Lean muscle: It’s what we all want, right? Long, toned muscles that look elegant — not “bulky.” We talked to Jenn Randazzo, a registered dietitian with a master's degree in nutrition and dietetics, for the best foods to eat for muscles, as well as some general background on building the body you want.
First, let’s start with a little lesson on lean muscles. What does that even mean?
“Something I hear time and time again is, ‘I don’t want to build muscle; I just want to become more toned, ’ but guess what? Building muscle and toning muscle are the exact same thing.” Randazzo said.
“Our total body composition is composed of four things: fats, fluids, mineral mass and lean body mass. This lean body mass includes all of our muscles, which are fat-free cells in the body, and lean muscle is just a popular expression. Lesson here: Muscle is muscle.”
In other words? All muscle is inherently lean. So if you’re building muscle, it’s going to be fat-free and lean.
“When you hear people say they want to be more toned and lean, what they really want is to build strength in their body while reducing their total amount of body fat. This concept is typically referred to as the “strength-to-weight ratio, ” she said.
So how does one “build” muscle with diet? Muscle is built when it gets broken down by the body.
“Especially during exercise, the protein-packed structures within the muscle become depleted of their glycogen stores, resulting in muscle fatigue, ” Randazzo said. “Ever ‘bonked’ mid-workout because your muscles have ached so badly? This is exactly what you’re feeling. Because the body perceives this work as an ‘injury, ’ the immune system is triggered, sending in special proteins to help begin repairing the damaged muscle tissues — so the body can focus on repairing and muscle to rebuild from. To effectively rebuild muscles, diet becomes especially important, ” she said.