A lean, muscular physique is the goal of many – from professional bodybuilders to new mothers wanting to tone their tummies postpartum. While regular physical activity and weight training are both important to reaching a personal target, there is more to attaining healthy muscles than just hitting the gym.
Consult any fitness or nutrition professional, and you will be told that incorporating the right foods into your diet is critical to muscle development. Consuming a variety of low-fat foods that are also a good source of protein, potassium, calcium, and vitamins C and D not only helps muscle tissue repair itself from injury but also helps build new healthy muscle cells.
Promote Healthy Muscles with Food
Consider adding the following eight foods to your shopping cart the next time you visit the supermarket:
1. Milk. Getting enough calcium each day is crucial for healthy muscle function, and milk is an excellent beverage to help reach that milestone. Be sure to select 1% or fat-free (skim) milk rather than 2% or whole milk for less fat and far fewer calories.
2. Cottage Cheese. An often-overlooked food that should become a diet staple when trying to build healthy muscles, just one cup of 1% cottage cheese includes more protein than many meats and has less than one-third of the fat found in a 3-ounce serving of beef. Grab a container or two from the dairy case when you are purchasing milk and eggs. Yes, eggs!
3. Eggs. Not only are eggs affordable, but also, they are a rich source of protein – roughly 7 grams per egg. Although many people stick to egg whites due to cholesterol concerns, studies have found that eating a few eggs per week most likely does not increase cardiovascular disease risk in healthy people. It is also the egg yolk that contains the majority of the egg’s nutrients – vitamins A, D, and E and, yes, cholesterol, which helps naturally increase testosterone levels.
4. Tomatoes. Low in fat and calories, just one cup of chopped raw tomatoes is a rich source of potassium and vitamin C. Tomato sauce provides even more potassium, but heat from cooking diminishes the tomatoes’ vitamin C potency.
5. Quinoa. Higher in fiber and protein than both oats and rice, quinoa is a type of seed that is considered to be a whole grain by most people because it is prepared like and often eaten in place of rice. A gluten-free, cholesterol-free food, quinoa takes just minutes to boil and contains all nine essential amino acids. It can be eaten on its own, in a salad, or topped with vegetables, such as spinach.
6. Spinach. It appears that Popeye knew what he was talking about – the nitrates found in spinach help boost the production of proteins in muscles, making them healthier and stronger. This green leafy vegetable is a rich source of antioxidants; vitamins including vitamin A, C, and E; protein; and calcium. Because fresh spinach loses much of its nutritional value within just a few days, opt for spinach that has been cooked and frozen or canned for maximum benefits.
7. Tuna. Although a serving of beef offers slightly more protein and potassium than a serving of tuna fish, water-packed canned tuna has less than one-tenth the fat and far fewer calories as a result. Fish is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, which help reduce joint inflammation. The American Heart Association also recommends eating fish – such as tuna – two or more times per week for cardiovascular health.
8. Turkey. If you are turned off by the small amounts of saturated fat found in beef, consider adding white-meat turkey to your routine. With close to 0 g saturated fat per serving, turkey is a low-calorie and filling source of protein.
While the gym plays an important role in building and sculpting healthy muscles, the grocery store and kitchen are just as important. Eating a combination of healthy foods –such as those listed above –and drinking plenty of water to keep muscles hydrated can help you to achieve your desired physique.
About the Author
Chris Turberville-Tully works with We Love Our Health, an online resources of health articles, eating tips, exercising guidance and more. We Love Our Health also offers “Ask a Doctor“, an online service that allows participants to get their questions in answered in less than 24 hours.