Nutrient Dense for Hard Muscles – Get Rock Hard With Lifting – Your Fork
Posted On July 1, 2023
If someone ever called you dense, now you can take it as a compliment. Muscular men are dense: they have thick, tight muscles that move their bodies like a sports car. They have power and they pack a punch. And one major thing that can make muscle dense is not lifting weights. He’s not even in the gym. It is eating nutrient-dense foods.
Most fit men know that eating extra calories can help your body composition by improving your lean muscle mass. But gaining more lean muscle mass and reducing body fat isn’t just a matter of eating low-fat and fat-free foods. “That’s the mistake that’s often made,” says James Sealy, a personal trainer in Houston. “If the idea was to simply reduce the fat you eat, everyone who lifts could easily become more muscular.” The substitute that is often made to replace fat is a “healthy” carbohydrate choice, such as whole grains, fruits, or vegetables. While these certainly aren’t unhealthy foods, Sealy notes, there’s a better option: nutrient-dense foods. Foods that are both calorie and nutrient dense can give you more power to lift weights, general energy, through protein and carbohydrates. Even better, nutrient-dense foods are more likely to make you feel full and help you resist fattening foods and empty calories when they tempt you.
You actually cut calories when you switch from high-fat foods to a better option, even if it’s not nutrient-dense foods. One gram of fat has about twice the calories of one gram of protein or carbohydrate. “So if you replace the fat with something that’s pure carbohydrate, you’ll get a healthier option,” says Sealy, “but you’ll also cut your calorie intake in half.” And as we all know, calories create fuel for the body, a necessity for the type of person who lifts weights.
CHOOSE ‘DENSE’ FOODS
“The best way to increase the amount of nutrient-dense foods in your diet is to replace them with protein- and carbohydrate-packed foods that feel like eating the same amount of less valuable food you were eating before,” says Sealy. “The most challenging part is figuring out which foods have this most nutrient-dense quality.” An easy comparison is an eight-ounce glass of soda versus an eight-ounce glass of orange juice. Although both are sweet drinks that are broken down almost entirely to carbohydrates in the body, juice has more vitamins, a healthier and more digestible form of sugar (fructose, or fruit sugar, instead of sucrose), and some fiber.
A less obvious example is eating a bowl of oatmeal (with skim milk and honey) versus a bowl of cold cereal sweetened with skim milk. “Even if the oats and the cereal had the exact same ingredients and the same amount of fiber, the difference is the honey,” says Sealy. That small amount of honey (say, a tablespoon) has 17 grams of carbs and 64 calories. A small difference, yes, but one, if part of a series of smart choices throughout the day, can make a world of difference for the fitness-oriented man. Another example is soup. While any idiot can tell that cream of broccoli is more fattening than vegetable soup, there are even more differences that most athletes don’t appreciate.
“It may seem like the right idea to substitute vegetable soup, because it’s so much lower in fat,” says Sealy, “but that’s where you can make the mistake. You need to go a step further to choose something nutrient-dense…something that doesn’t get fat”. The man who passes up the cream of broccoli soup should also forgo the vegetable soup and choose the lentil soup instead. It is equally low in fat, but generally higher in fiber and protein than vegetable soup.
“Discovering nutrient-dense foods is a matter of reading food labels and learning about food, even if you don’t like to cook,” says Sealy. But, he adds, a simple rule of thumb is to choose foods that are high in protein and low in fat. Foods like beans, tofu, egg whites, and chicken breast are good examples.
While you don’t have to give up all the foods you love, it helps to change your mindset if you view food as something for pleasure. “It’s okay to enjoy a good meal, but when you’re on the go and trying to make healthy choices, reframe food in your mind as a source of energy, not something just for fun or pleasure,” says Sealy.
A lunch option in the past, when you thought you were making the “healthy” choice, might have been apple juice and the salad bar. At the salad bar, you choose the fat-free dressing, lots of greens, and just a little cheese for flavor. What is wrong with this picture? Hint: the cheese is not the problem. You didn’t eat enough protein, and your mid-afternoon hunger is likely to spill over. A better option, Sealy says, would have been a skinless chicken breast with apple juice, even if you had no carb or vegetable side.
“A steady supply of protein helps you build muscle at rest,” says Sealy. “A protein shake at work in the afternoon would be a great snack.”
KEEP CARBS LOW
It may sound like the Atkins diet, but part of the process of choosing nutrient-dense foods is avoiding eating too many carbohydrates. As you’ve probably heard, human growth hormone has been shown to help build muscle and look and feel younger. The problem is that it is more difficult for the older man to achieve it naturally. You don’t have to run to some shady clinic in a developing country to give yourself an illegal injection. There is something you can do to help his body.
Factors that stimulate the release of growth hormone, according to Michael R. Eades, MD, author of the book Protein Power, include a high-protein diet and a carbohydrate-restricted diet. But how much protein should you eat, if you don’t know? An article in the Journal of Applied Physiology suggests that for the man who is interested in building muscle, you could roughly double the recommended daily allowance of 0.36 grams per pound of body weight. So if he weighs 180 pounds, he would consume 64.8 grams (2,276 ounces) of protein in the mother’s recommended daily allowance. Increasing this to somewhere between 0.75-1.0 gram of protein per pound of body weight gives you 135-180 grams (4.74-6.32 ounces) of protein per day.
“It all sounds very scientific,” Sealy says, “but don’t worry about it. Give yourself time to learn about high-protein, low-carb foods. Go to the grocery store when you’re not hungry and have time to read labels. Remember , all packaged foods have labels.” In many grocery stores, even the produce section has signs listing the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables.
The goal is to have a daily diet that is not only physically satisfying, but makes every rep as worthwhile as possible. It saves you valuable time in the gym and makes it more likely that you’ll get the results you want. It’s something from all the time, not from what you ate that day. “So don’t worry when you have the occasional cheat day, or make the wrong decision or two,” Sealy adds. “The good part is that by steering you in the direction of eating nutrient-dense foods, it allows you to get the lucky bonus of building more lean muscle mass, even if you haven’t changed your routine.”