Muscle building can be difficult for many people so knowing exactly what you should eat is a good place to start. Through my extensive experience as a personal trainer and body builder I have tried plenty of different approaches to getting the right foods in at the right time to reach important muscle-building goals. In this article I give a thorough run down of some of the basics when it comes to food and nutrition for optimal muscle building. Read on for top tips then have a look at some of the other useful articles on this site that will help you feel motivated and give you everything you need to get training hard and earning results from the start.
Protein: muscle building blocks – meat + fish
The most important macro-nutrient when it comes to building strong muscles is of course protein. Protein is the absolute building-block of life and without it the body is unable to repair or create the most basic cells in the body. Luckily there are lots of great sources of protein that can be used to ensure your body gets enough. The trick is to ensure you are eating ‘good’ proteins. Some foods such as fatty and/or processed meats may be high in protein, however they are also high in saturated fat. This is thought to be one of the causes of high cholesterol so something to avoid in high quantities. Try instead to opt for lean proteins like white meat – chicken, turkey – and fish.
Protein: non-meat sources
There are also lots of great sources of protein that don’t come from meat. These are often forgotten, but in fact tend to be much healthier, often being low in saturated fat and thus much less likely to be one of the causes of high cholesterol levels. Avoid fatty cheeses and go instead for natural options like tofu and lentils. You could also try nuts, just always check the label for their fat content. Some, such as walnuts, are high in unsaturated fat – so-called good fat – and are ideal as a post-work out snack.
Vegetables + carbs
While it’s protein that will build your muscles, you’ll need to exercise too and to do so it’s important your body has sufficient nutrients and energy. As such make sure to eat enough carbohydrates for your body weight ahead of exercising and aim to consume at least five (better ten!) different types of vegetables per day. If you’re concerned about cholesterol try including avocado in your diet, a food rich in healthy, unsaturated fat. Try to eat slow release carbohydrates (avoiding refined white carbs like bread and pasta) that give you more sustained energy and avoid those workout busting blood glucose dips.
Timing of meals
When it comes to eating for muscle building it’s not just what you eat, but when. Timing is everything so it’s important to plan ahead. For my workouts I try to have some form of light protein around 1hr to 30 minutes beforehand such as a whey protein powder mixed with water and rolled oats and some fast acting carbs, maybe an apple or banana. Afterwards I’ll boost my energy levels with an alternative healthy protein like yogurt or nuts or even a protein/ carb drink depending on my planned diet for the rest of that day.
Once you’ve got the hang of eating for muscle-building you’ll be surprised how easily it fits into your everyday life. Avoid fatty, processed meats which may be some of the causes of high cholesterol and instead focus your diet on unsaturated fats, lean protein, healthy veggies and slow release carbohydrates!