If you take exercise seriously, you know that sore and weak muscles can get in the way of your daily run or weight training.  Muscles can weaken during the course of a normal workout, and the point of that workout is to convince your muscles to burn calories and then build themselves up bigger and stronger than before.  However, to do that your muscles need the right building blocks to replenish, repair, and bulk up.  You get them from eating foods, but only some foods have the best set of building blocks to offer.

1. Proteins

Amino acids are essential to every diet no matter how much or how little exercising you do each day.  For humans, there’s a list of nine amino acids we have to get by breaking down the proteins in our diets because our bodies cannot create them from other nutrients.   Our bodies can then combine these amino acids together to form new proteins, and proteins are an important part of every cell in our bodies.  They’re especially useful in our muscles, so if you do a lot of exercising you should have a lot of protein in your diet.

You can get protein from a variety of sources.  Animal meat like beef and chicken, eggs, and fish are all strong sources of protein.  Milk also helps, and vegetarians can get all the essential amino acids from a milk byproduct called whey.  Vegans can get their amino acids without any animals involved by eating soybeans and soy protein powder.

2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Some fats are healthier to eat than others, and fats that have omega-3 fatty acids are widely considered to offer the biggest benefits.  Fish have the most omega-3 fatty acids of any meat source, especially tuna, salmon, sardines, and anchovies.  However, you can also get omega-3 from vegetarian sources like eggs, walnuts, and soybeans.

3. Vegetable Oils

Like fish and soybeans, vegetable oils are also good as a source of healthy fats.  The cell wall is made up of lipids, the ingredients that make up fats, and so the right kinds of fats promote cell and muscle growth.  For instance, coconut oil has a good blend of medium-chain fats and works as a butter substitute, and extra-virgin olive oil contains useful antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients.

4. Carbohydrates

Some diets make carbohydrates the bad guys, but our bodies use carbs as fuel and they only turn into fat when we have too many.  A good carb load gives our muscles the energy they need for exercise, so having some just before and after a workout is a good diet plan.  Greek yogurt is an excellent source of carbohydrates since it also offers protein and the vitamins of any fresh fruit you add.

Exercise is only one part of your daily health equation.  The other half is proper nutrition, and it’s important to have the right nutrition if you plan on exercising regularly.  However, with the right blend of fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and other nutrients, you can do a lot with some simple exercise.

- The Wellness Center of NY
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