10 Muscle Building Foods to Add to Your Diet for Faster Gains

22/03/2016 16:01 GMT | Updated 22/03/2017 09:12 GMT

Continuing on my theme about the critical importance of nutrition within the whole fitness/training process. In my Thursday column I talked about healthy snacks. A big thanks to all of you who sent in those great snack recipe ideas.

I posted some of the best on my site www.jameshaskell.com . So please take a look and tell me what they taste like. As they all look so good!

In today's column, we are going to take a wider look at the whole subject with some interesting food ideas and eating tips.

The reason most people struggle to build muscle isn't through lack of effort in the gym. With so much fitness information out there these days, most guys and girls can engineer a decent enough training programme. The hard part is eating enough and enough of the right foods, to trigger muscle growth.

Science tells us that in order to build muscle, we have to be in a caloric surplus. But when you factor in a full day's worth of activity, this can end up being a lot more food than you think.

One day of eating big won't cut it, either. In order to build muscle we need to maintain our caloric surplus for weeks, months, as long as we want to keep growing. To do this, we need to achieve the following two things:

Eat high calorie foods. They'll make it much easier to achieve your caloric goals than plain old chicken and rice. But before you dive head first into a pizza box, remember that these have to be good calories - or you'll just end up looking like a marshmallow.

Eliminate food boredom. There's only so long that you can force feed yourself meals that you don't enjoy. If you're in this for the long term, we need to eliminate the food boredom so you can hit your calorie goals day in, day out. Most importantly, you'll have fun doing so too.

With the above in mind, here are 10 foods to add to your diet to help you build (and keep building) some serious muscle.

1) Whole Eggs

Eggs are the ultimate muscle building food - they're cheap, versatile, and packed with calories and protein. They're also high in cholesterol, which, contrary to popular belief, is actually extremely beneficial for your performance goals. This is because cholesterol is a precursor to testosterone, one of the major hormones responsible for building muscle.

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Eggs are also extremely rich in selenium, which helps maintain a healthy heart and joints, along with iodine, which is essential for healthy thyroid function. They're great for breakfast, as a portable snack when hardboiled, or used as an easy way to bump up the caloric value of your other meals throughout the day. After all, who doesn't love topping their steak with a couple of fried eggs?

2) Almond butter

In fact, any nut butter will do. There aren't many easier (or more delicious) ways to bump up your calorie intake than with a couple of teaspoons of nut butter each day.

The beauty of nut butters is that they contain all the benefits of whole nuts - protein, healthy fat, fibre, minerals - but in a much more convenient form. Let's face it; it's a lot easier to eat a tablespoon of almond butter than it is to eat a handful of raw almonds. Spread it, cook with it, or even eat it straight from the jar. We're not judging you, we promise.

3) Steak

A good steak is a little pricier than most other protein sources, but the muscle building rewards make it more than worth the investment. Offering uch more than just protein, steak is loaded with iron and zinc, along with the amino acid L-Carnitine, which helps the body utilise testosterone to build muscle.

Don't be afraid to choose a fattier cut either. Providing it's grass fed, it will be packed with CLA, a potent fatty acid that helps to build muscle and slash body fat.

4) Coconut

Including coconut in your diet is one of the most efficient ways to bump up your calorie intake from a high quality, nutrient dense source.

It was only a few years ago that we were being advised to avoid saturated fats, but we now know just how beneficial they can be to boosting both health and performance. This holds especially true for lauric acid, a saturated fatty acid found in coconuts that is easily metabolised by the body for energy rather than being stored as fat.

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One great way to use coconut is for cooking rice - instead of boiling it in water, use a can of coconut milk instead. Not only will it make it creamier and more delicious, it will also add an extra 400 calories to your meal without the need for any extra chewing!

5) White potatoes

Recent health trends have seen many people switch their regular spuds for the more coveted sweet potato, but is this really necessary? Whilst there's certainly no denying the many health benefits of sweet potatoes, white potatoes are also an excellent addition to your diet - for one, they're higher in iron, magnesium and potassium than their sweeter cousin.

White potatoes were a favourite of all the old school bodybuilders trying to gain size, and for good reason. They're delicious and one of the best carbohydrate sources on the planet. Don't be afraid to enjoy your fair share of spuds if you're serious about building slabs of muscle.

6) White jasmine rice

The best time to take in high GI carbohydrates like white jasmine rice is after a workout, when the insulin spike can help accelerate the rate at which amino acids are shuttled into your muscle cells. Jasmine rice is delicious and incredibly easy to digest, making it the perfect mass building post workout carb source.

7) Sardines

Sardines are high in calories, but are also an excellent source of many important nutrients; including omega 3, to improve joint health and recovery, and vitamin D, to improve energy levels and boost the immune system. They're also one of the few good non-dairy sources of calcium, which is great news for those that struggle with lactose. Sardines are cheap and surprisingly delicious - try them on a jacket potato for a delicious post workout meal.

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8) Whole chickens

Be honest - do you really enjoy eating boneless, skinless chicken breasts every day? Even the most perfectly cooked chicken breast just can't compete with the satisfaction of tucking into a juicy, skin on, roasted whole chicken.

Not only are whole chickens tastier - they're also better value, with the price of a whole free range chicken roughly the same as just two breasts. In other words, you're getting the drumsticks, thighs, skin, and other tasty bits free of charge! The fattier meat and skin also provide a healthy serving of extra calories, too.

Top tip: Buy a large whole chicken, and portion it up for meals throughout the next few days. You'll get loads for your money and save time, too!

9) Avocados

Is there anything that doesn't taste better with a side of avocado? Not only will these delicious green fruits make the rest of your meals more enjoyable, they'll also add a hefty serving of healthy fats and calories to every meal that you use them in. Mash four or five at a time with a little lime juice, garlic, salt and pepper to make an easy guacamole, store in the fridge, then add a big dollop to your meals as you go through the week. We bet you can't make it to Wednesday before it's all gone!

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10) Hemp Seeds

This one may surprise you, but there's a good reason why hemp is quickly becoming a favourite amongst bodybuilders across the globe. These tiny titans of nutrition are packed with essential recovery minerals iron and magnesium, and also boast a hefty 40% protein content! The best thing about hemp seeds is that they're just so easy to use - sprinkle them on top of salads, soups, roasted veggies or grilled meat for a delicious, nutty flavoured topping.

The protein found in hemp seeds is a 'globular' protein, considered the most bioavailable to the human body. That means more of the amino acids in hemp get to work where you need them most - in the muscles!

Remember: muscle is broken down in the gym and built in the kitchen. Now get cooking!

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