Don’t be too dependent on protein powders to build muscle. Not only that’s not a very effective approach, but it can also negatively influence your health in the long term because our body needs a constant supply of good quality whole foods to both function properly and sustain lean muscle growth. So if you want to show off a ripped physique anytime soon, make sure to include the following power foods in your diet!
One whole egg contains 6 g of high quality protein, hefty doses of vitamins A, E, K and B (B12, riboflavin and folic acid), minerals like calcium, zinc and iron, and all eight essential amino acids. All of this makes eggs one of the most complete and versatile foods available, as well as one of the crucial muscle-building foods! Just don’t forget to eat the yolk because it’s full of B12 and “good” (HDL) cholesterol. According to one recent study, people who ate three whole eggs per day while on a strength-training program produced twice the gains in muscle mass and strength than those who consumed just one egg or no eggs every day.
NUTRITIONAL PROFILE: 3 extra-large eggs pack 255 calories; 21 g protein, 1 g carbs and 18 g fat.
2. Organic Beef
Beef is another major staple in a bodybuilder’s diet because it packs loads of protein, cholesterol and saturated fat, all of which contribute to maintaining high testosterone levels. But opting for the organic, grass-fed version can help you make even better gains. Since grass-fed animals are leaner, grass-fed beef has a good fat profile, containing mostly “neutral” saturated fat that doesn’t threaten cardiovascular health. Also, organic beef has more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) and omega-3 fatty acids than regular beef.
NUTRITIONAL PROFILE: 8 oz. of 90% lean ground organic beef comes with 392 calories; 48 g protein, 0 g carbs and 22 g fat.
Being an excellent source of muscle-building protein and healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids but containing less overall fat than most lean cuts of meat, salmon is a great food to turn to during cutting phases. You’ll be able to take in the same amount of protein, yet consume fewer calories! In addition, the omega-3s in salmon can reduce insulin resistance, which in turn would decrease fat storage and boost muscle protein synthesis; and can even be burned for fuel, sparing muscle glycogen. To reap all these benefits and much more, opt for wild salmon instead of farmed as the latter contains significant levels of cancer-related toxins and dyes.
NUTRITIONAL PROFILE: 8 oz. of Atlantic salmon: 416 calories; 45 g protein, 0 g carbs, 24 g fat
Just like salmon, sardines, trout and oysters, herring is low on cholesterol and rich in protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. But it is also one of the best sources of creatine, and a great source of vitamin D, B12 and selenium. Selenium helps form DNA and acts as an antioxidant to prevent the damage caused by free radicals. As flavorful as pickled and kippered herring may be, they shouldn’t be a regular part of your diet, because both contain more than 700 milligrams of sodium per serving, which is way too much. Choose plain herring instead – you can find tons of healthy and delicious herring recipes in a few clicks.
NUTRITIONAL PROFILE: 3 oz. of herring: 134 calories; 15 g protein, 0 g carbs, 8 g fat
5. Wheat Germ
Whenever you want to add some slow-digesting healthy carbs in your meal, think of wheat germ – you can use it as breading on chicken and fish, topping for cereals, salads and yogurt, and many other creative ways. Given that wheat germ is the part of the wheat seed that provides food for growth, it contains large amounts of both protein (33 g per cup) and carbohydrates (56 g per cup), so if you’re trying to lose fat a zero-carb protein shake may be a better option. But when it comes to the post-workout meal consuming good quality carbs and protein at the same time is very important, so choose wheat germ instead. Wheat germ is also full of zinc, iron, selenium, potassium and vitamins B, arginine, glutamine and fiber.
NUTRITIONAL PROFILE: ½ cup of wheat germ: 207 calories; 13 g protein, 30 g carbs, 6 g fat
6. Brown Rice
Unlike white rice, brown rice has its side hull and bra – which are rich in proteins, calcium, magnesium, fiber, selenium, thiamine, potassium and manganese – and it has a lower glycemic index than the former so it can help reduce insulin spikes, improve overall health and help you trim your waistline faster. One cup of brown rice provides 80% of the daily requirements of manganese, which helps the body synthesize fats. It’s also very satiating so it can help you stay full for longer and supply you with energy to last throughout the day. But most importantly, it’s high in gamma-aminobutyric acid, an amino acid that can boost growth hormone levels by up to 400%. To get maximum nutritional benefits, soak it in hot water for two hours before cooking.
NUTRITIONAL PROFILE: 1 cup of cooked brown rice: 218 calories; 5 g protein, 46 g carbs, 2 g fat
Watermelon is full of fast-digesting carbs that spike insulin levels, which is what you’re looking for after a strenuous workout. Both the flesh and the rind of watermelon are extraordinarily rich with the amino acid citrulline, which is easily converted to arginine inside the body. Besides accelerating recovery, arginine boosts levels of HGH and contributes to bigger gains in muscle strength and size. This refreshing fruit is soaked with other vital nutrients as well, such as vitamins A, B6 and C, lycopene, fiber and antioxidants.
NUTRITIONAL PROFILE: 10 oz. of watermelon: 80 calories; 1 g protein, 21 g carbs, 0 g fat
Not only that spinach promotes health through its rich supply of nutrients such as calcium, iron, vitamins C, A, K and antioxidants, it also stimulates weight loss by slowing the digestion of fat and keeping hunger at bay, and could help increase muscle strength and size by speeding up the body’s conversion of protein into muscle mass. This incredibly nutrient-dense food is also a good source of glutamine, which stimulates HGH production, increases metabolic rate and improves the immune response.
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NUTRITIONAL PROFILE: 10 oz. of spinach: 65 calories; 8 g protein, 10 g carbs, 1 g fat