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Building Lean Muscle Mass: You Are What You Eat

When a famous realtor was asked about the formula for success in real estate investing, the response was, "Location, location, location." The same mantra applies on how to gain muscle mass: "Protein, protein, protein!"

You cannot construct a building or a bridge or a highway without building materials. Protein is the building material of our bodies.

Without protein, lots of protein, the only thing you can build on your body is a fat storage dump around your middle.

Your body can convert protein into energy. Starving people lose a lot of muscle tissue in an effort to survive their ordeal. Your body cannot convert carbohydrates into muscle tissue, however. Only protein can do that.

By definition, proteins are essential compounds made up of amino acids arranged in a linear chain and folded into globular formations.

There are twenty recognized amino acids, two of which are very important in muscle construction and function.

Proteins are essential parts of organisms and participate in every process within our cells. Some proteins build muscle tissue, some build skeletal material and others participate in the metabolic processes.

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Proteins are very necessary in our diets because our body only produces a few of the amino acids needed for bodily functions. Dietary proteins provide the majority of the essential amino acids.

Enough of the scientific jargon . . . what does a diet high in proteins do for our bodies? It supplies all the building material necessary to grow muscle tissue.

Meat, fish, poultry and some vegetables are good sources of proteins. Only the animal protein is considered "complete," containing all the essential amino acids. Vegetables must be combined to form complete proteins.

From a dietary standpoint, fish and poultry are the best forms of animal protein.

Beef, pork and other meats have a much higher saturated fat content, than fish and chicken. Some dietitians maintain that we should minimize saturated fats in our diets.

Our bodies do need some carbohydrates as fuel for our daily activities. The best carbs are found in fresh vegetables and fruits, which also supply the fiber necessary for good digestion.

Vegetable proteins are readily found in legumes, mainly beans, which also contain some carbohydrates and dietary fiber. Including beans, peas, chickpeas and other legumes in your diet will provide protein, carbohydrates and fiber.

A muscle building diet should be made up of four to six small meals per day. Animal protein along with some fruits and vegetables should be included in every meal.

For the vegans amongst us, their diet should be all vegetable proteins.

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For both carnivores and vegans, some protein supplementation will assist in achieving that hard-body goal. Protein powders, drinks and capsules are readily available at your local supermarket or health food store.

In evaluating which protein supplements to buy, read the label carefully. Avoid any products that contain sweeteners, preservatives or flavoring agents that may be harmful to your program.

Avoid any hydrogenated oils, high fructose corn syrup and anything listed as a preservative. Sample high protein menus can make meal preparation a snap. Many are available from online searches or in many of the low-carb diet books.

A high protein-low carbohydrate diet, coupled with your intense bodybuilding workouts will give you the lean muscle mass that you desire.

Looking your best is its own reward, but good health and a long, satisfactory life are also part of the equation.

Obtaining as much as 25 percent of your calories from protein is not unhealthy, particularly if the protein replaces refined carbohydrates in your diet.

Replacing white bread, pasta and white flour products with high-protein foods is very healthy.

For normal people (not bodybuilders) it is recommended that protein consumption be 0.8 to 1.0 grams for every kilogram (2.2 pounds) of body weight.

This represents about fifteen percent of the dietary calories. For a bodybuilder, 1.33 to 1.50 grams of protein per kilogram equates to twenty-five percent.

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