As the saying goes, you are what you eat. If you want to be lean and cut, you need to always have healthy, muscle-building foods on hand. Key are protein-packed meals and snacks that are low in sugar and sodium. But you should also be thinking about hydration, and foods packed with the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that will help your muscles function—and recover—at max efficiency. That includes inflammation-healing Omega-3 fats, plus phosphorus and potassium (which help your muscles function), and anthocyanins which are research-proven to help with muscle damage. With some advanced meal planning, food label reading, and an organized shopping list that includes these 10 foods, you can turn your refrigerator into a lean, mean, shredding machine.
Three ounces of wild salmon contains about 120 calories, 17 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fat (with 1 gram coming from saturated fat). This fatty fish also contains 45-percent of the recommended daily dose of vitamin B12, which helps build your nervous system and keep red blood cells healthy. Salmon also provides a good amount of DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid), which are the more efficient forms of omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats have been shown to help fight inflammation, including the inflammation related to joint and muscle pain.
Nonfat plain or reduced fat yogurt contains more than twice the protein as traditional yogurt, 38-percent less sodium, and 40-percent less sugar. Because Greek yogurt is strained it contains less lactose, making it a lactose-intolerant-friendly food.Greek yogurt can also be used to replace some or all of high saturated fat ingredients like cream cheese, sour cream, butter, buttermilk, and heavy cream in cooking and baking. This can help cut calories and add more protein to these dishes.
Although beef has a bad reputation, data reveals that 10 percent or less of saturated fat and total fat in the American diet comes from beef. Further, thanks to increased beef trimming practices, the external fat in retail cuts has decreased 80 percent over the past 20 years. Today, over 66 percent of beef cuts meet the guideline for lean which is defined by the USDA and FDA as less than 10 percent fat by weight or less than 10 grams of fat per 100 grams. In order to get a nice amount of protein without all the artery clogging fat, choose lean cuts like 95 percent lean ground beef, flank, bottom round, sirloin, T-bone, top round, tri-tip, and eye round.
Composed of 90 percent water, red cabbage can help contribute to your daily fluids to help keep you hydrated. Red cabbage also contains the phytochemical anthocyanins, which give cabbage its red color and also help fight inflammation. It’s also a powerful antioxidant which has been shown to help protect against cancer and heart disease.
Stop tossing that golden yolk! Although you may believe that all the protein is in the white, that’s actually not true. One large egg contains 3.6 grams of protein in the egg white, while the yolk adds an additional 2.7 grams – that’s a 60-40 ratio! Plus, the yolk contains omega-3 fats which helps reduce inflammation, along with riboflavin which helps turn both carbs and fat into energy and plays a role in protein metabolism.
Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries contain the powerful anti-inflammatory antioxidant anthocyanins. Berries are also high in the antioxidant vitamin C and also help keep you hydrated with their high water content. Plus, berries are lower in sugar than most other fruits. Berries are also a great post-workout snack when combined with a protein like Greek yogurt. The yogurt helps replenish your muscles, while the berries add carbohydrate-driven energy.
This Middle Eastern dip made from pureed chickpeas, provides a healthy dose of both carbs and protein. Additionally each serving of hummus provides folate, which helps produce new red blood cells. It also contains numerous minerals including phosphorus, potassium, and iron. Phosphorus and potassium play a role in muscle function, while iron is important for producing red blood cells which carry oxygen throughout your body.
TART CHERRY JUICE
Studies have suggested that tart cherry juice can help reduce muscle pain and weakness after a long distance run or an intense session of strength training. Much of the pain associated with exercise has to do with inflammation, oxidative stress, and muscle damage. The concentrated amounts of anthocyanins found in tart cherry juice has been shown to help with these three conditions. That doesn’t mean you should be downing gallons of tart cherry juice, as it still contains 130 calories and 24 grams of sugar per 8 fluid ounces. Rather, stick with small portions so you can get a healthy dose of anthocyanins without going overboard on sugar (which will not help you get shredded).
Hydration should be a top priority when working out. Active guys have high amounts of fluid losses, mainly due to sweat. During an intense workout your thirst sensation may be compromised, which can, in turn, compromise your hydration status. Dehydration can lead to impaired performance during a workout or activity and lead to injury. If you’re working out, don’t wait for your thirst sensation to kick in—stock your fridge with cold bottles of water or a water filter pitcher. Whether they’re the refillable or disposable bottles, make sure to always have some ready to go.
Numerous research studies show that low fat chocolate milk can benefit muscle recovery in athletes. One cup of low fat milk has 23 grams of carbs and 8 grams of protein, which is consistent with the 3:1 carb-to-protein ratio you want post workout to help refuel tired muscle to their peak potential.