It’s no secret that the saying you are what you eat is pretty true. Getting familiar with foods and their nutritional value is key to supporting a healthy diet. A healthy diet is key to supporting a strong body from bones to muscles. While we immediately associate protein with muscle building, as it is very important, there are other power foods that will help you build the lean muscle you’re looking for!

1. Eggs: The incredible edible egg lives up to its name. Eggs boast the highest biologically valued protein–meaning it supports your body’s protein needs better than any of the other protein powerhouses. That also means you need less egg to do the same muscle building as more of other sources. Eggs also contain a good amount of vitamin B12, which is essential for fat breakdown as well as muscle contraction. (photo credit)

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2. Coffee: Not your average cup of joe anymore! The caffeine found in coffee directly stimulates the muscles, helping you get more reps out of your workout. That means more lifting and strength training, which means stronger muscles. If you have high blood pressure, you may want to avoid this particular tip. According to researchers at Harvard, coffee drinkers also have a 30 percent lower risk of Parkinson’s disease than non drinkers. Also, be sure you don’t dilute the positive benefits of coffee with artificial sweeteners or calorie-loaded creams. (Men’s Health)

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3. Beets: B is for beets and betaine. In a 2010 study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, subjects that supplemented their diet with betaine observed a 25 percent increase in upper-body strength and power. The betaine lessens your body’s concentration of homocystein, a substance which damages your blood vessels and can lead to peripheral vascular disease, stroke and heart disease.

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4. Greek Yogurt: It’s no mystery that Greek yogurt is a fabulous alternative for oils in baking, sour cream and tons of other healthy swaps. But, what makes it so special–besides it’s exotic origin? It’s all in the straining process, which increases tis concentration of casein. Casein is a slower-digesting milk protein that steadily increases amino-acid levels in your blood.  “A 2012 study published in Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise showed that consuming casein before going to sleep provided an increase in blood amino-acid levels that was sustained throughout the night and yielded a 22% increase in protein synthesis (Bodybuilding.com).” Buyers beware, “some companies like to cut corners by adding thickeners and gelling agents, such as pectin, in an effort to give inferior products that classic Greek yogurt taste and texture,” says  Mike Roussell, Ph.D.

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5. Sardines: Canned fish always seem…well, fishy. But, compared to canned albacora tuna, sardines have significantly less mercury. They are packed tight with tons of omega-3 fats, which are anti-inflammatory agents as well as heart health essentials. Buh-bye joint pain after a heavy lifting set! (photo credit)

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6. Extra Virgin Olive Oil.  Why the “extra” in extra virgin olive oil? It contains “extra” polyphenols. Those antioxidants fight oxidative stress, aging-related diseases, high blood pressure, cholesterol and certain types of cancer. The fat content,  which is  70% monounsaturated fats, helps protect against heart diseases and cancer. So aside from it helping build muscle, it also protects against tons of illnesses! (photo credit)

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7. Chocolate Milk: Chocolate milk provides calcium, 90% water, potassium and electrolytes. So it’s the perfect post-sweat session drink if consumed in moderation. It’s also the perfect blend of both fast and slow digesting proteins!

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8. Almonds: At the top of the list for nuts, almonds provide surprising amounts of both protein and fiber. According to City of Hope National Medical Center, using almonds to increase calories over carbohydrates will yield better improvements in body composition. (BodyBuilding.com)

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9. Avocado: Maintained consumption of oleic acid and monounsaturated fats have been shown to promote growth-hormone production and testosterone levels. Thus, the regular consumption of avocados can be considered a great way to support muscle gains. Here’s one of my favorite recipes using avocado as an edible bowl – so tasty and fun!

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10. Quinoa: According to the World Health Organization, the protein levels in quinoa are the same as those found in milk. Moreover, the glycemic index of quinoa is super low–meaning that the carbs will burn slower and sustain energy longer. Oh, and it has twice the fiber of brown rice! (photo credit)

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