The following six meals have one thing in common: They’re perfect. They’re flawless. They’re clean as can be, and they’re ideal because they help you build muscle (provided you’re hitting the gym devotedly), burn fat and promote overall stellar health. And, conveniently, they account for a full day’s worth of great eating. Not sure what to eat for breakfast? Lunch? Dinner? All of the above? Now you are. And while you may have to tweak portion sizes to fit your bodytype, the following meals are about as universally bodybuilder-friendly as they come. Enjoy.
Why? Eggs, a universal bodybuilding staple, offer easy-to-digest protein to kick-start muscle growth. Cream of Wheat provides energy-rich complex carbohydrates, and bananas contain both fructose and potassium, which support glycogen formation in the liver and muscles to minimize muscle breakdown in the body.
Hardgainer Tip: Substitute 16 ounces of low-fat milk for water in prepping the Cream of Wheat. This adds another 16 grams of protein, 24 grams of carbohydrate and 4 grams of fat.
Shredding Tip: Go with all egg whites to keep fat and calories as low as possible and substitute a cup of strawberries for the banana to shed another 50 calories.
Why? For muscle-building, there’s nothing like beef - it contains creatine, all the necessary aminos and a full spectrum of B vitamins, and it’s dense in iron to assist in energy production. Pasta provides carbs, which are essential for energy, and broccoli yields compounds that help with fat control.
Hardgainer Tip: Choose lean, not extra-lean, beef (around 10%-15% fat as opposed to under 10%). The extra fat and calories spare the burning of glycogen and protein for greater growth.
Shredding Tip: Temper your lunchtime carb intake: Eat just 1 cup of pasta but double up on the broccoli - low in calories, high in fiber - to control calories and your feelings of hunger.
4 of 7
The Perfect Dinner
1 chicken breast (7-9 oz.)
1 cup peas, corn and carrots
603 calories, 69 g protein, 61 g carbs, 7 g fat
Why? The combination of carbohydrates and lean protein in this meal increases the levels of insulin in the blood, fostering a hormonal environment that’s ideal for muscle growth. Yams digest slowly, helping to sustain that environment, and lower-fat protein, like this chicken breast, helps keep bodyfat in check.
Hardgainer Tip: Add a tall glass of low-fat milk and saute the chicken in extra-virgin olive oil for additional protein and essential fats that help growth.
Shredding Tip: Eat half the yam and ditch the vegetable medley, which is higher in calories, for a lower-calorie vegetable like green beans.
5 of 7
The Perfect Pre-Training Snack
1 cup fat-free cottage cheese
4 slices rye toast with 2 tbsp grape jam
532 calories, 35 g protein, 89 g carbs, 4 g fat
Why? The protein from cottage cheese hits the blood by workout time, sparing muscle breakdown. Grape jam offers sugar, which kicks up insulin to minimize breakdown as well. Rye bread is a slow-burning carb, preventing blood-sugar drops that can come from eating sugar alone.
Hardgainer Tip: Include extra jam to guard against the depletion of glycogen.
Shredding Tip: Stick to two slices of toast to control carbs but don’t forgo the jam - you’ll need the quick burst of energy to offset muscle breakdown.
NOTE: Consume this meal 1 hour before training.
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The Perfect Post-Training Snack
Whey-protein shake (two scoops mixed with water)
1 cup rice with 4 tbsp raisins
549 calories, 45 g protein, 91 g carbs, 2 g fat
Why? Recovery and growth. Fast-digesting protein and carbs jump-start the rebuilding process. Whey is a great source of amino acids, and the rice and raisin mixture offers concentrated carbs that kick up insulin for muscle repair.
Hardgainer Tip: Bump the rice serving to 11⁄2 cups for more simple carbs.
Shredding Tip: Eat 1⁄2 cup of rice and 1-2 tablespoons raisins.