7 Important Nutrients for Building Muscle and Increasing Strength
Building muscle requires more than just lifting weights and working out. Making any body composition change, whether it be losing fat or gaining muscle, depends as much, if not more so, on diet as it does on regular exercise.
Working out is essential to building muscle—strength training breaks down muscle tissue, and during recovery that tissue rebuilds stronger and bigger. However, in order to build new tissue, the body has to have the right nutrients to construct muscle.
This means that what we eat, and how much we eat, is essential in making muscle gains. Strength training and weightlifting without adequate nutrition, especially without enough protein, can actually lead to loss of muscle tissue. Furthermore, if we aren’t eating properly we won’t have the energy to do the workouts that lead to muscle gain. In this article, we’ll discuss 7 of the most important nutrients for building muscle.
To increase muscle mass and strength we need to consume enough calories and protein each day to actually rebuild more muscle tissue. Eating a lot of protein without eating enough overall calories makes it difficult to work out and build more muscle. Eating a lot of calories but too much junk and not enough protein will make the body unable to build muscle, and will cause it to gain fat instead. To be fit and healthy during any kind of workout plan, one must eat a balanced, nutrient-dense diet—but getting adequate protein is most important for muscle gain.
Muscle tissue is made up largely of proteins, which is why this macronutrient is so essential. Proteins are made up of hundreds or thousands of smaller units called amino acids, which are attached to one another in long chains. There are 20 different types of amino acids that can be combined to make a protein, 9 of which are considered essential (meaning they must be obtained through the food we eat). However, amino acids that are non-essential (meaning they can be produced by the body) are also very important for our health.
As important as amino acids are for building muscle, amino acids are one of the most common nutrient groups that people are deficient in. Depending on one’s weight, the recommended daily intake of essential amino acids is between 5-7 grams.
Amino acids are important for a variety of body processes. They build and repair essential body tissues, prevent muscle damage, improve muscle recovery, increase endurance and exercise performance, improve mental acuity, reduce mental fatigue, and even play a role in mood and sleep.
Not only is it important to ensure we get adequate amounts of amino acids in our diet, but it is important to ensure that our body is actually digesting and absorbing the amino acids that we consume. Unfortunately, due to modern dietary and lifestyle trends, many people’s digestive tracts are inflamed and unable to properly absorb amino acids from the food they eat. In addition, most food today lacks the nutrients it once contained due to the degradation of our soil and as a result of factory farming that produces malnourished and unhealthy animals.
Through the use of cutting edge technology, we formulated a Complete Amino Acid Complex that was created to maximize the absorption of amino acids—both essential and non-essential. It has a small enough molecular structure that it can actually bypass the digestive tract, meaning it does not need to be digested in order to be absorbed, simply combined with a simple sugar molecule when consumed on an empty stomach.
Making sure the body has adequate amino acids is essential for building muscle tissue, and when supplementing with amino acids in a bioavailable form, one may notice a major increase in energy, endurance, and performance. Amino acid supplementation is truly a breakthrough in the nutritional supplement industry, and we at Zuma Nutrition are proud to offer an amino acid supplement that is not only free of toxic chemicals and fillers, but that is actually effective and easily absorbed by the body.
Calcium is another important nutrient for building muscle and is essential for muscle contraction and energy metabolism. It is also an important nutrient for healthy bone, joint, tendon and cartilage. Healthy cartilage helps the body move by allowing bones to glide over one another. It also protects bones by preventing them from rubbing against each other. Keeping our joints healthy is essential for all physical activities and exercise—including weightlifting and strength training.
Research shows that a lack of calcium can also trigger the release of calcitriol, a hormone that causes you to store fat. Calcium can be found in green leafy vegetables (such as curly kale, okra and spinach), beans, lentils, almonds, dairy, sardines, salmon, figs, rhubarb, and many other foods.
3. B Vitamins
B Vitamins are responsible for many crucial tasks in the body, including the breakdown of carbohydrates into glucose (creating energy), the breakdown of fats and proteins (aiding in the regular operations of the central nervous system), muscle toning in the stomach and intestinal tract, as well assistance in the creation and bodily functions of the skin, hair, eyes, and mouth.
Biotin, a nutrient belonging to the vitamin B family, plays an important role in converting carbohydrates, fats and proteins into energy. It also helps keep hair and skin looking healthy and prevents your hair from turning grey. Vitamin B12 helps the body produce red blood cells, which are responsible for delivering oxygen to the muscles, making B12 a key player in muscle growth.
B Vitamins are another nutrient that many people are deficient in, and this is because the body does not store B vitamins, so they must be replenished daily from the food that we eat. As with other vitamins and essential nutrients, not only is it important that we consume them in our diet, but it is important that we make sure we are properly digesting and absorbing these nutrients so they can be assimilated to all of our body’s tissues.
We created a Co Enzyme B Complex that contains all 8 B Vitamins, as well as Choline Bitartrate, Myo-inositol, and PABA—other important nutrients that are part of the B Vitamin family, but are not actual vitamins themselves. Our formula is free of toxic chemical fillers and preservatives and is completely water-soluble, making it easily absorbed in the digestive tract. Supplementing with a high-quality B Vitamin Complex makes it easy to replace these essential nutrients that help to fuel necessary chemistry in our bodies.
4. Essential Fatty Acids
Fat is one of the three primary nutrients used as energy sources by the body (the other two being carbohydrates and protein), and ensures that fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K are delivered and utilized by the body. There are a group of fats known as polyunsaturated fats, which contain essential fatty acids (EFA); they are essential because the body cannot synthesize them on its own, and therefore must acquire them from external sources.
Essential fatty acids make up our cell membranes and are among the most crucial molecules that determine our brain's integrity and ability to perform, as the human brain is composed of nearly 60 percent fat. These fatty acids, which must come from outside sources, are the major constituent of all cellular membranes in the body, and are therefore essential for building tissue.
Essential fatty acids are divided into two main categories, Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids benefit the body in many ways; they improve heart health, support mental health, reduce weight and waist size, decrease liver fat, support infant brain development, fight inflammation, prevent dementia, promote bone health, and prevent asthma. Omega-6 fatty acids are important to support healthy brain and muscle functions but, on the downside, they promote inflammation in the body.
Although omega-6 fats are essential, the modern Western diet contains far more omega-6 fatty acids than necessary, as they are present in many of the foods that people consume (for example, most baked goods, packaged foods like cookies and crackers, chips, french fries, breads, and snacks). Corn, soybean, safflower, cottonseed, grapeseed and sunflower oils are all high in omega 6’s and are not stable oils. This means any food that’s fried, baked, or microwaved using these oils will oxidize and create an inflammatory response in the body.
The recommended ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids in the diet is 4:1 or less. However, the Western diet has a ratio between 10:1 and 50:1. Therefore, although omega-6 fats are essential in the right quantities, most people in the developed world should aim to reduce their omega-6 intake.
Omega 3 fatty acids can be found in chia seeds, hemp seeds, walnuts, flaxseeds, avocado, olive oil, hemp seed oil, salmon, mackerel, sardines, anchovies, meat, poultry, eggs. Omega 6 fatty acids can be found in walnuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, cashews, olive oil, hemp seeds, meat, wild caught fish, poultry, eggs.
In the context of nutrition, a mineral is defined as: a chemical element required as an essential nutrient by organisms to perform functions necessary for life. There are over 90 elements that make up the earth, and every one of them is a constituent of the body. These minerals, metals and trace elements are broken down and used by the body to produce coenzymes (a substance that enhances the action of an enzyme, which is a protein that functions as a catalyst to mediate and speed a chemical reaction) as well as the inorganic materials that help build muscle, nerve, brain, connective tissue, bone, cartilage, hair, etc. In other words, almost every cell of the body is dependent on coenzymes. Therefore, we must always be replacing minerals to maintain the body's homeostasis or balance. To do this, we must constantly ingest minerals in forms that the body can access and utilize.
In the past, we received many of our minerals from the food that we consumed, as the soil it grew in was rich and healthy. Nowadays, much of the soil has been depleted through the use of pesticides, over-tilling, and other poor agricultural practices, and the nutritional quality of food has also decreased. For this reason, it is recommended to supplement with trace minerals to ensure the body receives an adequate amount in the diet. (hyperlink)
While many minerals are needed for physical health and should be consumed regularly, two are especially important when it comes to building muscle: Magnesium and Zinc.
Magnesium is found in muscles, soft tissues and body fluids, and is critical for muscle function; it helps the heart beat rhythmically by allowing it to relax between beats, allowing all other muscles to relax. Magnesium also assists in calcium’s bone production, can boost energy levels, and can also reduce fatigue and muscle cramps.
The best food sources of magnesium are leafy green vegetables, string beans, legumes, pseudo-grains, bananas, nuts, garlic, and avocados.
Zinc enables the body to produce muscle-building testosterone. It allows the body to use dietary protein as building blocks for the regeneration of muscles. It also promotes recovery from exercise, boosts fertility and increases your number of infection-fighting T-cells, playing a major role in immune function.
The best food sources of zinc are hempseeds, lentils, pseudo-grains, pumpkin seeds, nutritional yeast, meat, eggs, cheese and shellfish.
7. Vitamin C
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid or L-ascorbate, is an essential vitamin to the human body. It could very well be one of the safest and most important vitamins you could take on a daily basis. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant. Antioxidants are nutrients that block some of the damage caused by free radicals, which are molecules with unpaired electrons—they rob other cells of electrons, causing damage and contributing to many diseases. Antioxidants also help to reduce damage to the body caused by toxic chemicals and pollutants such as cigarette smoke.
Vitamin C is required for the growth and repair of tissues in all parts of your body. It is used to form collagen, a protein used to make skin, scar tissue, tendons, ligaments, and blood vessels. It is also essential for the healing of wounds, and for the repair and maintenance of people's cartilage, bones, and teeth. It helps in protein metabolism. It not only provides our body with certain necessary proteins but also blocks the synthesis of vital proteins that cause infection and inflammation.
Everybody needs Vitamin C, whether you are a hard training athlete or an everyday person that is just trying to get in shape. Vitamin C can help protect the immune system and help bodybuilders recover from intense training. This vitamin can be found in most fruits and vegetables (especially citrus fruits), as well as in supplement form (hyperlink).
In order to build muscle, we must focus on more than just lifting weights and working out. Both diet and strength training exercises are essential for building muscle—strength training breaks down muscle tissue, and during recovery that tissue rebuilds stronger and bigger using the nutrients needed for muscle growth that the body receives from our diet.
What we eat, and how much we eat, is essential in making muscle gains. The most important nutritional consideration for muscle building is to ensure that one is consuming a healthy balance of calories and protein. There are also several other very important nutrients that aid in building muscle—including calcium, B vitamins, essential fatty acids, minerals (especially magnesium and zinc), and vitamin C.
With any workout plan, diet is key to success. Ensuring that we balance the right quantity and quality of the best nutrients for muscle growth with the right quantity and quality of exercise, is the best way to ensure the results we are looking for. If we follow this formula consistently, we can be sure that we are making the right steps to both look and feel our very best.