High protein diets have gained momentum in recent years as “the way” to burn fat and maintain lean muscle. These diets are heavy on consumption of the foods in this group - meat, poultry, fish, dry beans, eggs and nuts - and do have the benefit of helping the dieter lose body fat and maintain lean muscle due to the protein, B12, riboflavin, iron, niacin and other important vitamins and minerals they provide. These are all key substances in the metabolism of carbohydrates and muscle building.
The USDA recommends two to three servings per day from the meat and beans group. It is important to exercise good judgment and caution when engaging in a dietary plan that is focused on this group. A diet that does not include balanced proportions of all food groups may lack the dietary fiber, vitamins and antioxidants key to healthy living and cause stress on the body, so it is important to choose foods from the other groups which will be richest in the dietary fiber and nutrients you need. By also consuming a balanced diet from the other food groups, one will fully enjoy the muscle building benefits of meats, poultry, fish, beans and nuts.
Protein: Protein is the essential building block of lean muscle. Working in conjunction with well-chosen low glycemic index carbohydrates, it will help build muscle tissue. When one focuses on a lower carbohydrate, high protein diet, they will effectively maintain lean muscle tissue, though it may be more challenging to build new muscle. A diet focusing on healthy protein food sources, such as chicken, turkey and fish, will help maintain muscle mass and stay lean. However, one must exercise caution due to the stress too much protein can cause on the internal organs and it is important to carefully choose excellent sources of dietary fiber and key antioxidants and vitamins.
Riboflavin: Also known as B2, this water-soluble vitamin is useful for the metabolism of carbohydrates and fats. It is found in eggs, legumes, dairy products and green, leafy vegetables such as broccoli. Riboflavin promotes healthy eyes, hair, nails, skin and soft body tissue by aiding in the formation of antibodies and red blood cells and the metabolism. Cataracts, mouth sores and cracks, dizziness, light sensitivity and eye irritation, oily skin, poor digestion and delayed growth can be indicative of a deficiency of riboflavin.
Vitamin B12: Also found in dairy, eggs, beef, liver and fish, this vitamin is key for the metabolism of carbohydrates to build muscle tissue and building red blood cells. It promotes a healthy appetite and nervous system, iron absorption and cell longevity. A lack of B12 will lead to fatigue, diminished reflex response, anemia, memory impairment and general weakness in the extremities. Niacin: Used in cellular energy production, Niacin is found in lean meats, such as poultry and seafood, eggs and organ meats, as well as whole grain breads and cereals. It aids in the metabolism of carbohydrates to form lean muscle tissue but also in circulation, cholesterol level reduction, hydrochloric acid production, which helps digestions, and speeds the metabolism. Deficiency can lead to adrenal exhaustion, ulcers, eczema, hair loss, intestinal and kidney trouble, as well as premature aging.
Choline: A diet including choline can improve fatigue and performance in aerobic sports and has a positive effect on the gallbladder, hair kidneys, liver and thymus gland. It aids in the metabolism of fats and cholesterol and nerve transformation. It is found in nuts and soy products, as well as cauliflower and spinach.
Vitamin E: Protecting against exercise-induced muscle damage, Vitamin E is found in nuts, fish oils organ meats and some vegetable oils, as well as dark green vegetables and fruits. Aside from muscle and nerve maintenance, it promotes aging retardation, anti-clotting, blood cholesterol reduction, male potency, fertility and capillary wall and lung strengthening. A lack of Vitamin E can lead to dulling and falling hair, enlarged prostate, gastrointestinal and heart disease, muscular wasting, as well as impotency, miscarriages and other fertility-related issues.
Zinc: This mineral metabolizes energy and promotes immunity. It is found in animal proteins, seafood, and sunflower seeds, as well as whole grains, mushrooms and spinach. Its effects on the blood, heart and prostate gland also aid in carbohydrate digestion, reproductive organ growth and development, burn and wound healing, as well as protein metabolism. Some sources say it is a key mineral to work with proteins in muscle building.
Iron: Found in lean meats and higher in red meats, eggs and fish, as well as green leafy vegetables, iron aids in energy production, growth and development and metabolism, iron promotes healthy blood, bones, nails, skin and teeth. It aids in hemoglobin production and stress and disease resistance, and is particularly important for the growth and development of children.