If you’ve got a set of chicken legs and noodle-arms to match, then it’s time to reevaluate what you’re putting on your plate.
“Some men have a predisposition to packing on muscle due to their genetics and hormone profile, and honestly, others are eating enough calories and working out intelligently, which may make it look easy, but certainly is not. Ask any jacked guy how he got that way and you’ll hear the words ‘hard ass work and dedication’,” says Adam Rosante, C9 Champion Brand Ambassador, Celebrity Trainer, and Certified Sports Nutritionist.
But, though building bigger biceps may be a slightly easier task for some, it’s not an impossible feat for anyone. The formula itself is quite simple actually—put a premium on lean protein, healthy fats, and slow-digesting carbs and do away with nutritionally-void foods altogether. We’ve got ten of the best foods, a few from each category, on the following slides.
The key to crafting muscle-boosting meals with those foods is designing your plate around the proper nutrient ratios. Rosante recommends eating three meals per day and two anytime snacks. Each meal should include two palm-size portions of protein, two fist size portions of veggies, two cupped hand-sized portions of starchy carbs, and two thumb sized portions of fats like nuts, oil, or avocado. As for the snacks, the principles remain the same, just cut the sizes in half. “After a few weeks, see how you’re progressing. If you’re still not gaining the size you’d like, add an extra cupped handful of carbs or thumb of fats to a few of your daily meals,” says Rosante.
By fueling your body with the right foods and pairing that with exercise and adequate sleep, you’ll soon drop the skinny label and pick up a stronger reputation. Stop blaming your parents for your fragile frame and start making better choices at the grocery store if you want to push your body to that next level.
Fish, like salmon, is not only a great source of high-quality protein, but also contains omega-3 fatty acids which help prevent muscle breakdown and as a bonus, boosts heart health.
One of Rosante’s favorite picks for packing on muscle is steak. Also, red meats like lean ground beef are a great source of protein with around 27 grams per 100 gram serving. Just be mindful of the higher fat content, so be sure to switch up your protein sources regularly. Beef also contains additional vitamins and minerals that other meats lack such as vitamin B12, zinc, and iron—all which contribute to muscle development.
Forget the bland whites, whole eggs are one of the best sources of muscle-fueling nutrition. They’re a clean source of protein with 5-6 grams per egg and only 60 calories a pop on average. The type of protein that exists in eggs in particular is considered to be more bioavailable to your body, meaning you’ll absorb the nutrients more effectively, which will lead to greater results. Egg protein is considered a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids necessary for muscle repair and growth.
One food you’ll always see on every strong man’s list is rice—brown rice in particular, which is a slow-digesting carb.
This grain is a household name in the body building business. From lean and toned folks to muscle-heads, they’ve all got this versatile food on their lunch rotations regularly. Quinoa is an excellent source of complete protein, which means it contains all nine of the essential amino acids needed for proper muscle growth and development. As an added bonus, quinoa is also rich in fiber, magnesium, and iron which supports healthy muscle functioning and development too.
It’s all too easy to forget about other food groups and zone in on just protein when you’re trying to get big. While protein is a key nutrient for muscle growth, it’s crucial that you fuel your body with a well-rounded diet—doing so will not only make you feel worlds better, but it will actually help your body absorb and use the added protein to its fullest capabilities. Make sure to incorporate plenty of vitamin-packed veggies like kale and spinach (more on that in the next slide).
Popeye had it right the whole time—eat your spinach and your body will reap all the muscle-fueling, fat-burning benefits. Lean meats and legumes often steal the attention when it comes to protein sources, but leafy greens like spinach and kale are also good sources of the nutrient, too. The benefit with greens is that they also streamline a ton of other nutrients into your system, assisting your weight loss and muscle building efforts even more.
Whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, or a meat-loving carnivore, lentils are a great source of plant-based protein with a whopping 18 grams per cup. Even better, they offer your body 40 grams of slow-digesting carbohydrates to keep you energized and fueled to tackle your workouts and also help stave off unhealthy cravings later. As if that wasn’t good enough, they’re also inexpensive and could help balance out your grocery bill by supplementing some of the more expensive meats. Lentils are fairly easy to add into your meal rotation, just mix in with rice or add into a salad for a protein boost.
Greek yogurt has long been a favorite among the fit-minded. Due to the straining process, greek yogurt contains twice the amount of protein versus regular varieties and has a creamier, more indulgent taste. It’s also a great source of vitamin D which supports strong bones and plays an important role in protein synthesis, assisting your growth efforts. Just be sure to reach for plain varieties and add in your own fruit and nuts for taste to avoid any excess spikes in sugar.
When the munchies strike—and they always do—almonds are a great go-to snack to kill them off while helping you reach your goals. A ¼ cup serving contains 8 grams of protein on average. Almonds are also an excellent source of healthy fats and magnesium, which is important for energy metabolism and also plays a role in protein synthesis.
BY TIFFANY GAGNON FOR MEN’S FITNESS