If you’re looking to put on muscle weight, you may be thinking a simple protein powder addition to your morning smoothie or breakfast bowl could do the trick. But that’s not exactly the best route.
Instead, a varied diet is essential, Angel Planells, a Seattle-based dietitian and spokesman for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, told Fox News.
“The actual act of exercising breaks down our muscle fibers, and our body is trying to rebuild muscle to make it stronger. So if we don’t get a good amount of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals, our body will not rebuild as efficiently as it could,” Planells explained. He advises clients to aim to get 300-500 more calories per day, combined with strength training exercises, to build muscle.
Franca B. Alphin, a dietitian and Duke University’s director of nutrition services at Student Health, agreed, noting the importance of getting those extra calories from all three macronutrients — fats, carbohydrates and proteins — to gain weight healthfully.
Here are just a few important foods that, as part of a balanced and healthy diet, can help you put on that muscle weight:
1. A 3-ounce serving of chicken breast (Protein)
High-quality proteins are essential to build muscle — but it’s important not to overdo it, Planells said. Aim for 15-30 grams of protein for meals and snacks. If you opt for chicken, for example, stick to 3 ounces for one meal. Other quality sources of protein include eggs, beef, pork and milk, or plant-based options including soy, buckwheat and quinoa, he explained.
2. Bran muffins (Complex Carbs)
Whole grains release energy gradually into the body, helping sustain you during workouts and keep you satisfied longer, Planells said. Try opting for a bran muffin, some cereal with nuts and granola, or fish tacos with rice and beans.
3. A glass of milk (Dairy)
To help you get in those extra calories, try having a glass of regular or chocolate milk before bed, Alphin told Fox News. She explained that while you don’t want to eat a whole, heavy meal before you go to bed, milk is a great choice because it has both carbs and protein.
4. String cheese and a banana (Healthy Snacks)
Another way to get that carb and protein combination? Snacks like string cheese and a banana, or a handful of nuts and a piece of fruit, Alphin said. She recommended having a snack about one and a half to two hours before you workout to give you energy without slowing you down.