Whether you want to build more muscle or maintain it as you shed pounds, the foods you eat are as important as your workouts. The right balance of nutrients will give your body what it needs to support muscle growth or maintenance.
Don't skimp on calories.
The number of calories you need will depend on whether your goal is to bulk up or lose pounds. In both cases, getting enough calories is important. Nutrient-dense calories will give the muscles the necessary fuel to repair and build tissue. When trying to lose weight, failing to eat the calories recommended to reach your goal could cause a breakdown and loss of muscle tissue.
Eat enough protein.
Protein should make up 10-35 percent of your daily calorie intake. Many nutrition experts recommend eating 1 gram of protein per 1 kilogram of body weight (0.4 g per pound). Consuming too much protein may be harmful to the body. Some research shows this puts stress on the kidneys and liver as they try to breakdown and excrete the extra protein.
Eat protein from a variety of sources.
A healthy diet is one that is composed of a variety of foods because each contributes unique nutrients. Eat a variety of lean protein from plant or animal sources. Beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds provide plant-based protein along with fiber and phytonutrients that protect against disease. Poultry, eggs, and dairy provide essential amino acids and minerals. But it is possible to consume the protein you need through a vegetarian diet. Whichever eating style you choose, the variety and quality of protein are what is important.
Get the timing right.
Instead of loading each meal with more protein-rich food, try spreading your protein intake out among your meals and snacks. Add an egg or grilled fish to salads, stir roasted tofu and beans into rice, add nut butters to fresh fruit, and top oatmeal or yogurt with seeds. If your goal is to lose weight and maintain muscle, spreading protein out in this way is a good strategy. It will keep you feeling full throughout the day. If your goal is to build muscle mass, the timing of your food intake becomes more important. Replenish depleted muscles with a meal or snack balanced in both protein and carbohydrate within 30 minutes of your workouts.