They do say that abs are made in the kitchen, and it’s true – nutrition is vital to growing muscle and really performing in the gym. Whatever your diet, you’ll definitely be able to incorporate some of the foods on this list into your diet.
It’s important not to neglect any macronutrient – protein is really important for building muscle, however carbohydrates and fats are also key.
Eggs are an incredible powerhouse of protein and healthy fats, while being low-calorie. They also contain vital nutrients like vitamin B and D.
Eggs are really easy to incorporate into your diet – scrambled eggs, frittatas, (healthy) baking, protein pancakes, or hard-boiled eggs as a quick snack are all great ways to get eggs in your meals. You can also find eggs pretty much anywhere for a really good price!
Salmon is a great fish to incorporate into your diet. Containing around 18 grams of protein, each salmon fillet is also a source of omega 3 fatty acids, which are key for muscle health. These fatty acids are also proven to reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Oven-baked salmon with Mediterranean roast vegetables is a delicious meal idea, but poké style bowls and sushi are other great ways of consuming salmon.
3. Chicken breast
Chicken breast is one of those classic “bodybuilder” foods, but for good reason – it’s an incredibly cheap and effective way of getting a solid hit of protein into your meal (around 30g!), while also low-calorie and super versatile. Chicken breast contains vitamin B6, which is important to ensure you’re consuming if you’re an active individual.
Containing a high amount of protein, chicken breast is also really satiating so will keep you full for a while. It is also low fat, so if you’d prefer to get your fat from sources like peanut butter or nuts and seeds, it’s a great option.
There are so many ways to cook chicken – you could have it in a stir fry, bake it in the oven as a tray bake, or add it into a curry!
4. Greek yoghurt
Greek yoghurt is another gym bunny stable – it’s a great high protein, low calorie snack and is perfect post-gym with some granola and fruit.
Another great way to consume Greek yoghurt is to use it as in a smoothie, or as a substitution to sour cream with a chilli con carne!
5. Cottage cheese
Cottage cheese is a super popular “diet” food as it is really high protein and low calorie. It is also a great source of magnesium and iron, as well as casein protein, which is slow-releasing so great to consume just before bed.
There are so many different types of beans, which makes them really easy to incorporate into your meals. Beans are fantastic protein sources, especially for vegans who may find it harder to get protein into their diet.
Some great high-protein beans are black beans, kidney beans and chickpeas. As well as being high-protein, they also contain lots of fibre and vitamin B.
Try making a vegetarian chilli con carne with a huge variety of mixed beans – you won’t even miss the meat!
7. Protein powder
This may be an obvious one, but it is definitely worth mentioning as protein powder is an incredibly quick and easy way to get some extra protein in during the day. Whether it’s in a post-workout shake or a late night protein mug cake, there’s always a way to make protein powder work for you.
The emphasis should of course be on whole foods, but if you’re struggling to get sufficient protein in (vegan protein powder is a great idea if you’re vegan but want to keep the protein count high), it’s a great thing to think about purchasing. Whey protein tends to be the most affordable, but there are so many different types of protein powder out there nowadays – think pea, brown rice etc.
Do some experimenting until you find a protein powder that you love! As well as having it just as a protein shake with milk, try incorporating it into your morning porridge to make it much more satiating, or make some delicious protein pancakes with it!
Edamame beans are such an under-rated protein source. They tend to be found primarily in Asian dishes, so are a great addition to stir fries or sushi bowls. They’re also a great vegan protein hack!
Another vegan protein option, quinoa is definitely a super-grain, as well as being a fantastic carbohydrate to incorporate into your diet. As it is a complete protein (it contains all nine essential amino acids), which can be difficult to find amongst plant-based foods, it is definitely one to add to your diet, especially if you are vegetarian or vegan. It is also gluten-free and high in fibre and magnesium!
Quinoa is a fantastic food to eat post-workout, being high in both carbohydrates and protein. Try substituting it instead of rice (rice is great too though and definitely has its place!), or adding it into a stir fry or a salad.
Almonds are a fantastic food to add to your diet. As well as being high protein, they are a powerhouse of vitamin E and magnesium.
They are calorically dense, but are also super satiating so are a great snack idea!