Staying away from refined & processed food is the first step to leaning out and gaining muscle. There are many hidden ingredients in these foods that can hinder you in reaching your nutrition goals. Incorporating foods like complex carbs, lean proteins, fruits and vegetables into your daily routine is the avenue to a healthy body and lifestyle. By making foods rich in protein a priority in your diet, you are on the avenue to the quickest way to lose fat and build lean muscle.
Before we get into our yummy protein packed, muscle gain recipes, let's talk about what to stay away from and what is important to add into your healthy lifestyle.
What foods are considered refined and processed?
There is a wide variety of refined and processed foods and most come with the convenience factor. These foods typically contain hidden large amounts of sodium, fats and sugars. Once a food is changed, meaning one or more of their natural components is removed, it becomes a refined processed food. Cereal, cookies, potato chips, frozen pizza and breads are just a few examples. Food that is processed is usually frozen, canned, baked, pasteurized or dried.
There are different levels of processed foods. Bagged spinach & cut vegetables, can be seen as minimally processed because these are pre-prepped for convenience. In the middle there are foods that contain added ingredients for extra flavor or texture (colors, sweeteners, spices) such as salad dressings and cake mixes. The most heavily processed foods are pre-made, microwavable meals and frozen pizzas.
Hidden sugars and additives such as salt and fat are added to make the food safe for consumption and also to increase its shelf life. Added sugars don't only show up in processed sweets, they are also added to breads and pasta sauces. They are typically used in low-fat foods to improve taste. What additives should you watch out for? Dextrose, maltose, trans-fat and hydrogenated oil are the ones you want to stay away from. These ingredients can count for almost twice the daily recommend amount of sodium & sugar!
Eating processed foods now and then will not have long-term effects. However, if you are trying to lean out and gain muscle, it is important to avoid these foods and opt for more nutritional whole foods. Would a customized nutrition plan make it easier for you to make healthy choices?
Check out my 5 Day Better You Program to get linked up with one of my coaches and receive a nutrition plan made for you!
Carbs are not always bad!
Carbohydrates have gotten a terrible reputation over the years, however they are not always bad! They are the primary energy source for your body! The three main types are sugars, starches and fiber. Carbs are either classified as "simple" or "complex" based on what they are made of and then what your body does with them. Let's dive in a little further.
Simple carbohydrates are composed of easy-to-digest sugars. These can either be naturally occurring like those in fruits, while others are refined and added to foods like cookies. Simple carbs are absorbed quickly in the gut and can cause a rise in blood sugar levels. These sugars can go by many different names so it is important to check the labels and see what the sugar content is in your foods before you purchase them.
Complex carbs are what you should focus on in terms of nutrition. These can be found in whole grains, vegetables and legumes. The difference is these carbs contain fiber which is not digested or absorbed. How does this help? Since the absorption of complex carbs is much slower into the blood stream so it won't spike your blood sugar and will give you a more consistent amount of energy.
Protein = Results
Consuming enough protein daily is great for your body in multiple ways. It helps build your muscles, it's good for your bones and helps maintain weight loss. Eating your protein helps you feel fuller longer and should be a staple in your nutrition. The amount of protein to consume is different for everyone. Your weight, height and activity level all are key factors into how much protein you should eat. Finding your protein number is the best way to make sure you are consuming the adequate amount for nutritional purposes but also to assure you are reaching your fitness goals.
Protein feeds your muscles and muscle tissue is much more dense than fat. This means that it takes up less space. 5 lbs. of muscle vs 5 lbs. of fat is a dramatic difference on the body. Consuming protein is also good to maintain weight loss because it takes more energy in your body to digest the protein which means more calories burned overall. When you lose weight, it can be common for you to lose muscles as well. However, by eating a protein rich diet, your body will lose fat instead of muscle.
It is very simple to add protein into your daily food intake. High protein products can be found everywhere. It's easy to only think of meat or fish as a source of protein. These are both great, but there are so many options available. Nuts, oats, cottage cheese, broccoli, quinoa, tofu and lentils are just a few high protein foods that are easy to find and delicious to eat. There is a wide variety available and something for everyone to enjoy. Check out my blog on Why You Need Protein For Results to learn more!
Here are 5 delicious recipes for you to try that are perfect for gaining muscle. They are well balanced, high in protein and healthy!
Salmon Veggie Bake
Calories 223, Protein 24g, Carbs 15g, Fat 13g (Serves: 3/Serving Size: 1)
Rich in Omega – 3 Fatty Acids. You MUST get them from your diet because your body cannot create them. Lean out benefits include lowering blood pressure, decrease inflammation Salmon is a great source of protein which plays a big role in maintaining muscle mass.
- 1 cup grape tomatoes
- 1/2 zucchini, sliced into 1/2-inch thick rounds
- 1/2 cup red onion, diced
- 1/2 cup orange bell pepper, diced
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 tbsp dijon mustard
- 1 tbsp honey
- 3 clove of garlic, minced and divided
- 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 3 (5 - 6 oz) skinless salmon fillets
- Lime wedges , for serving
- Salt, to taste
- Ground black pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Line a rimmed 18 by 13-inch baking sheet with parchment.
- Place the orange bell pepper, zucchini, and red onion on the baking sheet.
- Drizzle veggies with 4 teaspoon of olive oil, season with salt and pepper. Roast in preheated oven 8 minutes.
- Meanwhile in small bowl stir together mustard, honey, one teaspoon of the olive oil, one clove of garlic and lemon juice, set aside.
- Remove baking sheet from oven. Move veggies down a little ways to fit tomato layer and salmon.
- Place salmon on baking sheet, brush the salmon fillets with half of the mustard mixture and season with a fair amount of salt and pepper.
- Flip each portion and brush tops with remaining mustard mixture and season with salt and pepper.
- Place tomatoes on baking sheet, drizzle with last teaspoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Sprinkle remaining two cloves garlic evenly over the vegetables and tomatoes.
- Return to oven and roast until salmon has cooked through and vegetables have softened, about 12 - 15 minutes longer.
- Serve immediately with lime wedges for spritzing over salmon and vegetables.
Crispy Tofu with Greens
Calories 520, Protein 27g, Carbs 26g, Fat 29g (Serves: 4/Serving Size: 1)
Tofu is a low- calorie, high protein food that is rich calcium. This makes it good for your bones. It can also help keep you fuller for longer on fewer calories than meat.
- 1/3 cup mirin
- 1/3 cup rice vinegar
- 1 tbsp finely grated peeled fresh ginger
- 1/2 cup chopped dry-roasted peanuts, divided
- 5 tbsp canola oil, divided
- 2 (14-ounce) packages water-packed firm tofu, drained
- 8 cups salad greens
- Combine first 4 ingredients, 1/4 cup peanuts, and 3 tablespoons oil in a small bowl; stir with a whisk.
- Cut each tofu block crosswise into 8 (1/2-inch-thick) slices.
- Arrange tofu on several layers of paper towels. Top with several more layers of paper towels; top with a cast-iron skillet or other heavy pan. Let stand 30 minutes. Remove tofu from paper towels.
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add 8 tofu slices to pan; sauté 4 minutes on each side or until crisp and golden.
- Remove from pan, and drain tofu on paper towels.
- Repeat procedure with remaining 1 tablespoon oil and remaining 8 tofu slices.
- Place 1 cup greens on each of 8 plates.
- Top each serving with 2 tofu slices, 3 tablespoons miso mixture, and 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped peanuts.
Chicken & Veggie Zoodles
Calories 429, Protein 34g, Carbs 17g, Fat 49g (Serves: 4/Serving Size: ¼ Recipe)
Replacing your regular pasta noodles with zucchini noodles is a great way to increase your intake of veggies but also reduce calories. They are a great low carb substitution and are packed with fiber and vitamins.
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 lb mushrooms
- 1 yellow onion
- 1 lb cooked chicken breasts or turkey
- 14 oz. coconut milk or coconut cream
- 1½ tbsp green curry paste
- 2 tbsp peanut butter
- salt and pepper
- 12 oz zucchini spirals
- 1½ oz. salted peanuts, for topping
- Peel the onion and cut into thin, uneven wedges. Peel the lower bart of the mushrooms stem with a potato peeler or a small sharp knife. Cut into thin rods lengthwise so that the florets and the stem are still joined together.
- Heat a generous amount of oil in wok pan or a sauté pan. Sauté mushrooms and onion on high heat while stirring for a few minutes. It's ok if it gets a little brown here and there – will give a nice flavor – but the vegetables should still be crispy. Salt and pepper.
- Slice or dice the chicken meat and add to the pan. Add coconut milk, curry paste and peanut butter and stir. Add zucchini spirals. Let simmer for a few minutes to make the flavors come out.
- Salt and parmesan to taste. Add the peanuts just before serving!
Tuna Arugula Salad
Calories 269, Protein 20g, Carbs 16g, Fat 17g (Serves: 4/Serving Size: 2 cups)
Tuna has a great taste while being a low cal, low fat protein rich food. Tuna is also filled with omega-3 fatty acids which is good for reducing cholesterol in our arteries.
- 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp spicy brown mustard
- Pinch black pepper
- Pinch salt
- 6 cups baby arugula
- 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
- 1/2 cup red onion, sliced
- 1/4 cup black olives, chopped
- 1 tbsp capers
- ½ cucumber, sliced
- 2 hard-boiled large eggs, halved
- 1 (5-oz) can light tuna, drained
- 2 oz plain pita chips
- In a large bowl, add the lemon juice, olive oil, brown mustard, pepper, and salt in a bowl. Whisk together and combine ingredients.
- Plate arugula evenly among 4 bowls and drizzle the dressing over.
- Top with tomatoes, red onion, black olives, capers, cucumber, egg, and tuna.
- Serve with pita chips.
Calories 368, Protein 44g, Fat 18g, Carbs 10g (Serves: 8/Serving Size: 2)
Fish is a great source of protein which is great for maintaining healthy muscles. It is also rich in iodine which isn’t naturally produced by the body so we must get it from our food. Iodine helps the function of your thyroid gland, which controls your appetite and immune system.
- 1 lb. fresh halibut (or other white fish)
- 1⁄2 green pepper, sliced
- 1⁄2 red pepper, sliced
- 1 tbsp Dijon mustard
- 1⁄2 red onion, wedged
- 4 cherry tomatoes
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp lime juice, freshly squeezed
- In a bowl, mix the olive oil, lime juice, and dijon mustard together.
- Add fish to marinade. Put in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. Leave in longer if you want more flavor.
- Meanwhile, prepare your veggies for the skewers.
- Thread skewers with veggies and fish, 4 pieces of fish per skewer, and brush kabobs with leftover marinade.
- Preheat broiler and place the kabobs on a broiler pan.
- Broil for 6-8 minutes turning once and brush on more marinade when turning.
- Carefully remove from the oven and let cool. Serve!
If you are looking for more amazing, delicious recipes, check out the BTES App which is filled with 300+ breakfast, lunch and dinner recipes!
Gaining muscle takes time, but with the proper nutrition choices, you will see results quicker. Let me know in the comments some of your favorite protein packed recipes!
Love you lots,