Getting stronger isn't just about lifting weights in the gym -- your diet plays a big part, too. To build and repair muscle mass you need protein in your diet. Meat is the main source of protein in Western diets, which can make it seem like getting stronger without eating meat is an uphill struggle. This isn't the case, however, as there are lots of other strength-building foods available to you.
1 Add beans and legumes to casseroles, stews and soups. Beans contain around 12 to 14 grams of protein per cooked cup, while lentils have 18 grams per cup. An incredibly cheap protein source, you can bulk up meals with different types of beans, such as black, pinto, kidney or cannellini varieties, which also provide a hefty dose of fiber.
2 Cook with vegetarian meat replacements. Tofu, tempeh and seitan are all versatile alternative protein sources to meat. Try them in stir-fries, curries, chillies or even as a substitute for ground meat in pasta sauces.
3 Include more dairy in your diet. Dairy foods, particularly cottage cheese, milk and yogurt, are all high in protein. Stick to mainly low-fat and fat-free varieties.
4 Consume an adequate amount of carbs, too. Carbs give you energy to train hard and build muscle, notes trainer Adrian Bryant of NowLoss.com. Whole grains, such as brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, whole-grain bread and oats or bran cereals also pack more protein than white carbs.
5 Increase your calorie intake. Calories are crucial for getting stronger, as not eating enough leads to sub-par recovery and a lack of energy. If you're currently maintaining your weight, increase your calorie intake by 200 per day to support muscle and strength gains.
6 Add healthy fats to your meals and snacks. Fats provide vitamins and minerals as well as being more calorie-dense than protein and carbs, so they help when upping your calorie intake. Nuts, seeds and nut butters are your best bet, as these provide muscle-building protein, too, though olive, avocado and coconut oils are good choices, too.
- You'll only get stronger by combining your strength-building diet with a structured strength-training routine. Ask a qualified trainer at the gym to show you some basic free weight, body weight and machine exercises and help you design a routine.
- Speak with your doctor before making any dietary changes.
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