With summer fast approaching and low-calorie, get-ripped diets taking center stage, many of us are scouring for ways to boost strength levels without the extra fat accumulation. Gaining strength in a natural way isn’t easy, and it definitely takes a specific kind of training method. However, you can magnify the strength-boosting effects of your diet by eating certain foods at specific times of the day.
Since you gain most of the benefit of foods surrounding your workouts, most of these options should be consumed either directly pre or post workout. That said, it’s not the end-all-be-all – these foods in general contain many of the natural amino acids and nutrients to help you get strong regardless of the time of day you eat them.
PICK #1: Organic, Grass-Fed Beef
The natural cholesterol and saturated fat levels in beef are essential for keeping your strength high and mighty in the gym. And despite the stigma of beef being bad for the arteries and the colon, in moderation beef truly can be one of the most anabolic foods in your arsenal. Why Grass-Fed beef? It simply comes down to the nutrients that the beef consumed before it ended up on your plate. Since grass-fed beef has a higher overall nutrient content, it is higher in fatty-acids like omega-3s, which can dramatically help your strength and recovery.
Beef also contains high amounts of naturally occurring creatine, which can help you regenerate ATP (the chemical enzyme in your body that transports energy) in the body. So what time should you be eating your beef? If you train in the evening, eat your grass-fed beef two meals prior to your workout so that you have enough time to digest and receive the full effect. If you train in the morning, eat some beef the night before. You don’t need much – 3-5 oz is fully sufficient.
PICK #2: Spinach
Popeye was on to something when he advised kids all over the world to eat their spinach! It may not build muscle from a nitrogen balance or protein standpoint, but it definitely provides your body with the tools necessary to get strong, especially while in a caloric deficit.
The most important strength-boosting ingredient in spinach is octacosanol, a long-chain primary alcohol. This is actually the same ingredient found in wheat germ. Spinach provides a gluten-free source of octacosanol while offering the added benefits of antioxidants and phytonutrients. Octacosanol helps the body utilize oxygen more efficiently, and more oxygen to the muscle means more strength and quicker recovery.
Spinach has also been shown to increase protein synthesis, which means that it is an incredible food to add to your post-workout shake. Try blending some fresh spinach into your post workout shake after your next workout.
PICK #3: Cage Free, Organic Eggs
Whether you are a man or a woman, cholesterol is key to sustaining a healthy endocrine system and promoting the natural production of testosterone in the body. A good balance of cholesterol in the body keeps hormones balanced and subsequently will help keep your strength elevated.
Don’t believe the common misconception that the abundance of cholesterol in eggs is going to lead you down a path of heart disease – if used properly, cholesterol can fuel a healthy body that is far from any heart related conditions. Eggs also have the most abundant amino acid profile of any protein source – meaning the digestibility and absorption of the protein found in eggs is exceptionally high.
Why cage free and organic? Without getting too detailed, traditional caged hens have very little space to live and are force fed a not-so-nutritious diet, which in turn results in a low-quality egg that has a higher soy content. For those of you who know about soy, you know that it can be counter productive to testosterone production. As for organic eggs, it again comes down to what the hens are being fed. No additional antibiotics or hormones are found in organic eggs, meaning they provide a pure, unadulterated protein source to help you grow!
PICK #4: Watermelon
It’s not just for the poolside BBQ this summer – watermelon is great for lean muscle gains! Before we get into the reasoning behind why watermelon is so amazing, here’s a fun fact: Watermelon is actually considered a vegetable and part of the cucumber family! So it’s not the typical fruit that you thought it was – just like it’s also not as detrimental as many think.
Watermelon contains a high amount of citrulline, which directly converts into arginine when inside the body. Arginine helps increase blood flow and nitric oxide production, which means more blood and oxygen get to the muscle along with more nutrient delivery. It also contains a great ratio of carbohydrate to water, which means it can help hydrate your muscles and give you the intra-cellular volume (size in the muscle belly) to provide better leverage when lifting.
Watermelon can be consumed pre workout for a little bit of an extra pump, or it can be eaten post workout to maximize the nutrient delivery of your post workout meal. Since it is a relatively high glycemic food, it is recommended to only eat it around workout time.
So there you have it, four ways to maintain your strength while still monitoring your caloric intake. Just follow the above four tips and continue to lift heavy and you’ll come out as confident and lean as ever!