Are you looking to build some muscle? Increasing your muscle mass isn’t just about putting in hours at the gym squatting or bench pressing. It’s also about making sure you’re eating the right foods and taking supplements.
With so many different supplement options and diet recommendations out there, it can feel overwhelming. However, it’s easier to start once you know what nutrients your muscles need for healthy growth.
The Importance of Nutrition for Muscle Growth
Your diet is as critical for muscle building as the hours you spend in the gym. Optimal foods eaten in the right quantities can help your muscles grow bigger and stronger. Diet also helps your body recover quicker after a workout. Conversely, eating the wrong foods can make your gains more difficult to achieve.
The best foods to consume are those that are high in healthy proteins. You also can’t neglect the carbohydrates and fats responsible for giving you energy. The best combination offers you enough total calories a day and the right amount of quality protein to build muscles.
A high-protein diet lacking in calories will make it challenging to work out and build muscle. On the other hand, consuming calories without protein will lead to your body gaining weight instead of strength.
So, how much protein do you need? According to Health Direct, the optimal intake varies per person, but most Australians get enough protein every day to maintain body composition without muscle growth. If you want to bulk up, though, many studies show that you need around 1.4 to 2.6 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight every day (1, 2).
Let’s look at the foods and supplements that are miles ahead of the competition when it comes to building muscle.
The Best Foods for Muscle Growth
Eggs are full of quality protein, healthy fats, vitamin B and choline, an essential nutrient. Proteins are molecules formed by amino acids, and the amino acids in eggs include leucine, which is critical for muscle growth. B vitamins help boost your energy and fuel your training.
Chicken, especially chicken breast, is on the menu of many bodybuilders and athletes. One 85g serving has about 26 grams of protein and significant amounts of B vitamins, namely B6 and niacin. These vitamins aid in bodily function, especially during physical activity.
Salmon is a healthy choice that’s also important for muscle building. Eighty-five grams of salmon, a 3-ounce serving, contains a whopping 17 grams of protein, nearly 2 grams of omega-3 fatty acids and various B vitamins. Foods high in omega-3 fatty acids are essential for muscle growth and health.
There are many different types of beans, including black, pinto or kidney, and all are great options for muscle building. One cup of cooked beans, around 172 grams, contains roughly 15 grams of protein.
Beyond that, beans are an excellent source of fibre and B vitamins. They also contain magnesium, phosphorus and iron, key nutrients for lean muscle building. Magnesium is a mineral that helps with the functioning of your muscles and nerves. Phosphorus is another essential mineral with many roles in your body, including building strong and healthy bones.
Tofu is known as a plant-based diet meat substitute. But, regardless of your diet, this food is excellent for muscle building. Tofu is made from soy milk, with a 1/2 cup serving providing 10 grams of protein, 6 grams of fat and 2 grams of carbs. Tofu is also high in calcium, a mineral critical for bone and muscle health.
Lentils are an often-underused food for muscle building, but it’s time to change that. One cup of cooked lentils is packed full of nutrients, with 18 grams of protein and 40 grams of slow-digesting carbohydrates.
Dairy contains a mix of fast- and slow-digesting proteins, whey and casein, which is helpful for lean muscle gains. Greek yogurt is a healthier option, though, as it contains double the protein that average yogurt does.
Proteins are essential for muscle growth, but carbs help generate the energy needed for your workouts. Quinoa is a perfect example of a healthy carbohydrate because 1 cup of cooked quinoa contains around 40 grams of carbs, 8 grams of protein and 5 grams of fibre. It’s also high in magnesium and phosphorus.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds, including cashews, almonds, peanuts, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds, are an excellent addition to a diet aimed at muscle building. They provide a balanced mix of protein, fats and fibre and make for an ideal snack to help fuel your workouts on the go.
Cottage cheese, made from fresh curds, is an excellent source of protein and calcium. The nutritious food contains about 22 grams of protein per cup and key amounts of phosphorus, vitamin B12 and other nutrients. The main dairy protein in cottage cheese is casein, which helps muscle development.
Chickpeas, or garbanzo beans, are a good source of quality carbohydrates and protein. They have around 12 grams of protein, 50 grams of carbs per cup and 10 grams of fibre. Chickpeas are a good substitute for rice or grains in your diet if you’re struggling to gain muscle.
What Are Supplements?
You need to follow three rules to ensure muscle growth: consume more calories than you burn, eat more protein than you use, and choose a workout plan that targets and develops your muscles. Some people achieve that with only the foods they eat, but you can also take supplements to help you reach your desired muscle growth.
It’s important to remember that supplements don’t replace a balanced and healthy nutrition plan or targeted training hours. Instead, think of supplements as the cherry on top of the sundae. Once you have the optimal training and nutrition plan, you can add the right supplements to help you grow muscle quicker.
Muscle-building supplements contain ingredients that help you kickstart your muscle growth, improve your performance in the gym and recover from workouts quicker. When paired with a solid nutrition and training plan, some recommended supplements can support muscle growth.
The Best Supplements for Muscle Growth
Creatine is one of the most common supplements used to help increase muscle mass. It’s an organic compound that your body produces on its own, but a supplement can increase your natural creatine levels. One of the main benefits of creatine is the fast energy it gives you to perform better in training.
Creatine also helps your muscle cells absorb more water, which helps promote their growth. The consensus for the recommended dose of creatine is 5 grams taken at any time of day. However, many athletes choose to take half before their workout and half after.
Protein is essential in building lean muscle, as you need to consume more than you burn. That’s why some people struggle to get enough in their diet and choose to take protein supplements. A protein supplement can also help you reach your recommended daily intake easier and faster than food alone.
Several protein powders are available, but the most common are whey, casein, and soy.
Beta-alanine is an amino acid that can increase your muscle performance and decrease your fatigue levels, which is why many strength trainers include this supplement in their diet. Beta-alanine can also help build muscle mass when combined with a muscle-building training regimen.
Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs)
BCAAs are made up of three amino acids: leucine, isoleucine and valine. These are found in protein and are responsible for about 14 percent of the amino acids in your muscles. Therefore, they are especially critical for repairing and building muscle tissue and decreasing muscle fatigue.
You consume BCAAs daily in your food, but taking a supplement can help with muscle gain.
We all know caffeine gives you energy — which is why coffee is so popular — but caffeine can also help you in the gym. Most pre-workout mixes include caffeine to boost your energy levels and improve your performance during training. Caffeine can also diminish feelings of fatigue and weariness while working out and help you feel less sore afterwards.
Final Thoughts for Muscle Growth
Building muscle is a goal that takes time and dedication. Therefore, it’s essential to adopt a nutritious diet and combine it with the proper workout regimen to achieve more significant muscle growth faster.
Focus on a nutrition plan of healthy, protein-filled foods, carbs and fats. Once you have the proper nutritional setup, you can add some or all of the five key supplements to help you reach your objectives quicker.
Knowing how these nutrients affect your body and fuel your time in the gym makes it easier to plan for and reach your muscle gain goals. Even better, the foods and supplements listed above are easy to get and incorporate into your regular diet. So check out Healthy Being's huge range of premium sports supplements to get started on your journey of muscle gain