It is commonly known that protein is one of the most important elements to build muscle. For instance, athletes who exercise regularly need a higher protein intake. Protein is a preponderant macronutrient to repair muscle fibers and stimulate muscle growth. However, energy is essential to perform our everyday life activities as well as to perform activities that require more physical effort, as long as we combine a high quality diet with a controlled intake of carbohydrates and healthy fats. A diet to build muscle should include more than eggs, white meat and whole-grain cereals. We previously mentioned 7 foods that help to increase muscle mass and that stimulate your body’s performance, but we want to continue this list.
You must have a varied diet in order to obtain the daily protein intake necessary to a good performance of your muscles. Anyway, vegetables must be predominant in your diet, once they are very low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and rich in vitamins, minerals, fibers, antioxidants, phytochemicals, etc.
Some scientific studies prove that if you want to attain more muscle mass and definition, it is important to have 5 to 7 meals a day, directing the protein consumption to the pre and post workout.
When you combine protein with other foods, mainly those that contain fiber (whole-grain cereals, vegetables, etc.) or fats (dry fruits, seeds, avocado, etc.), the protein is slowly absorbed which doesn’t make sense after working out. However, it can be an interesting strategy to other meals.
Take note of the foods that you must include in your diet plan to maintain and/or build muscle mass:
Traditional in Japanese cuisine, shitake and shimeji contain powerful antioxidants. Besides, they are a good alternative to meat, since they possess folic acid. For 100 grams of mushroom, there are 1014mg of folic acid, and the daily intake corresponds to 400mg. A beef steak, weighting 100g may have 13g of fat, while a mushroom contains less than 1g. Even though the mushroom contains less protein than meat or soy, for 100g of mushroom, you will get around 2,3g of protein. You can buy fresh, canned or dry mushrooms.
They are a good source of glutamine, the most important amino acid regarding muscle growth. Spinaches also contribute to increase your strength and muscle endurance. Spinaches contain twice as much iron as other green foods and may be a good replacement for meat for those who don’t consume it regularly.
More than a good protein source, salmon is high in Omega-3, an important element to fight against the anti-inflammatory processes caused by physical exercise, making the recovery process easier. The faster you recover the damaged muscle fibers, the greater is the gain of lean muscle mass. Consume it after working out. The daily values correspond to one salmon cutlet (150g), two to three times a week.
– Brazil Nut
Some experts believe that the Brazil nut may stimulate the growth of muscular mass since it contains arginine which boosts the production of testosterone. It is proven that it is a source of healthy fats and selenium – anti-inflammatory substances that help you fight the damage caused by physical exercise. Eat two Brazil Nuts per day.
– Cottage Cheese
It is rich on casein, which means that it is a good protein source to consume before sleeping. It is slowly absorbed by your body which will help you prevent muscular catabolism when you stay long periods without eating.
What to drink?
– Green Tea
Studies claim that consuming 100 ml to 200 ml of green tea, before exercising, reduces muscular stress, controlling the damage caused by the free radicals that destroy lean mass.
– Coconut Water
A way of reducing mineral salts is to put coconut water in a bottle and drinking it during your workout. By sweating, you lose essential electrolytes to the transportation of oxygen by your body and you spend your energetic reserves. Drinking 100ml of water every 40 minutes during your workout will make you increase your performance and will contribute to burn more calories as well as in the muscle mass synthesis, which occurs easily if your cells are well hydrated.
Your muscles are composed of 70% water which means that body dehydration may compromise your workout performance. A study made in Germany revealed that protein synthesis is better in well hydrated cells, which is to say that, dehydration will slow down this process. Besides, drinking a lot of water will make the process of eliminating toxins through urine easier, besides contributing to your intestinal function and nourishing your skin which prevents stretch marks. Drink, at least, 2 liters of water per day.
Having a protein snack between dinner and sleeping time may be a good solution to prevent anxiety and late night tidbits. What is more, it also avoids muscular degradation which is frequent on restrictive diets. This snack must be high on casein, the main protein of lacteous products, because it is slowly absorbed and promotes the circulation of amino acids on your bloodstream. Try some of these options:
– Half light cream cheese with some slices of apple and sesame seeds;
– A light natural yogurt, half a serving of whey protein and 4 spoons of red fruits;
– A Milkshake 100% casein, half a handful of almonds.
5 Tips to increase the growth hormone levels (HGH):
– According to the Journal Clinical Endocrinology, you must choose foods which are high on melatonin, since they increase the production of HGH up to 157%. Raspberries are particularly effective, so add some to your breakfast.
– The Journal of Clinical Investigation points out pineapple as a good source of serotonin, a hormone that acts as a neurotransmitter, giving you the feeling of being relaxed. This feeling will increase the production of HGH.
– The Journal of Endocrinology declares that adding 1g of coconut oil for every kg of your weight to your pre-workout shake which will allow you to increase the HGH levels for 4h and improve your endurance.
– A study made by the University of Syracuse, in the USA, states that soy is an excellent source of L-arginine, which helps you increase your hormonal levels in 30 minutes.
– According to a study made in the University of Houston, in the USA, meat doesn’t offer only protein but a wide range of amino acids that help in the synthesis of L-Ornithine, an amino acid which can quadruplicate the growth hormone levels.
Are you losing muscle mass?
Try to increase the amount of zinc. This mineral is fundamental to produce testosterone and it is not easy to find on the everyday diet. Besides, this mineral is easily lost through sweat and urine. You find it in oysters, clams and red meat.
Example of the basic supplementation to use during the muscular hypertrophy phase:
1 serving pre-workout, for 10 weeks
1 serving post-workout, for 10 weeks
1 serving pre-workout, during 10 weeks
1 serving post-workout, for 10 weeks
Take 3 times a day during meals, for 10 weeks.
1 a day before going to bed, for 10 weeks
1 serving before eating, for 10 weeks
Using food supplements has the following objectives:
– Helping your body to use accumulated fat as a source of energy.
– Increase the sensibility to insulin.
– Increase the protein synthesis in your muscles.
– Detoxify and remove toxins.
– Provide support to hormonal synthesis to help in the fat oxidation.
N/d, Alimente-se para crescer, Men’s Health, February 2014, translated and adapted from the original version
N/d, Top 10 muscle building foods, n/d, adapted from the original version
Wayne Griffins, Top 10 foods to gain muscle mass, n/d, adapted from the original version
Jim Stoppani, Phd, Karla Dial, Allan Donnelly, Eat to build lean muscle, January 2012, adapted from the original version
Marina Machuca, Comida que rende músculo, August 2014, translated and adapted from the original version
Eliane Contreras, 12 alimentos para você ganhar músculos, May 2014, adapted from the original version