Mass Meals: Try These 10 Top-Rated Muscle-Building Foods For Size

“You gotta eat big to get big!” That’s what they all say, every pro from Lee Haney to Ronnie Coleman. But what exactly does that mean? Measuring out serving sizes by the pound? Pulling up to the nearest drive-through fast-food joint and ordering one of everything?

Not exactly…

Eating “big” refers to eating a lot, yes, but of the right type of food, optimized by being split into meals eaten over the course of the day. You should aim for six meals per day, each one giving you 30-45 grams (g) of protein, for a total of at least one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day. You also need plenty of carbohydrates to boost your training drive and your ability to recover from the hard work in the gym.

Next, you need to stock your meal plan with the best foods for getting big. The following list gives you 10 you can grow on–include them as frequently as you can in your mass-gaining nutrition program.

1 Salmon

Six ounces of salmon provide 34 g of muscle-building protein and, just as important, 4 g of omega-3 fatty acids, the healthy fats that reduce muscle inflammation to encourage muscle repair and help control cortisol. (As cortisol levels fall, testosterone levels generally rise, promoting mass gains.) Consuming a diet rich in omega-3 fats also helps push the majority of glucose you consume into your muscles instead of into bodyfat stores.

2 Lean beef

A lot of hardgainers mistakenly ditch dietary fat, thinking it will add bodyfat. But, as with the omega-3s in fish, the saturated fat in beef actually promotes growth. Consuming too little saturated fat in your diet compromises testosterone and insulin like growth factor (IGF) levels, hormones that encourage growth. Beef is also a source of cholesterol, the main ingredient that helps the body make its own testosterone. Of course, beef is also a good source of creatine, B vitamins and zinc.

Leaner cuts of beef are the best option, as fattier cuts may provide more calories and saturated fat than even hardgaining bodybuilders need in a serving.

3 Eggs

There are many different ways that nutritionists “score” protein foods for their ability to induce growth. Eggs are at the top of nearly every list because they are extremely easy to absorb–the body can easily break down the food into amino acids, the building blocks of muscle. Whole eggs are also rich in healthy fats, saturated fats and lecithin, all of which are great for helping to build muscle mass. Egg yolks may not be ideal when in cutting mode, but for offseason size gains, don’t shy away from the yellow stuff.

4 Whole milk

If you are a true hardgainer and you’re trying to get big, don’t drink skim or low-fat milk! Those are for dieters. Sixteen ounces of whole milk provide 16 g of protein and 16 g of fat. The fat in milk tends to be made up of shorter chains than the fats found in other foods. Short-chain fats are slightly anabolic, helping prevent muscle breakdown, and they are a little less likely to be stored as bodyfat than many other types of dietary fat.

The fat in milk also helps the body absorb vitamin D, which recently has been found to reduce the risk of cancer. It’s no accident that bodybuilders in the ’60s and ’70s guys such as Arnold and Franco, true mass monsters by any standard–drank a lot of whole milk.

5 Apple juice

The irony of hitting the gym like a maniac is that it tears your muscles apart. You reap the benefits later, when your body rebuilds itself, bigger than before. Drinking 12-16 ounces of apple juice before you work out provides 45-60 g of carbs and gives you a quick burst of energy (due to the glucose) that is also long lasting (thanks to the fructose). This helps put a lid on cortisol production, ultimately minimizing damage to muscle fibers, while encouraging greater training volume.

6 White bread

You know the drill avoid refined carbs because they have less fiber and fewer healthy nutrients than their whole-food counterparts, and they spike insulin levels. They’re bad news for most meals. However, white bread is the perfect food right after you train. That’s when you want a fast-digesting carb to restock depleted muscle glycogen levels and boost insulin to kick-start muscle growth, as well as blunt postworkout cortisol. Four slices of white bread provide about 50 g of fast-digesting carbs.

7 Pasta

Building mass requires a lot of carbohydrates for fuel. More important, carbs radically change protein metabolism by increasing the efficiency at which protein eaten makes its way into muscles to promote growth. In other words, without carbs, the protein that you consume doesn’t do its job to boost growth as effectively. One cup of cooked pasta yields about 45 g of carbs, which is the minimum that hardgainers need per meal to experience serious gains.

8 Garlic

How can an herb with almost no calories, carbs, protein or fat yield gains in mass? The answer is that garlic can dramatically change the hormones in your body. Getting big is about consuming the right macronutrients–carbs, protein and fat–at the right time of day. But it’s also about having the proper hormonal environment to encourage growth. Animal research shows that a high garlic intake combined with high levels of protein yields elevated testosterone levels and less muscle breakdown.

In a nutshell, that’s the true definition of an ideal anabolic state! Simply chop up a clove of garlic and stir-fry it with beef, salmon or chicken, and you have an instant anabolic additive.

9 Yogurt

Natural yogurt, either low-fat or whole-milk based, can be found in health-food stores. Your best bet is yogurt that contains live and active cultures of “good bacteria.” You won’t see the word bacteria on the label–instead, look for Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. casei, L. reuteri or Bifidobacterium bifidum. These probiotic bacteria pass through the stomach to the gastrointestinal tract where they help the body maintain a healthy balance of the bacteria that live there. These good bacteria promote a stronger immune system that aids in recovery and decreases the production of inflammatory agents, while increasing the absorption of nutrients.

Another benefit that yogurt provides is calcium, which controls muscle contraction and may help make your body less efficient at storing bodyfat.

10 Olive oil

You can’t mention mass building without discussing olive oil. The research is hot: olive oil controls inflammation in the body, and lower rates of inflammation are generally linked to improved recovery. Olive oil also produces hormone like substances that support testosterone levels and, as with any source of fat, it contributes a dense source of calories, which help tilt the body into an anabolic state. Olive oil is also high in healthy fats.

Getting huge is not just about consuming all the calories you can for growth. It’s about consuming the right calories for growth. Every bodybuilder knows the importance of consuming protein for building muscle mass, but many don’t take into account the importance of carbs, fat and foods that influence the proper anabolic environment. The foods in this list come from all corners of the nutrient world. By building your nutrition program around these 10 superior mass builders, you can make better gains in your quest for quality size.

Author: Chris Aceto
COPYRIGHT 2006 Weider Publications
COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning