Category Archives for "Nutrition"

What is Bone Broth? Does It Actually Do Anything?

Whether you’re worried about finding yourself ill in the middle of cold and flu season or you have achy joints, chances are, you’ve heard someone mention bone broth as a solution.

It sounds easy enough: just add a little bone broth to your diet–generally without packing on a huge number of calories–and you can enjoy any number of great health benefits!

In fact, there’s now even bone broth protein powder available on the market to get some of the benefits while increasing protein intake for muscle growth!

The question, of course, is, does bone broth actually do anything?

What Is Bone Broth?

Bone broth is broth made by cooking the bones of your meat – typically chicken, turkey, cow, or pig, but you can use whatever bones you happen to have on hand – for several hours in order to break down the bones and bring out all of the health benefits.

The biggest difference between bone broth and traditional stock comes from the length of time that the bone broth is cooked: substantially longer than most people cook their cooking stock.

Bone broth is touted as having several health benefits that make it worth your while including increased gut health and an improved immune system.

The question is, does it really have all of those benefits?

How It’s Made

The easiest way to make bone broth is to start by having a meal that includes the bones of the animal.

Cook a whole chicken or turkey, grab a ham that’s still on the bone, or choose a bone-in steak or roast.

Cook the meat as usual.

When you’re done, clean most of the meat off of the bone.

Don’t worry if there’s still a little meat left, it will just add flavor to your bone broth.

If you’re using beef bones, toss them back in the oven and roast at 350 degrees for about an hour–it will make the flavor of your dish much better!

Otherwise, just toss the bones straight in a crockpot.

Add salt, pepper, celery, peppers, onion, carrots, or any other vegetable you’d like.

Cook on low for 8-24 hours.

Bone broth can be stored in the fridge for short-term use or frozen if you’ve made a big batch and want it to last longer.

The Health Benefits of Bone Broth

Advocates of bone broth ascribe a wide range of health benefits to this simple concoction. Dr. Axe claims that it will help treat leaky gut syndrome, improve joint health, boost your immune system, and even reduce cellulite. Seems like a perfect combination, doesn’t it?

In order to fully understand the benefits of bone broth, however, it’s important to study what’s really in it and how it actually affects the body.

What’s in bone broth?

The long cooking process that creates bone broth helps to make use of every part of the animal.

It breaks down the marrow in the bones and helps extract nutrients that were stored by the animal.

Bone broth is an excellent source of a number of amino acids that can be beneficial to your body in many ways, including boosting joint and bone heath – but it’s also not the only source of those vital amino acids. They can also be found in chicken, eggs, and other meats.

What about that vital collagen addition?

One of the much-touted benefits of bone broth is its high collagen content.

According to bone broth’s backers, ingesting collagen in its natural form will decrease cellulite, increase joint health, and offer a number of other benefits.

Skeptics, on the other hand, argue that simply ingesting collagen may not be enough to take it where the body needs it most.

One study, however, suggests that some people may be able to benefit substantially from adding collagen to their diet when it comes to cellulite: compared to those who took a placebo, daily collagen supplements did significantly reduce cellulite in study participants.

Drinking collagen through bone broth therefore has the potential to offer the same benefits – and potentially to provide some of the joint-cushioning impact that many athletes are hoping for when they add bone broth to their diets.

Note, however, that the body doesn’t absorb collagen whole; instead, it’s broken down into those critical amino acids that the body uses for overall health. The amino acids are then directed where the body needs them most–potentially including moving them toward joint health.

Can bone broth really provide an immune system boost?

Chances are your grandmother recommended chicken soup every time you had so much as a cold or the sniffles. Maybe you’re even lucky enough to have had the kind of grandmother who would cheerfully bring you a fresh pot any time you were sick.

As it turns out, science does back the old family assertion that chicken soup can help your immune system and allow you to recover from cold or flu symptoms faster–and those benefits extend to bone broth, too. There are several reasons for this:

  • Hot liquids help thin mucus and decrease its buildup in the chest.
  • Chicken soup limits the movement of the white blood cells that fight infection, reducing the body’s response and therefore decreasing cold symptoms.
  • Chicken soup helps cilia work more effectively, decreasing the instance of illness.
  • Chicken soup naturally increases hydration, which is critical during any illness.

While it’s unclear whether or not other types of bones offer the same benefits, bone broth made with chicken bones will certainly offer the same benefits as traditional chicken noodle soup. It’s also a rich source of nutrients that the body needs in order to stay healthy, which makes it well worth the investment.

Will bone broth help you sleep?

One of the odder claims about bone broth is that if you consume it on a regular basis, it can lead to a deeper night’s sleep. Here’s the surprising fact: it can!

Glycine, which is one of the common amino acids found in bone broth, can have a calming effect on the body, which can lead to a deeper night’s sleep.

Does bone broth fight inflammation?

If you’re recovering from injury or illness, one of your priorities may be fighting inflammation–especially inflammation in your gut.

The amino acids in bone broth that provide so many other benefits can offer some inflammation-fighting properties, which will make you more likely to recover faster.

This property can also help decrease joint pain, especially in athletes who are struggling with the recovery process.

If you are adding bone broth to your diet, can it lead to weight loss?

Bone broth for weight loss: it’s yet another “miracle cure” for this popular substance.

You likely already know that there’s no magic pill that will make weight loss a snap.

Consuming a broth-based soup before your meal, however, can offer the benefit of decreased calorie intake over the course of the meal.

Consuming bone broth can also help you feel full longer, which may lead to reduced snacking between meals. As a result, weight loss may follow.

So what’s the verdict on bone broth?

While bone broth has the potential to offer several health-related advantages, it’s not the cure-all that proponents would have you believe.

If you’re sick or having trouble recovering from a hard workout, bone broth certainly won’t hurt you – and it does have several dietary benefits, especially if you’re not in the habit of eating healthily on a regular basis.

By adding bone broth to a diet that is already health-conscious, you’ll experience some benefits – but you shouldn’t expect a magic fix, either.

Bone Broth: Your New Recovery Drink

One place where bone broth does show significant promise: as an athletic recovery drink. If you’ve been using additive-filled sports drinks to fuel your post-workout recovery, bone broth can offer a number of substantial benefits that may lead you to replace your typical post-workout drink with bone broth–or at least a soup made from it.

Consider these benefits:

  • Bone broth is often high in sodium, which can replace the electrolytes lost during an intense workout.
  • Bone broth will replenish water lost through sweat.
  • Amino acid building blocks can help rebuild muscle after an intense workout.

Even if you aren’t able to enjoy the other health benefits of bone broth, it certainly makes a nice workout recovery drink–and that may make it well worth adding to your diet.

The important thing with bone broth, as with any addition to your diet, is to note that it’s not a cure-all. Consuming bone broth offers several health benefits–but so does eating eggs or meat and drinking milk. Rather than focusing on one individual aspect of your diet, savvy athletes take a well-rounded approach, consuming a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and proteins.

The jury may still be out on the full benefits of bone broth, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a healthy addition to your diet! Try it for yourself and see whether or not you appreciate the benefits, whether as a sports drink or as an immune system boost in the middle of cold and flu season.


What Is Protein and How Does It Build Muscle?

Some men exercise to stay fit, while others are in it to build their muscles and achieve a certain look. There’s a lot of different advice on how to create muscle, and along with that there are all kinds of misconceptions regarding the subject. As a result, men have turned to protein diets as well as protein shakes, probably the hottest thing in the fitness market right now. So what’s the real story behind protein?

Explain Me A Thing About Proteins!

It’s true that proteins help the body build muscle, but they also play other vital functions in a person’s body.

A protein can be described as a large and complex molecule that is required by the body for regulation, function, and structure of organs and tissues.

Proteins are comprised of very many small units known as amino acids. These are attached in the form of a long chain. A single protein chain can be made of approximately 20 kinds of amino acids.

Some of the functions of protein include:

  • Storage/transport – Protein binds and carries small molecules and atoms throughout the body and within cells.
  • Messenger – Protein facilitates transmission of signals that synchronize biological processes between various organs, cells, and tissues.
  • Tissue maintenance and repair – Protein plays a crucial role in the development and repair of various tissues in the body such as muscles, hair, eyes, organs, and the skin.
  • Source of energy – Protein is the main source of energy for the body. Once a person has consumed more protein than is required for bodily functions and tissue maintenance, the extra is converted into energy.
  • Formation of antibodies – Proteins form antibodies which, together with immune system cells, assist in preventing infection, disease, and illness.

How Proteins Are Translated Into Muscles

Step 1: Protein breakdown/digestion

Digestion enzymes in the small intestines and the stomach break down proteins to make peptides. The body then uses the amino acid chains as a kind of mortar and brick for muscle fiber rebuilding.

Step 2: Transport

The amino acids are transported to the liver and from there, propelled to the hungry muscles.

Step 3: Muscle repair

Micro tears, caused by workouts, send signals to the immune system to repair the muscle using amino acids.

Step 4: Body remodeling

Imagine a construction site with a foreman; a person’s DNA plays the role of a site foreman. It directs and deploys particular amino acids to the muscles. These are then used to weave bundles of protein filaments, called myofibrils, that play a vital role in the construction of muscles.

Step 5: Construction

Continuing with the construction site analogy, imagine a damaged wall that has additional mortar and bricks added to shore it up. This wall is then stronger, in spite of the initial damage. The body works similarly. Myofibrils merge with the damaged parts of the muscles, and in the process of being repaired, the muscle is made stronger than before, facilitating eventual muscle growth.

How Much Protein Is Required To Build Muscle?

There is a misconception that eating or taking excessive amounts of protein will stimulate even more muscle growth. The truth is that excess protein is converted to fat, promoting weight gain rather than muscle growth. Taking in too much protein will translate into weight gain while taking in too little can result in an essential amino-acids deficiency in the body, thus impairing repair and growth.

We have already established that the body requires proteins to build muscle, but how much protein is required to do so?

Mark Tarnopolsky, a nutrition and exercise scholar at McMaster University, points outs that a highly trained athlete thrives on around 0.7g of protein per day per pound of weight. That is to say, an athlete who weighs 150 pounds, should consume approximately 115.5g of protein per day.

A man who works out regularly for at least an hour most days of the week requires about 0.55 grams of protein per pound while one who only exercises for less than an hour, 3 to 5 days of the week, will need about 0.45g/pound.

Protein Intake To Lose Fat And Build Muscle

Regardless of whether you are looking to lose weight and gain muscle or just drop some pounds, it is essential that you maintain a healthy protein intake. The level of protein that a man should take is dependent on their weight and the specific goal they are trying to achieve, e.g. fat loss.

A person looking to look weight should consume more protein than carbs. Increased protein intake increases satiety hormones and reduces levels of the hunger hormone. This reduction in hunger is what ultimately promotes weight loss and fat loss. An increased protein intake has also been proved to boost metabolism levels, thereby increasing the number of calories burned in a day.

While weight loss is perceived to translate to fat loss, one tends to lose a bit of muscle too. It is therefore important to consume sufficient amounts of protein to prevent muscle loss. Combining a high protein intake with strength and resistance training will ensure that as your body loses fat, it also builds muscle.

It’s critical to time your protein intake, especially if you work out regularly. According to researchers, consumption of about 30 grams of protein triggers a synthesis that lasts about three hours. Studies show that while the body digests all the protein taken in, it does not necessarily need all of it, so some of it is broken down and stored as fat, therefore taking in 60g of proteins may have the same effect as consuming 30-40g.

Nutrition and fitness experts recommend splitting protein intake between before and after a workout. For instance, eating a sandwich with protein 30 minutes before workout is ideal since carbs increase insulin, slowing down the breakdown of protein, hence boosting the growth of muscles after exercise. Furthermore, the body breaks down the carbs rather than expending stored proteins.

Best Sources Of Protein

Some men rely on meat for their protein, but there are other foods that are high in proteins and also suitable for vegans.

Vegan sources of proteins

Let’s get these out of the way first, as they apply to fewer people…but are still great to know.

There are various myths regarding plant-sourced proteins. A lot of claims have been made about the need to consume a variety of foods for the formation of complete proteins. Inasmuch as the claim may have some truth to it, there are several sources of plant-based proteins that are complete. Some of these plants rich in proteins include:

  • Pumpkin seeds – 10 grams of protein per quarter cup
  • Sunflower seeds – 10 grams of protein per quarter cup
  • Soybeans – 16 grams of protein per cup
  • Almond butter – 7 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons
  • Chia seeds – 10 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons
  • Buckwheat – 23 grams of protein per cup
  • Lentils – 18 grams of protein per cup
  • Tempeh – 10 grams of protein per 2 ounces
  • Quinoa – 7 grams of protein per every cooked half-cup
  • Chickpeas – 13 grams of protein per cup
  • Kale – 5 grams of protein per cup
  • Tofu – 10 grams of protein per 3 ounces
  • Rolled oats – 7 grams of protein per cooked half-cup
  • Spinach – 5 grams of protein per cup
  • Millet – 5 grams of protein per cooked half-cup
  • Rye grains – 5 grams of protein per cooked half-cup
  • Plant-based protein powders also exist and are good sources

Animal-Based Proteins

Much more popular, and packed much more full of protein, are the animal-based options you’re probably used to hearing about. These include:

  • Meat
  • Pork
  • Beef
  • Turkey
  • Chicken
  • Jerky
  • Dairy (i.e. milk, cheese, yogurt…even whey and casein protein powders)
  • Seafood such as whitefish, shrimp. tuna, and salmon
  • Eggs

5 Common Myths About Protein Intake And Muscle Building

Here a few common protein myths:

1. Diets high in protein can leach bone calcium.

False. Dietary protein is essential for bone health. Clinical studies show that higher protein consumption leads to an increase in bone density and fewer occurrences of fractures.

2. High protein diets can damage your kidneys.

High protein diets are risky to people with a history of kidney issues. Kidneys helps the body to remove urea, which is a protein by-product. If a person’s kidneys are not healthy, less urea is removed, leading to greater stress on the kidneys. If you have no pre-existing kidney problems, it’s likely that a high protein diet won’t affect your kidneys, but consult a doctor if you have questions.

3. All proteins are the same.

Not all proteins are the same. During workouts or post workout, proteins such as whey are more convenient since they tend to assimilate faster than other proteins. These types of proteins that are assimilated faster in the body are known as quick release, while the rest are known as sustained release proteins. Sustained release proteins such as casein are slowly assimilated into the body and hence are more appropriate for downtimes.

4. Cooking protein changes it quality

Eating foods such as raw beef does not add any value to your body and increases your chances of developing E. coli. Properly cooked protein retains the same nutritional qualities as raw protein.

5. Proteins such as casein and whey make females become jacked

Getting ripped involves a lot more than just consuming protein shakes. While soy has some connection to estrogen levels, it is not enough to lead to broadening of shoulders in women.

What Does It All Mean, Basil?

While there are many myths around protein intake, not everything works for everyone. The important thing is to first distinguish between truths and myths, then establish a diet and workout routine that is most efficient for you as an individual. The needs of a man who just wants to tone may be quite different from one who needs to lose fat, for instance.

Consulting a nutrition and fitness specialist can help you avoid fad diets and non-effective workout routines. Remember that proteins play an essential role not just in the building of muscles but in boosting other functions of the body. Strength workouts and other exercises, combined with a great, balanced, protein-high diet, will go a long way to ensuring that you get the desired results.


Men: Should You Drink Your Protein Shake Before or After Your Workout?

You’re sold on the many benefits of drinking a protein shake as part of your regular diet and exercise plan. Not only that, you’re committed to doing the best you can to improve your overall health and fitness. Unfortunately, there’s one key question that keeps popping up: when is the best time to drink your protein shake? Should you consume it before your workout, or after? Is there an ideal window that will allow you to get the best results out of your protein shake? Below, we explore both sides of the protein-shake- timing debate.

The Benefits of Protein Shakes

Whether you’re a weekend warrior who gets in most of your exercise a couple of days a week or a dedicated athlete trying to build a substantial amount of strength or endurance, protein shakes offer a number of key advantages. Protein is the vital building block that helps you build muscle.

Consuming enough protein–made easy with convenient protein shakes–offers several benefits.

  • You’ll recover faster after an intense workout, since the protein you’ve consumed will help rebuild your muscles.
  • As a result of that faster recovery time, you’ll be less susceptible to injury.
  • Protein in shake form breaks down fast, which means that it will be delivered directly to your muscles in the aftermath of your workout, when you need it most.

Does Timing Matter?

There’s been a lot of chatter about that post-workout window when it’s best to take in certain nutrients in order to reap the highest number of benefits. You’re already drinking the protein shake for all the benefits it can offer, so you want to make sure that you’re getting the maximum benefits from it. In order to fully appreciate those gains, however, make sure you’re asking the right questions.

What’s the post-workout window?

For many years, bodybuilders and weekend warriors alike have held onto the fairy tale of the post-workout window.

This Cinderella-esque countdown is the 30 to 45-minute period following a workout when your body is able to use the right proteins and nutrients most efficiently.

There’s just one problem with this so-called window: it’s going to take your body longer than 45 minutes to break down any protein shake.

What are you eating before your workout?

This is the argument that leads many people to decide to consume their protein shakes before their workouts, rather than after. The food that you eat an hour or two before your workout is more likely to be metabolized during and after your workout–including that 45-minute window when you’ll make the best possible use of those amino acids and proteins in the shake that will help build your muscles.

It’s also important to remember that pre-workout nutrition can significantly impact how well your workout session goes, transforming your energy levels and increasing your endurance so that you’re able to tackle that heavy-hitting workout session with everything you’ve got.

What are you eating the rest of the day?

Post-workout protein might help give your muscles the amino acids they need to encourage recovery, but you don’t just need protein during your recovery period. Your nutrition is a 24-hour concern. Protein shakes aren’t just a great way to boost your workout recovery. They’re also an excellent option for meal replacements at any time of the day.

Opting for protein powder as a meal replacement option can make it easier to get in a healthy, nutrient-dense meal when you don’t have time to sit down and eat a full meal. Before you decide how much protein you need after a workout, consider what you’re eating the rest of the day. If you’re grabbing a piece of fruit for breakfast and heading straight to the gym, protein is more critical than if you’ve eaten a well-balanced diet throughout the rest of the day.

Why is protein so necessary after your workout?

Following your workout, during that critical recovery window, your muscles are repairing themselves. During an intense workout, your muscles are working hard. They may develop microscopic tears that require amino acids to repair. By giving your body a great source of protein following a workout, you allow your muscle to repair themselves more effectively, which will both decrease your recovery time and help you build strength faster.

Why drink your protein shake after a workout, rather than before?

There are several reasons why you might opt to drink your protein shake after your workout, rather than before. These reasons include:

  • Drinking your shake before your workout can make your stomach testy, especially since many protein shakes are dairy-based. This is particularly true if you prefer to blend your protein powder with milk.
  • Following a workout, you’re often ravenous. A protein shake will help fill you up and prevent you from either binge eating at your next meal or eating far too many calories munching due to hunger.
  • Protein shakes are often designed to digest more efficiently than many traditional meals. Often, shakes can deliver the protein punch you need within thirty minutes, rather than taking several hours.
  • Protein shakes can help with weight loss since they make you feel full.

Why opt to drink your protein shake before, rather than after, your workout?

Whether you do it as a meal replacement or a supplement just before your exercise routine, drinking your protein shake before your workout, offers several advantages to your exercise routine:

  • Boosts your energy throughout your workout
  • “Pre-loaded” with protein and amino acids, your body starts repairing muscle sooner
  • Less need to rush straight from your workout to your shaker cup.

So…when should you drink your protein shake?

Ultimately, the question of when you should drink your protein shake is up to you. Carefully consider things like your nutrition throughout the rest of the day, how much protein you’ve eaten before your workout, and what your plans are for after your workout.

Test-drink your protein shake a little while before your workout: does it upset your stomach, or give you an energy boost?

Over time, you’ll find the protein shake routine that works best for your active lifestyle.

Protein Shakes: What to Watch Out For

If you’re using protein shakes as a regular part of your recovery plan, make sure you take a few potential downsides into account.

Check the calorie count on your protein shake.

Most protein shakes are designed to be relatively low-calorie. Some shakes, however–especially those marketed for body builders or as muscle-increasing supplements–may have higher calorie counts than others.

Make sure you know how many calories are in your protein shake, especially if you’re using them as a meal replacement or your athletic goals include weight loss.

Make sure that you’re eating plenty of real foods along with your protein shakes.

While it’s fine to start your morning with a protein shake as a meal replacement–or as an addition to your meal–you need to make sure that you’re getting real nutrition. Real food is always going to contain more of the vital nutrients your body needs than a protein shake.

Protein shakes are less effective for people who engage in endurance exercises, rather than muscle-building.

While they still offer plenty of health benefits, protein shakes don’t help as much with muscle recovery after an endurance workout.

If you’re going to use protein shakes, it’s important that you find the protein shake that’s right for you. Check its nutrient content, read through the calorie content and other key nutritional information, and balance your workout needs in order to determine whether it’s more effective to consume your protein shake before or after your workout.

There’s plenty of controversy out there about the right time to drink your protein shake, but ultimately what it comes down to is this: you need to select the method that will best help you meet your goals.

If you’re choking down a protein shake before your workout, then feeling it slosh through your entire routine, it may be negatively impacting your fitness. On the other hand, if you need a solid source of energy throughout your workout, a protein shake is a great way to get that boost.


Top Health Benefits Of Coffee – Is It A Performance Booster Or An Unhealthy Drug?

As the world’s most widely used drug, coffee’s history is an integral part of human history. Kings have banned it, a Pope made it holy, and people claim that wars were both fought over and fueled by coffee.

Every culture enjoys a cup, and cities like New York seem to run on coffee. The most popular beverage in the world is a powerful antioxidant, stimulant, performance enhancer, pain reliever, and mood enhancer. But it can also cause insomnia, anxiety, headaches, and stomach upsets.

Did You Know...?

  • Coffee is toxic for many animals and insect species
  • The coffee bean was discovered almost 1200 years ago
  • Most coffee comes from Brazil
  • It is one of the most traded commodities on earth
  • If you want to reduce the effects of caffeine in coffee, add milk
  • But if you’re worried about how coffee affects your teeth drink it without milk

Coffee is both loved and hated, but is it good or bad for us? From a holistic point of view, should we drink coffee for its physical and mental benefits, despite the downsides? Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages?

But first, a quick story to illustrate coffee’s profound effects. Not too long ago after a restless night’s sleep, I started my day with a 1/2 cup of Joe as I do most days. I then headed out for my morning exercise, slightly weary from lack of sleep. When I reached the gym I grabbed an espresso from the cafe. What happened next was something I’d never experienced before.

After working out with my training buddies for an hour (cleans, deadlifts, and rope climbs), I spent another hour pulling and pushing a heavy sled. One hour later, not feeling like I was ready to quit, I joined a tough CrossFit workout. Think 99 squats, followed by 88 deadlifts, 77 push-presses, and you get the idea. I felt like I had a never-ending supply of energy.

After three solid hours of intense exercise, I returned to my apartment and stared into the fridge. I’d also lost my appetite. Later that day I left the house to run an errand and felt my heart skipping beats as I walked. A scary moment, to say the least. The entire day’s events illustrate the powerful effect of caffeine.

Not everyone will experience the same effects as I did. Coffee’s potency depends on the individual. I have friends that can knock back an espresso before falling into a deep slumber. In my case, the caffeine in my tired body produced an overabundance of energy.
If only I knew the secret of how to control it.

Let’s take a look at how coffee can benefit athletes, sports enthusiasts and active people in general. We’ll also examine the negative effects on performance and health for people serious about their wellbeing.

Coffee As A Fitness Booster

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Coffee Sharpens the Mind

Mental clarity helps with training of any type. Having a clear and focused mind is doubly important for high-performance athletes. If you’re hitting the gym just a few days a week or even training for a marathon, the right mindset is important for achieving your goals. And this mindset is often influenced by your mood. This is where coffee can help.

Coffee is a mood improver and has been known to lift the spirits of depressed people. A study published by the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry found that coffee consumption significantly decreased the risk of depression in individuals.

Skipping your workout because you “just don’t feel like it” can sometimes be a symptom of a temporary depressed state of mind. Have you ever noticed that some people are constantly upbeat and full of energy? People like that rarely have problems achieving their fitness goals.

I’m not saying that drinking coffee will turn you into Mr or Mrs Positive, but it can alter the way you perceive challenges. It can also help you deal with uncomfortable situations (like that heavy squat day).

Coffee Improves Performance in Anaerobic Sports

Many studies have tried to determine if coffee helps with strength training. Conflicting advice is everywhere but a few studies give compelling reasons to use coffee as a training aid.

The Effect of Coffee and Caffeine Ingestion on Resistance Exercise Performance was reported in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning research. The results show that coffee, caffeine, and even decaffeinated coffee can help with strength training gains.

On the other hand, a study by the Brazilian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences found that caffeine has no positive effects on sports or events that rely on what’s called the glycolytic system. The glycolytic energy system supplies most of the ATP (Adenosine triphosphate – transporter of chemical energy) to the body during short intense exercise. Think 100m sprint, rugby, wrestling, and gymnastics.

The study also found that responses to caffeine are highly individualistic. You’ve no doubt noticed that some people can drink several cups of coffee and experience no (visible) effects. Others can literally smell coffee and get jittery.

Another study from 2010 found strong evidence to suggest that ingesting caffeine can have a positive effect on maximum strength. However, the positive findings were limited to leg strength. Improvements in upper body strength or strength in other parts of the body were not detected.

The effects of caffeine on performance in young female athletes with training experience in this study from 2017 showed that caffeine improved both strength and endurance in these athletes.

Studies on highly-trained elite athletes performing leg strength tests showed that caffeine can positively affect certain strength aspects. The report highlights that the effects are limited to elite athletes.

So to summarize, caffeine is most effective for sports that use the knee extensors as prime movers. An example is cycling, where the increased power from higher muscle contractions in the quadriceps improves cycling performance. All thanks to that extra cup of coffee.

Squat training and any gym workout based around the legs as prime movers can also benefit. The effects of caffeine on the central nervous system seem to be a perk of training at a high level or a consistent level. The sedentary worker who hits the gym for a bit of cardio and light weights a few times a week will not enjoy the same boost.

Coffee’s Helps Athletes Deal With Pain Better

A study (previously mentioned) by the Brazilian Journal of Pharmaceutical Science also found that caffeine in moderate amounts reduced pain perception in teenage, female, karate athletes. Performance was unaffected, however.

Coffee reduces the perception of effort during intense exercise and blocks pathways in the central nervous system (CNS) which tell the brain when you should be feeling pain. As a result, the body’s natural pain fighting mechanisms take over and you can train harder and longer.

Another study which looked at pain perception in non-elite athletes during an intense grip-based strength test found that coffee has a positive effect. The coffeed up athletes felt a reduction in pain despite the time-to-exhaustion remaining the same between control groups in the tests.

Coffee is a Fat Burner

A little know fact about coffee is that it can help boost your metabolic rate. A study published in the Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition journal found that fat oxidation increased with coffee consumption.

It’s important to know that this increase was only observed in non-obese individuals. Coffee increases metabolic rate in all humans, but increases fat oxidation in normal-weight individuals only.

The findings in this study show that using coffee to lose weight won’t work if you’re already overweight. Athletes and healthy-weight people can use it to boost their fat burning levels.

Coffee’s fat mobilisation properties are important for athletes training for endurance events. Fat mobilisation refers to the body’s ability to turn fat stores into energy. This is the holy grail of endurance sports. The liver can only hold so much glycogen.

Competitors in long distance events often talk about hitting the wall when these stores run out. Changing from ‘carbohydrate’ stores to fat stores as the primary fuel is the ideal scenario. This also prevents muscle loss from muscle cannibalization.

Coffee’s ability to make the body use fat instead of carbohydrate as fuel has also caught the attention of the ketogenic-type diet communities.

But don’t go drinking liters of coffee in the hope of burning more calories. The effect is mild. Caffeine could potentially burn up to 4% more fat but the effects of multiple cups of coffee could wreak havoc with your energy, sleep, and training patterns.

Coffee Myths

Myth #1 – Coffee dehydrates you

Coffee is almost entirely composed of water. The idea that drinking a cup of coffee will remove more water than you’re putting in is not valid. Coffee is a diuretic but the amount of fluid flushed by drinking the beverage is minimal.

Then again, coffee’s mild diuretic effect can actually be a good thing. Swelling caused by fluid retention (edema) can be reduced by taking caffeine in any form.

Health agencies warn people suffering from swollen legs and feet against drinking beverages containing coffee. But the sodium contained in these fizzy, sweet drinks contributes to the fluid retention, not the caffeine content. The advice is misleading because it misplaces the blame.

Myth #2 – Coffee will make you short in stature and give you weak bones

This is a worrying nugget of misinformation that gets circulated every now and again. Coffee does in fact, inhibit calcium absorption but the effect is very mild. The fact is that most people drink their coffee with milk. This added milk more than compensates for the effects of the coffee on your bone health.

Don’t worry too much about coffee’s effects on your bones. It’s better to concentrate more on putting quality foods you put in your body.

Myth #3 – Coffee is addictive

This came as a surprise to us. But the research hints that coffee is not, in fact, considered an addictive substance.

If you’ve ever stopped drinking your regular cup of Joe for a day or two you’ll know what the ‘withdrawal’ symptoms feel like. People refer to it as cold turkey but the effects are nothing like those experienced when withdrawing from hard drugs.

The Downsides of Drinking Coffee

Despite its favorable qualities caffeine gets quite a bit of negative press. Our favorite brew’s effects on the human body are still being discovered. But there are a few things to keep in mind for people using coffee as an athletic performance enhancer.

Coffee can raise blood pressure. It’s still not clear what exactly causes a surge in pressure but scientists know that it happens with some people after drinking a cup of Joe. If you suffer from high blood pressure, it’s recommended to avoid coffee, especially before exercise. A study from 2017 found that a caffeine dose of 3.3 mg/kg before intense exercise significantly increases the amount of time it takes for blood pressure to recover to normal levels

Caffeine can affect sleep patterns. Every year the evidence mounts to prove that proper sleep is one of the most important (if not The most important) factors for optimum health. Not only are we less motivated to exercise and perform work when we’re sleep deprived, the long-term negative health effects are staggering. High blood pressure, stress, diabetes, stroke. The list goes on

Coffee can stimulate the mind and body to such an extent that it hampers sleep. If you consume enough coffee to cause sleep deprivation you’re setting yourself up for health-related issues. Both in the short-term and long-term

Although coffee can promote improved mood in people that consume 1-2 cups per day, it can also cause anxiety in others. Excessive coffee drinking, outside of your normal daily consumption, can cause anxiety and even panic attacks.

Caffeine, Caffeine Everywhere

A cup of coffee contains anywhere between 40 and 130mg (and for speciality blends, even significantly more mg) of caffeine. The brewing methods, roast, types of coffee beans, and brand of coffee all affect the level of caffeine.

If you’re trying to measure your caffeine intake it’s easier done when consuming only pills or formulas. But where’s the enjoyment in that? Drinking coffee is one of the great pleasures of life but make sure you monitor your own response to caffeine.

Regardless of what you read, only you will know best how much coffee is enough.

If you’re trying to limit your caffeine intake, then be careful with the following products that you might not immediately associate with caffeine:

  • Energy drinks – Most contain caffeine in some form of another. Sugar too. Use in moderation if you’re concerned about your waistline
  • Pre Workout Supplements – Some contain huge amounts of caffeine. Enough to keep an elephant awake for a week. Check the label and adjust accordingly
  • Chocolate bars – 100mg of cocoa solids contains 230mg of caffeine. That’s the equivalent of 3 cups of coffee. Cocoa isn’t the only ingredient in chocolate but the 70% dark chocolate bars, so popular today, can contain caffeine levels similar to two cups of coffee in every 100g of bar
  • Ice Cream – Yep, Ice cream can contain caffeine if it contains chocolate or coffee based ingredients
  • Weight loss pills – Caffeine’s reputation as a fat burner has made an entire industry built on weight-loss pills. The problem is that these pulls contain frighteningly large amounts of caffeine. You’ll lose weight for sure if you never sleep and never sit still
  • Tea – Black Tea and Green tea, contrary to what many people believe, contain caffeine. A cup of black tea can contain half of the caffeine of a cup of coffee
  • Headache and pain relief medication – As we’ve seen earlier, caffeine has a positive effect on perceived pain. This has made it a popular ingredient in pain relief pills. If you feel the need to pop a migraine pill, remember that you might be taking the equivalent of an espresso for every pill
  • Breakfast cereals – Some cereals pack in a lot of caffeine. Watch out for products with chocolate or cocoa, such as Quaker Cocoa Blasts which contain 11mg of caffeine per 200 calorie serving.

Finally, decaffeinated coffee can often contain significant amounts of caffeine. So if you’re measuring right down to the last milligram, it might be a good idea to skip the decaf.

The US food and drug administration agency FDA does not require food producers to list the caffeine content of their products. Essentially the FDA requires that companies list only ‘nutrient’ values on food labels. As Caffeine is not a nutrient, but rather a naturally occurring substance in many foods, there is no legal requirement to evaluate and inform the public. Thankfully, if caffeine is added to a food or food product then it must be declared on the label.

When To Use Coffee For A Boost

The research suggests 3-4 hours before training, especially if you want to encourage fat mobilisation.

One caveat: The research on this topic is not recent and as we know, opinions and facts change. What’s accepted as scientific fact one day might change the next. But for now, we can assume that coffee does, in fact, improve fat mobilization in the body.


The response to coffee in the body depends on the individual. Coffees effects on neurotransmitters are handled differently from person to person. If you’re serious about using caffeine and coffee to boost performance and improve health, you should use a systematic approach to testing. Try different quantities of coffee and measure the results.

If you’re thinking of quitting then take the same approach. After quitting, do you notice any positive or negative effects? Can you measure the difference? Coffee is a complex substance and we don’t know the true extent of its potential. Test and test again before deciding how to drink this powerful, delicious beverage.

If you want to use coffee as an energy and antioxidant boost then stick with one cup per day. Some people can tolerate more so experiment to find your tolerance level. The effectiveness of coffee’s benefits decreases the more you consume.

Consistency is the key with coffee. Try to maintain the level of coffee you drink per day – drinking 3 or 4 on certain days a week, followed by abstinence, for example, will have negative effects.

Not only can coffee make you feel more awake in your daily life, but it can give you a boost in your fitness goals, too. Enjoy your brew, but remember, don’t overdo it!

The No-Nonsense List of High-Protein Foods To Build Muscle (And Why You Should Eat Them)

Here’s a question for you…

Diet or exercise, which is more important?

It’s a debate that has raged for a long time. Recent research points towards diet as the main influencer of physical conditioning. In fact, as strange as it sounds, diet is more influential than exercise in achieving fitness goals.

The reality is that exercise is a smaller part of the equation. You can exercise all you like but without the right fuel on the fire, the flame does not burn brightly.

Much of the anecdotal ‘evidence’ for exercise as more important than diet comes from adolescent and young men. Bodies rich in testosterone that can eat anything and still stay lean and ripped. But this only works for so long. The more nutrients we consume the more our bodies can use them to good effect. But when our systems slow down in our thirties, all that calorie-heavy and low-value protein shows up as fat, not muscle.

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Quality Protein Sources

High-quality protein is the most important building block of muscle. No matter how much carbs or fat we ingest, without protein, our bodies are incapable of building new muscle fibers. Protein helps build and repair muscle. This advice is even more important for older athletes who should eat more protein to combat age related muscle loss.

Muscle protein balance improves with resistance training but only if muscle protein synthesis exceeds muscle protein breakdown.

The question also arises whether strength-athletes and bodybuilders require more protein than the rest of the population. According to Journal of Sports Science Medicine, athletic populations require more protein than sedentary populations.

In this article we’ll discuss the types of protein that are most effective for building muscle and how much protein your body actually needs.

How Muscle Growth Works

After working out, your muscles go into a state of repair. The damaged and torn muscles fibers fuse to form new bonds. The new bonds are thicker and more numerous than the old ones. This creates larger and stronger muscles.

The most important thing to remember is that muscle growth does not happen in the gym. Workouts are a stimulus to muscles, which grow when you’re resting. But this growth can only happen with the help of proper nutrition.

Protein synthesis is a sequence of chemical reactions in which chemical bonds form between amino acids in protein molecules. Protein synthesis occurs continually in the body to repair and rebuild muscle. The result is new muscle tissue. The size and strength of this new tissue are determined by the intensity of training.

How to Get Enough Protein

Protein requirements vary depending on age, sex, and activity levels, and other factors. Example: A 250 lbs male powerlifter will need a lot more protein than a 150 lbs sedentary female.

Many nutrition authorities and health websites recommend multiplying your weight in pounds by 0.36 to find your protein requirements. This protein calculator lets you find out your protein requirements based on sex, age, height, weight, and activity level. Our 150 lb sedentary female would need 54 grams of protein. The average adult female in the US already eats within the Estimated Average Requirements.

The powerlifter athlete needs 90.72 (250 x 0.36) grams if we follow the rule exactly. But strength athletes have different protein requirements. We consider these recommendations as a baseline. A study by the Journal of Applied Physiology found that the average protein requirements of a strength-training athlete far exceed those of the US recommended daily protein intake requirements.

This study found that the generally accepted value of 1g per 1 pound of body weight (2.2g per 1 KG) used by the non-scientific strength training community is effective. Using this scale our 250 lb male would need 250g of protein to help build muscle.

A safe zone to work in is somewhere in between the two values. Aim for 0.7 – 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. From there you can adjust by monitoring your gains and consulting with your doctor.

Vegans and vegetarians should note that plants and fruits alone will not give you the protein required to build muscle with strength training. If meat is out of the question you should include grains, seeds, beans, and nuts. Plants and some fruits contain protein but unless you want to stay skinny you should supplement your protein intake.

Signs that you’re not consuming sufficient protein are:

  • Slow recovery times
  • Brittle Nails
  • Fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Poor muscle growth

The ideal scenario is a meat (including fish) and whole foods diet. This will give you the full complement of proteins and amino acids your body needs.

A simple way to hit your protein goals is to add a high protein food source to every meal. Yogurt with cereal, turkey breast with a sandwich, beans with rice. Make a rule to never eat only pasta with sauce. Add beef or another protein. And don’t just eat a green salad if you’re looking for muscle growth. Add some chicken or chick peas.

If you’re getting serious about building muscle, you may need to keep track of your daily food intake to make sure you’re actually getting as much as you think you are. MyFitnessPal is the most popular app to keep track of the food you eat and the nutrients you consume.

Be careful with nuts as the phytic acid can cause the malabsorption of minerals from the proteins you consume at the same time. Either eat nuts on their own or soak them overnight to help reduce the phytic acid.

Best Foods for Building Muscle

A muscle-building diet should take the same approach as any healthy diet, with modifications for your specific goals. Protein, carbohydrates, fats, and micronutrients are all needed to build the body you want. Nobody can live on protein alone so try to think of meal plans holistically. Protein plus other nutrients are what create optimal health and muscle growth.

The range and variety of foods you eat contribute to the overall health of your body. Traditional protein-rich foods such as red meat and chicken are useless without the non-protein nutrients essential for fuel and biochemical processes. The point is that eating 12 chicken breasts a day, and nothing else, might work in the short term but will make you weak and sick in the long-term.

Protein Foods for Body Builders and Strength Athletes

The feeling of sore muscles after a hard training session is something we’ve all experienced. But that’s a good thing. The muscle cell damage that occurs during training kicks off biological processes in your body that makes you stronger.

Our bodies are remarkable machines that react to stimulus. When we train our muscles hard, the body figures out ways to make itself more resilient to training. The response is to create more muscle. More muscle means you can train harder and heavier, and so the cycle continues.

The building blocks for this new muscle growth come from protein.

And not just any protein. Sure, there’s protein in a Big Mac, but this is low quality, nutrient-deficient protein. Higher quality proteins have better amino-acid profiles that help the body create stronger muscles in less time.

We believe in doing things that give us the biggest bang for our buck. We like to put the 80/20 principle to work (20% of your activities will give you 80% of your results).

That means we’ve only included the best of the best when it comes to protein, so that you don’t waste your time looking for the “magic bullet”. Just eat a lot of the foods below, and watch your muscles grow!



Beef (Lean, Ground, Cooked)

When it comes to building lean muscle, beef is a champion among protein sources. Just remember to always choose grass-fed beef. Much of the steak in the US comes from cows raised on feedlots. These poor animals eat corn every day. Our advice to avoid corn-fed beef has nothing to do with the taste, but everything to do with the quality of the protein. Excessive consumption of corn changes the fat profile of the meat. Grass-feed meat is higher in healthy omega-3s and Vitamin E.

Nutrition Info

100g contains around 50% of the recommended daily amount of Vitamin B12, B3 and B6. This amount of beef also contains high levels of selenium, zinc, and phosphorus. With around 26g of protein in 100g, beef is a powerhouse of nutrition and delivers a high-protein, low carb food source that’s also delicious.

Per 100g / 3.53 oz.

  • Protein: 26.1g
  • Carbohydrates: 0g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Fat (total):  11.75g
  • Monounsaturated:  4.94g
  • Polyunsaturated: 0.421g
  • Saturated: 4.63g
  • Calories: 217 calories
  • Muscle Building Potential 9/10

Many Studies have linked excessive consumption of beef to various diseases such as cancer and diabetes. We’d recommend limiting red meat consumption to two or three times a week as over-indulgence will not help your goals but may have negative effects on your overall health.


Chicken (Boneless, Skinless, Cooked)

The protein source that fuels the world, chicken is a popular protein almost everywhere. With moderate levels of fat (remove the skin) and zero carbohydrates, chicken is a high-quality source of protein. If you’re looking for the highest protein-to-fat ratio then choose the breast. It’s not the tastiest part of the chicken but it is the healthiest.

Chicken meat delivers important quantities of niacin, vitamin B6, Selenium, Iron, and the ever-important Zinc. Zinc aids in recovery and plays an important role in maintaining testosterone levels in men.

According to the Journal of Nutrition adding even small amounts of animal protein such as chicken to a plant based meal can significantly increase zinc absorption. Yet another reason to add chicken to your salad or brown rice dish.

Nutrition Info

Per 100g / 3.53 oz.

  • Protein: 31.0g
  • Carbohydrates: 0g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Fat (total):  3.6g
  • Monounsaturated: 1.2g
  • Polyunsaturated: 0.7g
  • Saturated: 1g
  • Calories: 165 calories
  • Muscle building potential: 9/10

Try to get free-range, organic chicken. Pay special attention when travelling as many countries (especially developing countries) grow chickens in intensive farming environments. Apart from the ethical aspect, the quality of the meat from intensive farm lots is far inferior to free range chickens. Stressed, sick, and force-fattened chickens produce meat that causes inflammation and illness in humans. Chicken is the ‘go to’ protein for many athletes looking to put on more muscle. But it’s the quality of the meat that’s important.



Salmon (Atlantic, Wild, Raw)

Many people can’t stand the flavor of fish and that’s unfortunate as one of the world’s best muscle-building foods comes in fish form. For lovers of food that swims, Salmon is the king of foods. Full of juicy, oily flavor, and easy to prepare, Salmon ticks all the boxes for nutrients, taste, and convenience.

The high fat content of salmon is what enhances its flavor. The fat in salmon is good fat, beneficial to the body. It improves testosterone levels and helps the body process nutrients. As we’ve seen in recent years, fat is not the enemy. Don’t shy away from foods with high fat concentrations but make sure that, just like protein, it is of high quality.

Look for wild salmon in the supermarket. In almost all cases, wild caught food (including boar, deer, and seafood) is superior to farmed foods. The diverseness of the diet of wild animals makes exceptional nutrient-rich protein. Farmed animals, which are less active and eat single-food sources, are not recommended. The proteins in the flesh of these animals are less nutrient-dense and have an inferior amino-acid profile than those of wild-caught animals.

Nutrition Info

Per 100g / 3.53 oz. 

  • Protein: 19.8g
  • Carbohydrates: 0g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Fat (total):  13.0g
  • Monounsaturated:  3.8g
  • Polyunsaturated: 3.9g
  • Saturated: 3.1g
  • Calories:  142 calories
  • Muscle Building Potential 10/10

Tuna (Canned in water, white, drained)

And who could forget about tuna? It’s the poor man’s fish choice for bulking up!

You can pick up a tin from just about any grocery store for $2 or less, and it has an insane nutrient profile that is absolutely packed with protein. Obviously if you want to get the best of the best and the most complete micronutrient profile you’ll pay a bit more, but even so, with such a high protein ratio, it can be worth it to eat a couple of these for lunch during the week to get a fairly low-calorie blast of protein.

Perfect for cuts, perfect as part of a bigger meal when you’re bulking, we’re pretty big fans of tuna. 

Nutrition Info

Per 100g / 3.53 oz. 

  • Protein: 23.6g
  • Carbohydrates: 0g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Fat (total):  2.97g
  • Monounsaturated:  0.784g
  • Polyunsaturated: 1.109g
  • Saturated: 0.792g
  • Calories:  128 calories
  • Muscle Building Potential 9/10



Whey (Optimum Nutrition)

According to a study by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, whey is the most effective source of protein for increasing strength.

Whey protein (typically in powder format) is best consumed after heavy training to maximize gains. Bodybuilders and readers of Muscle & Fitness magazine know the value of whey in building muscle. Your body absorbs whey faster than most other protein sources. Whey is also high in Calcium and Sodium.

Whey products often use sucralose, fructose, and other forms of sugar as sweeteners, so keep an eye out to make sure you choose a protein powder with an acceptable ingredients list. 

Artificial sweeteners are used as replacements for sugar in many whey products. It’s important to examine the ingredient data of whey supplements for additional sweetening elements. Sugar and some artificial sweeteners can hamper your training progress and negatively affect your health.

Nutrition Info

100g / 3.53 oz.

  • Protein: 77.4g
  • Carbohydrates: 17.6g
  • Fiber: 0.0g
  • Fat (total):  3.23g
  • Saturated: 1.61g
  • Calories:  387 calories


Most grains do not contain the nine essential amino acids the body uses to build and repair muscle tissue. As a result, grains should be consumed with other foods that complement the amino acid profile of each type of grain. Vegetarians and vegans understand why combining food is important for better nutrition. Ancient cultures that could not count on a plentiful supply of meat learned to combine foods to maximise protein synthesis.

If you’re looking to grains to get your protein, you may want to check out the best grain protein powders for a more efficient way of eating them for maximum protein.


Quinoa (Cooked)

One of the most protein-rich grains is a Peruvian seed grain called Quinoa. Sometimes referred to as a superfood, Quinoa packs not only a large amount of protein but high-quality vitamins and minerals too. It’s a great addition to a salad or as a side to a non-meat meal.

Quinoa contains all nine amino acids considered essential for health. In fact, it’s one of the few perfect protein sources that don’t come from an animal. Just remember that the amount of protein per serving is significantly lower than most non-plant sources, so even though it’s complete, you’ll have to eat a ton of it to hit your protein goals for the day.

Low in simple sugars and high in starch, Quinoa is also a healthy alternative to wheat, rice, and corn. The grain is low in fat and this makes it a good source of carbohydrate if fat intake is a concern.

Nutrition Info

100g / 3.53 oz. (cooked Quinoa)

  • Protein: 4.40g
  • Carbohydrates: 21.30g
  • Fiber: 2.8g
  • Fat (total):  1.92g
  • Monounsaturated:  0.53g
  • Polyunsaturated: 1.0g
  • Saturated: 0.23g
  • Calories: 120 calories
  • Muscle building potential: 6/10


Rice (White, long-grain, enriched, cooked)

Rice is one of the main staple foods for a large proportion of the world’s population. Many cultures wouldn’t dream of eating a meal that did not include rice. But is it nutritious and does it contain protein levels worth caring about?

Rice contains about as much protein per 100g as broccoli or Spinach. But rice is a much higher in calories than the either broccoli or Spinach. 100g grams of rice supplies 130 calories. In contrast, Broccoli has 34 calories in 100g. Rice is not as nutritious as either meat or vegetables but is an effective food for building muscle thanks to its high carbohydrate and moderate levels of protein.

Nutrition Info

100g / 3.53 oz.

  • Protein: 2.7g
  • Carbohydrates: 28.0g
  • Fiber: 0.4g
  • Fat (total):  0.3g
  • Monounsaturated:  0.1g
  • Polyunsaturated: 0.1g
  • Saturated: 0.1g
  • Calories:  130 calories
  • Muscle building potential: 5/10


Like grains, you’ll need to eat a TON of vegetables if you’re using them as your only protein source. We’d suggest a high quality protein powder to supplement your whole foods if getting enough protein is a concern.



On first impressions, Spinach shouldn’t appear on this list. Compared to steak, chicken, or salmon, this leafy green vegetable has a much lower protein content. However, we consider Spinach to be a muscle-building protein source thanks to its combination of moderate protein and superior micronutrient levels.

The high iron, magnesium, and calcium content of Spinach make it an excellent vegetable to include in your diet. Low iron can lead to fatigue and weakened immunity. Low iron levels can result in muscle fatigue in bodybuilders and strength training athletes. Exercise, infections of the blood, and some foods (cow’s milk, coffee, tea) can deplete the levels of iron in the body. Less iron means less energy to train and poorer performance at the gym, resulting in less muscle growth. Bodybuilders, in particular, can suffer from iron deficiency.

Nutrition Info

Eating Spinach, which contains 15% of your RDA of Iron in a 100g portion, boosts levels of this important mineral for muscle growth. 

Spinach is also a potent source of Vitamins A and C, two important vitamins for health.

100g / 3.53 oz.

  • Protein: 2.9g
  • Carbohydrates: 3.6g
  • Starch: 1.0g
  • Sugars: 0.4g
  • Fiber: 2.2g
  • Fat (total):  0.4g
  • Monounsaturated:  0g
  • Polyunsaturated: 0.2g
  • Saturated: 0.1g
  • Calories: 23 calories
  • Muscle building potential: 6/10′



Hated by children the world over, broccoli’s taste and texture may take a bit of getting used to. But it’s worth it. A great source of fiber, vitamin A, B1, B6, C & E, manganese, potassium, calcium, and copper, broccoli is one of the most nutritious vegetables. It’s also effective in preventing cancer, contains powerful antioxidant properties, and helps alkalize the body (reduce the negative health effects of an acidic stomach and blood).

Broccoli’s protein content is low compared to meats and dairy but it compares favorably with rice and corn. As with other non-meat foods, the amino acid profile of broccoli is considered incomplete.

The proportions of amino acids in broccoli are not optimum for building muscle and must be combined with other food sources. Combine broccoli with brown rice and garbanzos (chickpeas) to get the full complement of amino acids. For meat eaters, combining broccoli with steak gives a high fiber, low carb, nutrient-packed, healthy meal.

Nutrition Info

100g / 3.53 oz.

  • Protein: 2.8g
  • Carbohydrates: 7g
  • Fiber: 2.6g
  • Fat (total):  0.4g
  • Monounsaturated: 0g
  • Polyunsaturated: 0g
  • Saturated: 0g
  • Calories: 34 calories
  • Muscle building potential: 5/10



Soybeans (Tofu, fried)

Most vegetarians use soy as a protein source frequently. At almost 40g of protein per 100g, soybeans beat even beef on protein content.

Like many nuts, beans, and seeds, soy contains phytates which interfere with the absorption of minerals from foods. The best way to eat soy is to soak overnight before use. An even better way to consume soy is to ferment it.

Soy also contains high-levels of phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are dietary estrogens, created by plants to alter the fertility of animals that might consume them. What does that mean for humans? There’s a potential for hormone disruption and can affect fertility and testosterone levels. 

If you’re hardcore anti-soy, don’t eat it. If you’re convinced the benefits outweigh the negatives, go for it. Personally I rarely eat it, but I’m not a fan of people getting all uppity about their food choices, so leave it be!

Nutrition Info

100g / 3.53 oz.

  • Protein: 18.8g
  • Carbohydrates: 8.86g
  • Fiber: 3.9g
  • Fat (total):  20.2g
  • Monounsaturated:  4.46g
  • Polyunsaturated: 11.4g
  • Saturated: 2.9g
  • Calories: 270 calories
  • Muscle building potential: 8/10


Garbanzos / Chickpeas (Canned, Drained)

Garbanzos are high in protein and carbohydrates but low in fat. With a decent 7g of protein per 100g, garbanzos should be a staple protein source for any athlete. With 23g of carbs per 100g garbanzos can also fuel your workout without loading your system with sugar.

Eat garbanzos with quinoa or a leafy green salad to complement the amino acid profile of these foods and help the body build protein for growth.

Nutrition Info

Garbanzos contain high levels of folate (a B vitamin important in many enzyme chemical reactions required for protein creation), phosphorous, Iron and manganese.

100g / 3.53 oz.

  • Protein: 7.0g
  • Carbohydrates: 22.9g
  • Fiber: 6.3g
  • Fat (total):  2.47g
  • Monounsaturated: 0.485g
  • Polyunsaturated: 0.962g
  • Saturated: 0.213g
  • Calories:  138 calories
  • Muscle building potential: 8/10


nuts seeds

The nutrient value of seeds surpasses almost every other type of food. They are densely packed powerhouses of macro and micronutrients. That doesn’t mean we should consume them in large quantities. Moderation is the key with seeds. The high fat content and, sometimes high quantities of certain minerals can play havoc with your body.

The key to consuming nuts and seeds is to restrict the quantities to regular small amounts daily. Eating apart from regular meals will prevent the phytates from affecting the nutrient values of your other foods.

Chia Seeds

The popularity of chia seeds has shot up in popularity in the last few years. The nutrient quality varies across producers but even small amounts of chia pack a high-protein punch. Chia seeds are high in magnesium, which is involved in energy production, and manganese, which helps control blood-sugar levels.

Nutrition Info

Chia is a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which can improve blood flow, reduce joint stiffness, and help speed up recovery from training in athletes. With almost 17g of protein per 100g they make excellent snack foods or additions to salads for a quick protein boost.

100g / 3.53 oz.

  • Protein: 16.67g
  • Carbohydrates: 43.30g
  • Fiber: 33.3g
  • Fat (total):  30.0g
  • Monounsaturated: 2.3g
  • Polyunsaturated: 24.0g
  • Saturated: 3.33g
  • Calories:  486 calories
  • Muscle building potential: 6/10

Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds contain around 50% fat so don’t overdo the portions. The ratio of ‘good’ fats to ‘bad’ fats is beneficial, however, so adding sunflower seeds to your diet is recommended regardless of your activity levels.

Nutrition Info

High in potassium, Vitamin B6, and Iron Sunflower seeds contain large amounts of micronutrients that aid muscle building. Together with the high protein content (21g per 100g) eating sunflower seeds as a snack throughout the day is one of the healthiest ways of adding protein and easing hunger pangs.

The magnesium level of these seeds is also high: 81% of the RDA per 100g. Magnesium in the diet has dropped considerably over the last century thanks to farming methods and the average American diet. The body uses the mineral in muscular contraction and relaxation and for both aerobic and anaerobic energy production.

100g / 3.53 oz.

  • Protein: 21g
  • Carbohydrates: 20g
  • Fiber: 9g
  • Fat (total):  51g
  • Monounsaturated:  19g
  • Polyunsaturated: 23g
  • Saturated: 4.5g
  • Calories: 584 calories
  • Muscle building potential: 7/10


My favorite nut, especially when combined with (antioxidant-rich) dark chocolate, is the brain-shaped walnut. Walnuts are high in fat and protein and contain high levels of important minerals. With one of the highest levels of protein (per 100g) among nuts, walnuts make an excellent addition to salads, or as snacks to help boost your protein and healthy fat intake.

Nutrition Info

100g / 3.53 oz.

  • Protein: 15.0g
  • Carbohydrates: 14.0g
  • Fiber: 7.0g
  • Fat (total):  65.0g
  • Monounsaturated:  9.0g
  • Polyunsaturated: 47.0g
  • Saturated: 6.0g
  • Calories:  654 calories
  • Muscle building potential: 8/10

Foods to Avoid

The worst thing you can do after all your hard work in the gym is to spoil your diet with foods that hinder muscle-building. The best protein in the world won’t help you if your diet is heavy in:

  • Alcohol,
  • Refined carbohydrates,
  • Sugar, and
  • Hydrogenated oils.

Eating these foods is like putting dirt in the gas of a racecar and adding bricks to the chassis. They will prevent gains, make you fat, and kill your performance. Eliminate these foods (mostly) from your diet and supplement with high-quality proteins. Train hard and reap the benefits that muscle-building proteins provide.