Eating the right proteins is essential for building muscle, increasing strength and ensuring optimal health. Whether you’re a novice bodybuilder or an experienced athlete, this guide will help you incorporate more protein into your diet with snacks, meals and other sources.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds contain an array of essential fats, minerals, vitamins and much-needed protein. They are a convenient way to add healthy and nourishing protein to your diet. Try including walnuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios and sunflower seeds as snacks or add them to salads as a crunchy topping. You could also make your own trail mix with dried fruits and nuts or whip up some nut butter for a healthy spread on toast or sandwiches.
Lean meats such as chicken, turkey and fish are a great source of protein and nutrients. These lean proteins have been shown to be satiating and help build muscle mass when followed with regular exercise. To save time, try pre-cooking some lean meats to pack in lunches throughout the week or keep cooked meals stored in the freezer for easy meal preparation.
Dairy products such as milk, cheese and yogurt are also high in protein and essential vitamins and minerals. Milk is the richest source of protein with 8 grams in one cup. Nonfat Greek yogurt is much thicker and creamier than regular yogurt and contains up to 17 grams of protein per cup. Not a fan of dairy? Plant-based proteins like tempeh, tofu, quinoa, and seitan are also excellent for adding to meals or snacks for an extra dose of healthy protein.
Legumes and Beans
Legumes and beans are full of protein, fiber and essential vitamins and minerals. Black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, and lentils are all great sources of protein with 7-9 grams per cooked cup. You can easily add them to salads or soups for a nutrition boost. Try cooking up a batch of black bean tacos for a delicious dinner option or combine chickpeas with fresh veggies for an energizing snack.
Soy-based products like tofu, and tempeh are great sources of high protein. Tofu provides 10 grams per one-half cup serving, while tempeh contains 20 grams. You can find soy in various forms such as firm tofu, soft or silken tofu, which is a good substitute for eggs or cream cheese in some dishes. Try grilling up tempeh veggie burgers for a tasty lunch that’s both filling and beneficial for your muscles.
How much protein do you need to build muscles?
When it comes to improving lean body mass and strength through resistance training, research suggests that optimal amounts of protein range from 0.5 to 3.5 g per kg of body weight. Gradually increasing the intake of protein, even by as little as 0.1 g per kilogram per day, can help maintain or enhance muscle mass. Exceeding 1.3 g per kg daily rapidly decreases the effects on lean body mass; however, including strength training keeps it in check. For enhanced strength and muscle gains, a daily intake of 1.5 g for each kilogram of body weight is recommended. Studies have found that intakes of up to 1.6 g per kg can have small benefits on lean-body mass in young adults; however, the same results may not hold true for older people due to lower intake levels than younger age groups typically had during research studies (1.2 g minimum). To put it into perspective: an 81.8 kg male should aim for 98-131g of protein daily combined with resistance training for maximum muscle growth benefits.