Food and drinks to build muscle mass?

Originally Published: May 1, 1998 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: August 19, 2011
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Alice —

Are there any specific foods or drink products that can build muscle mass faster without adding fat weight?

Signed, Slim Fast

Dear Slim Fast,

The best way to build muscle mass is the good 'ol fashioned way — through hard work and dedication. Add to that a well-balanced, nutritious diet primarily comprised of whole foods and you'll be well on your way to building muscle mass without adding fat.

You may be saying to yourself, "But Alice!, I keep hearing about muscle powders and supplements that can bulk me up super speedily!" Muscle powders and supplements have been around for years and the ads can now be seen everywhere. They are so convincing that it's hard to believe they don't help build muscle any faster — but they don't. Although extra calories are needed whenever you markedly increase your exercise routine, the increase does not need to come only from protein, which is what a lot of the labels on the muscle powders imply. Keep in mind that the RDA for protein is approximately 0.8 g/kg of body weight daily, but most Americans typically eat 1.0-1.25 g/kg of body weight. For more protein-specific stats, check out "Do bodybuilders and other weightlifters need more protein?"

Additional calories should actually come from a mixture of lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and "healthy" fats. Good sources of complex carbohydrates would include beans, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, while "healthy" fats could be avocado, nut butter, or low fat dairy. There is no magic bullet, or, in this case, pill or supplement, that can build muscle mass overnight. Instead, look to food and rigorous training to help you achieve your goal of building muscle mass without adding weight from fat. In time, you will see the results you crave.

Check out other Q&As in the Fitness & Nutrition archives for more ideas and tips. Columbia students can check out Dodge Fitness center and the CU Move website for additional resources.

Also, for more information on the subject of body building and nutrition, you may want to check out the book, Built on Balance. It was written by Carol Emich, a female champion body builder.

Best of luck building your body from the inside out!

Alice