So we’ve all heard the term “superfood” before, in reference to foods like avocados, blueberries, Chia seeds, spinach, and plenty of other foods you’d see served at a yoga retreat. Some of those can also be great for building muscle, but there’s also plenty of foods conducive to building muscle that would never make it on a yoga teacher’s dinner menu – a.k.a. meat. Check out these seven foods that promote muscle growth.
Protein is obviously essential to building muscle, so if you want to beef up, but you’ve sworn to put the beef down – check out the vegan alternatives to the meat and dairy items below.
1. Red Meat
This one is so obvious I almost feel bad for putting it on the list. Everyone knows that as a source of protein, lean beef is hard to top. As a rule, you should eat 1 to 1 ½ times your weight in grams of protein – so a 200 lb. man should eat 400 grams of protein a day. Lean beef also provides iron, zinc, selenium – which helps prevent prostate cancer – and creatine.
While loin and round cuts are lean choices, flank and skirt steaks are lean cuts that are super tender, flavorful and versatile.
Keep in mind, you get way more nutrients from grass-fed cows, such as Omega-3 – which you will not get from conventionally fed cows. Not to mention that pasture-raised, grass-fed cows are much happier than grain-fed cows that stand in stalls their whole life. And happy cows taste better than bored ones.
Vegan alternative: One and half cup of beans for 3 ounces of lean beef.
2. Nuts and Peanut Butter (No Sugar Added)
Nuts are high in calories, and poly- and mono-unsaturated fats – the fats that don’t make you fat. Nuts are a good choice for those super-skinny guys out there who eat thirteen sandwiches, a Chinese buffet and an entire dairy farm everyday but still can’t gain weight. Yeah, if you’re one of those guys – try eating handfuls of nuts, and consult the article I linked to.
As one of the best sources of Omega-3 fatty acids you can stuff in your face, salmon is a must-have on any guy’s (or girl’s) muscle-building diet. To build muscle, your body has to store up new protein before it consumes the backup sources. This is what Omega-3s help your body do, as well as maintain a good metabolic rate and improve fat loss.
Omega-3 is present in most wild-caught fish, but wild salmon has the most. Farm raised salmon will be deficient in Omega 3’s though, so make sure you select wild caught salmon or fish.
Vegan alternative: Algae supplements – algae is where fish obtain their Omega-3s from.
4. Fish Oil
In order to get the 9000mg of EPA/DHA you need for your goal, fish oil supplements are more practical than trying to eat enough fatty fish. These nutrients increase testosterone levels – which are crucial to muscle mass – as well as decrease inflammation and lower body fat.
Vegan alternative: Chia seeds, flax seeds or flax oil.
Because of its low glycemic index (GI) as a carb source, oatmeal energy is healthier, more effective and longer-lasting than a bag of Cheetos, a fat sesame bagel or even whey protein. In addition to the longer-lasting energy/carb provision, oatmeal gives you fiber and prevents hunger longer.
This grain-looking-non-grain-that’s-actually-a-seed is gluten-free – and you know I have to have at least one gluten-free thing on the list, or all the food trend bloggers would send hate mail. There are several varieties, including white and red quinoa, but white is most common. It can be used in dishes like you’d use rice – with curry or stir-fry or cold in a quinoa tabbouleh.
Quinoa has protein and a little Omega-3, but it also has a low GI and is a great source of riboflavin, which improves energy metabolism in your muscle cells and brain.
Yup. Coffee. Caffeine directly stimulates the muscles and provides a joe-y jolt of energy before a work-out, allowing for more reps, longer, faster sprints and other anaerobic activities. However if you are currently taking meds for high-blood pressure, have some chamomile tea – after your workout, of course. We don’t want you dropping that barbell on your face.
Of course there are tons of other smart food choices for building muscle – grains like brown rice and flax, chia and hemp seeds, skinless chicken breast, beets, avocadoes, broccoli, and spinach, to name just a handful. In general, in order to build muscle, increase your protein intake, eat carbs with a low GI and foods and/or supplements high in Omega-3’s and EPA/DHA.