As you gear up to start making great progress in the gym, it’s time to take a closer look at your nutritional regime. If you don’t have a kitchen packed with the healthiest, most effective muscle building foods, you’re going to be hard pressed to see results.
What you eat is going to have a direct influence on not only how you perform in the gym, but also on what direction the scale moves and how well you manage your body composition.
Eat wisely and success will be yours. Eat poorly and you’ll be wasting time in the gym, only to find that you’re frustrated than you’ve ever been before.
This said, let’s take a closer look at 13 foods that you’ll want to make sure you have in your kitchen at all times. Consider these staples that every bodybuilder needs.
The first item you’ll want to make sure you have on hand at all times is salmon. Rich in quality protein and high in omega 3 fatty acids, this one can’t be beat. Omega fats are important for improving insulin sensitivity, which will mean that the high carb diet you’re taking in will promote lean mass gains, rather than fat storage.
In addition to that, omega-3 fats are also important for keeping your immune system strong, which is key when placing so much stress on it from all your workout sessions.
Whether it’s fresh or canned salmon you keep, make sure you always have it on hand.
12. Grass Fed Beef
Grass fed beef is the next protein source that should be a mainstay in your kitchen. Grass fed beef is rich in iron, which will promote higher energy levels during your workout session and is also going to provide CLA, which is a heart-healthy fat that increases fat oxidation. If you want to stay lean, this is a perfect protein to help you do just that.
Grass fed beef will also provide a good dose of zinc, which is key for testosterone production. Men especially need to be sure they’re consuming enough of this nutrient on a regular basis.
The next staple food is avocados. Avocados are a great source of monounsaturated fat and will also provide a good dose of vitamin E and dietary fiber.
This fat rich fruit will help keep your skin and hair looking great while also helping to boost overall heart health.
It’s highly versatile as well and can easily be added to smoothies, used on sandwiches or in wraps, added to a salad, or simply eaten alone if you prefer.
10. Coconut Oil
It’s important for those who are looking to build muscle to never completely eliminate the saturated fat from their diet entirely. Some saturated fat is important to keep testosterone levels optimal, which will then mean greater mass gains.
This said, you do need to choose healthy sources of saturated fat. You’d see far different results health and body composition wise feasting on French fries versus say coconut oil, which is a terrific source of healthy fat.
Coconut oil is also going to boost heart health, strengthen your immune system, improve your skin’s health, and will also help to provide a great source of energy.
Coconut oil is a form of medium chain triglyceride, which gets broken down rapidly in the body – much faster than all other fats, so can provide a clean burning source of fuel.
This makes it a great option for those reducing their carbohydrate intake slightly who still want to maintain higher energy levels.
Coconut oil can be used in many of the same ways that you’d normally use olive oil.
The next great food to have in your kitchen are bananas. Perfect for both pre and post workout, this energy dense food can be used in multiple ways. You can slice it and add it over a bowl of oatmeal, blend it up into a protein smoothie, or simply eat it on its own.
Bananas are a great fruit because they contain both sugar as well as starch, so you’ll get some fast burning carbs along with slower burning ones to help sustain you. This makes them ideal for after a workout session.
Additionally, they also contain a high dose of potassium, which is important for optimal muscle contractions to take place, reducing the chances you begin to experience muscle cramps.
Having one or two a day should definitely be a part of any bodybuilder’s meal plan.
Another excellent carbohydrate source to have in your day are oats. Oats are low on the GI index, meaning they’ll break down slowly, providing a steady stream of energy rather than a quick release followed by a crash.
In addition to that, oats can be eaten cooked or raw, depending on your body composition goals at the time. If you are looking to get leaner, consider serving them cooked as they’ll be high in volume, but relatively low in calories.
On the flip side, if you’re at a point of looking for mass gain, eating them raw is ideal as they’ll be very calorie dense. You can quickly meet your daily carbohydrate needs with a couple cups of raw oats in your plan.
They can be added to smoothies, used in baking, or toasted and used over Greek yogurt or cottage cheese if preferred. Or, just eat them as normal as a cereal.
7. Cottage Cheese
Speaking of cottage cheese, that brings us to the next must-have food for your pantry. Cottage cheese is a great option because it’s a casein form of protein, meaning it’ll break down and digest far more slowly in the body.
This makes it ideal for having right before you go to bed at night as it’ll provide your body with a steady stream of amino acids over the nightly fasting period.
Cottage cheese will also provide a good dose of calcium, helping foster stronger bones. This is also important because as you get stronger, if your bones aren’t at an optimal density, you could begin to suffer from stress fractures, breaks, or other nagging joint injuries.
If you don’t enjoy the taste of cottage cheese, consider blending it up in with your protein powder in a smoothie or prepare a protein pancake with it by mixing together eggs, cottage cheese, and oats.
Or consider adding ingredients into your cottage cheese to improve the taste. For instance, one of the most commonly eaten ‘bodybuilder’ meals pre-bed is peanut butter mixed in with cottage cheese. Try this for yourself and you might just find you tolerate it better.
6. Whole Eggs
Whole eggs are the next staple you need to have in your kitchen at all times. They’re low in cost, so perfect for those on a food budget and are very nutrient dense.
Many people worry about eating whole eggs due to the cholesterol content and as such, toss the yolk.
Don’t be so fast to do this however. The yolk is where most of the calories are found and in addition to that, provided you are currently in good heart health, one or two egg yolks a day won’t pose any threat.
In fact, the saturated fat found in the egg yolk may just help provide a boost to your testosterone levels.
Eggs will provide vitamin A, vitamin D, folate, iron, zinc, as well as choline, which are all nutrients critical for optimal health. They’ll be important for promoting stronger bones, enhancing your strength and endurance, boosting skin health, and keeping your immune system strong.
Eggs are also one of the most versatile foods that you can eat, so there should be no issue with ever becoming bored with this food.
5. Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes are another excellent food to add to your pantry as a must-have item for all times. Sweet potatoes, despite containing some sugar, are still ranked low on the GI index, so they won’t impact blood sugar levels to any considerable degree.
They’re also a very good source of vitamins and minerals containing vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin B6, as well as magnesium.
Sweet potatoes also offer a good dose of fiber at 3 grams per 100 gram serving, so are a great way to keep your cholesterol down and digestive system healthy.
Sweet potatoes can be mashed, baked, boiled, or can be pureed and used in baking recipes as well.
Choose these over regular potatoes and you’ll definitely be doing your health proud.
4. Whole Wheat Bagels
If you’re struggling to get your calorie intake up, whole wheat bagels can provide the ultimate solution. They’re rich in complex carbohydrates and will contain some fiber, so won’t break down in the body as quickly as white bread would.
This makes them ideal for immediately post workout. At around 75 grams per serving, they’ll help you get your needs met in a hurry.
Just watch what you spread on them. Instead of cream cheese, a nutrient dense, high fat condiment, try peanut butter instead.
Or, use a sliced whole grain bagel when preparing a sandwich rather than using regular bread.
3. Natural Peanut Butter
Nut butter of all varieties is the next staple to always have in your kitchen. The great thing about nut butter is that it’s a very balanced food, providing some healthy fats, some protein, as well as a small dose of carbs as well.
Whether you choose peanut butter or almond butter, you’ll be making a wise decision. It’s an easy way to get your calorie intake up as well as nut butter can be used so many different ways.
Smear it over a banana or apple, add it to protein shakes, use it to prepare a sauce for a main course meal, or stir it into Greek yogurt or cottage cheese. The possibilities are really endless as it’s a very easy food to use.
2. Chicken Breasts
To help get your protein needs met, chicken breasts fit the bill perfectly. Chicken is highly versatile as well, with multiple ways to prepare it and is a relatively cost effective source of protein.
Chicken is low in fat, so perfect regardless of whether your goal is muscle building or fat loss and will provide you with a high dose of vitamin B3, selenium, vitamin B6, phosphorus, as well as choline and vitamin B12.
Finally, no healthy eating food list would be complete without some type of vegetable. While you don’t want to be eating too many vegetables while on a muscle building diet as they will fill you up for few calories, you do still need to get some in for nutritional support.
Few foods are as nutrient dense as vegetables are, so skipping then in your diet could lead to long term health issues.
Spinach is one of the most nutrient dense vegetables out there and can be used both cooked or raw, making it a simple food to include in any dish you happen to be preparing.
You can add spinach to your morning breakfast omelet, eat it at lunch as a side salad, or add it to your stir-fry in the evening as well.
It’s one of the most antioxidant-dense foods around and will also provide you with a long line-up of nutrients including vitamin K, vitamin A, manganese, folate magnesium, iron, copper, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin E, calcium, vitamin C, potassium, vitamin B1, phosphorus, zinc, choline, vitamin B3, and selenium.
So there you have your list of must-have foods. Are you missing out on any of these? If so, it’s time to make some changes so they are included.