We all have different nutrition goals in mind – some health related and some purely aesthetic. Regardless of your goals, what happens on the outside is a reflection of what’s going on inside your body when you eat food.
Pair nutrition with a fitness routine focused on building muscle and you’ve got some complexities to work with. Fortunately, this article can help simplify things for you.
The complexities we’re speaking of aren’t all that complicated. It’s just important to remember that when we’re eating to perform or lose fat and put on muscle, we have to fuel our bodies properly.
This includes the refuel because muscles are made during the hours after we work out.
As well as getting proper rest periods and good sleep, it’s vital that you take in enough protein. It helps repair muscles that take a blow during your training sessions, and adds strength to cell walls.
Without protein, forget about the gains. For most people, meeting the quota doesn’t require shakes, bars or anything of the sort. In fact, many people overestimate their daily protein requirements.
Take into account these guidelines:
- A sedentary person needs about 0.3 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
- A moderately active individual should suffice on around 0.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
- A strength-training athlete should aim for 0.7-0.8 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
Because we’re a team focused on real food, we don’t like all the frills and myths surrounding fitness. We’re out to make things easier, even if something like putting on muscle isn’t easy (it just takes time!).
Here’s the ultimate muscle building cheat-sheet with info on how to get the most bang for your buck with post-workout nutrition.
Does your post-workout appetite call for a big, juicy steak? Let’s talk about where red meat comes into play when it comes to building muscle, because gym food isn’t all chicken and broccoli.
Protein content: 29-35 grams of protein per 115 g /4 oz. serving.
Getting the most bang for your buck: Lean cuts of red meat offer up more protein as the fattier cuts contain more fat, of course. Top sirloin is at the top of the list with around 35 grams of protein per steak.
Have some vitamin C rich vegetables on the side get the most of the iron supplies that come with red meat.
Bonus points: One serving of beef also contains enough zinc to meet the RDA. Zinc is important for muscle development because it helps convert food to fuel.
Zinc also neutralizes free radicals in the body as it’s a powerful antioxidant. This contributes to less aggressive aging overall, including deterioration of muscles.
Protein content: 16-28 grams of protein per 115 g/ 4 oz. serving.
Getting the most bang for your buck: A lean cut of lamb is the way to go as its range of protein content is higher than most meat. Lamb leg and lamb steaks with the fat trimmed will end up on the higher end of the spectrum, packing in more than 25 grams of protein per serving.
Ground lamb and lamb ribs fall at the bottom of the chain, so these varieties are better eaten outside of the post-workout window.
Bonus: Lamb is loaded with vitamin B12, which is incredibly vital to endurance. While supplementing with B12 is possible, it’s most welcomed in the body via real food sources. B12 offers up natural energy for better, more intense workouts.
It’s no secret that in the world of weightlifting, bodybuilding and the like, chicken meat is coveted above all. Plain Jane chicken breasts can get a little boring, though, so let’s explore our options.
Protein content: 20-35 grams of protein per 115 g / 4 oz. serving.
Getting the most bang for your buck: Plain ol’ chicken! Sure, it gets old, but you can mix it up. A lean cut of chicken breast offers up 35 grams of protein putting it in the running for the best recovery food on the market.
Chicken thighs offer up substantial protein, coming in on the middle of the sliding scale while also being more economical. Avoid fatty cuts of chicken on the bone after a workout as they fall on the lower end of the chain.
Bonus: A serving of chicken provides the RDA of niacin which helps the body to convert food into energy – an obviously important component of maintaining or increasing muscle mass!
Protein content: 6-7 grams of protein per egg
Getting the most bang for your buck: One egg just ain’t gonna cut it if you want to get stronger, but they do serve their purpose. A 2-3 egg omelette with some leftover meat from dinner added will offer up a protein punch in the AM.
A few hard-boiled eggs as a snack during the day can help keep you full and fueled. You can also supplement smaller portions of meat with an egg or two at meals.
Bonus: Eggs are the perfect food. They’re contain all of the essential amino acids which means your body will be able to efficiently use this source of protein. Check out our favorite recipes for leftover eggs here.
Protein content: 17-27 grams of protein per 115 g / 4 oz. serving.
Getting the most bang for your buck: We’re not talking about bacon, although it is delicious. Bacon is primarily a source of fat. The same goes for pork sausage.
Instead, opt for lean cuts of pork loin or trimmed pork shoulder. Pork is somewhere in the middle in terms of protein, but it makes a great choice if you’re looking to switch things up.
Bonus: Pork contains enough thiamine in one serving to get you upto speed. This helps your body properly recover after a heavy weight sesh.
Most seafood is a great choice for a healthy diet, but this is especially true if you’re hitting the gym on a regular basis. With plenty of options for tinned seafood, it’s budget-friendly and easy to eat on the go in place of a protein shake.
Protein content: 26 grams of protein per 115 g / 4 oz. serving.
Getting the most bang for your buck: Opt for sustainable tuna to avoid the issue with over-fishing. A fresh tuna steak will pack in the most protein. If you opt for canned tuna, go for yellowfin over skipjack as it contains a bit more.
Bonus: Omega-3 fatty acids! Like most fish, tuna contains omega-3’s which aid in weight loss, helping you to shed fat and put on lean muscle.
Protein content: 30 grams of protein per 115 g / 4 oz. serving.
Getting the most bang for your buck: Well, it’s pretty simple! Just eat octopus. This seafood is absolutely loaded with quality protein.
While it isn’t as easy to source or cook as many other varieties of fish, you can find it canned if you look hard enough. Otherwise, fresh octopus is the way to go.
Bonus: Octopus is high in iron which helps your cells, organs and muscle tissues breathe. Oxygen is an important part of muscle recovery and growth, and iron facilitates this.
Not a fan of tuna or octopus? Prawns, salmon and sardines are all great sources of protein and other essential nutrients.
While animal products certainly offer up easy and abundant protein content, there are some less meaty options for those who prefer it, or for those who want to supplement their meat intake with a variety of other foods.
Protein content: 31 grams of protein per 1 cup serving.
Getting the most bang for your buck: Tempeh is easily the safest plant-based protein as it’s comprised of fermented soy. While soy has its health drawbacks, bringing out the good bacteria with fermentation eliminates some of the worry and digestive distress.
Bonus: Tempeh offers up a quite impressive dose of calcium. While building muscle might be the goal, it’s important to keep your bones strong, healthy and able if you’re putting your body through the inherent stress of strength training.
Protein content: 23 grams of protein per cup
Getting the most bang for your buck: While we encourage full-fat dairy including fermented yoghurt for all of its health benefits and the full-factor, opting for plain, non-fat yoghurt is ideal for packing in protein.
As a full meal replacement, a 2% yoghurt is ideal as you don’t sacrifice much protein and you still get some of those healthy fats.
Bonus: Yoghurt is lightweight compared to most whole-food sources of protein. Some people lose their appetite after a workout, but still want to refuel with something substantial.
Yoghurt is a suitable option for those looking to ditch the equally as lightweight but sugary protein bars.
Properly prepared legumes (soaked overnight and cooked well) pack a decent amount of protein, however they often need to be paired up with other plant based protein (e.g. rice) to get the complete set of essential amino acids.
Have we helped clear things up regarding protein? What’s your favorite post-workout fix? Share this with your gym buddies!
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