Building lean muscle requires optimal nutrition. You need to eat sufficient protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats, and you need to factor in the impact of micronutrients on your development as well. A balanced diet will usually feature all the vitamins and minerals necessary for building muscle, but you can use a multivitamin supplement if you are concerned you are not reaching the daily intake recommendations.
Iron is vital in muscle development: It allows the transport of oxygen into muscle fibers, meaning that the muscles can take the stress of heavy training that will lead to growth. Iron then facilitates the repair and synthesis of muscle fibers after this strain, causing them to develop. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, good food sources of iron include kelp, shellfish, pumpkin and sesame seeds, nuts, leafy green vegetables, legumes, eggs and dark meats.
Bump Up Your B Vitamins
The B complex is made up of several vitamins: thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B-6, pantothenic acid and biotin, which allow you to produce energy during exercise, and folate and B-12, which help you create protein for muscle synthesis and to repair torn or distressed muscle fibers. Eat whole grains, cereals, seafood, organ meats, leafy green vegetables, legumes, dairy, nuts, lean meats and fruit to meet your body's needs for the B-vitamin complex.
The strenuous exercise you do when you're trying to build muscle creates "oxidative stress" on your muscles. The increased use of oxygen during exercise generates higher free radical activity than usual, and this can damage muscle fibers and slow the growth and recovery process. Vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and selenium can provide some protection from this oxidative damage. Citrus fruits, leafy green vegetables, peppers, tomatoes and tropical fruits are high in vitamin C, while you can increase your vitamin E intake with nuts, seeds, whole grains and lentils. Beta-carotene is found in orange, red, yellow and green fruits and vegetables, and you'll find selenium in nuts, brown rice, meat, eggs, dairy and seafood.
Sink Some Zinc
Zinc is important for protein synthesis and repair and helps your muscles to recover after your workouts. Zinc is found in a wide variety of foods: seafood, dark meat, dairy, legumes and nuts. Be careful not to go overboard on your zinc intake: The National Institutes of Heath cautions that excess intake -- more than 40 milligrams per day for adults -- can lead to nausea, abdominal cramps, reduced immune function and headaches.