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10 essential protein foods for building muscle

10 Essentielle Proteinnahrungsmittel für den Muskelaufbau

10 Essential Protein Foods for Muscle Building

Improve your bodybuilding diet with these 10 nutrient-packed protein foods. This article contains 50 tips on how to incorporate each of these protein sources into your diet.

It was bodybuilding legend Vince Gironda who said that the muscle building process is 90% nutrition. However, I prefer to look at things in a more nuanced way:

Building muscle takes consistent effort in the gym, which needs to be supported by a proper nutrition plan.

For me, training and nutrition are not two separate aspects that, when put together, add up to 100%. Both are necessary. You need to optimize your training and your nutrition. One needs the other. You should look at training and nutrition as the yin and yang of bodybuilding.

To look your best, you need to train hard in the gym and support your training with plenty of nutrient-rich protein foods. You can't expect to get results from your training if you're eating poorly. Sure, you'll probably see some gains, but are they optimal? No!

A high protein bodybuilding diet should consist of the following:

  1. Food that tastes good, meals you look forward to
  2. Plenty of whole foods and fresh ingredients
  3. A variety of different foods to maximize your macronutrient, amino acid, vitamin and mineral intake

This article will help you fill your shopping cart with a selection of muscle-building protein foods. While this is not an all-inclusive list, I consider the following 10 foods to be some of the best sources of protein to incorporate into your weekly nutrition plan.

I've also included a few simple tips that will make it easier for you to incorporate each of these foods into your eating plan.

10 Essential Protein Foods

#1 - Whole eggs

Whole eggs - and not just egg whites. Even though egg whites are high in protein, they lack all the amazing nutrients found in egg yolks.

Whole eggs have some of the highest nutrient density and balance of any food you can eat. When you eat an egg, you are consuming a whole unit and not just the meat of an animal. This makes eggs a very well rounded food source and a perfect ingredient for a muscle building diet.

Eggs are also inexpensive and contain a good mix of proteins and fats. At around 80 kcal and 8 grams of protein per egg, you can add a lot of protein and quality nutrients to your diet without adding a ton of calories.

And you need more than just protein to build muscle - so don't skip the yolk.

Tip #1 - You can add eggs to your diet in a variety of ways. You can eat them boiled and chopped in salads or you can make yourself a healthy omelette filled with vegetables of your choice for breakfast.

Tip #2 - Annoyed by peeling hard-boiled eggs? Place the eggs in an ice bath for 15 minutes after boiling.

Tip #3 - Prepare "egg protein cupcakes" by placing diced ham (or any other meat of your choice) and an egg in a greased cupcake tin. Bake until the egg is set. Add a hot sauce as a topping and enjoy! These little cupcakes are quick to make and easy to take anywhere. Try to always have 8 to 12 of these in your fridge.

Tip #4 - Prepare scrambled eggs in a frying pan. Sauté diced meat (beef, poultry, etc.) and potatoes in butter or olive oil. Then crack a few eggs into the pan and stir well until the eggs are cooked. Add cheese and quark as a topping. You can also pour the finished scrambled eggs into Tupperware bowls and take them with you for lunch.

Tip #5 - If you don't like bland boiled eggs, try pickled eggs. Boil eggs, let them cool and place them in an empty preserving jar. Fill the jar with equal parts water and apple cider vinegar. Add spices such as diced peppers, garlic, onion slices, mustard seeds, etc.

#2 - Whey protein isolate

In my opinion, whey protein isolate is essential for any bodybuilding nutrition plan. It's convenient and allows you to get 20 grams of protein per scoop while keeping you hydrated. The calories are typically under 120 kcal per scoop and the powder can be taken in a shaker virtually anywhere - to work, hiking or on a long car ride.

Tip #1 - After cooking your oatmeal, add a scoop of your favorite whey protein isolate and stir well. This is an easy way to flavor your oatmeal and add protein to your breakfast.

Tip #2 - Add calories, healthy fats and extra flavor to your whey protein shakes by adding a quarter cup of cream.

Tip #3 - Save money by buying larger packs of whey protein isolate. A 2.3 kilo can is usually cheaper (per kilo) than a 900 gram bag. In many cases you can save 10 to 15% per kilo or more.

Tip #4 - Need a quick, high protein snack? Try a whey protein shake with a piece of fruit and a handful of almonds.

Tip #5 - Take your whey protein with you everywhere. Put 10 scoops together with an empty scoop in a Tupperware container. Take a shaker with you and you can quickly prepare a high-quality protein meal wherever you are.

#3 - Beef

This may sound obvious, but beef is delicious, versatile and nutritious. It comes in a variety of forms, ranging from ground beef (which you can use to make tacos or hamburgers) to steaks.

Beef is rich in protein and creatine and packed with iron and vitamin B12. Beef contains eight times more vitamin B12, six times more zinc and 2.5 times more iron than skinless chicken breast.

Tip #1 - Do you like a good steak? Mix ¼ cup sour cream, 1/8 cup hot sauce and a tablespoon of minced garlic and pour over your meat. This topping is quick to make, adds amazing flavor to your meat and adds good fats to your diet.

Tip #2 - If you need extra calories and are having a hard time gaining weight while you always seem to feel full, try eating ground meat that has a slightly higher fat content. This can also help you save some money.

Tip #3 - Did you know you can make your own beef jerky in the oven? Season 2 to 3 pounds of ground beef with salt, pepper and spices of your choice. Coat a baking tray with a little olive oil and roll out the minced meat to a thickness of around 7 to 8 mm. Dry the whole thing in the oven at 80 degrees for 8 to 12 hours and cut the meat into strips once it has cooled.

Tip #4 - Don't know what to do with that cheap beef you found in the supermarket? Cut it into cubes, cook it, add it to rice and add the spicy sour cream sauce from tip #1.

Tip#5 - Combine Dijon mustard and Worcestershire sauce to make a simple dip for your beef.

#4 - Salmon

Salmon is not only rich in omega-3 fatty acids, but is also one of the best fish protein sources you can add to your muscle building diet. Recent research has shown that the bioactive peptides found in salmon can support joint cartilage, insulin regulation and the reduction of inflammation in the digestive tract.

It probably goes without saying that joint health is very important for strength athletes. The same applies to the regulation of insulin levels. Insulin is a highly anabolic hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels. Insulin also acts as a regulator in muscle cells. Once it binds to a muscle receptor, insulin regulates the flow of creatine, amino acids and glucose into muscle tissue.

Salmon is also rich in vitamin B12, B3, selenium and vitamin D.

Tip #1 - To season your baked salmon, mix some Dijon mustard and a small amount of maple syrup and brush your salmon with this sauce before baking. Apply a second layer of this topping halfway through cooking. This sauce is low in calories and carbohydrates.

Tip #2 - Two word salmon tacos.

Tip #3 - Salmon goes well with pasta. Crumble the cooked salmon into your pasta and add a simple garlic butter sauce.

Tip #4 - Cook the salmon and let it cool. Add soy, lime or lemon juice, chives, ginger and hot sauce and serve over rice.

Tip #5 - Prepare a salmon and cheese omelette with diced tomatoes and green peppers.

#5 - Seafood

Mussels, crabs and oysters. You don't often see these protein sources mentioned in the bodybuilding world.

Even though seafood is not as rich in omega-3 fatty acids as salmon or cod, it is still a good source of these fatty acids. Seafood is also one of the best sources of zinc and is relatively rich in vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, D, iron, magnesium, calcium and more.

A Pacific oyster contains 4.7 grams of protein and only 41 kcal. A cooked mussel contains 2.4 grams of protein and only 14 kcal. 100 grams of crab contains 15.5 grams of protein and only 71 kcal.

Tip #1 - Avoid the sugary, processed cocktail sauces. Use lemon juice, pesto with lemon juice or Tabasco sauce instead.

Tip #2 - Combine 250 to 300 grams of cooked shrimp, a large egg, 1/8 cup almond meal, diced onion and diced red bell pepper with Dijon mustard, hot sauce and mayonnaise for flavor. Form into crab cakes and bake until golden brown.

Tip #3 - Add diced clams to a bowl of fresh spinach. Add mushrooms, diced tomatoes and a vinegar and oil dressing.

Tip #4 - Shrimp dipped in garlic butter. Nothing more needs to be said. Protein, good nutrients and good fats.

Tip #5 - Try crab with rice. Combine cooked crab with rice and add onions, garlic, salt, diced boiled eggs, cucumber and the juice of a lime.

#6 - Liver

Liver? Yes, liver. Most of us have never considered adding this protein source to our bodybuilding diet. Next time you're in the butcher's section of your supermarket, take a look - you'll find it there.

Liver is a true superfood, providing almost 20 grams of protein and less than 150 kcal per 120 gram serving. Liver is rich in vitamins and minerals and outperforms most fruits and vegetables and even red meat when it comes to phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, vitamins A, D, E, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B6, folic acid, biotin and vitamin B12.

Even though liver is by no means a popular bodybuilding food, you should still consider it due to its high protein and nutrient content.

Tip #1 - Don't like the taste of liver? How about tablets made from dried beef liver? Old-school bodybuilders knew the importance of this offal and regularly supplemented their diet with freeze-dried beef liver tablets.

Tip #2 - Try a liver and onion recipe. This is a very popular way of preparing liver and you will find countless recipes on the internet.

Tip #3 - Add 30 grams of finely diced liver to your hamburger meat to improve the nutritional profile.

Tip #4 - Prepare a muscle-building meatloaf using diced beef liver, minced meat, eggs and spices. This can be sliced and eaten over several meals throughout the week.

Tip #5 - To soften the harsh taste of liver, you can pickle the liver in a bowl in the juice of 2 lemons and ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar. Leave the liver in the fridge for 8 to 12 hours.

#7 - Cheese

Cheese provides a lot of flavor, is available in many varieties, and generally contains less lactose than other dairy products. In my opinion, cheese is one of the most flexible protein foods around. You can add it to salads or top your meat with some cheese to add some flavor, nutrients and fats.

Cheese cubes are a great protein snack. You can take them with you wherever you need a protein snack. 100 grams of low-fat cheese cubes contain almost 30 grams of protein for only 250 kcal.

Cheese is packed with good nutrients and is rich in vitamin K2, which has been shown to be extremely important for heart, brain and bone health. Cheese is also rich in CLA, a fatty acid that could boost metabolism and fight cancer, and also contains omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, zinc and vitamins A, D, B2 and B12.

Tip #1 -You want to add calories to your diet, but you don't want to add another meal and you just can't eat another portion of meat? Then add a small portion of grated cheese to potatoes, salad, rice, pasta, meat or vegetables. A little cheese on cauliflower and broccoli will make a big difference.

Tip #2 - Make your own cheese sauce for pasta and meat by adding ½ pack of cream cheese, ¼ cup of sour cream or cottage cheese, ¼ cup of water and 120 to 200 grams of your favorite type of cheese to a saucepan. Cook slowly over a low heat and add this sauce to meat or wholemeal pasta.

Tip #3 - Nachos! Do you have a craving for nachos? Forget the chips and try this. Place cooked meat (poultry, beef, hamburger or ham) on a baking sheet and cover with cheese. Bake until the cheese is melted. Add salsa, pepperoni and sour cream or yogurt as toppings.

Tip #4 - Stock up on cheese cubes and keep them on hand for those times when you need a quick protein snack.

Tip #5 - Prepare your muscle building lunch for the whole week using this simple recipe. Mix cooked hamburger, 200 to 250 grams of grated cheese and a packet of taco seasoning and combine with rice. Divide this mixture between 5 Tupperware bowls and store in the fridge.

#8 - Chicken

Even though chicken has been one of the basic sources of protein in bodybuilding and fitness for decades, you rarely hear about its nutritional values. Apart from being high in protein and low in fat, poultry also contains a good amount of vitamin A, B6, B12, iron and magnesium.

Poultry is one of the best foods for people who want to build muscle but need to maximize the nutritional value of every calorie they consume. A 100 gram chicken breast contains 26 grams of protein and only 142 kcal and 3 grams of fat.

Tip #1 - Enhance a bland chicken breast with a sauce that contains 2 tablespoons of sour cream and ¼ cup of salsa. This only adds 75 kcal but a lot of flavor to your meal.

Tip #2 - You can also try a combination of hot sauce and minced garlic for an extremely low calorie, flavorful garlic sauce.

Tip #3 - Try a simple muscle-building salad made with diced chicken, spinach, ½ cup cooked quinoa, slivered almonds and a homemade dressing of red wine vinegar and olive oil.

Tip #4 - Combine diced, cooked chicken, salsa and quinoa for a protein and nutrient-packed meal. This dish is quick to prepare and perfect to take to work as lunch in a Tupperware bowl.

Tip #5 - Prepare your own healthy chicken strips or nuggets by dipping poultry in seasoned raw egg and then in a coating of almond flour before frying in olive oil in a pan.

#9 - Curd cheese

Quark is a very flexible source of protein. You can eat it for breakfast and it tastes good with fruit. You can also use it as a base for simple sauces and salad dressings or add it to vegetables.

150 grams of low-fat quark provides 100 kcal and 18 grams of protein. Full-fat quark provides around 150 kcal and 15 grams of protein. Both are viable options depending on your dietary needs.

Quark is rich in calcium and magnesium.

Tip #1 - Combine cottage cheese and lemon juice to make a delicious simple sauce for salmon.

Tip#2 - Add some quark and fresh fruit to your oatmeal for a protein boost and more creaminess.

Tip #3 - Blend quark, protein powder, fresh fruit and ice for a protein-rich smoothie.

Tip #4 - Craving something sweet? Mix quark, walnuts and a little honey for a protein-rich dessert.

Tip #5 - Prepare a salad dressing with quark, olive oil, chopped garlic, salt and pepper.

#10 - Black beans

Black beans are like candy to me. They taste great and I can't get enough of them.

One cup of black beans contains 227 kcal and over 15 grams of protein. Black beans are a great source of protein for vegetarian bodybuilders and a good option for non-vegetarian bodybuilders who want a more well-rounded diet plan.

Black beans are good for digestive health as they are rich in indigestible components. Scientific research suggests that the consumption of black beans is associated with a reduced risk of bowel cancer. The indigestible components of black beans appear to be the reason for this.

Black beans are also a good source of numerous minerals including molybdenum, copper, manganese, magnesium and iron.

Tip #1 - Mix black beans, rice (or quinoa), salsa and some cottage cheese for a high protein, high carbohydrate muscle building meal.

Tip#2 - You can reduce the cooking time of fresh black beans by soaking them in water overnight.

Tip#3 - Prepare a creamy, protein-rich bean dip for vegetables by blending a can of black beans, 1/3 cup of cottage cheese, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, cilantro, salt and pepper.

Tip #4 - Prepare hamburgers with black beans, cheese and ground beef. Mix a handful of grated cheese and 150 to 200 grams of mashed black beans with a pound of ground beef.

Tip #5 - Make a quick and easy "chili" with black beans, fresh salsa and a small amount of chopped onions. Heat it up and add hot peppers, grated cheese and some cottage cheese as a topping.


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