Building muscle occurs naturally through normal human development as well as conditioning through physical activity. In order to optimize and fast track this process however, requires a mindful dedication to training and diet. That because focused hypertrophy (fancy name for building muscle) occurs when everything lines up just right. That means your diet, training and recovery protocols all have to support your body’s ability to grow muscle tissue.
For now, we’ll focus on diet. The main ingredient to building muscles when it comes to diet is protein. After all, muscle tissue is predominantly composed of protein. The components of protein (amino acids) not only add to the physical structure of your muscles, but they have many other important functions too, such as energy delivery and recovery support. It is recommended you consume at least 2 grams of protein per kg (roughly 2lb) of body mass. This helps support a healthy turnover of amino acid supply for growth and recovery. It is also important to remember the quality of your protein. Always aim for a protein source with a complete essential amino acid profile. That is, a source that contains all 9 essential amino acids at the very least.
Another major player in optimized muscle building is carbohydrates. You might be saying, why carbs? Don’t they just make me fat and slow? Well, the truth is, when it comes to building muscle, the most abundant nutrient you will want is in fact carbs and not protein. That’s because the energy demands placed by the anabolic reaction (building reaction) of hypertrophy require more energy from carbs than usual. Carbs are also important for energy in order to train effectively. Lastly carbs, which have been converted to glycogen, stand in as a buffer against muscle loss.
You also have to take a mindful account of your micro nutrients. These are your vitamins and minerals. These are what keep your vital functions in check. Metabolism, nutrient transfer, immunity and other important reactions that optimize muscle growth. Modern diets are typically deficient in essential micros. So it’s always worth gaining your nutrients from supplement sources as well as regular food.
Foods to Avoid When Building Lean Muscle
So now that you know what fundamentals a muscle building diet requires, let’s look at what you shouldn’t have on your plate. These are the 3 foods to avoid when building lean muscle.
Okay, so we did mention that carbs are vital in high quantities when it comes to muscle mass. And as we all know, sugar is a very efficient carb in terms of yield and ease of metabolism. This very fact is also the reason why sugar is so counterproductive to building muscle. When you eat high GI carbs such as sugar, your blood glucose spikes dramatically. This results in an epic surge of insulin which ultimately causes your body to store rather than burn fat. An accumulation of excess body fat is one thing, but the damaging effect insulin resistance has on your circulation and ability to use muscle building hormones like growth hormone and testosterone is just as devastating.
So the premise is avoiding excess sugar. You might opt for “healthy alternatives” such as fruit juice instead of soda. Well, when it comes so called health foods, a lot of them are guilty of excess sugar. 100% fruit juice for example, strips away all the fiber that would naturally mediate sugar uptake in whole fruit. So instead, what you have is flavoured, liquid sugar. Other sugar fiends include granola, trail mix, dried fruit and “real fruit” yogurt. Always check your food labels.
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Deep Fried Foods
Aside from excess fats, deep-fried foods also introduce many toxins that affect muscle growth. Fried foods, especially fast food contain a large dose of free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules whose charge causes damage to your cell membranes. Cell membrane damage is the leading cause of cell death. The rate of death of your cells determines the speed of your aging process, the more aged you are, the lower your ability to build muscle. Linked to this is inflammation as a response to the oxidative stress caused by the free radicals. Chronic inflammation is an autoimmune response. This means energy and vital functions which would have helped build muscle are now diverted.
Deep fried foods also contain trans fats, which increase LDL cholesterol levels. LDL cholesterol is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol. This is because it gradually causes destruction to your cardiovascular system, not great for hypertrophy.
Deep fried foods to avoid when building muscle include:
- Fried chicken.
- Fried fish and seafood.
Alcohol decreases all round productivity both when it comes to training ability and their recovery/growth aspect of building muscle.
Alcohol has a psychoactive effect that decreases coordination as well as power and strength output. It also increases heart rate, making it hard to train intensely due to having an already high heart rate.
Studies have shown that alcohol consumption during recovery/growth periods has a negative impact on MPS. MPS stands for myofibrillar protein synthesis, the process of building muscle fibers. Alcohol limits not just growth and recovery, but your ability to adapt to trained skills. Avoid excess drinking while on a muscle building journey.
Building muscle is both an art and a science. But in order to appreciate the results of the art, you need to consider the science. Knowing what foods to avoid when building muscle is just as essential as having a solid workout program.