The fitness world has experienced a renaissance of late.
Rather than being totally obsessed with “skinniness,” many are now instead focused on building strength and reducing body fat—both admirable and much healthier fitness goals.
Actually achieving those goals is easier said than done, however. Truly replacing unwanted fat with lean muscle takes a great deal of commitment and a finely-tuned diet.
But wait! Before you stock your pantry with 20 gallon drums of whey protein and boxes of Powerbars that are packed to the gills with sugar, please take a few minutes to read the rest of this post.
The real (read: healthy and sustainable) path to muscle growth is real food and regular strength training, plain and simple.
Ready to start building your shopping list? Strategically working these whole foods into your diet will help you see the gains you want at the gym.
7 FOODS YOU NEED TO GAIN MUSCLE MASS
1. Omega-3 Eggs
If you have access to fresh, organic, farm-raised/pastured eggs, buy them by the dozen. If not, any Omega-3 rich variety from the store will do. “The cholesterol found in eggs yolks serves as the scaffolding for steroid hormones, and the ½ a gram of leucine in each egg is like throwing gasoline on your muscle-building fire,” explains Men’s Fitness.
The perfect breakfast food for bodybuilders, “(1/2 cup) of cooked steel-cut oats has 150 calories, 5 g protein, 27 g carbs, 2 g fat and 4 g fiber,” explains Muscle and Fitness. Be sure to choose the least-processed variety available to you, typically plain, steel-cut oats. Avoid the “microwaveable” varieties of oatmeal that come in packets. They’re highly processed and contain a lot of sugar.
Full of fatty acids that encourage weight loss, nuts are an essential part of any diet. Almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, and peanuts top the list for those looking to build muscle.
4. Full-Fat Cottage Cheese With Live Cultures
Cottage cheese belongs on this list for several reasons. First, it’s full of casein, which elevates and sustains your amino acid levels. Second, the beneficial bacteria present in a live culture cottage cheese help you to better absorb the essential nutrients found in all the other healthy foods on this list.
5. Garbanzo Beans (Chick Peas)
Bust out the hummus! “If you are having trouble getting big and staying lean, replace some of the rice and grain in your diet with chickpeas. This versatile bean contains 45 grams of slow-acting carbs per cup along with 12 grams of fiber,” explains Men’s Fitness.
6. Chia Seeds
Packed with fiber, protein, antioxidants, the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and lots of important minerals, chia seeds are one of the few edibles that has truly earned its “superfood” moniker. Not to mention they’re very versatile.