You’re generally active, you’re exercising, maybe you’re lifting weights because you want to stay healthy. That’s great. “The truth is, abs are made in the kitchen,” says Samantha Cassetty, M.S., R.D., Luvo’s VP of Nutrition. “I always remind people that if they’re working out hard and not seeing results, it’s because they’re only doing 20 percent of the job. Most of the work is related to diet.”.To support your fitness and give your muscles the nutrients they need, you’ll want to make sure you’re eating the right foods to aid repair and help them rebuild so they’re ready for your next workout. Even if you’re not into working out, there are many foods you can eat to help maintain your muscles, which is just generally good for your health.
As the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has noted, protein is good for helping maintain and rebuild your muscles. So it stands to reason that you should consume foods that are high in protein, but low in saturated fat and sodium, which are not good in high doses. Foods such as poultry, lean cuts of red meat and pork can fit the bill.
It’s not good to go totally fat free. Fats are one of the three macronutrients our body needs to function properly, along with protein and carbs. The current Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends we consume some oils, especially those from plants. Nuts are such a good option because they contain protein and fats, so they do double duty. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends almonds, pistachios and walnuts as good heart- and muscle-healthy options.
Eggs and low-fat dairy
Technically speaking, it’s not protein the body needs, it’s amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein. Eggs are great for muscles because they have all the essential amino acids the body needs and can’t create on its own—a large egg has six to eight grams of protein. Other non-meat sources that contain a beneficial mix of essential amino acids include low-fat yogurt, milk, tofu and edamame.
As the Mayo clinic notes, carbohydrates provide your muscles with the energy to fuel your activities, so getting enough carbs is essential for healthy muscles. “The focus should be on getting carbohydrate from nutritious sources—fruits, beans, starchy veggies, like potatoes and corn, and whole grains, like brown rice and whole wheat bread,” says Cassetty. The timing of when you eat carbs also impacts how you feel when you exercise. “If you’ve eaten a meal in the past few hours and you’re hitting the gym for a spin or yoga class, you should be fine. If you haven’t eaten in a while, fuel up with something easily digestible, like a banana or brown rice cake.”
Blending soy and dairy proteins
We’ve heard about soy and people talk about dairy in various health contexts, but how about putting them together? Well, researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch tried it and published a study in 2014 that found that consuming soy and dairy proteins together after resistance training set the stage for better and more prolonged muscle-building than consuming a single whey protein. The impact is hard to relate to your diet, since the study didn’t use foods but protein beverages with customized amounts of proteins (25 percent isolated DuPont Danisco SUPRO soy protein, 50 percent caseinate and 25 percent whey protein isolate), but it does suggest that a variety of protein sources may be more beneficial for your muscles than always having the same kinds.
What foods do eat for your muscles? Let us know in the comments below!
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