I am trying to gain weight (muscle), what should I eat/avoid eating?
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If you are trying to gain weight and lean body mass (through a combination of strength training and caloric surplus), the thing to always remember is to eat lots, but eat clean. Eating clean is as simple as avoiding highly refined, processed foods. You don’t HAVE to eat organic, but it is best to avoid food with chemical additives, preservatives, or flavor enhancers (like MSG, Hydrolyzed Plant Proteins, Yeast Extract or other glutamic acid derivatives). These flavor enhancers can often mask the flavor of sub-standard food, making you think you are eating something that is better than it really is.
Also stay away from highly refined, high glycemic-index carbohydrates. You can usually identify them by their color. White rice, white potatoes, white bread, white sugar, etc. are all high glycemic-index foods. Generally speaking, if it is white or light colored, try and avoid it. Other high GI foods include; Corn flakes, bagels (white), ice cream, french fries, dried dates, Rice Crispies. High GI foods can cause a rapid rise (and subsequent crash) in blood sugar levels, wreaking havoc with your insulin levels, appetite and fat storage. High glycemic-index foods are also usually high in starch and low in fiber and other essential nutrients. Always try and eat low glycemic-index carbs such as, brown rice, beans, lentils, whole oatmeal, skim milk, plain yogurt, apples, chickpeas, and pumpernickel bread.
When trying to gain muscle mass, getting a high quality source of protein is very important. You also want a protein that has high bio-availability (BV) (which is a measure of how easily the protein is absorbed, digested and utilized by your body). You also want a protein that is reasonably priced, and is widely available. There are many recommended protein sources, but three basic ones are important to know about. 1) Whey protein supplement, this is a great way to access a high quality protein without added fillers, sodium, sugar, or other additives. You can get great tasting whey protein supplements that mix easily with water and give you 35grams of protein per serving. 2) The second great protein source is lean, skinless chicken breasts. A lean, skinless chicken breast can give you approximately 25% by weight of protein, so a 100gram serving can give you approximately 25 grams of protein. 3) Extra lean ground beef can also give you approximately 20% of protein by weight, so a 100 gram serving can give you 20 grams of protein. *Note if you are a vegan or vegetarian, please check our database for vegan or vegetarian protein supplement alternatives.
Most proteins available in Whey supplements, Beef, Chicken, Eggs and arguably Soy are all “complete” proteins, meaning they contain all the essential amino acids our bodies require to grow muscle and tissue. Getting a complete protein is very important and we have identified at least 3 basic types of protein and will cover more in articles to come.
Now you are probably asking yourself, how much protein do I need? Many sources suggest getting at least 1 gram per KILOGRAM of lean body mass per day to maintain good health (if you are an active and exercising on a regular basis). If you are a sedentary individual (hopefully you’re not ;-) ) you may only need 0.6 grams per kilogram of lean body mass. If you are weight training and attempting to increase your muscle mass, you may want to take in up to 1.2 grams per kilogram of lean body mass. There are many ways to estimate your lean body mass, you can use our online calculator to get an estimate, or you can get a basic estimate by multiplying your body weight by 80% for men and 70% for women. So if you were a 200 pound healthy male, you could multiply your weight by 80% (200 * 0.8) = 160lbs and divide by 2.2 (to get kilograms) = 72 kilograms lean body mass. Then you multiply that by the grams required daily (for example 1 gram per kilo) to get your daily protein estimated requirement: 72 * 1 = 72 grams.