1 Greek Yoghurt: Packed with muscle-nourishing nutrients, Greek yogurt is the ideal workout partner. “It’s a good source of protein, calcium and vitamin D, which are good for muscles. Vitamin D is definitely important for your bones—you need strong and healthy bones to sustain muscles—and it impacts protein synthesis. People with low vitamin D levels have been shown to have decreased strength and greater muscle wasting.” Skip the varieties with added fruit; they have too much sugar.
2 BEANS: The simple bean is actually an advanced fat-burning, muscle-building machine. “Beans are a great source of protein that includes fiber. That’s going to ensure your blood sugar doesn’t spike and will give you energy to build the muscle you want.” One cup of black beans has 12 grams of protein and 9 grams of fiber; they’re also rich in folate, a B vitamin that stokes muscle growth, and copper, which strengthens tendons.
3 COTTAGE CHEESE
Add the kiddie concoction to your essential pre- and post-workout snacks. In a study published in The International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, subjects given chocolate milkhigh before riding stationary bikes were able to pedal 49 percent longer than cyclists given another carb-replacement beverage.
4 CHOCOLATE MILK
Chocolate milk’s naturally occurring electrolytes keep you hydrated, and its sweetness speeds energy into muscles, which makes it equally good after your workout. “Chocolate milk is good for muscle recovery because you get protein, vitamin D and calcium from the milk, and that little bit of sugar from the chocolate to help refuel,” notes Schapiro.
Bananas are an ideal source of fuel. They’re rich in glucose, a highly digestible sugar, which provides quick energy, and their high potassium content helps prevent muscle cramping during your workout. Each medium banana contains about 36 grams of good carbs: Their low glycemic index means carbs are slowly released into your body, preventing sugar crashes and spurring the process of muscle recovery.
A number of studies have shown that consuming beets can improve your athletic performance. Subjects who drank beet juice experienced a 38 percent increase in blood flow to muscles, particularly “fast twitch” muscles that affect bursts of speed and strength.
Each egg contains seven grams of muscle-builder. “Depending on the workout and their goals, I usually tell my patients to have protein in increments of seven. If you’re doing a high-intensity workout , you should have 14 grams of protein. Two eggs are perfect.
The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that the L-arginine in almonds can help you burn more fat and carbs in the gym. When it comes to muscle building, a quarter-cup of raw almonds has eight grams of protein and is high in magnesium, which boosts energy and endurance. “Almonds are great—you just need to watch the quantity,” says Kaufman. “I recommend eating 20 max. If you go over that, your body will be storing fat instead of building muscle.”
The muscle-builder’s staple maintains its status for a reason. Aside from being high in protein — 54 grams per six-ounce serving — chicken breast is also rich in leucine, an amino acid that’s key to muscle building because it increases protein synthesis. Researchers fed one group of people meals containing 10 grams of leucine per day, and another group a lower-leucine diet. In two studies, the groups that ate high-leucine diets lost more weight and body fat — and maintained more lean body mass. According to the USDA, a six-ounce chicken breast contains about 4.4 grams of leucine per serving and 52 grams of protein.
10 GRASS-FED BEEF
Grass-fed beef has the holy trifecta of muscle building: It’s the #1 food source of creatine, which increases muscle mass by speeding protein to muscles; it’s rich in CLA, an anti-inflammatory fatty acid; and it provides more than one-half the RDA of protein in a four-ounce serving. “It’s great for you—rich in iron, magnesium and B12, which you need to have for muscle building,” says Kaufman, patients who have a history of high cholesterol should not eat more than two servings of red meat per week.
11 WILD SALMON
Wild salmon’s high protein content — 39 grams per serving — is supplemented by its heart-healthy, inflammation-busting, longevity-promoting omega-3 fatty acids. Just be sure you go wild. Farmed salmon, plumped up with fishmeal and high in PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls, chemicals that cause endocrine disruption), must be thrown back in the refrigerator case.