Natural, fresh, and wholesome food is the source of vital nutrients needed to function optimally. From food we can get all the essential aminos, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants we need to grow muscle, recover from exercise, and fuel our metabolism. Although many of us rely on supplements to do the job, supplements are just that a “supplement to the diet” and they shouldn’t replace good nutrition. What’s more, a lot of your favourite supplements are extracted from natural sources or naturally occur in some of our favourite foods. With proper planning, you can build a diet that can support your needs to build and maintain muscle, add strength, and increase endurance. Find out about the six foods that you should include in your diet for optimal musclebuilding and fat-burning results.
Although I’m not a meat eater myself, I don’t discriminate. When it comes to packing on muscle, you don’t need to look any further than red meat. It has all the essentials you know about and a few surprises you might not know of. Of course red meat is loaded with protein. For every 200 grams of tenderloin you get 52 grams of protein! Its slow digestion rate also allows it to provide a sustained release of aminos to muscles. Red meat is also a good source of fats—both monounsaturated and saturated fats. These fats can help stimulate thermogenesis, but can also help with hormonal balance, which is essential when it comes to muscle building. Red meat is also packed with vital vitamins and minerals, including energizing B vitamins needed to help metabolize the food you eat and zinc, which is required for hormonal development, immunity, and recovery. Lastly, red meat is also high in muscle-energizing creatine, which helps the body regenerate ATP, the prime source of energy to help drive muscle movement. Numerous studies have shown that creatine can help build muscle, increase strength and power, and enhance endurance. If you’re serious about building muscle, you might want to include red meat in your diet. Have a good cut of steak that has been trimmed of fat a couple times per week, such as sirloin, tenderloin, or eye of round.
Forget about pump products; beetroot and other vegetables are the richest source of natural nitrates. Most pump supplements use natural nitrates that have been extracted from beetroot or other nitraterich vegetables. Nitrates help increase nitric oxide (NO) production by feeding the nitrate-nitrite-NO pathway, which doesn’t require oxygen to convert nitrate into NO. This process conserves oxygen, which means the muscles have more available for workouts. Increasing NO in the blood also helps increase vasodilation of blood vessels, allowing for more nutrients to be delivered directly to the muscles, which can result in not only an increase in muscle size and a pump but also protein synthesis or muscle growth. In one study, it was shown that drinking beetroot juice increased stamina and allowed exercising men to work out for 16 percent longer than drinking regular juice. This was a direct effect of conserving oxygen. The men were given 500 millilitres of either beetroot juice or black currant juice for up to six days. During the supplementation period it was found that beetroot juice increased the level of nitrate in the blood by 96 percent! During the exercise test it was shown that supplementation of nitrates improved muscle oxygenation during moderate exercise. Beetroot is versatile; it can be roasted, pickled, or boiled. Chop it up for a salad, juice them or blend it into a shake. Beetroot is also low-calorie and high in fi bre and delivers about 450 milligrams of active nitrates per 500 gram serving!
When building muscle, one of the most important hormones needed is testosterone. This hormone is king when it comes to packing on size, helping to stimulate the pathways of protein synthesis. Today, many guys are suffering with below-average testosterone levels, due to environmental factors, genetics, age, and even simple things such as using toiletries that are laced with chemical estrogens that act like estrogen in the body. To make sure your body’s testosterone levels remain high, and estrogen low, eat broccoli or any cruciferous vegetable such as kale, caulifl ower, or cabbage. These vegetables are full of fi bre and contain the active anti-estrogen indole-3-carbinol. If estrogen levels are high, testosterone levels are generally low, and this has an impact not only on your muscle building but also your body’s ability to burn off fat. Indole-3-carbinol binds to excess estrogen, packages and converts it to a less toxic format, and further removes it as waste from the body. Indole-3-carbinol is also converted to diindolylmethane (DIM) in the body and provides even more estrogen-reducing benefi ts. In addition to indole-3-carbinol, broccoli also contains the active estrogen blocker calcium-D-glucarate, which can reduce estrogen metabolites. When levels of calcium-D-glucarate are low, there are higher levels of beta-glucuronidase, which can break apart bound estrogen that has been packaged as waste, allowing for reabsorption. Broccoli’s high-fi bre content also helps this process, as fi bre can also bind and help remove estrogen from the body. The bottom line is, eat lots of broccoli. Have it in a salad or as a side to your protein, or add it to a stir fry or an omelette.
This superfood packs more than just a great source of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats; it’s also a great source of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Avocado is high in vitamins C, E, A, and K, the energizing B vitamins, and the mineral magnesium needed for muscle function, and it delivers a rich source of antioxidants, including phytosterols, zeaxanthin, lutein, and glutathione. This combination of healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants has shown avocados to have positive benefits on cardiovascular health, including reducing bad cholesterol and helping protect against the onset of cardiovascular disease. Eating avocado has also been shown to help improve weight management by increasing satiety and fullness. In a randomized study, 26 healthy overweight individuals who consumed half an avocado at lunch significantly reduced self-reported hunger and desire to eat, and increased satiation as compared to the control meal. In addition, avocados may also help control oxidative and inflammatory stress, which means they can help aid recovery. Avocados can be added to salads, made into guacamole, eaten with eggs or meat, or even added to smoothies. However you eat them, aim to get at least one half per day into your diet plan!
RED HOT PEPPERS
If you’re looking for a metabolic boost, look no further than red hot chili peppers. These peppers contain the active ingredient capsaicin, which has been shown to stimulate catecholamine production by the TRPV1 receptor in fat tissue. When catecholamine production increases, it stimulates beta-receptors, causing an increase in energy expenditure by stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system and upregulation of uncoupling proteins (UCPs). Intake of capsaicin increases satiety and reduces energy and fat intake. Instead of supplementing with a fat burner, try red chili pepper. Just one gram is enough to effectively reduce energy intake, increase satiety, and prevent overeating. One study showed that ad libitum intake (snacking for pleasure) and overconsumption decreased in those receiving 2.56 milligrams of capsaicin or one gram of red chili pepper with every meal. Red chili pepper can be added to your sauces and dressings, or can be made into hot sauces and salsas and added to your favourites including meat and eggs.
When it comes to recovery, getting in plenty of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants is key. This dark leafy green is one of the best sources of natural antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals there is. Spinach delivers over 200 percent of your daily value of vitamin K, which is needed for bone development. It’s also full of iron, which is important when it comes to blood cell formation, and oxygen delivery throughout the body. Spinach is also a good source of antioxidants, including lutein, quercetin, and vitamin E. Antioxidants are active phytochemicals that protect against free radical damage, such as that brought on by a hard workout. Increasing antioxidant capacity in the body can help you recover faster and improve workout endurance. In addition, spinach is high in nitrates, and just like beetroot, can boost endurance in muscles and may even boost production of key proteins involved in muscle strength. Spinach is also rich in phytochemical compounds including phytoecdysteroids, which are similar in structure to our own hormones. In vitro models using human primary myotubes showed that phytoecdysteroids increased protein synthesis by up to 20 percent. What’s more, in an animal model, strength of rats was increased when given ecdysteroidcontaining plant extracts. Spinach’s numerous benefits make it an essential when it comes to a healthy diet. Its versatility also makes it easy to include. Have it in a salad, sauté it as a side dish, add it to your omelette, or blend it in a smoothie.