There are a lot of great reasons to make muscle gain a goal. Studies show that having more muscle boosts your metabolism, so you naturally burn more calories. Plus, having stronger arms, legs and abs can make it easier to power through the longer cardio workouts that you need in order to lose fat. And adding a little definition to your body can help you look great in a miniskirt or sleeveless dress — just look at Michelle Obama’s well-defined arms!
But gaining muscle doesn’t mean you have to chug high-calorie protein shakes or eat steak every night. There are a few easy ways to tweak your diet to gain muscle while still losing weight:
- Make sure your post-workout snack includes protein. In the first hour after your workout, your muscles are primed to absorb amino acids and grow stronger if you eat a little protein. Studies show that the ideal carbohydrate-to-protein ratio for a post-workout snack is between 3:1 and 4:1. Easy pick-me-ups to throw in your gym bag include half of a turkey sandwich or a banana with a single serving of Greek yogurt. Both provide portion-controlled protein to help your muscles get stronger after a tough sweat session.
- Include protein in your evening snack. Researchers have found that eating a high-protein snack before bed can increase muscle synthesis by about 22% while you sleep. Dairy products contain enzymes that enhance this effect, as well as an ideal combination of whey and casein protein, so if you’re looking to tone your thighs while getting some shut-eye, consider drinking a glass of skim milk before bed or having a bowl of cottage cheese with a little cinnamon sprinkled on top for dessert.
- Eat protein throughout the day. Some people find it daunting to make sure they’re eating enough protein for muscle gain. But if you try to include just a bit of protein at every meal — like peanut butter on your toast at breakfast, kidney beans in your lunchtime salad and tofu in your stir fry at dinner — it’s easy to get in enough protein. Plus, protein keeps your appetite at bay, so you’re less likely to give in to sugar cravings that can throw off your diet!
- Choose high quality sources of protein. There are tons of high-protein foods that can help you build muscle while still meeting your weight loss goals. Chicken and tuna are great sources of low-fat protein, but if you’re a vegetarian, soy-based alternatives will also do the trick. Legumes like lentils and black beans are great too, because they are high in protein, chock full of filling fiber, and cost only pennies per serving!
If you want to look and feel fit and strong, gaining muscle is key, and it’s easy to adjust the timing of your protein intake to promote weight loss and increase lean muscle. Soon, you’ll be well on your way to the toned beach body you’re looking for!