Not Just Meat: 8 Foods for Muscle Growth

Proteins and amino acids are necessary for the growth of the muscle cells. This list of easy-to-digest foods will help you diversify your diet if you want to increase muscle mass, strength, and endurance.

Recent studies have shown that a vegetarian diet can become the basis of a healthy lifestyle if certain rules are followed. Contrary to popular belief, the lack of meat does not prevent you from building muscle, including heavyweight athletes. It is only important to choose alternative sources of protein, such as grains, legumes, and plant seeds. In addition, you need to take into account the degree of protein digestibility from various products. To evaluate it, the PDCAAS (Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score) coefficient is used. It makes it clear how fully substances saturate the body. The highest score on the scale is 1; food with this coefficient is ideal for building and maintaining muscle mass. However, consuming such foods without exercising, such as individually selected strength training, will not lead to muscle growth.


food for muscle growth

100 g of cow’s milk with 1% fat content contains 43 kcal and more than 3 g of protein. Its digestibility coefficient is 1. Milk helps restore muscle tissue and increases protein synthesis. According to research, natural whole milk supplies the body with phenylamine on average 80% more than fat-free analogues; this amino acid is part of the body’s proteins. Also, full-fledged milk contains 2.8 times more threonine, an amino acid involved in the formation of proteins.


food for muscle growth

100 g of eggs contain 158 kcal and 13 g of protein. At the same time, the product contains about 1300 mg of leucine—an amino acid that is not synthesized in the body, can only come with products and is used to treat anemia. Eggs support muscle growth and are highly digestible: their PDCAAS coefficient is 1. Leucine also reduces the rate of protein breakdown and supports a high analytical response of skeletal muscles, which means it helps to maintain shape over time. Athletes add eggs to the diet for another reason: they contain a lot of zinc, which provokes muscle growth due to an insulin-like factor, which scientists have proven.

Dairy products

food for muscle growth

Fermented milk products formed by coagulation contain casein, a slow-digesting protein. In 100 g of cottage cheese, 1% fat content is more than 16 g of protein and 79 kcal. Cheese is also rich in casein, but less useful in terms of proper nutrition: most varieties contain a lot of fat. However, both products help maintain muscle mass: casein slowly raises the level of amino acids in the blood, and it remains high for several hours. This property makes many fermented milk products very satisfying, and therefore ideal for a snack if a full meal is not soon. Not all milk products contain a lot of protein. Greek yogurt has twice as much of it as regular yogurt.


food for muscle growth

Interestingly, meat is considered the main helper in muscle growth, although its PDCAAS coefficient is lower than that of cottage cheese and milk, and is equal to 0.92. But beef contains amino acids that are effective for increasing muscle mass. The product contains a lot of creatine, which also helps to gain muscle mass, increases endurance and is suitable for dietary nutrition. Beef is low in calories compared to many other types of meat: 100 g contains 187 kcal and 18.9 g of protein and 12.4 g of fat. Studies confirm that its digestibility in combination with exercise provokes protein synthesis and muscle growth in people of any age.

Chicken breast

food for muscle growth

The reason some sports nutritionists recommend eating chicken rather than beef is because of the low-fat content—1.9 g per 100 g. Plus a small caloric content—165 kcal. Interestingly, there is more protein in chicken than in beef—23.6 g per 100 g. Scientists have found that the hydrolysate of natural chicken protein serves as an excellent Foundation for muscle growth without weight gain due to fat. Like beef, this type of meat in combination with training allows you to increase endurance and improve the performance of strength training. It is important to choose the breast rather than other parts which composition is less healthful. For example, the thigh contains almost 83 mg of cholesterol, while the breast contains 53 mg.


food for muscle growth

Contrary to stereotypes, not only expensive salmon is suitable for building muscle mass. Cod, trout, tuna, chum salmon, pink salmon, and mackerel have approximately the same digestibility index. The PDCAAS of most varieties of fish is equal to 0.78. A special advantage of the product is the content of unsaturated omega-3 and omega-6. Scientists claim that these fatty acids can increase life expectancy. Studies have shown that they can increase the concentration of protein in the muscles and its slow breakdown. If you need a minimum of calories, choose tuna. But the fatter the fish, the more omega-3 and omega-6 it contains. In 100 g of tuna, they will be only 0.2 g, and in salmon-more than 2.5 g. Keep in mind that large fish that have lived for several years accumulate heavy metals and toxins, so large tuna or salmon cannot be the basis of the diet.


food for muscle growth

This seafood is almost pure protein. 100 g of shrimp contains 95 kcal, almost 19 g of protein and only 2.2 g of fat. Adding them to your diet is an easy way to replenish your protein intake without adding extra calories. The amino acid digestibility coefficient is 1, which puts the product on the same level as eggs and milk. In addition, shrimps contain omega-3 and omega-6, the antioxidant astaxanthin, and many vitamins. It should be borne in mind that the product contains tropomyosin, which in some cases causes allergies. If you are only planning to add shrimp to your diet, start with small portions and consult your therapist.


food for muscle growth

In terms of digestibility, chickpeas are not inferior to fish: its PDCAAS coefficient is also 0.78. But it takes a long time to prepare and some people may have stomach problems. It is optimal to use chickpeas in the form of hummus—puree of cooked chickpeas with the addition of oil and spices. In 100 g less than 166 kcal, 10 g of fat and 8 g of protein. At the same time, chickpeas contain a lot of amino acids: valine, isoleucine and leucine. Many believe that leucine is only found in eggs and other animal products. In addition, these legumes contain zinc, glycine, methionine and arginine, which in the process of decomposition forms creatine, necessary for muscle growth.

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