When trying to pack on muscle mass, getting your calorie count and macros can be difficult for people who either have a busy lifestyle, or simply lack the appetite to scarf down huge, macro-packed meals. However, fear not, as in between meals, you can snack to boost your calorie intake. Normally when dieting, snacks are frowned upon, but as long as you’re paying attention to your intake, snacks are perfectly acceptable, especially when trying to gain weight.
Different snacks apply to different situations, and even though a snack food may be healthy, it may not be the best option to help you reach your goals. For example, if you’re only snacking on celery while trying to gain weight, you’re missing out on some serious calories, fats, carbs and protein. For weight gain, all of these things are necessary. Focusing on snacks that are calorie dense, high in protein and not too high in simple carbs and saturated fats will help you feed your muscles and fit your macros without hitting too much of a surplus and storing the excess calories as fat. Here are some great snack foods that will help you pack on lean mass without the bulky, empty calories.
Why not peanut butter? Peanut butter is still a healthy snack, but almond butter has a better ratio of protein-to-fat. Almond butter also has a milder taste than peanut butter, for those who aren’t too fond of the taste. Vitamins B12 and E help round out this great snack food.
Cottage cheese has been a bodybuilding staple for several years now, and with good reason. Cottage cheese is packed with casein protein, which is a protein that breaks down slowly. A protein that breaks down slowly is good for your diet because it keeps the amino acid levels in your blood elevated for a longer period of time than proteins that get broken down more quickly. Cottage cheese also contains good bacteria that will help you break down your food to take advantage of all the nutrients they contain.
If you’ve shied away from lentils for one reason or another, it’s time to reconsider including them in your diet. For building mass, lentils bring a lot to the table. 18g of protein and 40g of complex carbohydrates are contained in one cup of cooked lentils. Why do we want so many carbs? Carbs are going to provide our body with energy while we pack on mass. In the muscles, carbs get stored as glycogen, and help provide us with strength and a good pump when weight training. Leaving carbohydrates out of your diet can result in flat-looking muscles. Carbohydrates also shuttle protein and other nutrients to muscles after we work out, so having a good amount of them in our diet is key for bulking.
In addition to bringing a good amount of complex carbohydrates to the table, brown rice contains 5g of protein per cup, giving your macros a nice little boost. Many people steer clear of brown rice because of its taste, but Old Bay or Adobo seasonings can brighten up this great mass building food so including it in your diet is not such a bland affair.
When you’re living a busy lifestyle, getting enough protein can be hard. For a great, packable boost of protein, look to beef jerky. Beef jerky is great because it can be consumed discreetly at your desk, or on the couch at home, simply unwrap it and scarf it down.
As with cottage cheese, Greek yogurt contains a great amount of protein and not a lot of fat. Add in some oats for a boost in carbohydrates. Greek yogurt can be enjoyed on its own, with fruit or included in our next item on the list…
You knew it was coming. Protein shakes are one of the best ways to control your protein intake and making sure your body gets enough of it throughout the day. Cramming all of your protein for the day into 2 or 3 is going to be counterproductive and hard on your body. Instead, try to spread your protein intake out over the entire day, ensuring that your muscles are constantly being fed so that they can grow.
Fruit can generally be an afterthought in a bodybuilder’s diet, as it contains calories mostly derived from natural sugars and doesn’t go very far in the way of protein or complex carbohydrates. However, there are vitamins and minerals in fruit that shouldn’t be passed up to maintain a healthy body, try to get 3-5 servings a day of your favorite fruit.
Not only are pistachios bite-sized and delicious, they pack a pretty good punch nutritionally. Pistachios have a good amount of unsaturated fat and protein. Pistachios are also easy additions to things like pasta dishes and salads.
If you’ve never tried pumpkin seeds before, give them a shot. They are packed with protein and complex carbohydrates that can really boost the nutritional value of a meal or help you reach your macros when snacked on throughout the day.
Eggs are almost a religion within bodybuilding, as their protein content is super high and they contain a ton of branched-chain amino acids (the most anabolic, or conducive to growth). Hard boiling eggs makes them very easy to pack to enjoy throughout the day.
Whole milk contains a lot of fat, but skim milk is just unpleasant, what’s the middle ground? 2%, of course! Milk is a great source of protein, and the fat will help you absorb all of the nutrients contained in this classic compound. Add it to your protein shakes or drink on its own!
Snacking in between meals can be a great way to up your calorie count and make sure you’re getting enough protein, fats and complex carbohydrates into your diet. As long as you’re snacking in moderation, all of these options can be great additions to your diet to help you reach your macronutrient goals and get big!