Use these 10 foods in your diet to support protein synthesis and build muscle in conjunction with a resistance training program. Building muscle is not about bulking up by adding useless non-contractile fat tissue. Rather, it is about applying the right training stimulus and providing the body with adequate nutrients to support the following processes:
• Protein synthesis and tissue repair
• Anabolic hormone response to training
• Post-workout clearance and overall management of cortisol
• Enhanced insulin sensitivity and glucose uptake
• Accelerate the removal of waste products for a more alkaline pH
• Boost the immune system and improve gut health
• Support the entire detoxification process and counter inflammation by enhancing the antioxidant cascade
Muscle building is a highly complex process, but eating for it doesn’t have to be. Naturally, the best approach to adding muscle mass will use a wide variety of high-protein foods since amino acids are used as the building blocks to build muscle and repair tissue. In addition, the vast majority of proteins provide critical muscle-building nutrients such as glutamine, glycine, creatine, carnitine, carnosine, and the super important omega-3 fats.
Any discussion of muscle-building foods requires a spotlight on meat. Sure, all 10 foods could be derived from animals (beef, buffalo, bison, elk, venison, lamb, ostrich, turkey, fish, and eggs), but that would be boring and unpractical for many of you who aren’t avid wild game hunters. Still, there is abundant evidence that meat provides a better quality protein for the body to use for muscle building and optimal anabolic hormone function.
Animal proteins provide a greater array of amino acids than vegetable proteins, and eating them allows you to achieve the threshold dose of protein that is necessary for optimal muscle development. For example, a review of studies that tested various protein doses in conjunction with resistance training on muscle development found that a minimal dose of 2.38 g/kg./day of protein is the amount that reliably produced the most muscle development. That’s 178 grams of protein for a 75 kg. person — an amount that is reasonably achieved if you eat meat and take a whey protein supplement or BCAA capsules post-workout.
The primacy of meat for muscle building goes further: There’s evidence that there is something about “the meat itself” that yields maximal muscle gains. A classic study that compared muscle development from a hypertrophy-style training program in omnivores and vegetarians who ate the same macronutrient ratios showed that the meat eaters gained 4 percent muscle mass and lost 6 percent fat mass, while increasing Type II fiber area by 9 percent. The vegetarian group experienced no noticeable changes in muscle mass or body fat percentage.
Now that you know the benefit of meat for muscle building, here’s the list you’ve been waiting for:
#1: Pastured, Organic Bison
Bison, or buffalo, that is pasture-raised and organic is a superior muscle-building food. Bison is high in omega-3 fats (enhance anabolic signaling after training), provides creatine (the anaerobic energy source), carnitine (the nutrient that aids in fat for use as fuel), glutamine (known as a muscle builder and immune booster by body builders), glycine and glutathione (immune boosters), and CLA (anti-inflammatory and immune enhancing).
Bison is also delicious, is filling, contains a superior blend of amino acids, equaled only by other wild meats, and healthy fats. Don’t be afraid of the fat. Yes, some of it is saturated, but as long as you are being smart about carb intake and managing your insulin appropriately, saturated fat is benign. Moderate fat intake, of which a reasonable dose is saturated, has repeatedly been found to correlate with free testosterone and muscle development.
Bonus: Bison has 21.6 grams of protein per 100 grams versus 19.6 grams for beef.
#2: Cold Water Fish
Salmon is probably the best fish for muscle, but it’s only worth it if it is wild since farm-raised is fed grain, animal byproducts, and who knows what else. Go for a variety of cold-water fish because they are high in omega-3 fats for insulin health, high in protein, and contain those muscle-building nutrients like creatine and carnitine. Mackerel, smelt, shad, perch, sardines and anchovies are some of the best. Just avoid anything that comes in a can if it’s not BPA free, and only eat wild fish from places you trust.
A popular drink in Europe that contains probiotics to improve the health of your gut, Kefir, is made by fermenting milk by adding the kefir grain to it. The fermentation process eliminates the lactose found in the milk, making it suitable for most people intolerant of dairy.
Kefir is a perfect muscle food: Research shows that taking a probiotic in conjunction with resistance training can lead to a better body composition outcome and more strength grains.
Bonus: Whole Fat Greek Yogurt is hard to find, but guard your source if you’ve got one. It provides a nice dose of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which boosts the immune system and has been shown to fight cancer. Getting more CLA applies directly to increasing muscle mass — a seven-week study found that men who took CLA while training gained 1.8 kg muscle, and lost a kilo of fat more than a placebo group. Researchers think CLA enhances the anabolic response and boosts the metabolism during sleep…
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