Answering the Question “What Should I Eat to Gain Muscle?”
For those of us on the slimmer side, gaining weight can be a challenging task. Our metabolic rates are so high that the normal amount of food that we consume just isn’t enough to allow us to gain significant amounts of muscle mass. Our bodies require even more calories and nutrients to feed the muscles and enable them to grow. When our calorie intake is insufficient, our body will burn the protein we consume leading to an inability to sustain consistent muscle growth.
Building muscle breaks down into three main nutrients:
#1 – Protein: The Building Block
Our bodies aren’t capable of storing protein as well as it stores carbohydrates and fats. Excess protein often gets flushed out of our system within a few hours of consumption. This means that it’s essential for us to continuously provide our bodies with proteins throughout the day. Not just during one or two meals. Proteins should be included in all meals and snacks we consume each day.
Proteins are the foundation for which all muscles are built upon. The rule of thumb is to consume 1 to 1.5 times our body weight in grams of protein each day to rapidly build muscle.
Sources of Protein
Protein is naturally available in a wide variety of foods.
Red meat: Read meats are an excellent source of high-efficiency proteins.
Tuna, Salmon, and other low calorie fish: Low calorie fish are high in protein and contain Omega3 fatty acid which promotes healthy hearts.
Chicken: Chicken is an excellent source of protein while being low in fat.
While the meats listed above are typically loaded with proteins, there are other non-meat options to build your diet around:
Eggs: Eggs provide us with high amounts of vitamins and minerals and contain roughly 71 calories.
Lentils: Lentils have both fibre and protein which are required for muscle build up. They contain minerals like iron, magnesium and potassium. Another benefit is that they are low in fat and sodium.
Peanut butter: Peanut butter is a great source of muscle bilding minerals like magnesium and potassium. It also contains Vitamin B-6. Not to mention, it’s one of the taster options.
Hemp seeds: These seeds contain iron and calcium for the promotion of good bone health. They also contain magnesium and various vitamins and minerals to help muscle growth.
Sesame seeds: These seeds are rich in calcium and aid in proper muscles functioning.
Brown rice: Brown rice is a great way to boost growth hormones which aids in lean muscle growth.
Cottage cheese: Cottage cheese is rich in casein, which is a slow digesting protein.
Spinach: Spinach contains glutamine, an amino acid, which aids lean muscle growth and increases the endurance and strength of the muscles.
Whey: Whey is a vital protein which contains the highest levels of leucine.
Nuts: Nuts are filled with healthy fat and provide us with long-lasting energy. A handful of nuts will go a long way in gaining muscle. In particular, Almonds have good amount of protein. Almonds, walnuts, pistachios, peanuts, cashews, and brazil nuts are all high in healthy fats.
Fruits and Vegetables: Fruits and vegetables are high quality sources of micro nutrients. They also act as antioxidant protector and keep our immune system strong. Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables each day will ensure our bodies have the proper dosages of vital nutrients and that we’re able to gain muscle mass.
You can check out a more specific list of our favorite muscle building foods here.
#2 Carbohydrates: The Energy Source
Carbohydrates are often the food that gets axed when it comes to fad dieting and weight loss. It seems as if people ignore the important role that carbs play in our lives and in our muscle building. Simply put, a lack of carbohydrates will cause our body to burn our muscle building proteins for energy. Of course, this is horrible news for those of us looking to gain muscle. Even if you’re eating the right amounts of proteins, it will all be for not unless you supplement it with the correct amount of carbs.
The trick is to eat the appropriate amount of carbs. The ‘sweet spot’ is the amount of carbs that meats your bodies requirements. Too many carbs will lead to excess fat growth. Too few carbs will lead to burning proteins for energy.
Our bodies require a diet that consists of 40% to 60% of carbohydrates. We have to look for carbohydrates which are low on glycaemic index. Carbs that are low on the glycaemic index are healthier and release energy slower. Here is a list of food which are good sources of carbohydrates and which are low on the glycaemic index:
Oatmeal, bran, wheat , chick peas, yams, sweet potatoes, black beans, white beans, and kidney beans are all great sources of carbohydrates that rank low on the glycaemic index.
#3: Essential Fatty Acids: So Called “The Good Fats”
Our body should receive approximately 20 – 25% of its calories from fatty foods. Foods containing essential fatty acids are effective when it comes to building muscles. Alternatively, this is why low fat diets do not coincide with muscle gains.
Essential fats are good fats and can be derived from foods such as olives, avocados, pumpkin seeds, soy products, sunflower oil, olive oil, and groundnut oil.
#4 Water: The Bonus
I’m not creative enough to weave water into the answer to the question “what should I eat to gain muscle?” So, I’ll include it right here since it’s so important to the muscle gaining process. As you may or may not know, our bodies consist of approximately 65% of water. When we become dehydrated, our muscles rapidly lose their strength and endurance. If the muscles are weakened they break down and their ability to grow crashes to a halt. Alternatively, when we are dehydrated, our bodies are not able to digest the foods that we consume. A lack of digestion leads to a lack of absorption of the vital nutrients our bodies require to promote muscle gains. So, while it’s important to keep an eye or what you eat, it’s also equally important to keep an eye on what you drink to gain muscle!
I hope this article serves as an introduction into what type of foods and diet you should consume to gain muscle mass. By no means was this article meant to be the “end all” for what foods you need to eat to gain muscle. In fact, I would argue that it’s just the tip! Look around our site and you’ll see that this is a topic that we discuss very, very often. Because at the end of the day, muscle building is 50% lifting weights and 50% eating right. But, to get on the express lanes of muscle building, check out some of our muscle building supplements that are guaranteed to produce results.