Weight is a major problem in the United States. An overall lack of physical exercise (more than 60% of American women do not engage in the recommended amount of physical activity) combined with easily accessible fatty foods has made it difficult for many people to live comfortably, let alone healthily. Logically, the solution to this issue is two-fold; it requires a dedication to a fitness routine and a shift in nutrition.
Those who are already attending gyms, group fitness classes, or strength training programs have the basics of exercise down, but building muscle -- especially if you're interested in the competitive circuit -- takes a little bit more effort. Fortunately, there are a number of foods that can supplement and boost this process! Let's take a look at five types of foods and dishes that can help you build muscle.
- Eggs: If you've ever seen a movie with a fitness or workout montage in it, you probably remember the coach forcing the main character to down a few raw eggs as part of their training. There's reasoning behind this disgusting act: eggs contain high-quality protein, healthy fats, and a number of important nutrients (such as B vitamins and choline). Eggs contain large amounts of the amino acid leucine, which plays a major role in muscle gain.
- Chicken: Bodybuilding diets are notorious for the shocking amount of chicken they include. Just like eggs, chicken is packed with protein -- each 3-ounce serving contains about 26 grams of high-quality protein. They have the added benefit of aiding fat loss, which is crucial to the bodybuilding physique.
- Greek Yogurt: Dairy also contains high-quality protein (are you seeing a pattern emerge?), but possesses a unique mixture of fast-digesting whey protein and slow-digesting casein protein. Studies have shown that this combination has allowed some people to experience increases in lean mass. However, not all dairy is created equal; regular yogurt only contains half as much protein as its Greek cousin, so pay attention when you're at the grocery store!
- Fish: Fish -- most notably tuna and salmon -- is packed with protein and contains many of the vitamins and minerals that give us energy. The high amounts of vitamin A and several B vitamins (including B12, niacin, and B6) play a role in achieving optimal health, energy, and exercise performance. Omega-3 fatty acids (which are present almost all forms of seafood) have been proven not only to help you build muscle, but to slow the loss of muscle mass and strength that occurs with age.
- Lean Beef: Everyone knows that meat contains protein, but the reason it falls last on this list is due to the fact that beef often has more saturated fats and calories than its above counterparts -- after all, your goal is to build muscle, not gain weight. If you're a red-blooded meat eater and simply can't sacrifice your favorite meal, opt for leaner cuts; three ounces of 70% lean ground beef contains 228 calories and 15 grams of fat, while the same amount of 95% lean ground beef contains more protein, only 145 calories, and five grams of fat.
Unsurprisingly, protein is essential when you're trying to build muscle. This is because protein is comprised of amino acids, which repair the microtears that occur in muscles during weight training; they surround and fill the tear, making it bigger and stronger. If you're looking to bulk up (either for personal or professional reasons), don't forget to include the above foods in your diet.