To get started, it’s essential to challenge your body through physical activity. However, without proper nutritional support, your progress will stall. High-protein foods are very important for gaining muscle, but carbohydrates and fats are also necessary sources of energy. If your goal is to gain lean muscle, you should focus on exercising regularly and eating more calories each day from muscle-building foods. Here are the top foods for gaining lean muscle.
Eggs contain high-quality protein, healthy fats and other important nutrients like B vitamins and choline. Proteins are made up of amino acids, and eggs contain large amounts of the amino acid leucine, which is particularly important for muscle gain. Also, B vitamins are critically important for a variety of processes in your body, including energy production.
Salmon is a great choice for muscle building and overall health. Each 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of salmon contains about 17 grams of protein, almost 2 grams of omega-3 fatty acids and several important B vitamins. Omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in muscular health and may even increase muscle gain during exercise programs.
There’s a good reason why chicken breasts are considered a staple for gaining muscle. They are packed with protein, with each 3-ounce (85-gram) serving containing about 26 grams of high-quality protein. They also contain generous amounts of the B vitamins niacin and B6, which may be particularly important if you are active. These vitamins help your body function properly during the physical activity and exercise that’s necessary for optimal muscle gain.
In addition to 20 grams of protein per 3-ounce (85-gram) serving, tuna contains high amounts of vitamin A and several B vitamins, including B12, niacin and B6. These nutrients are important for optimal health, energy and exercise performance. Additionally, tuna provides large amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which may support muscle health. This may be particularly important for older adults. Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids can slow the loss of muscle mass and strength that occurs with age.
Half a cup (86 grams) of cooked soybeans contains 14 grams of protein, healthy unsaturated fats and several vitamins and minerals. Soybeans are a particularly good source of vitamin K, iron and phosphorus. Iron is used to store and transport oxygen in your blood and muscles, and a deficiency can impair these functions. Young women may be particularly at risk of iron deficiency due to blood loss during menstruation.
Many different varieties of beans can be part of a diet for lean muscle gain. Popular varieties, such as black, pinto and kidney beans, contain around 15 grams of protein per cup (about 172 grams) of cooked beans. What’s more, they are excellent sources of fiber and B vitamins, in addition to being high in magnesium, phosphorus and iron. For these reasons, beans are a good source of plant-based protein to add to your diet.
Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, are a good source of both carbs and protein. Each 1-cup (240-gram) serving of canned chickpeas contains around 12 grams of protein and 50 grams of carbs, including 10 grams of fiber. As with many plants, the protein in chickpeas is considered lower quality than animal sources. However, it can still be part of a balanced muscle-building diet.
Peanuts contain a mix of protein, fat and carbs. A half-cup (73-gram) serving contains 17 grams of protein, 16 grams of carbs and large amounts of unsaturated fat. They also contain higher amounts of the amino acid leucine than many other plant products. Each half-cup (73-gram) serving of peanuts contains around 425 calories.So if you're having a hard time getting enough calories to drive your muscle gain, eating peanuts could be a good way to get some extra calories and nutrients.
Tofu is produced from soy milk and often used as a meat substitute. Each half-cup (124-gram) serving of raw tofu contains 10 grams of protein, 6 grams of fat and 2 grams of carbohydrates.Tofu is also a good source of calcium, which is important for proper muscle function and bone health. Soy protein, found in foods like tofu and soybeans, is considered one of the highest-quality plant proteins. For all these reasons, foods containing soy protein are great options for vegans and vegetarians.
Milk provides a mix of protein, carbohydrates and fats. Similar to other dairy products, milk contains both fast- and slow-digesting proteins. This is thought to be beneficial for muscle growth. In fact, several studies have shown that people can increase their muscle mass when they drink milk in combination with weight training.
Although cooked brown rice provides only 5 grams of protein per cup (195 grams), it has the carbohydrates you need to fuel your physical activity. Consider eating healthy carb sources like brown rice or quinoa in the hours leading up to exercise. This may allow you to exercise harder, providing your body with a greater stimulus for your muscles to grow. Furthermore, some research has shown that rice protein supplements can produce as much muscle gain as whey protein during a weight-training program.
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