When you’re trying hard to ramp up your gains, there’s not much worse than hitting a plateau during your workout regime.
You might find that even when increasing those reps and weights, you’re just not building muscle like you used to. You’ll know by now, though, that there is much more to this than exercise.
We’ve put together a handy list of things you can add to your diet to improve your ability to smash through those plateaus.
The best way to do this is by boosting and maintaining healthy testosterone levels in combination with eating a healthy and balanced diet of proteins and other essential nutrients.
Why Is Diet So Important?
A lot of your muscle gain is based on the foods you’re eating and how best your body can convert those nutrients and use them in repairing and growing that muscle.
Eventually, you’ll reach stages during your routines where your body has developed as best as it can, with whatever combination of exercises and food intake you have, and you’ll have to switch things up to progress further.
This will happen at many stages during bodybuilding, and finding ways to maximize your diet is so important to get the best out of your workouts.
One of the key elements of your diet is foods that help to maintain a high level of testosterone in your body, as this hormone is a huge contributor to muscle growth.
There are many factors in life that can diminish those levels, from stress to aging. It can be a constant battle for many men and is definitely nothing to be ashamed of.
After all, we’re just biological machines that require some maintenance and fine-tuning every once in a while.
This may seem obvious, but eating more calories is genuinely the best way to gain muscle mass. However, it also does something else.
The higher your caloric intake, the more your body produces the right hormones to stimulate the release of testosterone in the testes.
A low-calorie diet will then reduce the amount of testosterone you produce, leading to things like reduced libido and muscle gains.
At the end of the day, if your body isn’t getting the right nutrients it needs to build up your body, it won’t bother producing the hormone used in the creation of muscle. It’s as simple as that.
Eating plenty of protein is essential when it comes to gaining muscle, but studies have shown that a high-protein diet can actually lower your testosterone levels. The nutrition game seems like a bit of a minefield, right?
To ensure the right balance here, it’s recommended that you eat 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day or 2.2 grams per kilo for you metric lovers out there.
Avoid going under or over this number to truly maximize your gains here and avoid hurting those testosterone levels. The protein-rich foods you should be considering for your diet are:
- Lean beef and chicken
- Oily Fish
It’s worth noting that soy products like tofu have been shown to decrease testosterone levels and, in turn, increase estrogen production. But this is when these foods are eaten in excessive amounts.
As we’ve just said, eating any protein in excess can decrease your testosterone levels, so you don’t need to fear tofu at all.
Adding it every now and again to your diet is perfectly healthy and won’t have any impact on those levels if eaten in moderation, just like anything else.
A balanced diet is a good diet, so just be careful you don’t eat too much of anything, and you’ll be fine.
There’s a fear among society that eating carbs is the best way to get fat. Once again, we want to point people towards the moderation argument.
In fact, carbs are one of the most important parts of your diet, especially if you’re trying to boost those T levels.
You actually want to be eating 2 grams of carbs per pound or about 5 grams per kilo of bodyweight.
Not only are carbs essential when it comes to giving you the energy you need for your workouts, but they’ll also help to boost that testosterone too.
Some great carb choices to add to your diet are:
- White Rice
- White Bread
- Potatoes/sweet potatoes
You may have noticed that some of these choices are low-fibre foods, and there’s a reason for that.
While fiber is a very important part of your diet and shouldn’t be avoided, high-fiber diets have proven to lower testosterone levels.
High amounts of fiber can also make you very gassy and bloated, causing cramping and discomfort in your gut. If you’re experiencing this, you probably want to cut out the beans a bit and let things settle down.
Eventually, you’ll find the right balance of fiber for you, but it may take some experimentation.
You’ll find fat in all types of foods, and it’s nowhere near as problematic as we’re led to believe.
In fact, healthy monounsaturated fats found in olive oil and nuts and slightly less healthy saturated fats found in red meat and eggs can actually raise those T-levels, but polyunsaturated fats, while perfectly healthy and a great addition to your diet, could lower your testosterone, based on certain scientific studies.
It’s best to stick to monounsaturated fat primarily, and here are the best foods that fall into that category:
- Olive, peanut and sesame oils
- Nuts such as peanuts and cashews
- Peanut butter
You can also add some saturated fats to your diet but with care. Remember, too much of these can harden those arteries leading to some really serious health conditions.
Humans are omnivores, not carnivores, so base your diet around that where possible. The saturated fats you can add to your diet include:
- Red meat
- Egg yolks
Avoid having these daily, and perhaps save them as a treat. You’ll probably appreciate them much more too.
The good thing about these saturated fats though, is that they do actually increase testosterone levels due to the increase in cholesterol in your body, which actually assists in the creation of testosterone itself.
Fruit And Vegetables
As we just mentioned, following an omnivorous diet means you’re going to need to make sure you eat plenty of veggies.
Sadly, there are still many people that shy away from these great, natural foods, and a lot of this usually stems from childhood.
When it comes to bodybuilding, you might think that filling up on vegetables is a waste of space, where you could be loading up on carbs and proteins. But take a good look at the natural world for a change of perspective.
Take a bull, for example.
They solely eat grass, and there are very few bodybuilders that can even come close to being compared to a bull in terms of mass and strength.
Now, we’re not saying you should start chowing down on your fresh lawn trimmings, but there’s a lot to be said for plant protein.
When it comes to hormones too, cruciferous veggies such as brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, bok choy, cress, and kale, are said to actually lower the level of unhealthy types of estrogens which would otherwise hinder testosterone production.
Can A Vegan Diet Work?
The short answer here is: absolutely. While our biological makeup is different, we would like to refer you back to our analogy of the bull.
Plants are full of proteins, and although they can be harder to break down than certain animal proteins, there’s nothing stopping you from achieving your weight gain goals while avoiding a drop in testosterone via a completely plant-based diet.
There are, as with all diets, some things to be wary of, and it’s important to make sure you are serious and committed to this diet and do your research to maintain a healthy weight, as well as obtain all of the nutrients you need.
The lack of animal products means that there are some vitamins and minerals that you might end up missing from your diet, especially things like iron from red meats.
However, there are plenty of plants that can provide these as a substitute, like iron and protein-rich broccoli and spinach.
If you feel as though there are some micronutrients you’re missing out on, then you can also just add them to your diet via supplements too.
Lifestyle Changes That Can Help
Finally, we wanted to add a few things that you can change in your lifestyle to help your testosterone stay at a healthy level.
Many of us like a drink every now and again, and some far more than others. Hitting the bar on a night out with the guys or getting them round to watch the game with a few cold ones doesn’t need to come to a stop.
It’s just another thing that can be done in moderation.
Sure, cutting out drinking altogether is entirely the healthiest thing you can do, but if it’s something you enjoy doing, you don’t want to make yourself miserable by stopping it.
Just maybe cut down on your intake and keep a level head.
Excess alcohol and other things like smoking, no matter the substance, are major factors in lowering T levels, so if you want to maintain a strong, disciplined persona, take control of the amount you drink.
Not only will it have a great impact on your physical health, but it also shows strength of character and willpower too.