For optimal gym performance and muscle repair you need a variety of nutrients. Most people think the only thing you need is enough protein, but that’s incorrect.
Don’t get me wrong, your calorie and protein intake is very important. If you don’t get enough calories and protein in, you won’t be able to train hard and recover properly. But the other macronutrients, fat, carbs and fiber matter too. Fats are needed for optimal hormones and to absorp fat soluble nutrients. In order to train with high intensity, some carbs are needed. Fiber is necessary for optimal digestion and bowel movements. Staying hydrated is key, muscles are mostly water, so water intake really needs to be addressed.
Besides the macronutrients, there are micronutrients that can accelerate your muscle gains. Also daily intake of prebiotic and probiotic foods is way underrated, these type of foods really should be in your diet. As a bodybuilder you want an optimal digestion. If something goes wrong in the digestive tract, your entire body will suffer from the consequences. It will lead to a decline in sports performance and recovery. Your gut and brain are also connected, if your gut is getting healthier your mental health improves too.
There are a few foods that I personally like, that provide some nutrients that can help you in your quest to achieve a Greek god like physique. Maybe you can start adding them to your diet.
1. Whole eggs.
Why? Eggs are among the most nutritious foods on the planet. They contain protein and a lot of vitamins and minerals. They also contain cholesterol. You might think that’s a bad thing, right? Wrong. Cholesterol can help your muscle cells resist damage and actually improve your muscle cells ability to repair themselves after your workouts, which is crucial for muscle growth. It plays a role in the muscle repair process by controlling inflammation. Cholesterol is also essential for lipid raft formation. Lipid rafts enhance the cellular signaling pathways that play an important role in promoting muscle hypertrophy. Eggs are also one of the best dietary sources of choline, a nutrient that is incredibly important, but most people aren’t getting enough of it. Your brain and nervous system need it to regulate memory, mood, muscle control, and many other functions.
Why? It is low in calories but high in fiber, vitamin C and vitamin K1. Blueberries contain anthocyanins. Due to this, blueberries have a really high antioxidant capacity and eating them can directly increase antioxidant levels in your body. Antioxidants protect your body from free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can damage your cells. Exercise can lead to an increase in free radical production. Exercise-induced free radicals can actually enhance your health because it conditions your body to adapt to stressful situations. But like all things, too much free radicals from exercise can be harmful. By eating blueberries, your body will be able to recover better from intense workouts.
Why? First of all sauerkraut is a very cheap vegetable that comes with powerful health benefits. Sauerkraut contains lactic acid bacteria. These bacteria are beneficial probiotics that improve your gut flora. Sauerkraut’s low calorie, high fiber, and high probiotic content can prevent weight gain and promotes fat loss. Sauerkraut also contributes to a stronger immune system, can improve your digestion and increase your gut’s ability to absorb vitamins and minerals. Also a lot of people aren’t getting enough vitamin K2. Sauerkraut contains vitamin K2, this nutrient promotes healthier, stronger bones and lowers the risk of heart disease.
4. Salmon fillets with skin
Why? In order to grow your muscles, you want your muscles to be a bit inflamed after a hard workout session because it means you did some actual damage to your muscles that now must be repaired. Salmon is a powerful weapon against the exercise-induced inflammation and speeds up recovery. Salmon is a great source of protein, healthy fats, and various essential vitamins and minerals. Salmon is rich in long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and decrease risk factors for disease. Salmon also contains astaxanthin, this is an antioxidant that can improve your heart, brain, nervous system and skin health.
5. Brazil nuts
Why? These nuts are highly nutritious and one of the most concentrated dietary sources of the mineral selenium. Selenium is an essential trace element that is vital for your immune system, thyroid gland, and cell growth. Your thyroid gland produces hormones that are necessary for growth, metabolism, and body temperature regulation. Selenium also increases levels of an enzyme known as glutathione peroxidase, which helps reduce inflammation and protect your body from an imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals that can lead to cellular damage.
Why? Spinach is low in calories but high in insoluble fiber. This type of fiber may benefit your digestion. Spinach is an extremely nutrient-rich vegetable. It packs high amounts of magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin K, folic acid, iron, and calcium. Spinach contains many plant compounds that can improve health, such as lutein, kaempferol, nitrates, quercetin, and zeaxanthin. Nitrates are a vasodilator. Vasodilators widen the blood vessels, improving blood flow. Dietary nitrates have been demonstrated to have a range of beneficial vascular effects, including reducing blood pressure.
Why? Kombucha is a low calorie drink with a great taste. It is a type of tea that has been fermented. It is a good source of probiotics and can improve your digestion.
Why? Kefir contains many microorganisms, making it a much more potent source of probiotics than many other fermented dairy products like yoghurt. Kefir can also lead to improvements in various digestive conditions. Kefir contains probiotics and the carbohydrate kefiran, both of which protect your digestive tract against harmful bacteria. Athletes that consume a lot of lactose often experience discomfort, like flatulence and bloating, because lactose is not the easiest nutrient to digest. Kefir is low in lactose because its lactic acid bacteria have already pre-digested the lactose. Kefir is also an excellent source of calcium and vitamin K2. These nutrients have major benefits for bone and dental health.
9. Canned cod liver
Why? Cod liver is very nutritious and provides a lot of omega-3, vitamin A and vitamin D. Eating cod liver can help reduce inflammation in the joints and protect against damage. As a bodybuilder you really want to keep your joints healthy, to stay pain and injury free.
Why? Pineapples contain bromelain, a group of digestive enzymes that may help break down protein and aid digestion. Bromelain’s anti-inflammatory properties can provide pain relief for those with ache joints. Bromelain in pineapples can reduce the inflammation, swelling, and discomfort that occurs after an sports injury. Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, pineapples also improve recovery after strenuous exercise.
11. Shiitake mushrooms
Why? Shiitake mushrooms contain a lot of copper, a mineral that supports healthy blood vessels, bones, and immune support. Copper is also useful in improving tendon recovery after exercise. Shiitake mushrooms are low in calories and possess many health-promoting compounds. Eating shiitake mushrooms regularly may help boost your immune system and lower your chances of developing certain types of cancer.
Why? Raspberries boast many nutrients despite being low in calories. Raspberries are a good source of fiber and vitamin C. But also manganese and that will help the body form connective tissue, strong bones and sex hormones.
Avocados are a concentrated source of healthy fats and fiber. The omega-9 fatty acids in avocado benefits heart health because omega-9s have been shown to increase HDL cholesterol. Fiber found in avocados can improve digestion. Avocados are also rich in nutrients that are often lacking in many people’s diets, including potassium and magnesium. Avocado also enhances the absorption of important nutrients. Carotenoids such as beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin are poorly absorbed without fat. Unfortunately, many fruits and vegetables rich in carotenoids, such as carrots, tomatoes and bell peppers, are low in fat. Therefore, adding avocado to your meal can help you better absorb these nutrients.
14. Ground beef
Why? Meat is one of the most complete dietary sources of protein, its amino acid profile being almost identical to that of your own muscles. Eating beef can help build muscle mass. Beef contains vitamin B12, zinc, selenium, iron, niacin, vitamin B6. Eating some ground beef on a regular basis can prevent iron deficiency anemia.
Why? Shrimp is very nutritious. It’s fairly low in calories and provides a high amount of protein and healthy fats, as well as a variety of vitamins and minerals. Shrimp is also one of the best food sources of iodine. Iodine is required for proper thyroid function and brain health. In the Netherlands iodine salt is added to bread. If you don’t eat a lot of bread and the rest of your diet isn’t in check, you can get an iodine deficiency. So if you eat fairly low-carb as a bodybuilder and don’t eat much bread or eliminate bread completely from your diet, eating shrimps could prevent an iodine deficiency.
Why? Cucumbers are low in calories but high in water. It helps you meet your daily fluid needs. You can increase your meals volume easily by adding some cucumber as a side dish without adding much calories.
Why? Pistachios contain fewer calories and more protein than most other nuts and contain a lot of vitamin B6. Inadequate dietary vitamin B-6 can impair muscle growth. The essential amino acid content of pistachios is higher than any other nut. Pistachios are also high in fiber, which is good for your gut bacteria. Pistachios are a great source of the amino acid L-arginine, which is converted into nitric oxide in the body. Because of this pistachios can improve blood vessel health and increase blood flow.