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10 forgotten muscle-building foods

10 vergessene muskelaufbauende Nahrungsmittel

10 forgotten muscle-building foods

Ahh, the "lean" mass building diet - say what you will about the merits of trying to gain muscle without building a gram of body fat, but as a nutritionist, I can tell you this: some of these "lean" mass building diet plans are the most meticulous, repetitive things the world has ever seen.

I, too, am all for a good food prep routine - it makes things easy and convenient and it's a lot easier to monitor results and avoid getting off track when you know exactly what you're eating at every meal.

The problem is that people get so stuck in such a routine that they don't get any variety and may even be missing out on a lot of nutrients - not to mention calories - that can contribute to their health and muscle growth.

As bodybuilding friendly as it may seem, a diet based on egg whites, chicken breast, brown rice and broccoli will not meet your needs - I can assure you of that. Even if it is a "clean" diet, it is certainly not optimal.

Bodybuilders weren't always this damn boring. There are many foods that old-school strength athletes swore by for mass gain that their successors seem to have forgotten or pushed to the side, largely due to poor dietary advice and a childish fear of saturated fat.

Today, I'm going to revive some of these foods with the hope that it will inspire you to make some changes to your diet - changes that can lead to building some mass that you've been missing out on through your ultra "clean" diet.

Dairy products from grass-fed cows

Although I'm not a huge fan of dairy products due to the poor processing, poor quality, loss of important fatty acids and high estrogen content, dairy products from grass-fed cattle represent something completely different.

Because these cows are actually allowed to eat what Mother Nature intended them to eat, the quality of their milk is far superior. Their milk contains more nutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin K (in its more potent form K2), omega-3 fatty acids and CLA. In fact, milk from grass-fed cattle has been found to contain up to 500% more CLA than milk from conventionally-fed cows.

You may have noticed that all of these nutrients are either fatty acids or fat-soluble vitamins. That's right, many of the benefits of dairy products are based on their fat content - despite the fact that most of that fat is saturated.

Scoff all you want, but these are very important differences. CLA has been shown to be a powerful ally in the fight against cancer and has been shown to greatly reduce tumor growth in animals, which may also be the case in humans.

A Finnish study showed that women with the highest CLA content in their diet had a 60% lower risk of breast cancer than women with the lowest CLA content in their diet. Simply switching from milk and meat from conventionally-fed cattle to equivalent products from grass-fed animals would have put all women in the lowest risk category.

The best part might be vitamin K (in the form of K2-MK4). Several studies have found that higher vitamin K2 intake results in a lower risk of heart attacks, strokes, cancer incidence, cancer mortality and overall mortality. Men with the highest vitamin K2 intake had a 51% lower risk of dying from heart attacks and a 26% lower risk of overall mortality compared to men with the lowest vitamin K2 intake.

One of the ways in which vitamin K2 improves cardiovascular health is its ability to reduce calcification of the arteries by 30 to 40%. And these are just the effects of vitamin K2 on cardiovascular health. Vitamin K2 is also crucial for proper fetal development and bone health, to name just a few of the other benefits.

And last but not least, there's something beyond the health benefits that will appeal to most of you - muscle growth. Scientists have compared low-fat milk with whole milk during the post-workout phase to see which has the stronger anabolic effects. They compared 400 ml of low-fat milk with 240 ml of whole milk to achieve the same amount of calories. Theoretically, low-fat milk should have performed better as it provided 6 grams more protein. However, the study showed that whole milk was more effective than low-fat milk despite its lower protein content. Another point of full-fat vs low-fat.

So why, if you're busting your butt to build some mass, would you choose the low-fat or fat-free option? You're trying to increase the calorie content of your diet, not decrease it. Full-fat versions - especially if they come from grass-fed cows - are far superior in terms of health and muscle growth.

Having gone to great lengths to emphasize the general value of full-fat dairy products from grass-fed cows, here are a few specific food recommendations:

Whole milk

Whole milk was once a staple of the old-school bodybuilding community's diet and has been used successfully by countless men in their quest for mass. It provides a lot of easily consumable calories, a nice blend of whey protein and casein and a good dose of electrolytes - calcium, potassium, magnesium and some sodium. It's also a good source of vitamin A, vitamin D and a few B vitamins.

Full-fat cheeses - cheddar, cottage cheese, etc.

These are also very high in calories - especially cheddar. Cheddar is one of the best sources of vitamin K2 due to the fermentation process and provides similar amounts of protein and fat without any carbohydrates. Cottage cheese is an amazing source of protein and the full-fat versions are higher in calorie density.


Cream - and whipping cream in particular - is exceptionally calorie dense. It can be a great addition to smoothies as it enhances the flavor and creaminess and provides a ton of calories.

Misunderstood carbohydrates

There are many fantastic sources of carbohydrates out there that seem to have disappeared from the focus of bodybuilders. Two perfect examples are potatoes, which have been replaced by sweet potatoes, and wild rice, which has been replaced by brown rice.

Of course, the new alternatives are also good foods, but are they really better than the foods they replace? Not really.


Potatoes have come in for a lot of unwarranted criticism recently - mainly due to their high glycemic index, which is higher than the popular sweet potato. But who really cares? You don't eat a potato on its own, which is why the T-bone steak and steamed vegetables you eat along with the potatoes will slow down digestion anyway, making the glycemic index quite irrelevant.

All this talk about the bad potatoes and the holy sweet potatoes is going a bit too far. Sweet potatoes are great, but regular potatoes contain more iron, magnesium and potassium than sweet potatoes and they are one of the most satiating foods on the planet.

They pack a lot of calories into a small package, have been a staple of the old-school community and have helped thousands of exercisers build serious mass. They're also a good source of 12 vitamins and minerals and provide 7 grams each of fiber and complete protein in a large serving.

Wild rice

Wild rice has become a rarely uttered word in the bodybuilding world today, and even in health-conscious circles. Is brown rice really better? They are both a good source of 8 vitamins and minerals. Wild rice contains 3 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein in a cup of cooked rice, while brown rice provides 4 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein. Does anyone see a significant difference here? I'd say that wild rice is just as good while providing a nice variation for the severely neglected taste buds. And has a little variety ever hurt?

Old school protein

Let's be honest, how many of you really enjoy eating skinless, boneless chicken breast several times a day? Even though this is a good food, there are so many other excellent sources of protein out there that have been largely forgotten with the explosive rise in chicken breast consumption.

These protein sources contain micronutrients, fatty acids and more that chicken breast does not, and they also bring more flavor and variety, as well as more calories to your diet to help jumpstart muscle growth. You might even enjoy eating meat again.

Whole chicken

Many old-school bodybuilders ate whole chicken in copious amounts. Whole chicken, whole milk and potatoes were the name of the game and these foods certainly worked. So why do we only eat skinless, boneless chicken breast today?

I agree that they are quite convenient and easy to prepare, go with almost anything and will keep for several days (or up to a week for the braver ones) when cooked in the fridge. However, in terms of price per calorie, whole chickens are pretty darn cheap, provide more total calories and taste much better.


Breast, thigh or the whole damn thing. Turkey is a highly underrated meat that comes into vogue at Thanksgiving, but is almost completely ignored during the rest of the year. Turkey is a fantastic source of protein, a good source of 11 vitamins and minerals, which includes a good dose of cancer-fighting selenium. In addition to this, turkey is a nice change of pace if you don't want to eat chicken all the damn time.


Tuna used to be one of the mainstays of bodybuilding nutrition, although tuna has fallen out of favor lately. Nobody talks about it and even fewer people seem to eat it. Tuna is no longer the pretty girl on the ball and has been replaced by the sexier salmon. Even though salmon contains more omega-3 fatty acids and the powerful antioxidant astaxanthin, tuna is still no slouch.

Tuna is a better source of protein, contains over 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids per can (the amount varies from type to type) and is a good source of 7 vitamins and minerals. It is also an excellent source of selenium, containing three times as much selenium as turkey! Last but not least, tuna is one of the cheapest sources of protein available, although I would recommend the light version due to the significantly reduced mercury content.

Whole eggs

Eggs seem to be making a comeback lately, but I can't tell you how many guys I know who are trying to gain weight and are still eating egg whites by the crate. Two whole eggs with six egg whites don't even come close to the calorie content or nutritional value of five whole eggs.

Whole eggs contain the important and anti-inflammatory ingredients choline and lutein for brain function, zeaxanthin for eye health, vitamin A, vitamin D, B vitamins, selenium, iodine for proper thyroid function and more. Whole eggs are one of Mother Nature's best foods, which begs the question, why are you only eating the damn egg whites? If you still think saturated fat and cholesterol contribute to heart disease - no one believes that anymore, do they?

Pork chop

Pork chops were something I grew up with and yet they seem to have largely disappeared from the American diet - probably due to the fear of fats in the eighties and nineties. Pork chops do contain more fat than chicken or turkey, but who cares? Most of the fat is monounsaturated oleic acid - the same fat found in olive oil - and pork chops are also a good source of 10 vitamins and minerals.

Pork chops are an excellent source of several B vitamins and anti-inflammatory choline, which promotes brain function. On top of that, they're delicious, which is no crime - no matter what those guys who eat 6 meals a day out of Tupperware cans might tell you.

Off to the supermarket

Consistency is the key to any successful bodybuilding plan, but that doesn't mean you should try to subsist exclusively on a dozen "clean" foods. There are plenty of delicious and nutritious foods that can help you pack in some serious calories and nutrients while adding some variety to your plate.

Chicken breast, brown rice, broccoli and egg whites are all good foods, but they're not the only choices - and especially not day in and day out. Give some of these forgotten foods a chance. What do you have to lose?


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    By Brian St Pierre | 10/01/10


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