When you’re trying to build lean muscle, you and your personal trainer probably spend a lot of time discussing the best exercises and routines. You customize your workouts to ensure you are building the kind of muscle you want in a healthy manner.
However, if you haven’t looked into adjusting your diet as well, you are probably not reaching your full potential when it comes to building muscles. While you aren’t looking for the bulky muscles associated with body-building, there is nutritional guidance to be gleaned from those whose sole nutritional focus is helping their body create more muscle mass.
1. Focus on lean proteins. You need fats and carbohydrates as well, but protein is what your muscles are actually made of. Adequate protein intake is critical to your overall success at improving the amount of muscle on your body. For optimal muscle development, you should be consuming between 1 and 1.5 grams of protein for each pound of body weight. Anything beyond that will simply be broken down as waste and won’t do much to benefit your efforts. Look to poultry, eggs and fish as good and clean sources of usable protein.
2. Limit simple carbs and focus on plant-based sources. You won’t benefit from eating a dozen bagels or half a loaf of sourdough. All those excess calories could add to your fat stores, instead of your muscle mass. You want carbohydrates from whole grains, as well as fruits and vegetables, not refined grain products and sugars. Snacking on high protein, moderate carbohydrate foods before a workout can energize you. Having some more carbs after your workout will help your muscles heal and re-energize. Just don’t go overboard. The closer to their natural state, the better.
3. Get enough healthy fat. Fats aren’t all bad. In fact, your body needs them for optimal health. Selecting sources of good fats, such as healthy plant oils, nuts, avocados and eggs can make all the difference. You want good quality fats, just like you want high quality protein and complex, natural carbohydrates. These macronutrients are critical to your body’s development and performance.
4. Pick colorful produce to boost micronutrient intake. Your body needs a broad range of minerals and vitamins for peak health. One of the best ways to ensure you are getting enough naturally-sourced vitamins and minerals is to focus on the color of the foods you’re eating. Bright oranges and yellows contain different nutrients than reds and purples or greens. A little from each color grouping every day can help. Bonus: Plant foods are high in fiber, which can help you resist cravings for less healthy snacks.