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When you’re trying to pack on some lean muscle mass, knowing what to eat (and what to avoid) is just as important as working out.
Adequate protein is necessary for proper muscle formation and function. It’s equally important to get enough protein throughout the day and immediately post-workout to optimize muscle function. Most body-building experts recommend getting about 1.7 to 1.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day.
These protein-rich foods can help you build muscle, so include them in your diet regularly:
In addition to a healthy diet, many workout buffs recommend performance-enhancing supplements. These supplements usually contain some combination of amino acids (the building blocks of protein), as well as vitamins and other nutrients to help build muscle and aid in post-exercise recovery.
Here are some popular performance-enhancing ingredients and their functions:
What else works?
Resistance (weight) training helps you build muscle, while cardiovascular exercise (cardio) helps you trim the fat. Cross-training refers to engaging in a variety of regular exercises to experience well-rounded health and muscular development
Resistance training refers to any kind of exercise that causes the muscles to contract against a force or resistance, such as weights, rubber tubing, or even your own body weight. Examples of resistance exercises include weight-lifting, push-ups, lunges, chin-ups, squats, leg presses, leg extensions, abdominal crunches, and sit-ups.This type of training builds and tones muscle tissue and can help:
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that adults train each major muscle group on two or three non-consecutive days each week with two to four sets of each exercise for 8 to 12 repetitions.
Tip: Make sure to give your body time to rest between training days. Muscle is built during these “off” times, so avoid over-training.
Cardio exercise includes those activities that get your heart pumping harder and your respiratory rate up, like running, walking, rowing, cycling, soccer, swimming, dancing, and tennis. This type of exercise can help you:
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio exercise per week. The time spent doing cardio can be spread out over several days or condensed into three days per week.
Tip: To lose weight, you may need as much as 60 to 90 minutes of cardio several times per week.
Cross training is recommended by both amateur and professional athletes as a technique for achieving peak conditioning. Nate Godfrey, a life-long rugby player who coaches women’s rugby at the University of Rhode Island, uses a model of cross-training called Cross Fit:
“Cross Fit is a cool concept that deals with strength and conditioning fitness, and has a dietary component, as well,” Nate says. “To build strength, you have to lift weights, but traditional machines have their limitations,” he explains. “Weight stacks work on a vertical axis—up and down—but when you go to put something up on a shelf, you don’t do it in a vertical plane. You need to be able to lean and reach with the weight, so each joint and muscle group needs to be exercised in ways that optimize their full range of motion to help you accomplish this.”