It’s time to start shedding weight from those winter months, so load up your plate with the right fruits and vegetables. Spring is here, which means brighter days and brighter fruits and vegetables that can help you build muscle. The more color a food has, the more nutrient-packed it is—giving your body a jolt of nutrition. This season you could go all natural to help build a lean, ripped physique and to power through workouts more efficiently—you’ll thank us.
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I know what you’re thinking, and no, artichoke dip won’t cut it. The cheesy appetizer will kill your macros. Instead, load up a salad with artichokes or use them to top off a pita pizza. Coming in at 64 calories and 10 grams of fiber, this medium-sized vegetable contains less than half the recommended daily allowance for fiber—38 grams. Fiber can play a vital role when you’re trying to drop some weight. For workout purposes, artichokes are packed with magnesium and potassium, which help maintain muscle integrity and control muscle contractions.
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If this past winter left you with less of a pump and had you dabbling in the supplements, you can stop. The reason: beets contain naturally occurring nitrates. Once the nitrates hit your blood, nitric oxide will start to widen your blood vessels — allowing oxygen to be more readily available throughout your body. With more oxygen and an improved blood flow, there’s no doubt that you’ll be pumping more iron this spring.
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The pump-enhancing action doesn’t stop at beets. Spinach is a solid choice, especially as part of a beet and spinach salad. Like its blood-circulating sidekick, spinach is rich in nitrates—no wonder why Popeye was a fan! Also, one cup of spinach has close to 200 percent of the daily value of Vitamin K—keeping your bones from weakening from all those heavy sets.
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The greener the better for this vegetable. Asparagus is another veggie that’s high in Vitamin K and fiber. It’s also a rare holder for glutathione—an antioxidant that’s comprised of three amino acids, which protect your cells’ DNA from damage. In the muscle world, glutathione can help reduce inflammation. Eating asparagus can also improve blood flow to working muscles, that’s because it’s abundant in folate. And to help you really lean out, the amino acid asparagine found in asparagus prevents unwanted water weight.
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Don’t throw out this fruit for the sugar content—you’ll regret it post-workout. A study published by Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise indicated that tart cherries could decrease muscle damage after intense workouts. Why: Tart cherries contain the antioxidant compound anthocyanin, which has anti-inflammatory properties.
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Besides the fact that strawberries will add more flavor to a post-workout shake, they’ll also help speed up recovery. Strawberries’ bright color gives it away that they’re rich in antioxidants. When you’re pushing through a hard workout, your body produces free radicals, which can delay recovery time. However, adding strawberries to your post-workout shake can help offset this.
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Have you ever found it odd that there’s a pea protein powder? Peas are packed with branched-chain amino acids—leucine, isoleucine, and valine. Also, one cup of peas contains nine grams of protein along with two other vital amino acids: arginine and lysine. Arginine is the precursor to NO, and lysine can help speed up recovery post-workout as well as play a possible role in hormone production.