A healthy diet is the foundation of a healthy body, and this includes a lean muscle diet which is the key to a healthy, toned, and lean body.
You can workout 3 hours a day, but if you’re on a fattening, gluttonous diet you can easily erase all of your work in the gym or on the treadmill. This is why build lean muscle is multi-dimensional.
There is an old saying that drives home the importance of diet and nutrition….
Abs are made in the kitchen, not the Gym!
And not just abs, but a lean body in general is mainly sculpted in the kitchen, not on the bench press or even the treadmill.
Eating a balanced, nutritious diet is not only paramount to control your weight, but is important for the health of your entire body: heart, blood/circulation, skin, energy, aging, immune system, and more.
Basic Guidelines for a Nutritious Diet
Here are some solid basics for a well-rounded, nutritious diet:
- Drink lots of water
- Vegetables of every color
- Lean meats and fish
- Egg whites
- Fresh fruit (berries, melon, apples, oranges, grapefruit)
- Healthy, lean muscle snacks
There’s lots more you can add to the list, but if you generally follow those simple foods you will likely enjoy good health and avoid disease.
Proteins to Build and Maintain Muscle
Lean proteins are the building blocks to building and maintaining your muscle mass. These building blocks come in the way of amino acids, and are also critical to providing muscle recovery between workouts.This becomes increasingly important as you age, as muscle loss with age is an important factor in maintaining your physique.
You should try to consume 20-40 g of protein with each meal as part of a lean muscle diet, and this will provide you with sufficient protein to maintain a healthy weight, maintain and build muscle, and allow for overall good health.
Lean, healthy proteins that should be part of every diet:
- Lean red meats (top sirloin, flank)
- Turkey breast
- Chicken breast
- Egg whites
- Skim milk
The amount of protein that you consume, or don’t consume, affects your nitrogen balance: (1)
- Sufficient protein allows for a positive nitrogen balance > Anabolic State
- Insufficient protein results in a negative nitrogen balance > Catabolic State
Anbolic State = Builds Muscle
Catabolic State = Destroys Muscle
Healthy Vegetables for Lean Muscle
When you think vegetables, the more colors the better. And the great thing about vegetables, as a general rule you can’t eat too much. So the more you consume, the more you will satisfy your appetite, and you’ll pump your body full of nutrition and good health. (2)
Some healthy vegetables that should be part of every diet:
- Brussel Sprouts
- Green Peas
- Collard Greens
- Frozen Peas
Lean Muscle Snacks
If you’re like most people, you probably get hungry between your main meals, especially in the afternoon. Most of us hit that point at 2:00 or 3:00 in the afternoon where we get the munchies, especially if we’ve had a lean, healthy, low-calorie lunch.
When you find yourself in this position, have a healthy snack that will not only satisfy your appetite, but also provide some muscle-building benefit. Some of our favorite snacks to build lean muscle are as follows:
- Low-carb Protein Bar (Pure Protein, thinkThin) – 200 calories
- Healthy Nuts (15 almonds, or 1/8 cup of Walnuts) – 100 calories
- Egg Whites (6) – 120 calories
- Slim Jim (Lean Jerky meats) – 150 calories
- Canned Chicken Breast or Tuna (buy at the grocery store) – 70 calories
- Muscle Milk – 160 calories
All of these snacks are low calorie, low carb, high protein, and will satisfy your appetite until your next main meal!
Click to learn more about the 10 healthiest vegetables.
1. Libretexts. (2020). 6.7: Proteins, Diet, and Personal Choices. Medicine LibreTexts. https://med.libretexts.org/Courses/Sacramento_City_College/SCC%3A_Nutri_300_(Coppola)/Text/06%3A_Proteins/6.7%3A_Proteins_Diet_and_Personal_Choices.
2. McManus, K. D. (2019). Phytonutrients: Paint your plate with the colors of the rainbow. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/phytonutrients-paint-your-plate-with-the-colors-of-the-rainbow-2019042516501.