Woman Making Meal Plan in front of Fridge

High-Protein Lunches to Gain Lean Muscle Mass

Key Points

Get great lunch ideas to add variety into your diet while training

 

Like training, diet is a vital part of bodybuilding. Sometimes we either skimp on lunch because we don’t have time to eat or wind up eating take-out when we are at work. And as you may have experienced, the diets of those who train can be restrictive, repetitive, and boring.

Having little variety in your diet can lead to an inadequate intake of essential minerals and vitamins. During a cutting phase when you eat limited calories, it’s important to incorporate a variety of foods into your diet to ensure your nutritional needs are being met.

It’s important to plan your meals. Having your meals ready to go before the work week starts (yep, meal-prep) will make lunchtime a breeze and you can calculate your macros more accurately.

Here are a couple of lean muscle-building lunches with recipes and other ideas that’ll get you on track for eating right and out of the fast-food line at noon. 

Sumac Shrimp and Crispy Chickpea Salad

Shrimp is a very lean protein that contains BCAAs. 

Serves: 4

Start to finish: 41 minutes

Prep: 30 minutes

Cook: 11 minutes

Ingredients:

For the dressing

1 tablespoon tahini paste

Juice of 2 lemons

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon water

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon honey

Salt, pepper, and sumac to taste

 

For the chickpeas

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and dried

Generous pinches of salt, pepper, and paprika 

 

For the salad

6 cups spring mix lettuce

1 English cucumber, halved, seeded, and thinly sliced

½ cup pickled beets, sliced

8 figs, quartered

¼ cup reduced-fat feta, crumbled

¼ cup mint leaves, chiffonade

 

For the shrimp

½ tablespoon olive oil

1 lb shrimp, shells and tails removed

Generous pinches of salt, paprika, and sumac

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients. Adjust seasonings, as necessary. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oil in a large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add the chickpeas and a generous pinch of salt, pepper and paprika. Sauté until golden and crispy, shaking or stirring often, for about 6 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the lettuce, cucumber, beets, figs, feta, and mint.
  4. Preheat the oil in the nonstick skillet over high heat. Add the shrimp, along with a pinch of salt, paprika, and sumac. Cook, flipping once, until shrimp are pink and curled, about 3-5 minutes.
  5. Divide the salad between four plates, top with shrimp, chickpeas, and salad dressing.

Nutrition Information (per serving)

Calories: 510; Total Fat: 22 grams; Saturated Fat: 4 grams; Protein: 34 grams: Carbohydrates: 48 grams; Sugar: 27 grams; Fiber: 9 grams; Cholesterol: 241 milligrams; Sodium: 531 milligrams

(Source: Recipe by Abbey Sharp, RD of Abbey’s Kitchen)

 

Tuna Quinoa Cakes

These quinoa cakes are easy to make and even better to tote to work as leftovers. 

Serves: 6

Start to finish: 25 minutes

Prep: 5 minutes

Cook: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

1/2 cup cooked, mashed sweet potato

2 cans tuna, drained

3/4 cup cooked quinoa

1/4 cup green onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 egg

1/4 cup plain yogurt

1 tablespoon mustard

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 cup breadcrumbs

Instructions:

  1. In a small bowl, combine the tuna and sweet potato and mix well.
  2. Add remaining ingredients and stir until combined.
  3. Using your hands, form into 6 cakes.
  4. Place on a greased baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 20 min, flipping once.

Nutrition Information (per quinoa cake)

Calories: 149; Total Fat: 3 grams; Saturated Fat: 1 grams; Protein: 11 grams: Carbohydrates: 19 grams; Sugar: 3 grams; Fiber: 2 grams; Cholesterol: 44 milligrams; Sodium: 247 milligrams

(Source: Recipe by Lindsay Livingston, RD of The Lean Green Bean.)

Other Lunch Ideas

Again, the idea is to add variety. A healthy portion of protein mixed with veggies and healthy carbs is the way to go. Search for recipes like: 

  • Toasted chickpea sea-salad sandwiches 
  • Seasoned grilled chicken breast, mixed greens, and baked sweet potato
  • Grilled chicken breast over spinach with sliced strawberries and almonds
  • Peppers stuffed with brown rice and turkey sausage
  • Buddha bowls
  • Lean beef spinach meatball pasta

Don’t Forget Your Supplements

Supplements can play an important role in providing nutrients to bodybuilders and athletes. According to a recent review by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, supplements and vitamins you need to incorporate daily are:

Creatine monohydrate: 3 g a day

Beta-alanine: 3–5 g a day

Citrulline malate: 8 g a day

Caffeine: 5–6 milligrams per kg of body weight per day

Omega-3 supplements

Stop by Nutrition Nation and talk to one of our experts to find the supplements you need!

Also, follow us on social media for more healthy recipes, workout regimens, and other great resources.

By Leslie Radford
Supplements for bodybuilders

Clean Bulking Guide

Key Points

Learn how to clean bulk: what it is, who should do it, and what you should eat

 

Clean bulking is often utilized by athletes who desire to stay relatively lean in the off-season. This approach isn’t for everyone, as its associated weight gain tends to occur slower than it does with other bulking methods. Let’s take a look at what clean bulking is and how to do it properly.

What is Clean Bulking?

Bulking is a sustained calorie surplus (you eat more calories than you burn) which leads to weight gain in the form of muscle or fat. This eating strategy is combined with high-intensity resistance training to boost muscle and strength gains.

The Goal

The goal of the bulking phase is to gain as much muscle growth as possible with minimal fat gain. Since you’re on a higher calorie diet, you will still increase total body weight and gain some fat.  Many people intend to gain more total body weight to build muscle. 

You can monitor your gains with an InBody Composition analysis at Nutrition Nation. 

Important Factors to Consider When Gaining Weight

To progressively gain weight you must be eating in a calorie surplus—consuming more calories than you burn each day. By doing this your body is able to replenish lost nutrients and still have leftover energy to store, which translates to weight gain. 

Consider the following important factors in determining your total daily expenditure: 

  • Basal metabolic rate
  • Activity level
  • Exercise
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Height

These allow you to calculate your total daily expenditure unique to the amount of energy your body burns.

If you end up burning more calories than you consume, your body composition may improve, but it is likely you will lose weight and not gain much muscle mass.

Don’t get caught up in the idea of “the more I eat, the more muscle I will gain.” If you have this mentality, you will end up increasing your body fat percentage. 

Choosing the Right Foods to Eat

You should look for healthy foods that are high in calories vs. junk food. Consuming unhealthy foods to help you put on weight faster is not your best option. Making healthier choices supplies the body with essential nutrients necessary for optimal health. 

Choosing the Right Foods to Eat

 

You can also add bulking supplements from Nutrition Nations — we’ll help you find the right one for your body.

Healthy Fats

Start by incorporating healthy fat (unsaturated fat) sources high in calories but also provide essential nutrients. Avoid trans fat.

You can find healthy fats in:

  • Nuts and peanut butter
  • Avocados
  • Olive oil
  • Eggs
  • Cheese

Complex Carbs

Complex carbs take longer to digest. They don’t cause immediate (or drastic) blood sugar effects like simple carbs. When eating carbs, opt for a complex carbohydrate:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Quinoa
  • Beans
  • Rice
  • Whole grain bread
  • Oatmeal
  • Granola 

Lean Protein

For lean bulk protein sources, try to stick to mainly lean meat or lean plant-based options. Don’t be afraid to eat red meat either. For your macros, aim for 0.8-1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. About 35% of your calories each day should come from proteins like:

  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Lean beef
  • Seafood
  • Lentils

Achieve Balance

Achieving a clean bulk is all about balance. Incorporating healthy foods will significantly boost results long term. 

 

By Leslie Radford
abs

What to Eat During the Holidays to Keep Your Body Composition

Key Points

Three steps to maintaining your body composition during the holidays

 

The holidays are upon us. Between the frequent gatherings and endless shopping trips, it’s hard to keep a consistent gym schedule, much less a healthy eating schedule. One study found that people gain an average of 500% more weight per week during the holiday compared to non-holiday weeks!

No worries. Nutrition Nation is here to help you maintain your body composition and provide support to avoid holiday weight gain.

Body Composition

First, come get an InBody scan at the store. You can test your body composition to get your biometric data like percent body fat, muscle mass, and fat mass. Use the InBody to set a baseline to see how much fat you lose, or how much stronger you’ve become over the next few months.

In less than 60 seconds, an InBody scan can provide you with additional information like:

Segmental Analysis: Learn how much muscle and fat is in each of your body segments (right arm, left arm, torso, right leg, left leg) to identify areas of weakness.

Visceral Fat Analysis: Learn how much fat is surrounding your major organs. Visceral fat is associated with risks of developing diseases like cancer, diabetes, and stroke.

Basal Metabolic Rate: Find out how many calories your body burns while at rest so you can calculate how much food you should be eating per day.

Read more about body composition

plate with fork and knife icon

Eat Healthy

Second, watch what you eat for the next few months. You’re going to be tempted to indulge in all the salty, sweet, and carboliscious foods associated with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, but you have to be strong!

Here are a few nutrition tips to stay on track during the holidays:

Eat 1 plate of food. Fill it with lean protein (like turkey), vegetables (greens are best), and healthy carbs (like sweet potatoes). Have small servings of guilty pleasures. 

Limit alcohol and sugary beverages. This may be a hard one. Have seltzer with a lime, or if you absolutely have to, have a glass of wine. Sip it and savor it. 

Drink a ton of water. This will keep you full and dilute the sodium found in many holiday foods.

Have dessert. Make it something REALLY worth it. Have a half serving. Or, make your own healthy dessert and bring some to share. 

Protein up. Drink a protein shake 60 minutes before mealtime. This will bring you in to the meal already satiated and not ravenous.

Stop before you’re full. Eat slow, chew slow, enjoy the heck out of your food. This will allow your brain to catch up to your stomach and keep from over-eating.

Learn how to count macros. 

man doing workout at home

Work Out

Third, make time to work out. Holiday foods are high in calories, so you need to do something to work them off. Even if you can’t make it to the gym, go for a walk or jog, do some isometric exercises when nobody’s looking, pack some resistance bands in your suitcase when headed to the relatives – hey, something is better than nothing! 

Here are some core exercises you can do without equipment. 

Happy Holidays

Enjoy your time with your family, just pay attention to what you’re eating and make time to work out. Then head back to Nutrition Nation to get your body composition to see how well you did!

By Leslie Radford
woman exercising

Tips for Women’s Health: National Women’s Health & Fitness Day

Tips for Women’s Health: National Women’s Health & Fitness Day

Key Points

Eat healthily

Exercise

Self-Care

Women’s Health & Fitness Day is the nation’s largest annual health promotion event for women of all ages and is celebrated the last Wednesday in September. It focuses attention on the importance of regular physical activity and health awareness for women.

Here are a few simple things that women can do regularly to ensure good health:

Health Tip #1: Eat healthily

woman eating healthy food

Eat more natural foods like a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods. Whole grains and high-fiber foods are great to add to your diet. Choose leaner cuts of meat, fish, and poultry. Avoid foods and beverages that are high in calories, sugar, salt, and fat.

If you’re not getting enough vitamins and nutrients in your diet, you might want to take a multivitamin and a calcium supplement to make sure you’re maintaining good health.

Additional diet tips:

  • Limit foods that are high in sugar
  • Eat smaller portions spread out over the day
  • Watch your carbohydrate intake
  • Eat a variety of whole-grain foods, fruits, and vegetables every day
  • Consume less fat
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Use less salt

Health Tip #2: Exercise 

woman exercising

 

Exercise at least 30 minutes per day. This will lessen your risk for heart disease, the leading cause of death among women in America. Aerobic exercises (walking, swimming, jogging, bicycling, dancing) are good for women’s health in general and especially for your heart. Adding weights will increase not only the strength of your muscles but your bones. You don’t have to lift heavy and you shouldn’t be concerned with bulking up unless that is your ultimate goal.

Regular physical activity helps:

  • Keep bones strong
  • Prevent hip fracture (breaking your hip)
  • Decrease pain from arthritis
  • Prevent dementia
  • Maintain the independence to do basic everyday activities, like getting dressed, going to the bathroom, bathing, and eating

Health Tip #3: Self-Care

woman meditating

Self-care is something that many women struggle with. It’s their nature to take care of others first. But taking care of yourself is vital to your health. When you practice self-care techniques, you can manage stress more easily, boost your confidence and your immune system, and lower your risk for many diseases. 

Ways to practice self-care:

  • Meditate
  • Exercise
  • Eat healthily
  • Get plenty of sound sleep
  • Sit in the sun
  • Read for pleasure
  • Journaling
  • Getting recommended screenings

Recommended Screenings: 

  • Cholesterol and Blood Pressure: Women ages 20 and up 
  • Pelvic Exams and Pap Smears: Women ages 21-65 should have annual pelvic exams and a Pap smear at least every three years. 
  • Breast Exams and Mammograms: All women should receive a breast exam every year beginning at age 20, even if it’s just a self-exam. Get mammograms from age 40-50, and every other-year mammograms after that. 
  • Osteoporosis Screenings: Women 65 and older 
  • Colorectal Screenings: Start at age 50
  • Skin Cancer: Women of all ages should develop the habit of paying attention to changes in the skin or changes in moles and birthmarks
  • Diabetes: Get regular screenings from age 40 onward
By Leslie Radford

How To Read Nutrition Labels

How To Read Nutrition Labels

Packaged Foods
Packaging Terms and What They Mean

It’s not realistic that we eat only fresh, natural, organic foods and completely avoid processed or packaged food options. Sometimes we have to eat things out of a box so we need to learn how to read the information on nutrition labels to determine which processed options are better than others.

Packaged Foods

Nutritional labels on packaged foods allow you to compare the calorie, fat, trans fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and sugar content, as well as learn the ingredients in any given food. Knowing this information, you can make the most accurate decision about which foods are appropriate for your dietary needs.

Look for plain ingredients. The harder it is to pronounce, the more likely you shouldn’t consume it.

Some packaged food will even say “organic,” “ natural,” or “no artificial ingredients” but many people don’t know what the difference is, so they end up buying the wrong products, for their personal dietary needs.

Packaging Terms and What They Mean

Healthy Snacks to Curb Your Cravings

Healthy Snacks to Curb Your Cravings

Sometimes you just need a snack. But don’t turn to chips when you need something salty, or candy when you need something sweet. There are more nutritious, satisfying treats available.

Curb Your Cravings

Blood sugar dips three to five hours after you eat. Eating small, frequent snacks keeps your metabolism revved up and helps normalize blood sugar and ultimately keep you from reaching into the cookie jar.

Nutrient-poor, sugary snacks like candy bars may give you a quick jolt of energy, but then you’ll crash. That can leave you hungry, cranky, sleepy, and unable to concentrate. Good-for-you fruit sugars, honey, dairy products, whole grains, and many vegetables lift mood and battle fatigue without the roller-coaster effect.

Healthy snacks derive an extra mental boost if you include protein in your snack, like fish, meat, eggs, cheese, and tofu. They contain an amino acid that increases the production of neurotransmitters that regulate concentration and alertness.

Guidelines

When choosing a snack, keep these general guidelines in mind: 150 to 250 calories, about 3 grams of fiber, 5 grams of protein, and no more than 12 grams of fat.

Healthy Snacking

Healthy snacking curbs cravings, fights weight gain, regulates mood, boosts brainpower, and gives you the energy you need to keep going. Nutrition is the key to a healthy life.

Foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, dairy products, whole grains, and legumes are satisfying and are packed with the nutrients, fiber, and protein your body needs. They guard against sugar highs and lows.

Here are some examples of healthy snacks:

  • Fresh fruits and veggies

  • Roasted chickpeas

  • Popcorn

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Whole-grain toast with peanut or almond butter

  • Plain yogurt or cottage cheese (Add freshly cut fruit)

  • Fruit and veggie smoothie

  • Whole-grain crackers with canned tuna or salmon

  • Unsweetened dried or freeze-dried fruits

  • Frozen banana slices

  • Frozen grapes

Always remember to check the nutrition label when shopping. Watch for added sugars and salt, and try making healthier versions of packaged snacks at home so you can choose the ingredients.

What are Macronutrients and Why They are Important to Your Health

What are Macronutrients and
Why They are Important to Your Health

There are 6 essential nutrients that the body needs to function properly: Carbohydrates, Lipids (fats), Proteins, Vitamins, Minerals, Water. Nutrients are found in foods that provide us with energy, are building blocks for repair and growth, and necessary to regulate chemical processes in the body.

Three of those nutrients are called macronutrients (Carbs, Lipids, and Proteins) and are the chemical elements that humans consume in the largest quantities (“macro” means large). Almost every food has a combination of macronutrients. Although each of these macronutrients supplies the energy needed to run body functions, the amount of energy that each provides varies.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates provide fuel for the central nervous system and muscles. They can be found in grain products, fruits, and vegetables. It is recommended that carbohydrates should supply 45–65% of our total daily energy needs.

The shorter the molecule chain is, the easier it is for your body to break down. These are called simple carbohydrates. On the other hand, larger molecule strains are referred to as complex because it takes longer for your body to break them down into usable components and will keep you full longer.

Why do we need carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates provide the major source of energy to fuel our daily activities. They also prevent protein from being used as an energy source and instead enable fat metabolism. They are also important for brain function and can influence mood and memory.

Some of the carbs we consume are converted into a type of starch known as glycogen, which is stored in the liver and muscles for later use as an energy source.

Cellulose (a.k.a. dietary fiber) is a non-digestible carbohydrate found in fruits and vegetables. They are not used as an energy source but play an important role in maintaining the health of the large intestine and assisting with the removal of body waste.

Proteins

Proteins may be used as a source of energy when carbohydrates are not available. Protein is found in many foods including meats, poultry, fish, meat substitutes, cheese, milk, and nuts, and in smaller quantities in some starchy foods and vegetables.

The body breaks down protein into its building blocks called amino acids. There are 9 essential amino acids that can’t be produced by the body. Proteins that contain all nine essential amino acids mostly come from animal sources. Proteins that do not contain all nine essential acids mostly come from plant sources.

Why do we need proteins?

Proteins are used to produce new tissues for either growth or to repair old or damaged tissue, and to regulate and maintain body functions. Enzymes used for digestion, protection, and immunity are made of proteins. Essential hormones used for body regulation require proteins to function.

Fats

Although fats have received a bad reputation in relation to heart disease and weight gain, some fat in the diet is essential for health and wellbeing.

Trans fat, or saturated fat, has been shown to increase the risk of coronary heart disease and is known as unhealthy fat. These “bad” fats are mostly found in processed food such as fast foods and sweets.

Healthy fats, or monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, consist of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids that are essential fatty acids. Like essential amino acids, your body cannot produce them by itself so they have to be ingested through food. Great sources of healthy fats are avocados, coconut oil, fish, walnuts, and extra virgin olive oil.

It is recommended that 20–35% of our daily energy requirement should be supplied through the consumption of fats and oils.

Why do we need fats?

Fat is actually incredibly important to normal body functions, providing support to hormones, insulation for nerves, skin, and hair health. They are a high-energy source that helps us absorb vitamins and insulate the body.

These three things in combination keep us healthy and our bodies regulated.

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