Many of us dream of a lean and well-toned body, and the reality of achieving and maintaining such a physique is all but easy. Physical exercise and proper nutrition are two of the main pillars towards attaining and (more importantly) sustaining this goal.
Balanced nutrition is paramount to good health and growth. Food can be classified into five main groups of protein, carbohydrates, dairy, lipids and fruits & vegetables
While the main source of these are all types of meat – whether red like beef, pork or lamb; or white like poultry – there are plant-based proteins in the form of soy (and its products and derivatives); beans such as pinto, kidney, garbanzo and adzuki; nuts like almonds, walnuts, pistachios and cashews; and seeds from pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and flax.
There continues to be constant debate on whether carbs are ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Some claim that carbs contribute to obesity and type 2 diabetes, and should be avoided. Others argue that not all carbs are ‘bad’ and are in fact an important macro to include in our diets.
There are valid arguments to both sides, and it appears that carbohydrate requirement is largely dependent on an individual. A genetics-based nutrition test like Imagene Labs’ OriVit can indicate your personal potential effectiveness to a low carb diet.
Dietary carbohydrates can generally be grouped into sugars, starches and fiber. Carbs are often stored as fat (stored energy) for later use.
Sugars are short-chained carbohydrates. When people hear the word “sugar”, they often think of sweeteners that have gotten a bad rep for causing obesity and diseases. The fact is that sugars occur naturally in a wide variety of foods. Fructose can be found in fruits and honey. Galactose and lactose can be found in dairy. These are all great sources of energy, especially if you lead a highly active lifestyle.
Starches are long-chained carbohydrates that are eventually broken down into glucose during digestion. Glucose is used to fuel both the brain and working muscles.
Fibrer does not provide energy to the body directly, but it does feed the friendly bacteria in our digestive system.
Dairy products are derived from milk produced by mammals such as cattle, goats, sheep and even camels. Some examples of these products include yoghurt, cheese, sour cream and butter.
Most of us know lipids as “fats”, another maligned macro nutrient. While too much fat in one’s diet is unhealthy, it is plays an important role in regulating energy and hormones in our body; hence, consuming the right amount and types of lipids is integral to a healthy balanced diet.
5. Fruits & vegetables
Fruits and vegetables play an important role to provide and supply vitamins, micro-nutrients like zinc and magnesium, as well as abundance of vitamins and fibre.
These are some of the best foods to build a lean body.
The best is free range, grass fed lean beef. This type of red meat is loaded with good amounts of protein, B vitamins and zinc. A serving of about 85 grams of beef contains 22 grams of protein. This itself equates to about 44% of your daily requirement of protein. Beef from grass fed cattle also contains a higher amount of conjugated linoleic acid that help burn fat.
Eggs are an inexpensive and easily available source of protein. Most traditional physique building ‘wisdom’ focuses only on the whites, but boosting lean muscle production and strength are greatly helped by the yolks as well! Egg yolks contain ‘good’ cholesterol that counters the amount of LDL (‘bad’ cholesterol) in your body.
3. Cottage cheese
Most would turn away on hearing the word “cheese” due to the ‘dairy’s bad for you’ myth, but cottage cheese is a gem in the aim of getting a lean body. One serving of cottage cheese (roughly half a cup) supplies about a quarter of the body’s daily protein requirement. It has a very high content of casein, a slow digesting protein that helps to maintain muscle mass during periods of fasting. It also helps to prevent muscle from being used as a source of energy during periods of fasting.
If you were a child before the turn of the 21st century, you’d probably remembered this iconic cartoon character called Popeye. His secret to gaining strength and defeating his enemies is gobbling down a can of spinach.
While we can’t promise that you’ll have larger-than-life forearms, eating spinach for extra muscle and strength isn’t too far from the truth. Spinach contains good amounts of iron, magnesium and glutamine which are all paramount to the purpose of building muscle.
There are many other foods that are able to do the job to build a lean body mass. The key is to maintain a balanced diet to avoid nutritional deficiencies.