Building muscle takes more than just putting hours in at the gym. While training is obviously important, rest is equally significant. It’s during this time muscles heal from the stresses forced on them during exercise.
However, most importantly, an athlete must have the right nutrients, minerals and vitamins in their diet for adequate muscle recovery and repair. Supplementation can help boost an athlete’s protein intake or give that all-important vitamin hit post-workout, but meat should be the preferred source.
It’s imperative for an athlete to consume a sufficient amount of protein daily to support muscle growth and meat is an excellent source.
It has High Biological Value (HBV) and is made up of Essential Amino Acids (EAA) and Non-Essential Amino Acids (NEAA). The body can produce NEAA naturally, whereas EAA, which is essential for protein synthesis, cannot.
According to the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, strength athletes require between 1.2g and 1.7g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day. Endurance athletes need a protein intake of 1.2g and 1.4g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day.
Therefore, a strength athlete weighing 105kg will require 126g to 177g protein daily and an endurance athlete weighing 75kg will need between 90g and 105g protein each day.
It’s thought a typical 6oz lean fillet steak contains approximately 32g protein.
Vitamins & Minerals
Meat is naturally rich in multiple vitamins and minerals, all of which essential for muscle gain. It contains high quantities of zinc, selenium and B vitamins e.g. B 2, B 6 and B 12, as well as iron, in red meat.
Zinc, known for helping in the production of protein, assists in the recovery, repair and growth of muscle cells as well as boosting the body’s immune system.
Selenium, an anti-oxidant, helps prevent muscle injury post-workout by preventing oxidative damage to the healthy muscle cells, thus allowing them to repair and grow faster.
B vitamins help release energy from foods meaning an athlete will have a much more energetic and worthwhile workout.
B6 and B12 even have specialised roles that directly relate to muscle growth. B6 is needed for AA metabolism and B12 is required for maintaining nerve function, thus allowing muscles to contract.
A 4oz lean cut of beef provides your body with approximately 50% of the RDA of B6 and 25% of the RDA of B12.
Iron, known for boosting energy levels and combating fatigue, also helps facilitate the production of red blood cells. These then transport oxygen around the body and helps stimulate cell growth – particularly in the muscles.
Naturally found in meat, creatine is a nitrogen-containing compound that provides muscles with energy and helps improve protein synthesis, thus encouraging muscle gain.
90% of creatine is found in the muscles with the remaining 10% in the heart and brain.
Essentially, meat is well-balanced and excellent natural source of various elements crucial for muscle growth.
However, meat can be high in saturated fats so, for optimum muscle growth, it’s recommended athletes choose lean cuts like turkey, chicken breast and lean steaks and trim off any excess fat before cooking.