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The Best Foods for Bodybuilders

By Mike Samuels ; Updated April 18, 2017

Bodybuilding isn't just about lifting big weights in the gym. You have to be a pro in the kitchen too. Lifting weights breaks down muscle tissue, and in order for this to repair and grow bigger, you need adequate nutrition. A diet composed of nutrient-dense foods, with a combination of protein, carbohydrate and fat, is the key to packing on pounds of muscle.

Seize the Steak

Many bodybuilders favor chicken, due to its high protein and low fat content, but steak may be a better choice. An 8-ounce strip of steak contains 52 grams of protein and only 6 grams of fat. It is also high in niacin, which helps increase your levels of good cholesterol and boosts vasodilation of blood vessels, which can help you get more blood to your muscles when training, according to the Muscle & Fitness website. Pick leaner cuts of steak, and better still, opt for grass-fed meat if you can find it at your local store or farmers market.

Dairy Protein

For vegetarian bodybuilders, nonmeat protein is a must, so look to dairy products. Low-fat cottage cheese is a good choice, providing 27 grams of protein and 194 calories per cup. If you're not a fan of cottage cheese, any low-fat dairy product will suffice. "Built for Show" author Nate Green recommends switching to natural or Greek yogurt, regular low-fat cheese or skim milk instead if cottage cheese doesn't take your fancy. All of these have similar protein contents and are low in fat.

Go Nuts on Nuts

Nuts may have a bad reputation for being high in fat, but the type of fat contained in nuts is monounsaturated. This can be beneficial for muscle building as it plays a role in hormone production and supports heart health, notes sports nutritionist Dr. John Berardi in "Scrawny to Brawny." Almonds, cashews, Brazil nuts, pistachios and any unsalted, unroasted nuts can be part of your bodybuilding meal plan. If you're not a nut fan, professional bodybuilder and trainer Marc Lobliner, in an article on, recommends macadamia nut oil, peanut butter or almond butter instead. Most nuts contain between 4 and 6 grams of protein per 1-ounce serving and are around 50 percent fat.

Pile on the Veggies

Don't forget either your dark green leafies or your brightly colored vegetables. Vegetables are vital for bodybuilders as they contain phytochemicals that protect against illness, according to dietitian Matthew G. Kadey, writing on the Muscle & Fitness website. They also aid in post-workout muscle repair. Include at least one serving of vegetables at each meal and aim to get as wide a variety of different types as possible. Unless you opt for french fries, you really can't go wrong when picking a vegetable to support your bodybuilding lifestyle.

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