In the wake of America’s growing waistline, fitness trends have spread like wildfire throughout the nation. While more people are hitting the gym and attending their local Zumba class, it’s just as important to pump up your diet as it is to pump up your gym time. Learning about what foods keep you lean and strong is imperative as more processed foods flood mainstream marketplaces.
When you’re ready to bulk up, foods high in protein are your friend. There are complete and incomplete proteins in the food we eat. Animal products are high in complete proteins. Lean beef, chicken, egg whites, low-fat cheese, and skim milk are all categorized as complete proteins in that they have all the essential amino acids that your body needs to build muscle mass. Because proteins we ingest are not stored, and amino acids are recycled, even proteins that are not complete-like those consumed from plant based foods- can contribute significant amounts of protein to your diet.
How much do you need?
Proteins should be consumed in grams per day depending on your weight. For example, if you weigh 135 pounds, you should be eating about 50 grams as a non-athlete, but as an athlete, your requirements could increase to as much as 105 grams (most Americans already eat this amount of protein and may not need to bump their intake up). Competitive weight lifters need to be mindful of not only their protein intake, but also their carbohydrate and calorie intake.
Role of carbohydrates
Contrary to popular belief, carbohydrates can be your friend when you’re looking to be beach body ready. Carbs are essentially sugars that give you the energy to start and finish your workouts. The complex carbohydrates in oats, brown rice, sweet potatoes, and whole wheat pasta release their energy more slowly. This provides your body with a constant source of energy to pull those final shoulder presses from. Stay away from simple carbs that are commonly found in candy, soda pop, pre-sweetened cereals, and some high sugar energy bars. If you think about foods your dentist would like you to skip, you can more easily identify foods higher in these simple carbs. Getting enough of the complex carbs in your daily diet spares protein to work to assist in building and repairing your muscle!
Taking time to eat breakfast in the morning will help to kick-start your metabolism. Making an omelet with leafy greens or vegetables, and adding a small bowl of oatmeal is perfect for regulating your sugar levels. Even adding a glass of reduced/low fat milk or cottage cheese with fruit is a much better option than a trip to Starbucks. You’re preparing your body to face the day ahead of you and starting your digestion early in the day. This will help you transition from larger meals at the end of the day to a larger breakfast, followed by a smaller lunch and humble dinner.
As you move through your daily grind and workout, don’t just grab a Gatorade or so-called power drink! Stick with water, and stay hydrated all day long. Properly hydrated muscles will recover more quickly. The recommended daily intake for water is between 2.5 and 3 liters. If you’re not used to drinking water consistently throughout the day, start with breakfast and bump up your fluid intake. Have a glass of water along with your glass of orange juice. Bringing a travel cup to work or school is also helpful. When you drink water throughout the day, you help your digestive system process food more efficiently.
Gaining muscle mass doesn’t stop at the gym. Being disciplined and committed to the improvement of your overall health will only allow you to achieve your goal quicker. A regimented weight training schedule and proper nutrition will help you feel and look better in no time!
This post was written for Chew on this blog by Dr. David Kulla. Dr. Kulla is a licensed New York Chiropractor and a nutritionist as well as owner of //synergywellnessny.com in Manhattan.