Natural, healthy, weight-gaining supplements that don’t come in pill-form or in a bottle: where do you find ’em? Inside your fridge. Here, Susan Kleiner, RD, Ph.D, former nutrition consultant to the Seattle Seahawks, offers tips from her book, The Powerfood Nutrition Plan, for boosting your muscle-building power.
Consume more protein
Full of amino acids, protein is crucial to helping repair muscle tissue that is temporarily damaged as a result of a hard workout. With the help of these amino acids, torn muscle fibers get bigger and stronger through a process called hypertrophy.
To gain muscle, you need to consume one gram of protein per pound of body weight every day. Examples of high protein foods include:
• 3½ oz. pork or light-meat chicken w/o skin (29g)
• 3 oz. Atlantic salmon (19g)
• 3½ oz. of lean ground beef (24g)
• 1C pinto beans (14g)
• 8 oz. fat-free milk (8g)
Carbs actually have a secondary muscle-building effect, because they spare protein that might be used as fuel. Try eating whole-grain breads, pastas and couscous. Shredded wheat cereal and starchy vegetables—like yams—are also good sources.
Fuel up before and after workouts
It takes about 2,500 calories to add a pound of muscle, so you need to consume an additional five grams of protein each day for every five pounds of muscle you want to gain. To increase your calorie and protein intake, eat a 200- to 300-calorie snack 30 to 90 minutes before your workout. A cup of yogurt, a banana or lean turkey on a slice of whole-wheat bread are snacks that will be easy on your stomach and still fuel you for your training session.
Post-exercise, opt for meal replacement shakes. These combine carbohydrates with protein, which is especially important after you work out to slow the protein breakdown process and boost protein manufacturing.
Don’t go overboard on calories or protein
As you attempt to gain muscle, you’ll likely add a little bit of body fat—just like it’s normal to lose muscle when you lose fat. However, make sure you start by adding only up to 400 calories to your intake per day. If you don’t see any gains, incrementally add 50 to 100 calories until you do. This will reduce the amount of fat you gain.
Remember, when you increase your protein intake, you have to hydrate properly. Consuming more than one gram of protein per body pound a day usually doubles urine output, which means you need to drink twice the amount of fluids.
Foods that pack on muscle:
• Brown rice
• Fresh fruit (e.g., berries, oranges and bananas)
• Fresh veggies (e.g., broccoli, yams, cauliflower and spinach)
• Grilled salmon and chicken breast
• Fat-free milk
Foods that hinder muscle building:
• French fries
• Fried sandwiches
• Sugar-loaded desserts (e.g., cookies, doughnuts, candy and ice cream)
Susan Kleiner, Ph.D, RD, FACN, CNS, is the author of several nutrition books. She is the owner of High Performance Nutrition™ and has served as a nutrition consultant to the Seattle Seahawks and Seattle Sonics.