Thousands of athletes across the country spend hours every day putting in the grueling physical labor necessary to catapult themselves onto the national stage. But when it comes to the number of athletes eating a healthy diet, those thousands turn into hundreds.
Not a wise decision, considering the huge role diet plays in building muscle, which is essential to improve athleticism. So if you’re looking to build muscle, include these 10 protein-rich foods in your diet.
Eggs [especially egg whites] are chock-full of muscle-building protein, making them an ideal way to start your day. One egg delivers four to six grams of protein, as well as vitamin B12, which plays a key role in brain function, the nervous system and blood formation. These nutrients will fuel your body, ensuring an effective workout later in the day.
Grabbing the right fish can lead to a healthy meal—low in sodium but filled with protein and other important nutrients, like vitamin B12. Half a fillet of salmon gives you a whopping 40 grams of protein, making it the preferred choice for muscle-building athletes.
Depending on how you prepare it, chicken can be a great source of protein. At 32.8 grams of protein per 100-gram serving, chicken broilers pack a big punch. For the healthiest preparation, don’t fry it, and remove the skin whenever possible.
Looking for a snack between meals or before an afternoon workout? Almonds are an excellent choice. Weighing in with up to 33 grams of protein per cup, they are a great way to fill gaps in your diet. They’re also a good source of magnesium, which, although essential for human cell life, is often deficient in athletes. Low levels of magnesium have been associated with illnesses such as asthma, diabetes and osteoporosis.
Like poultry, pork is a good entree for a protein-filled dinner. With 30 grams of protein per 100-gram serving, it’s also a great choice after a workout when your body needs a recovery meal.
6. Black Beans
This delicious source of protein can be eaten as a mid-day snack or as a side for lunch or dinner. One cup will fill you up with about 15 grams of protein. Black beans are also a good source of essential nutrients, like magnesium, phosphorus and dietary fiber.
7. Cottage Cheese
When selecting cottage cheese, look closely at the nutrition label. As an athlete seeking solid sources of protein, you’ll want to stay away from brands high in sodium and fat. Instead, opt for low-fat cottage cheese with no added sodium. One cup has 28 grams of protein.
8. Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt has become all the rage with healthy people who want a tasty option for their protein. Compared with most yogurt brands, which provide approximately eight grams of protein, Greek yogurt delivers 23 grams.
Most athletes lack the time to prepare a big breakfast before running off to school or practice. Cereal is a popular choice because it’s quick and easy. But—like many other foods—not all cereal is good for you. Avoid brands with high sugar content, and stick with those filled with fiber, carbs and protein, like Special K Protein Plus.
10. Protein Bars
We saved this one for last, since it’s the most obvious. As always, what you get depends on the brand, so always read the nutrition facts before you purchase. With most brands, you’re looking at about 20 grams of protein per bar. And since they’re made specifically for active individuals, they’re filled with nutrients our bodies need—like calcium, iron, and magnesium— while staying low on cholesterol.
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