What to eat to build muscle

When it comes to building muscle, what you put into your body is just as important as the time you spend in the gym.

Muscles are made from protein and they need more of it to grow. This process requires energy of about 2100 to 4200 more kilojoules per day than needed to simply maintain your weight.

The increase should largely come from increased protein (at least 20 grams at every meal for men and women) and a slightly greater amount of carbs (at least three grams per kilogram of body weight). Timing also matters. It’s best to sandwich your workouts with protein, eating one to two hours before and after a workout.

Gabbi Berkow, a New York City-based dietitian, exercise physiologist, and certified personal trainer, says eating protein before and after a workout helps protect against excessive muscle breakdown during the effort and stimulates regeneration after the fact.

The best option for stimulating muscle growth comes from animal sources, which are considered complete proteins, as they contain all nine essential amino acid. These are the building blocks of protein that your body can’t produce on its own. However, a variety of non-animal sources can be eaten together to reach the full roster of nine amino acids. Keep that in mind as you prepare your meals, and aim to include these muscle-building foods on your plate:

  • Chicken – 115 grams per day
  • Salmon – 115 grams per day
  • Eggs – 3 to 4 per day
  • Beans – 1 cup per day
  • Beef – 115 grams per day
  • Greek yoghurt – low fat, one cup per day
  • Cottage cheese – low fat, 85 grams per day

Here are some high protein snacks.