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Diet & Exercise

9 Nutrients Your Body Needs to Get Fit and Build Muscle

Building muscle is a complicated and stressful process for the body.

Certain nutrients are needed to make sure you can not only maximize your muscle building efforts, but also do things right without overstressing or damaging your body.

When you work to build muscle, starting from your workout to your post-workout habits and the recovery process that happens while you’re asleep, the process is like a busy construction yard with thousands of tiny players doing their part.

Some nutrients help repair and build muscle mass, some are transporting other nutrients to your muscles, some are working to burn fat, and others are making sure your muscles can function at their best by maximizing your metabolism and improving muscle contraction.

So yes, proper exercise and sleep are critical components, but if you’re not giving your body the right nutrients, it will only be working at half capacity and you’ll be wasting your efforts. Or worse, damaging your body.

Your future health can be predicted by the nutrient density of your diet.

– Joel Fuhrman

Here are nine nutrients your body needs to build and maintain muscle while keeping you healthy throughout the process.

1. MagnesiumHealthy diet helps with memory 1024x684

First, magnesium helps improve sleep quality. That makes it important already as it’s when you’re sleeping that your body is working to repair the damaged muscle tissue from your workout.

However, magnesium is important for other reasons too.

It helps build muscle because it promotes muscle relaxation and prevents cramps, both important when you’re pushing your body to its limit and want to avoid any unnecessary injury.

Where to get magnesium:

  • Leafy greens
  • Legumes such as beans
  • Nuts
  • Whole grains

2. Iron

Iron, like several of the nutrients on this list, help bring oxygen to your muscles. This is important because without enough oxygen, they can’t function properly.

In addition to this, though, iron helps regulate your metabolism which is critically important if you’re trying to lose body fat while building that muscle.

Where to get iron:

  • Leafy greens
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Poultry

3. Calcium

Remember those old milk commercials with the talking cow, telling you to drink milk because it helps your bones become strong? Well, calcium is important for more than just bone health.

That’s because calcium has actin and myosin, protein filaments that provide energy that your muscles need to work right. Without enough calcium, your muscles can’t function properly, and this becomes even more important when you’re consistently working out and using more of this energy than usual.

Where to get calcium:

  • Dairy
  • Spinach
  • Some fortified cereals

4. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is sometimes referred to as the “sun nutrient” as our body absorbs vitamin D when exposed to the sun.

It’s known for helping improve immune function and strengthening the bones. However, it’s also important for muscle growth and maintenance because it helps build testosterone, a hormone critical for both functions.

Where to get vitamin D:

  • Vitamin D supplement or multivitamin (most foods have a low vitamin D level, so it’s best to supplement to make sure you’re getting enough– and make sure you’re getting outside!)
  • Low levels in dairy, eggs, and fish

5. Protein

As you are probably aware, protein plays a critical role in the muscle building process.

Protein has several amino acids that are critical for both building and repairing muscle, in addition to helping improve the body’s ability to repair itself in general.

Where to get protein:

  • Lean meat
  • Fish
  • Dairy
  • Legumes such as beans
  • *Side note on soy: Many people think that soy is a good source of protein. It’s not. The body does not absorb virtually any of the protein in soy as its missing critical components that allow the body the absorb the protein when consumed.

6. Potassium

Ever had a bad muscle cramp? You’re not getting enough potassium.

Potassium helps transport nutrients such as water to your muscles, which makes it critical in the entire muscle building process. It’s also one of several important electrolytes for muscle contraction, hence the cramps if you’re not getting enough.

Where to get potassium:

  • Greens
  • Chicken
  • Some fish (such as salmon)
  • Banana (one of the best sources)

7. Glutamine

Glutamine is another amino acid, and it's particularly important when you’re regularly exercising.

That’s because glutamine aids in muscle repair, like protein, and it’s especially effective if you’re doing high-stress workouts like High-Intensity Interval Training or weightlifting.

Where to get glutamine:

  • Meat such as chicken and beef
  • Fish
  • Dairy
  • Eggs
  • Some greens such as spinach

8. Carbohydrateshow-to-create-healthy-daily-habits

Most people think of carbs as the primary source of energy for the body and something you want to reduce when building muscle or losing weight. However, they couldn’t be more important.

Carbohydrates provide the body with glycogen, which doesn’t just provide energy for the body (of which you need a lot as muscle use a ton of energy to work), but also improves muscle repair, especially after a good workout.

Where to get carbohydrates:

  • Whole grains
  • Legumes such as beans
  • Fruits

9. Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, is important because it’s one of the primary nutrients that helps build red blood cells.

Why are red blood cells so important? They carry oxygen to the muscles which is critical for muscle growth. In addition, they help metabolize energy such as fats and proteins used in muscle repair and growth, easily making vitamin B12 one of the most important nutrients when you’re trying to build muscle.

Where to get vitamin B12:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Dairy
  • Some breakfast cereals

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