Not just for bodybuilders, muscle matters for runners of the fairer sex, too. "The benefits of having a healthy amount of lean body mass are enormous for women," says Monica Vazquez, a marathoner and master trainer with New York Sports Clubs. "It reduces injury risk and boosts metabolic rate, which increases fat burning all day long."
Achieving a toned physique requires more than just pumping iron. Proper nutrition plays a key role in a woman's muscle-building efforts. Incorporate these muscle-building foods into your diet to meet your protein quota.
Low-Fat MilkMilk is an excellent recovery fuel. Researchers reported in the journal Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise that women who downed two glasses of fat-free milk after lifting weights during a 12-week period gained more muscle, shed more fat mass and had better improvements in strength than those who drank sugary energy drinks.
Drink this: After a hard run, here's a perfect muscle-building smoothie: In a blender, whirl together 1 cup low-fat milk, 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt and 1 cup frozen berries of choice.
Nutritional info per serving: 236 calories, 19 g protein, 3 g fat (2 g saturated), 36 g carbohydrate, 4 g fiber, 104 mg sodium
SpinachLooks like Popeye was onto something. Scientists at Rutgers University discovered treating human muscle cells with a compound found in spinach called phytoecdysteroid increased muscle protein synthesis by 20 percent. The study also discovered animals injected with phytoecdysteroid for a month increased their grip strength. "Though the exact mechanism is unclear, it's possible phytoecdysteroids behave like weak steroids to improve muscle strength, recovery and growth," says study author Jonathan Gorelick-Feldman, Ph.D.
Eat this: Place 2 cups of baby spinach in a food processor or blender along with 1 cup fresh basil leaves, 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1/3 cup walnuts, 3 chopped garlic cloves, juice from ? lemon, 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, and salt to taste. Process until creamy but still somewhat grainy, and use this pesto on sandwiches and whole-grain crackers.
Nutritional info per serving: 134 calories, 3 g protein, 13 g fat (2 g saturated), 2 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 70 mg sodium