grits, cream of wheat): A great source of complex carbs, more quickly-absorbed versions like cream of wheat or grits are best for muscle recovery and refilling glycogen stores.

Meat-lover’s pizza: Though not the healthiest of options, there is no denying the impact of a food containing carbohydrates from grain, dairy and animal protein to potentiate muscle hypertrophy.  Fat, carbs, protein and calories in abundance will certainly push muscle (and fat) growth. Perhaps a once in a while indulgence!

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