Building hard, lean muscle requires you to train hard, rest well, and take in plenty of quality nutrition. But there are certain foods that can actually damage your health and physique, and limit your progress in the gym.
Here is a list of “goodies” that you definitely want to avoid if building big, lean muscle is your goal.
Once thought of as a great weight-loss aid because it is calorie-free and even contains a decent dose of caffeine, diet soda has slowly moved into the realm of complete junk food over the years. Between artificial colors and sweeteners, concerns about bone health, and worries that it may actually cause you to GAIN fat, diet soda has plenty of black marks against it. While health experts have debunked some of these issues, it’s a fact that sweeteners like aspartame and sucralose can cause problems for many people, which is reason enough to avoid diet soda in large quantities.
White bread is a classic case of the food industry taking a moderately healthy food — whole wheat — and putting great effort into stripping it of its nutritional value. By removing the fiber, vitamins, and minerals found in the complete grain, bread bakers have left behind what amounts to a big loaf of sugar. Kids love the taste of white bread, of course, and it CAN be used in a post-workout scheme to help boost nutrient uptake, but there are far better options.
One of those options is dried fruit. On the surface, there is nothing wrong with the concept of dried fruit, since it should be just a dehydrated form of the real stuff. After all, that makes it less susceptible to rotting, meaning it lasts a long time. The issue comes with the methods used to prepare dried fruit, which usually include adding preservatives and extra sugar. Even natural varieties of dried fruit can cause problems, though, since the lack of bulk encourages you to overeat — just like candy.
In general, you should avoid foods that are heavily processed, and that certainly holds true for lunch meats and other fleshy concoctions like Slim Jims and most jerky. While they can provide a decent shot of protein, you never really know what parts of the animal you’re eating, and processed meat is usually loaded with salt and other preservatives. Salt is not the bogeyman that many make it out to be, but there are better ways to get yours.
Artificial Sweeteners are sure to cause a debate in any roomful of fitness enthusiasts, but there is enough lab and anecdotal evidence against many of them to warrant avoiding them where possible. While their manufacturers claim that they are natural, healthy sweetener products like aspartame and sucralose can cause some funky reactions in your body. At the very least, they won’t do much to HELP your physique in the long term.
There just isn’t much about fired foods that would keep them OFF this list. In general, they are high in fat (often of the saturated or trans varieties), high in calories, laden with salt and preservatives, and spiced up with simple carbs like batter and white potatoes. They are a dieters nightmare.
Everyone’s favorite food crashes into this list by virtue of flour-based crusts, plenty of fat and grease, lots of salt, and piles of processed meat and cheese. If you HAVE to have your pizza on a regular basis, make it yourself and opt for whole-grain pitas, unprocessed cheese and meats, and fresh vegetables.
Use Common Sense
When deciding which foods to include in your bodybuilding diet, a bit of nutritional common sense can go a long way. In general, avoid overly processed foods and foods that are very calorie-dense but low on nutritional value — those heavy in sugar and fat, for example. An occasional piece of pizza won’t kill your effort, but you shouldn’t be eating a whole pie every Friday night.
Your doctor or nutritionist can help you identify other foods to avoid and which ones to include, but these dietary bad guys are good candidates for your first cuts.