Nuts are often recommended as a healthy weight loss snack, but they can be useful when you want to build lean muscle, too. Forget those boring meals of dry chicken and brown rice or egg whites and soggy spinach and embrace nuts instead. These calorie-packed little beauties are the ideal on-the-go muscle-building snack.
Calories are critical when you're looking to get bigger and stronger. To build muscle you need to eat more calories than you consume. As a rough guide, Kelly Gonzalez of Bodybuilding.com recommends multiplying your body weight in pounds by 10 to find how many calories you need each day to maintain your weight, then adding between 250 and 500 calories to this number. Most nuts contain between 160 and 200 calories per ounce, making them very calorie-dense and a useful addition to your diet if you're struggling to get the calories in. If you're already maintaining your weight, simply adding 3 ounces of nuts to your diet could be enough to start building muscle.
The majority of calories in nuts come from fat, with most nuts being around 50 percent fat. The main type of fat found in nuts -- unsaturated fat, can aid with recovery between weight training sessions. Unsaturated fats help reduce inflammation, aid muscle cell membrane function and increase hemoglobin levels in the blood, meaning more oxygen and nutrients get to the muscle tissue. This speeds up muscle recovery and means you're less likely to be sore going into your next workout.
Protein is an important component of a muscle-building diet; it aids with cell growth and repair. Typically nuts contain around 25 percent protein, so a 1-ounce serving of cashews, peanuts or almonds has about 7.5 grams of protein. The protein in nuts is incomplete, however, meaning it doesn't contain all the essential amino acids your body needs. You can remedy this by combining your nuts with another protein source such as grains, beans or cereals.
Nuts may not make a muscle-building meal on their own, but they do make a handy on-the-go snack. Add a handful of almonds into your salads or put a spoon of almond butter into your protein shake. You can also try walnuts and pine nuts in salads, have peanut butter on whole-grain toast before your workout, or add macadamias and cashews to cottage cheese and Greek yogurt with berries.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.