However, the process of getting there can be a very long and arduous one that may involve a complete change in your lifestyle. Although exercise is certainly a big part of this transformation, you should realize that if you’re going to force your body to undertake this type of challenge, you’re going to have to feed it some high-quality fuel.
Muscle-building doesn’t have to be anywhere near as complicated as you might imagine, though. Let’s take a brief look at the 12 best foods for optimal muscle growth.
1. Black beans
Of the many different types of beans, black beans are particularly nutritious in ways that will help you in your quest for muscle growth. They’re very rich in several important vitamins, including vitamins A, B, C and K, as well as both protein and fiber. A cup of black beans will yield around 227 calories, while providing less than one gram of fat.
If you’re a smaller individual in need of more calories to build muscle, this high concentration of nutrients will pack a punch that few other foods can compare to, without all the fat that could potentially derail your progress. This winning combination of protein, carbs and calories is pretty hard to beat.
2. Cottage cheese
To begin with, a single cup of low-fat cottage cheese will provide you with around 28 grams of protein, including both casein and whey. Casein protein actually provides a sustained release over an extended period of time, which makes cottage cheese a particularly great choice in the evening.
It also contains a healthy amount of whey protein, which research shows is unsurpassed at stimulating muscle-protein synthesis. You can eat it with virtually anything and if you want to boost the protein content of your cottage cheese even more, you can always mix some protein powder into it.
3. Olive oil
Olive oil might seem like a rather strange choice, but it’s actually a great source of omega-3 and monounsaturated fats. These types of fats are not only great for the heart, but they also play an important role in preventing your muscles from breaking down.
Olive oil also contains a healthy dose of vitamin E, which will help fight off the free radicals that can damage your muscles after a workout. Additionally, the oleocanthal in olive oil also serves as an anti-inflammatory that can help relieve some of that unpleasant muscle pain, while you recover.
Although it’s not nearly as popular as the beef most of us are used to eating, there’s a growing number of individuals that swear it actually tastes better.
The truth of the matter is that it’s far leaner, with 80 percent less fat and around 50 percent less cholesterol. As if that weren’t enough, it’s got even more protein and iron than beef.
Lentils are another type of nutritious muscle-building legume that’s high in fiber and contains loads of minerals. Just one cup of them contains around 18 grams of protein that your muscles need to keep growing.
A slow-burning carbohydrate, lentils can help you power through your daily workouts and replenish any nutrients you lose, along the way. They have a very long shelf life, which means you can stock up confidently and cook them in just a few short minutes.
They’re also versatile enough that you can either eat them by themselves or sprinkle them over other foods, such as brown rice and salads.
There’s a reason Popeye loved his spinach and it’s safe to say it will benefit far more than just the size of your forearms.
Considered a “superfood” for its high nutritional value, spinach contains many of the vitamins your body needs to power through those heavy workouts, as well as the calcium your bones need to support those massive slabs of muscle.
7. Brown rice
Brown rice has become an indispensable staple in the diets of many bodybuilders. A complex carbohydrate, it offers a sustained release of energy that any athlete can benefit from and it can be eaten alongside virtually any other type of meal.
At around 5 grams of protein per cup, brown rice is loaded with BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids) that will help you build muscle, reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness and decrease the amount of time needed for recovery.
Loaded with protein and fiber, this nut will help fill you up quickly, so that you won’t overeat while your muscles are resting and repairing themselves.
Just one ounce of them (about a handful) will provide you with around 6 grams of protein. They’re also loaded with vitamin E, which your muscles need for quicker recovery.
Beef is one food no bodybuilder should ever leave off their list. Aside from its high protein content, it’s also loaded with important minerals like iron and zinc. Iron is necessary for the process of transporting oxygen to your working muscles, enabling them to recover adequately from the pounding you put them through at the gym.
Without enough of it, you simply won’t be able to recover fast enough to realize any substantial gains. Female bodybuilders are particularly vulnerable to problems with iron deficiency, due to the fact that they’re likely to lose a lot of it through their monthly menstrual flow.
Zinc is critical for the production of testosterone, which is key to developing muscle size and strength.
As hard as it may be to believe, there really was a legitimate reason why Rocky Balboa’s character was known for gulping down pitchers full of raw eggs.
Although eating them raw is not typically recommended these days, eggs are a relatively inexpensive source of protein, whether you scramble them, boil them or poach them.
They’re nutritious enough that despite their association with breakfast, people have been known to chop up boiled eggs and add them to their salads.
Salmon is considered one of the best types of fish for anyone looking to build muscle. It’s loaded with high-quality protein that’s needed for growth, as well as omega-3 fatty acids.
The omega-3s decrease the muscle-protein breakdown that occurs after a rigorous workout, improving your ability to recover.
The reason this is important is that building muscle requires the ability to store new protein faster than the body can break down the old stuff.
Water is easily the most overlooked food, when it comes to building muscle. This is quite a shame because muscle is composed of nearly 80 percent water. With this in mind, it only makes sense that losing even 1 percent of the water in your body can impair your performance and have an adverse effect on your recovery.
The results of a German study in 1997 actually showed that well-hydrated cells boast a higher rate of protein synthesis than dehydrated cells. In other words, the more dehydrated you are, the longer it takes your body to build muscle with protein.