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Healthy Foods to Gain Muscle

Exercise is essential to health muscle growth, and a protein-packed diet helps support your goal or muscle growth. Muscle cells need amino acids -- found in abundance in protein-rich foods -- to build and repair muscle tissue. However, some sources of protein, such as red meat, come with the disadvantage of saturated fat. Choose health foods that are low in saturated fat but high in protein for muscle growth.

A 6-ounce serving of Atlantic salmon has 350 calories and 38 grams of protein for muscle growth. It also contains omega-3 fatty acids, a type of healthy fat. Omega-3 acids complement your active lifestyle -- they lower your risk of several diseases, including stroke and heart disease. Tuna and mackerel also provide high-quality protein along with omega-3 fatty acids.

If you're craving poultry, go for skinless chicken breast -- it's the leanest part of the chicken. A 6-ounce serving of chicken breast has 280 calories, 54 grams protein and only 7 grams saturated fat. Though chicken breast has fewer grams of fat compared to salmon, it does have more protein for the same serving size. Make sure you remove the skin from the breast before cooking to help limit your fat intake, and practice healthful cooking methods -- such as grilling or boiling -- to keep it as low-fat as possible.

Turn to lentils as a vegetarian-rich source of protein. A quarter-cup of dry lentils has 195 calories and 14 grams protein. Each serving also contains 34 grams of carbohydrates -- a source of fuel for your cells -- including 9 grams of fiber, a nutrient important for digestive health. Red lentils soften and fall apart as they cook, making them useful for making hearty stews and dals, while green lentils hold their shape better and can be used in pilafs.

Cottage cheese serves as another vegetarian-friendly muscle-building option. A half-cup serving of 1 percent fat cottage cheese has 80 calories and 14 grams of protein. Seventy percent of the calories in low-fat cottage cheese come from protein. Cottage cheese is versatile to eat by itself, topped with fruit or mixed into pancake batter, increasing the protein content of your meal. Alternatively, try blending cottage cheese into your fruit smoothies to boost their nutritional value.

References (4)

  • “Exercise Physiology, Energy, Nutrition & Human Performance”; William McArdle, Frank Katch and Victor Katch; 2007
  • “ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal”; Eat Like You’re in Crete: Teach Your Clients the Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet; Janet Bond Brill, Ph.D., R.D.; September/October 2007
  • “The NutriBase Complete Book of Food Counts”; NutriBase; 2001
  • Linus Pauling Institute: Essential Fatty Acids

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.