Building abs and sculpting muscles starts long before you ever hit the gym. Muscle growth requires a formula based on drinking plenty of fluids and eating the right energy-rich foods along with lifting weights. The right formula will fuel workouts, repair muscle tissue, and help you sculpt your physique.
Nutrition Game Plan
- Fruit and vegetables are the foundation of all healthy diets, providing fiber, vitamins, minerals, and fluids. Vegetables contain small amounts of protein.
- Low-fat dairy provides high-quality protein, carbs, and essential vitamins such as vitamin D, potassium, and calcium. Sports nutritionists Christine Rosenbloom, PhD, RD, and Nancy Clark, RD, recommend chocolate milk as a good workout recovery beverage. If you are lactose intolerant, you can try yogurt with active cultures.
- Lean meat is a great source of protein, iron for oxygen transport to muscles, and amino acids including leucine, which, Rosenbloom says, is thought to be a trigger for muscle growth.
- Dark-meat chicken, compared to white meat, provides 25% more iron and three times the zinc for a healthy immune system.
- Eggs “contain all of the essential amino acids,” Rosenbloom says. One a day is fine according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, but don’t throw out the yolk. According to Rosenbloom, “Half the protein is in the yolk along with other import nutrients like lutein for eye health.”
- Nuts — unsalted and either raw or roasted — are a good source of protein. They also contain vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, and healthy fats.
- Beans and whole grains are quality carbs that contain small amounts of protein for energy and muscle repair along with fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants.
Timing Is Everything
Timing is critical in muscle development because you need carbs and protein to perform strength training and protein and carbs for muscle recovery. The best plan is to eat a diet containing both nutrients and small amounts of healthy fats throughout the day.
“Consuming a protein beverage like chocolate milk within an hour after exercise will give muscle the building blocks it needs when it is most receptive for repair” says Rosenbloom.
If you will be eating a meal within 1-2 hours after a strenuous workout, Rosenbloom says you don’t need a snack and can wait for the meal to provide the recovery nutrition.