Building Muscle 101
You must stretch and contract muscles while lifting weight to build them up. Marathon runners would have huge muscles if strenuous exercise could enlarge them. Stretching and contracting with weight makes small tears, and while your body heals them, they also build muscle. This is when the food you eat becomes important.
The faster your body recovers, the faster and more efficiently you can build muscle. You also should be able to sustain energy long enough for a productive lifting workout. Some research suggests that eating protein before lifting helps your body to recover faster. Eat high quality protein, including lean beef, tuna, turkey, whey protein and chicken.
A Little R and R
If you eat carbohydrates and protein after a hard workout, you heal and recover more quickly. After a lifting session, eat a mixed carb and protein meal. An easy meal would be spaghetti with meatballs. Whole grain pasta would be best and meatballs made of ground turkey or chicken would cut down on the saturated fat.
Timing is Everything
The timing of your pre- and post-workout meals matters. Eat high quality protein at least 2 to 3 hours before lifting. Eat at least the same amount of protein you consumed during your post-workout meal right after lifting. Eating soon after a workout reduces chronic muscle fatigue, and speeds your recovery time.
Eat High Quality All the Time
Your diet should be composed of lean meats, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans and "good" fats, such as olive oil or nut butters. Red meats, like tenderloin or sirloin steak, chicken breast and broiled fish are perfect proteins to add to your muscle-building diet plan. Leafy greens, such as spinach and broccoli, and fruits such as kiwis, honey dew melons and blueberries add antioxidants to your diet. Peanut butter on a whole-wheat cracker or beans and rice offer a perfect mix of protein and carbs.
About this Author
Susan Faulk has taught health, physical education, and fitness for over 13 years in public schools, at the college level and now as an online fitness teacher for over 500 high school students nationwide. Faulk coached women's college basketball where she trained her players with a focus on injury prevention.
Find out more about this topic, and all things health and fitness at Livestrong.com.