Expert Nutrition

Best Foods for Muscle Growth

Trying to build muscle? In this article we review the best foods for muscle growth

To build muscle you essentially need two things, a tailored exercise program and a diet to suit. In this article we will discuss foods for muscle growth and in particular what nutrients are required to assist the muscle building process.

In brief, think of food as fuel, not all fuel is created quality. For best results you want to ensure you're consuming the best quality fuel to ensure maximum performance.

To understand what types of foods you should be eating, it helps if you first understand what nutrients (components of food) are required in the in the muscle building process and in particular the important role of good fats, antioxidants, complex carbohydrates, water and the ever so important protein.

Good Fats
Not all fats are bad as once thought, today there is good evidence supporting the need for fats in our diet, however the type of fat is important.

Monounsaturated and omega 3 fatty acids (good fats) are most famous for reducing your risk associated with cardiovascular disease, however more recently have also been shown to aid muscle growth by reducing inflammation and enhancing insulin sensitivity (insulin is an important hormone for muscle growth). Additionally people who consume a high amount of good fats in their diet also report having more energy and a better overall feeling of wellbeing.

The best way to obtain Monounsaturated fatty acids in your diet is to cook with either virgin olive oil or canola oil and regularly consumed foods such as avocado and nuts.

The best sources of omega 3 fatty acids are found in cold water seafood such as salmon, sardines, tuna and herring. The advantage of seafood is that it contains large amounts of omega 3's but also provides it in a form that is readily absorbed and utilised by the body. Vegetarian sources of omega 3 are found in ground flax seeds, flaxseed oil, green algae and dark green leafy vegetables. The disadvantage of vegetarian based omega 3's is that it needs to be modified within the body before it can be effectively utilised. This doesn't mean vegetarian sources aren't good, a combination of both works best, but vegetarians may need to consume more to have the same effect.

Fish oil capsules are a very efficient way to top up your omega 3 fat intake. A good tip is to look for those that have a high amount of EPA and DHA on the ingredients list as these are the nutrients you need.

Foods for muscle growth tip - You need to get fat (in your diet), so regularly consume oily seafood, flaxseed, nuts and vegetables. Avoid all other animal fats (including full cream dairy) and consider a fish oil supplement.

Heavy training causes Exercise Induced Oxidative Muscle Damage (EIOMD). Oxidative muscle damage slows down muscle growth and actually speeds up the aging process. Antioxidants counteract this oxidative process (hence the name anti-oxidants) and therefore assist muscles to grow and recovery. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables daily will provide you with antioxidants although if you are training excessively, then you may also want to consider supplementing with a quality multivitamin.

Foods for muscle growth tip - Training hard puts stress on your body so consume lots of fruits and vegetables to help you recovery. Variety is the key, meat and 3 veg doesn't cut it!

Drinking plenty of water will aid digestion and the overall function of the muscle tissue. Muscle tissue is made up of 70 to 80 percent water and 25 percent protein, therefore staying hydrated plays an important role in allowing you to maximize your training efforts, which then has implications for muscle growth and recovery.

Foods for muscle growth tip - Your muscles are made up of predominantly water, don't let them get thirsty, a water bottle is your biceps best friend.

Complex Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates provide the most important energy source for muscles during exercise. Heavy exercise like weight training on a low carbohydrate diet will lead to post workout muscle breakdown and therefore it's important to ensure your diet contains plenty of complex carbohydrates.

Quality complex carbohydrates include: fruits, vegetables, potatoes, rice and pasta, which will also help maintain blood sugar levels and keep your energy levels more consistent throughout the day. Different types of carbohydrates should be consumed according to your training goals and training times. More information can be found in the following articles (but please finish this one first) Pre workout meal, post workout meal, carbohydrate requirements and nutrition timing.

Foods for muscle growth tip - You can't train without fuel and complex carbohydrates are the best fuel, however quality and timing is important.

Protein is the most important (although not the only) nutrient required for muscle growth. It is very hard if not impossible to grow muscle without eating protein rich foods. Whilst it is widely accepted that protein is an important food for muscle growth, there are also a lot of misconceptions about protein and in particular how much protein we require and the best protein foods to be eating.

For your benefit the next 2 articles are dedicated towards answering the 2 most common questions about protein.

  • How much protein do I need? The results may surprise you.
  • What are the best food sources of protein?
Good foods for muscle growth back to nutrition for bodybuilding

Related Bodybuilding Articles


Resistance Training 101

Muscle Building Nutrition Advice

Protein Powder and Gym Supplement Advice

Muscle Building Training Advice

Fit Body Photos and Images

These articles will provide you with the necessary tools to start a successful gym training or bodybuilding program. These principles are only the beginning. Remember that discipline, knowledge and consistency are the keys to achieving your goals. Good luck!

Over the coming months we will be developing this chapter. Please visit our blog and subscribe to our rss feed such that when new articles are added to this chapter you will be notified.

If you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact us for advice.

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