Most athletes want to be lean regardless of the sport in which they participate. In fact, most of us, whether we are super athletic or weekend warriors, want lean muscle mass. So what is the most effective way to become leaner? The secret is nutrition. In other words, it’s what we eat…not what we do. I have written many times about the Rule of 70. I believe weight loss/weight maintenance is 30% what we do (exercise), and 70% what we eat. I think Alan Tyson would agree as he recently wrote about what we can do to create lean bodies with less training, and why it is a good thing. The following are the foods Tyson recommends for creating and maintaining lean muscle mass while also maintaining fitness. By eating a combination of the following foods, not only will you likely see increased muscle mass and a leaner body, your workouts will take on a whole new level.
1. Lean Beef
This should be a STAPLE of your diet if you want to gain muscle mass. Why? Because it is loaded with all sorts of things conducive to muscle growth. On average, a three-ounce serving of lean beef is only 154 calories, yet it provides ten essential nutrients, including iron, zinc and B-vitamins. More importantly, it provides your body with high quality protein (not all proteins are equal), and a high level of amino acid that works with insulin to promote muscle growth. For those who are trying to lose weight, this should come as great news – a 3 ounce serving of lean beef provides roughly the same amount of protein as 1.5 cups of beans, but at half the calories.
2. Skinless Chicken
Like beef, it is an excellent source of high quality protein, which is important for muscle maintenance and repair, bone health, and weight maintenance. And of course, there are so many ways you can cook and prepare chicken.
3. Cottage Cheese
Not many people know this, but cottage cheese constitutes relatively pure casein protein. For those who don’t know, casein protein is a slow-digesting protein, which means it is perfect for muscle maintenance. Not forgetting, cottage cheese is also an excellent source of vitamin B12, calcium, and other important nutrients.
Eggs contain high quality protein, nine essential amino acids, choline, the right kind of fat, and vitamin D. To sum it up, they are the most value for money. And please note, eggs are not harmful for your health, as numerous studies are now refuting what people thought in the 70’s and 80’s.
5. Tuna and Other Fish
High in protein, low in fat, and rich in omega-3 fatty acids. The key here is omega-3 fatty acids. They are essential, not only for health reasons, but also because they improve fat loss and ensure the proper function of your body processes, such as your metabolism.
6. Fruits and Vegetables
Firstly, fruits and vegetables are a rich source of antioxidants, which are essential for the healthy functioning of your immune system. Secondly, they provide tons of other nutrients, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene. Finally, your body requires the fiber these fruits and vegetables provide, which helps to flush out the substances your body does not need.
7. Oatmeal Oatmeal is an ideal source of carbs due to both its low glycemic index (GI) value and the fact it is minimally processed. The benefits of a low GI diet are as follows: Better micronutrient profile and more fiber Increased satiety Decreased hunger Lower subsequent energy intake (second meal effect) Fat loss In short, enhanced fat loss for those looking to lose weight, and a constant source of carbs for muscle preservation.
8. Whole Grains Whole grains digest more efficiently and provide more nutrients than refined grains, and as such promote sustained energy levels and overall health. For instance, brown rice can help boost your growth hormone levels, which are critical for encouraging lean muscle growth, fat loss, and strength gains.
9. Healthy Fats
I know some of you shudder at the thought of consuming fats, but good fats are essential for muscle growth. In fact, they play an essential role in hormone production (testosterone and growth hormones) that is responsible for muscle growth and strength gains. Your metabolic rate is elevated as well, which helps you shed more fats. In addition, fats are needed for many important maintenance functions. Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are the good fats. You can find them in salmon, other fishes, nuts, leafy veggies, oils such as flaxseed, avocados, and seeds. They are also all rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
10. Whey Protein
There is a reason why whey protein supplements are the most popular supplement in the bodybuilding world: because they provide a fast and convenient source of protein at an affordable price. Bodybuilders normally use them when they wake up, right after their workout, and mixed with some of their meals. However, for those of us non-bodybuilders, simply using it right after our workouts can be very effective for muscle mass gains. Do not rely on it completely though. It’s more important to get high quality protein from whole foods, and use whey protein as a boost.
Try to see if you can structure your meals around these foods and you can be assured of sufficient protein, more energy, and healthy weight. Yes…exercise is important too (Alan would agree)! If we are eating a good combination of the above foods and trying to eat a minimal amount of refined sugar then we are 70% of the way to looking lean, and more importantly to feeling good. The other 30% will have to be the subject of another post….