This Is the Key to Getting Better Muscle Definition

Updated 03/31/17
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Just because you stepped up your workout routine doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll see muscle definition. According to Jonathan Valdez, Telehealth registered dietitian, nutritionist, and certified personal trainer in New York City, muscle tone is dependent on both workout and diet. Since we have the workouts down pat, we asked Valdez to school us on the necessary nutrition to create muscle definition.

You might think a hardcore HIIT workout or Pilates class would provide muscle tone in just four weeks, and while that is possible, it is much more likely to happen when paired with the correct foods. “One cannot live without the other,” Valdez explains. “If you have inadequate macronutrient and micronutrient intake, it can inhibit muscle healing and building. At the same token, if for example, you do not work out your bicep, it will not have the opportunity to define and become stronger.” In order to help us reach our fitness goals, Valdez put together a list of the foods we should eat as well as the ones we should avoid if we want more defined muscles. To get the best results from your workouts, keep on reading for Valdez’s muscle-toning diet tips.

What to Eat

Greek Yogurt

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If you want to see the payoff from your workouts, Valdez recommends eating this low-calorie, protein-packed food as just one cup contains about “21 to 22 grams of protein” as well as leucine and glutamine proteins, “both of which are necessary for muscle synthesis.” And while eating dairy can be tricky for some, Valdez says Greek yogurt is “more lactose intolerance friendly and becomes even more friendly when blended into a fruit smoothie.”

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Less Than 3 Ounces of Animal Protein Per Meal

If you happen to be a meat eater, Valdez cautions you to not exceed three ounces of animal meat per meal. According to Valdez and a few studies, your body “maximally utilizes 30 grams of protein at a time for protein synthesis,” and since “three ounces of meat on average contains 20 to 23 grams of protein,” Valdez says that is all your body needs per meal. In other words, if you want to see muscle tone, watch your meat portions.

Fruits and Vegetables

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According to Valdez, “Fruits and vegetables have an array of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to assist with recovery and metabolizing the necessary macronutrients for building muscles.” To capitalize on the many health benefits of fruits and veggies, Valdez recommends eating or drinking six servings of your favorites per day.

What Not to Eat

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Alcohol

While it might seem obvious, Valdez says all too often alcohol is the culprit for a lack of muscle definition and increase in caloric intake. Being that alcohol is high in calories (a port wine has about 90 calories while a piña colada comes in at 426), the unnecessary extra calories “could increase the size of fat cells or once that is maximized [and] create new fat cells that will then hide the muscle definition,” says Valdez. He further adds that overdoing it on alcohol can “inhibit performance, delay metabolism in the liver, and lead to increased body fat.” Specifically, Valdez recommends women stick to one serving per day while men can have two.

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Simple Carbohydrates

While some fruits and vegetables contain simple carbohydrates, Valdez says to stay away from bad simple carbohydrates commonly found in baked goods, cookies, and cereal, as these foods can “add to excessive caloric intake, which will then turn into fat.” Instead, Valdez says to replace simple carbohydrates with whole grains that “contain more nutrients needed to metabolize macronutrients and increase satiety on fewer calories.”

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Too Much Fat

To curb unnecessary calories, Valdez says to swap fatty foods for whole grains: “Fat has the weakest effect on satiety versus carbohydrates and protein,” he explains. While Valdez notes that fat is important for a variety of body functions and absorption of vitamins, he says if you are looking to trim down and increase muscle definition, fat should only comprise about 20 percent of your caloric intake per day. So feel free to eat those healthy fats—just maybe get the salad dressing on the side next time.

Next up: See how long it actually takes to get muscle definition.

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