When it comes to the infinite number of foods that you can put in your body, there are good foods and there are bad foods. Clearly, you know to avoid the bad foods whenever possible, but when it comes to choosing the very best foods for your physique goals, that’s an even harder decision. We are here to make it easier for you to find the best of the best–we call them Power Foods. Be sure to include these items in your diet for great gains.
When: Any regular meal
Why: The perfect protein, eggs are loaded with cholesterol, typically thought of as an evil food ingredient, but in reality, full of positive benefits, such as maintaining testosterone levels and the integrity of muscle cell membranes.
- Subjects who ate three whole eggs per day while following a strength-training program produced twice the gains in muscle mass and strength than those who consumed just one egg or no eggs each day.
- In studies, 640 milligrams per day of additional cholesterol from eggs decreased the amount of LDL (bad) cholesterol particles associated with atherosclerosis.
Amounts: 3 extra-large eggs: 255 calories, 21 g protein, 1 g carbs, 18 g fat
2. Organic Beef
When: Lunch or dinner
Why: This meat is important due to its protein content, cholesterol and saturated fat, all of which maintain high testosterone levels.
- Organic beef has much higher levels of conjugated linoleic acid and omega-3 fatty acids than conventionally raised cattle, because organically raised cattle are primarily grass fed as opposed to grain fed.
- CLA, a healthy fat, has been proven in numerous clinical trials to help shed bodyfat while helping to boost muscle mass and strength at the same time.
Amounts: 8 oz of 90% lean ground organic beef: 392 calories, 48 g protein, 0 g carbs, 22 g fat
When: Lunch or dinner
Why: It’s rich in the essential omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA (eicosapentaenoic and docosahexaenoic acids).
- Subjects consuming higher levels of omega-3 fats reported greater muscle strength than those taking in lower levels of them.
- Omega-3 fatty acids enhance insulin sensitivity, which boosts muscle protein synthesis (muscle growth) and increases glucose and amino acid uptake.
- Omega-3s are readily burned for fuel, sparing muscle glycogen to keep muscles bigger. Additionally, omega-3s have been found to blunt muscle and joint breakdown, as well as enhance their recovery.
- Omega-3s convert into beneficial prostaglandins, hormonelike substances that promote numerous processes in the body.
Amounts: 8 oz of Atlantic salmon: 416 calories, 45 g protein, 0 g carbs, 24 g fat
When: Between-meal snacks
Why: Rich in omega-3s, it also has one of the highest contents of creatine–which can help boost muscle strength and growth–of any food source from the land or sea.
Amounts: 3 oz of kippered herring: 185 calories, 21 g protein, 0 g carbs, 11 g fat (about 2 g of those are omega-3s)
5 Wheat Germ
When: 30 minutes before workouts and any time of day you want slow-digesting carbs (use it as breading on chicken or fish)
Why: It is rich in zinc, iron, selenium, potassium and B vitamins, and high in protein with a good amount of branched-chain amino acids, arginine and glutamine.
- It’s high in fiber, making it a great source of slow-digesting carbohydrates.
- It’s great before workouts because it provides a good source of octacosanol, an alcohol that can increase muscle strength and endurance, as well as enhance reaction time in athletes by increasing the efficiency of the central nervous system.
Amounts: 1/2 cup of wheat germ: 207 calories, 13 g protein, 30 g carbs (almost 8 g of those come from fiber), 6 g fat
6 Brown Rice
When: Lunch or dinner
Why: Brown rice is a whole grain that provides fiber to help slow down digestion and keep insulin levels steady, supplying you with energy to last throughout the day.
- It’s high in gamma-aminobutyric acid, which is an amino acid that works as a neurotransmitter in the body and which boosts growth hormone levels by up to 400%.
- You can prepare brown rice in a way that will boost GABA levels: soak it in hot water for two hours before cooking to induce slight germination or use a Zojirushi Induction Heating System Rice Cooker & Warmer (zojirushi.com), which has a special setting that gives brown rice a two-hour hot bath before cooking.
Amounts: 1 cup of cooked brown rice: 218 calories, 5 g protein, 46 g carbs, 2 g fat
When: Immediately after workouts
Why: Although we typically suggest that you eat fruit as a preworkout carb, since most fruits are slow digesting, watermelon is one of the few fruits that are fast digesting. That means it spikes insulin levels, making it a good postworkout carb.
- The red flesh and especially the white rind of watermelon are high in the amino acid citrulline, which is readily converted to arginine inside the body and boosts arginine inside the body and boosts arginine levels even better than taking arginine itself.
- Higher levels of arginine lead to higher nitric oxide levels and higher GH levels after training, both of which are critical for enhancing muscle strength and growth. Boosting NO levels after workouts means there’s more blood flow to the muscles, which will enhance recovery and aid muscle growth.
Amounts: Two wedges of watermelon: 172 calories, about 4 g protein, 44 g carbs, 1 g fat, approximately 3 g citrulline
When: As a side salad with lunch and dinner
Why: Spinach not only promotes health through its rich supply of antioxidants, but it has ingredients that increase muscle strength and size.
- It’s a great source of glutamine, the amino acid that is highly important for muscle growth, immune function and gastrointestinal health, as well as for boosting GH levels and even metabolic rate.
- In addition to glutamine, spinach provides octacosanol (see wheat germ) and beta-ecdysterone, a phytochemical that stimulates protein synthesis.
Amounts:10 oz raw spinach: 65 calories, 8 g protein, 10 g carbs (6 g of those being fiber), 1 g fat
9 Ezekiel 4:9 Bread
When: Any time of day when you would eat slow-digesting carbs
Why: Made from organic sprouted whole grains such as wheat, millet, spelt and barley, and from legumes such as lentils and soybeans, this bread is a complete protein, which means it contains all nine of the amino acids your body needs for muscle growth.
- These whole grains and legumes also digest slowly, promoting superior fat burning throughout the day and more energy during exercise.
Amounts: Two slices of Ezekiel 4:9 bread: 160 calories, 8 g protein, 30 g carbs (with 6 g of fiber), 1 g fat
When: As a side with any meal
Why: Broccoli contains a phytochemical that gets converted to another naturally occurring chemical called diindolylmethane, which reduces the strength of estrogens by converting them to weaker varieties in the liver.
- This helps to diminish estrogenic effects (fat gain and water retention) and strengthens testosterone’s anabolic effects (muscle strength and growth).
- It also contains the antioxidant sulforaphane–a compound that forms from the inactive compound glucoraphanin when you chew it. Sulforaphane works in synergy with DIM to provide antiinflammatory properties, which enhance joint and muscle recovery, as well as fight cancer.
Amounts: 1 cup of chopped broccoli: 31 calories, 3 g protein, 6 g carbs, 0 g fat
11 Brazil Nuts
When: Between-meal snack
Why: They are a rich source of monounsaturated fats, promoting heart heath and joint healing while minimizing bodyfat.
- These nuts are abundant in the trace mineral selenium, a component of the enzyme that helps convert the thyroid hormone thyroxine (T4) to the more active thyroid hormone, triiodothyronine (T3). Thyroid hormones are important for keeping metabolic rate high and supporting muscle growth.
- Newer research from Italy suggests that selenium is critical for muscle strength. AMOUNTS: 1 oz of Brazil nuts (about six): 186 calories, 4 g protein, 3 g carbs, 19 g fat (6 g monounsaturated fat), plus more than 500 micrograms selenium
When: Between-meal snack, especially at bedtime
Why: Walnuts are one of the few nuts that are truly rich in the omega-3 fatty acids, critical for muscle growth and strength gains.
Amounts: 1 oz of English walnuts (about 14 walnut halves): 185 calories, 4 g protein, 4 g carbs, 18 g fat (with almost 3 g of omega-3 fats)
13 Organic Milk
When: At breakfast or in protein shakes between meals
Why: Milk contains both whey and casein protein.
- It contains the potent anabolic factor insulinlike growth factor-l, which is critical for stimulating muscle growth.
- Research shows organic milk is higher in omega-3 fats and the healthy fat which increases muscle mass and strength while simultaneously helping to drop bodyfat.
Amounts: 1 cup of low- fat milk: 102 calories, 8 g protein, 12 g carbs, 2 g fat
14 Pomegranate Juice
When: In a preworkout protein shake
Why: It has a potent antioxidant content, which promotes health and wards off many diseases.
- UCLA researchers have found that it’s effective at protecting NO against oxidative destruction and enhances its levels in the body.
Amounts: 2 oz (added to a protein shake): 34 calories, 0 g protein, 8 g carbs, 0 g fat
When: Mornings and during workouts (brew first, then chill to sip during workouts)
Why: It offers a multitude of health benefits, such as enhanced fat loss, reduced risk of certain cancers and even antimicrobial properties.
- Black tea in particular helps blunt Cortisol levels by half. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone boosted during workouts. It increases muscle breakdown and interferes with testosterone’s ability to stimulate muscle growth. By blunting Cortisol, you are essentially raising testosterone and, therefore, gains in muscle strength and growth. Shoot for four cups of black tea per day to effectively knock down Cortisol.
Amounts: 1 cup of black, tea: 2 calories, 0 g protein, 1 g carbs, 0 g fat
Protein is critical for providing the building blocks that make up muscle, and bodybuilders need ample amounts of it–between one and two grams per pound of body-weight per day. But some power protein sources provide other ingredients that will further boost muscle strength and growth beyond that from just protein alone.
After protein, carbs rank right up there on the bodybuilder’s diet, especially when he’s trying to pack on strength and size. Carbs provide the energy to get through workouts and keep the muscles fuller by stocking them with glycogen (the stored form of carbs) to pull water into the muscles to maximize their volume. The following six carb sources have a few more tricks up their sleeves to further push growth and strength to new levels.
Fat used to be the “f” word in bodybuilding circles. Today, we know that fats are critical to muscle strength and growth, particularly the healthy ones, such as monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated omega-3 fats.
Water is the most critical nutrient you can get. The more water you consume, the fuller your muscle cells will be, which can push muscle growth forward. Any fluid you drink provides water, but it’s the other ingredients in that drink that can make or break your progress. These three are worth their weight in gold–drink up!