Eating the foods that build muscle is important but if you don’t eat enough of them and eat the wrong type you won’t get the results you want.
When you want to build muscle you need to eat more calories than you need, if you don’t do this you simply can’t gain weight no matter what else you do.
When you’re in a calorie surplus you must focus on the right type of foods otherwise the weight you’ll gain is likely to be fat.
We covered off how much you need to eat in The Food For Building Muscle is Key if You Want To Grow so this article will focus on the type of food you need to eat and when to eat it for maximum results.
Most people don’t eat enough protein and increasing protein intake is the first thing I change when working with a client.
When the goal is to add muscle mass you need to bump up protein even further, at least 1.25 grams per pound of bodyweight, though 1.5 grams is better.
So what types of food contain protein?
Foods high in protein
Different protein sources digest at different speeds, for this reason there are certain times when one protein source is better than another.
Let’s take a look at these times and I’ll explain which type of protein is best at this time and why:
Breakfast/Before Workouts/After Workouts
When you wake up in the morning you need to get some protein in at breakfast as you’ve been without food through the night.
If you ate a lot of protein at dinner the night before it could still be digesting (slower digesting proteins can take up to 10 hours to digest) but topping up your protein levels won’t hurt.
You need a fast digesting protein source and a whey protein powder is perfect. For this reason it’s also great for before and after the gym.
Before the gym you want it to digest quickly so it’s not sitting in your stomach while you try to workout. Similarly, after your workout your body needs protein for recovery and you want a fast digesting protein to get to work ASAP.
Between Meals/Before Bed
In between meals and before bed you’ll want a slower digesting protein source to keep you full and maintain protein levels.
Casein protein is the best option; you can find casein protein in dairy products such as cottage cheese and quark or by supplementing with a casein protein powder.
You should be consuming protein at every meal without fail and you should try to get your protein from as wide a range of sources as possible.
Try not to rely too much on shakes as real food is always better and more nutritionally dense.
I recommend using whey and casein at the specific times listed above to amplify your results, but if it feels like it’s too much to remember then just make sure you eat enough protein everyday.
Eating enough protein is always the most important thing you have to get right.
The foods that build muscle aren’t magical in anyway and you need an excess of calories otherwise you won’t gain any weight. The excess calories ensure you maintain glycogen (carbohydrate energy) levels so that you have strength and energy for intense workouts.
Carbohydrates tick both of these boxes and I’m sure everyone agrees that it’s really easy to consume a lot of calories from carbs (because they taste awesome!).
The challenge you have is to ensure that the extra calories you’re consuming turn into muscle and not fat.
The source and timing of your carbohydrates makes a big difference in how your body will use them and these tips will ensure they are used for adding lean muscle and not fat.
Tip #1 – Fast Carbs Post Workout Only
Fast carbs or simple carbs as they are also known are broken down into sugars and digested very quickly.
This is great for the post workout period when you want the carbs to get to your muscles as quickly as possible to kick start the recovery (e.g. muscle building) process.
Fast carbs include sugars, sweets, fruit, fruit juices, white bread, white pasta, white potatoes, white rice, kids breakfast cereals etc
Tip #2 – Slow Carbs During The Day
At all other times you want a slow, sustained release of energy which maintains stable blood sugar levels and doesn’t cause energy crashes like fast carbs do.
The focus of your diet should be complex carbs as they release energy slowly, think oatmeal, brown rice, brown pasta, brown bread, sweet potatoes etc.
Most people have gotten over the “fat makes you fat” myth and accepted that the only way you can gain weight is by eating more than you need regardless of the source of the calories.
This is good because it means people are adding fat to their diets which is important as it actually produces better results than a low fat diet.
Why is Fat Intake Important?
Adequate fat intake is important for a range of reasons including optimal health and hormone production.
The foods that build muscle can only work if you a) consume enough of them and b) ensure your fat intake is adequate. If it’s not you’re hormone level of testosterone and growth hormone (which are essential for muscle building) will be too low to build any muscle.
What Type of Fat Should You Eat?
The bulk of your fat intake should come from naturally occurring fats such as olive oil, avocado and nuts and fish.
You can also get fat from fatty cuts of meat, butter and cheeses though these shouldn’t make up too much of your diet.
If you don’t eat fatty fish (e.g. salmon) 2-3 times per week you’re likely to be deficient in Omega 3 oils and you should consider supplementing with fish oils.
Follow these guidelines and ensure the majority of the foods that build muscle come from natural sources and you’ll be healthier as well as knowing that the majority of the calories are helping you add muscle not fat.