Want to gain weight? Eat the right foods and watch your lean muscle mass and athletic performance improve.
The basic mantra for building muscle and either gaining weight or maintaining it for an athlete is pretty straightforward: "Eat, eat and then eat some more". The simple fact of the matter is that most athletes just don’t eat enough. I can already hear you saying, “But Coach, I eat all the time and can’t seem to put on weight.” Nonsense! You may be eating but you’re probably not eating in a way that’ll help you maximize your strength and lean muscle mass.
When eating to optimally fuel your body and build muscle mass don't get too fancy. In order to take out the guess work I’ve put together the list below which contains the best energy-producing and muscle-building foods proven to help you recover faster and add pounds of muscle to your body.
The Best Muscle Building Foods
So what’s a good muscle building food anyway? Simply put, any food that has a high quantity of carbohydrates, protein, and a small amount of good fat qualifies itself as a quality muscle building food. The best way to ensure that you get adequate nutrition to fuel gains in strength and size is to combine two high quality sources of carbs and protein, and to make sure you get adequate amounts of the healthy fats. Never, never, never go on a low carb diet. I know those diets are overly-hyped but they’re not going to do anything for you as an athlete. Instead, focus on eating a diet that will assure you have plenty of energy, nutrients and good fats.
High Quality Muscle Building Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are muscle sparing nutrients. Now you’re probably thinking, what’s that even mean? Let me break it down for you guys. The body uses carbs for energy and your muscles are the largest storehouses for this energy in the form of glycogen (stored carbs). By eating quality carbs you’ll increase your energy levels which will maximize your performance in workouts, practices, and games. Go a day without eating enough quality carbs and you’ll feel the negative results in your workouts, practice and basic mental and physical energy… so bottom line, don’t do it.
Complex carbs are the best for you to consume in large quantities because they are released slowly and won’t hit your blood stream too fast. Simple carbs like fruit juices, and sports drinks (Gatorade and PowerAde) should be restricted to around workout/practice periods as they provide immediately useable energy (which causes an insulin spike). Below you’ll find a few examples of each:
The Best Complex Carbs
The Best Vegetables/Fiber and Enzymes
The Best Simple Carbohydrates
High Quality Muscle Building Proteins
Why is protein important? Because amino acids, which are the building blocks of muscle, are only made when your body breaks down protein. Now, not all foods contain enough protein and protein completeness also differs, but the list below contains the best sources of lean protein if you’re trying to put on mass. It’s also important to note that vegetarian diets should combine a few protein sources in order to get all the essential amino acids in each mean (i.e. mix rice and beans or legumes).
When it comes to building muscle mass and strength, without sufficient protein you are guaranteed to fail so make sure you eat one of the foods listed below at every meal.
The Best Protein Foods
High Quality Fats
High quality essential fatty acids help in your production of testosterone and hundreds of biological functions in the body.
The magical omega-3 fatty acids required for this can be found in the below listed foods.
The Best Fat Foods
Nature’s High Quality Energy Drink - Water
There is no replacement for water. Only water means only water boys and girls. Sodas, teas, and even Vitamin Water, aren’t good substitutes but I’m sure I’m not the first person to tell you that. If you’re serious about building muscle and improving your performance, stick to zero calorie beverages like water that will keep you hydrated and won’t fill you up with countless grams of sugar.
Not many people drink enough water, but then again not many people see the muscle gains they want either.
One Last Tip
If there’s one thing to remember it’s "Eat, Eat and then eat some more". Eat your traditional three meals and then fill-in the gaps with snacks from the lists above (i.e., an apple, a piece of cheese and slice of turkey, or a cup of yogurt and some nuts). If you follow these simple guidelines your gains in muscle, strength, and energy won’t disappoint you. Eat more, eat better, gain weight, gain muscle. It's that simple!
If you're looking for some additional help in gaining good lean mass, we here at 1R would recommend the following supplements: