Muscle mass is important. This is true whether you’re a casual gym-goer or a hardened bodybuilder. While it can be tricky to maintain muscle even at the best of times, winter presents its own unique set of challenges. You’re probably less active than you are during the warmer months.
And then there are the holidays. Even if you’re not big on winter holidays, there’s a good chance all the hype around them is going to throw off your eating habits. There are also those pesky parties that always make sticking to a diet tough.
As if all of this wasn’t enough, the winter months also change the availability and price of most muscle-friendly foods. While fish and leafy greens are relatively affordable during summer, they can be priced right out of your budget as soon as winter hits. And, since they’re not technically in-season, they might not taste as fresh, either.
Thankfully, there are plenty of in-season winter foods that can help you maintain your muscle mass until spring hits. And, since many of them are considered staples of a winter diet (at least in the US), there’s a good chance they’ll be readily available when you’re visiting family. Most of them can even be prepared for a potluck, if you have to plan ahead for one!
Winter is soup season. And while soup might not be your favourite food, you should definitely put split pea soup on your meal plan.
This dish is high in fibre, which helps keep your blood sugar levels where they should be. Fibre also helps you maintain a full feeling after you eat, so you’ll be less likely to snack on all those holiday sweets. You can stick with a traditional recipe that is a sure-fire crowd pleaser at any party.
But if you want to maximize your protein intake along with all of that fibre, you should try this version designed specifically for bodybuilders. Greek yogurt makes a great high-protein addition, and that’s without adding any meat to the soup at all!
It’s only fitting that a split pea soup recipe for bodybuilders includes Greek yogurt. Unlike regular yogurt, the Greek variety is packed with protein.
While regular yogurt has an average of 3.5 grams of protein per cup, Greek yogurt packs in a whopping 20 grams. By comparison, a cup of shredded chicken breast has 38 grams.
You need protein to keep your muscle mass stable. Without enough protein in your diet, your body will turn to its own muscle stores to ensure it gets enough. Over time, this means that you will lose the gains you’ve made. And, in some cases, it can be hard to reach your former level of muscle density.
In addition to being high in protein, Greek yogurt also contains probiotics. Probiotics are tiny microorganisms that are found in some foods… and they also live in your gut, where they help your body. Some probiotics can even help your body burn more fat (but not muscle). This makes Greek yogurt one of the “living foods” that burn fat!
Greek yogurt is easy to work into most diets. You can top it with granola or fruit for a filling breakfast. And you get double the muscle-protecting power if you choose blueberries, since they contain the antioxidant Pterostilbene, which is believed to encourage fat burn while protecting muscle fibre.
Greek yogurt also make a handy high-protein replacement for sour cream on these tacos formulated specifically to protect your muscle gains!
Although this delicious fish is usually more popular in the summer months, it offers a key ingredient that makes it a must-have on any muscle maintenance menu. That ingredient is omega-3 fatty acids.
Omega-3s have been credited with a lot, but unfortunately, not all of it is backed with science. However, there are a few things that science has proven, and one of those is the fat-burning benefit of omega-3s. Omega-3 fatty acids are a healthy fat that kick your body into burning other fats more efficiently. They work a little differently for everyone. But they should still make an appearance on your menu if you want to shed pounds while keeping your muscles strong.
Easy recipes like this baked salmon pair well with Brussels sprouts and other leafy greens, so you get a healthy dose of fibre and folic acid on top of your protein and omega-3s. And if you have leftovers, you can add them to this delicious salad for a meal on-the-go that will kick any sweets cravings you stumble across.
With the current focus on low-carb diets, you might be surprised to find potatoes on this list. And as someone who follows a low-carb diet myself, I was skeptical, too. But despite a potato’s macro profile, you should still keep it on your menu.
Potatoes are loaded with lots of nutrients. They have a ton of vitamin C, as well as a healthy dose of vitamin B6. And since B6 is necessary for your body to process the food you eat, among other things, you definitely don’t want to run low.
But nutrients aren’t the only thing potatoes have to offer. A lot of people are wary of starchy foods, but when it comes to potatoes, you don’t need to worry. And that’s all because of resistant starch.
Resistant starch is a kind of starch that, well, resists absorption. Since your body doesn’t absorb it, it sits in your stomach and keeps you feeling full. On top of that, it doesn’t affect your blood sugar as much.
There is one small catch, however. For potatoes to register as resistant starch in your body, you have to cook them, then let them cool. So mashed potatoes won’t offer much resistant starch. This potato and edamame salad, on the other hand, will! It’s a great side dish for just about any meal, too. And once you get the hang of making it, you can put your own spin on cold potatoes so you’ll stay full and still get all the B6 you need!
Winter might not have as much of a food-focused reputation as spring or summer… and it might be harder for you to get out and exercise.
But that doesn’t mean that you have to sacrifice muscle mass. And it definitely doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the foods that will keep your gains where they belong!