It’s been said that building muscle happens as much in the kitchen as it does in the gym. If you're not eating the right foods (and avoiding the wrong foods) you will not make improvements in size or strength. It’s impossible to out train a bad diet, if you fill up on the wrong foods, the only gains you’ll make are around your waistline. Here are five foods to avoid while trying to gain muscle.
Sugar. While carbohydrates and especially complex carbohydrates are your body's main source of energy, sugar, a simple carbohydrate, causes rapid rises in blood glucose and insulin levels. This spike in glucose and the resulting spike in insulin will cause a rapid short-term boost of energy quickly followed by a slump in your energy level which will adversely affect your performance in the gym. Sugar and insulin also cause an increase in your cortisol levels which block the uptake of amino acids into muscle cells making it nearly impossible to repair or build muscle tissue. The way muscle builds is by breaking down during exertion and rebuilding beyond what it was before the break down.
Soy. Unless you are a strict vegan athlete, soy, soy milk, and products containing processed soybeans are not a good choice for muscle gain. Soybeans contain enzyme inhibitors that block trypsin and other enzymes needed for protein digestion and absorption. Soybeans also contain phytic acid which blocks the absorption of essential minerals like zinc, calcium, magnesium, and iron. Soy also contains isoflavones or plant estrogens which have been shown to raise your estrogen levels leading to fat storage and gynecomastia in men and breast tissue changes in women.
Processed Meat. Lean, natural meats from grass-fed beef, venison, bison, free-range chickens, and fresh fish provide lean sources of healthy protein containing all of the necessary essential amino acids you need to build muscle. Processed meats like bacon, bologna, hot dogs, deli meats, and the pepperoni on your pizza contain minimal amounts of proteins but are loaded with fats, salts and fillers that are more harmful than beneficial. Build your diet around wholesome, minimally processed lean proteins.
Vegetables. What!? Yes, vegetables are a healthy addition to any diet and should be a part of your diet, but not as “filler”. If you are training to build muscle, you need to eat more nutritionally dense vegetables, not the celery, lettuce and spinach found in most weight loss diets. If you feel you need lightweight leafy greens, add them to your shakes or smoothies, otherwise, choose avocados, beets, potatoes and sweet potatoes, beans, and squash to your meals.
Fried Foods. Most of the fats and oils you consume come from fried foods and are known to contribute to chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity. Most fried foods (especially those not requiring labels) are fried in dangerous trans fats - hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. Frying food adds unnecessary and unhealthy calories, a large grilled chicken breast contains about 110 calories, that same chicken breast contains 330 calories after being fried!
When planning your ideal muscle building diet be sure to avoid soy, sugars, fried foods, and eat lean, natural meats and nutrient dense vegetables that promote muscle tissue growth and repair.