Regular exercise, working out in the gym, taking care of yourself – you can’t look good and stay healthy without putting in the appropriate time and physical effort. To ensure all that hard work pays off in the form of building lean muscle mass, you should also pay close attention to your nutrition. And with that in mind, here’s our guide on the best foods to eat to make that happen.

Clear the pantry.

This is the most painful part, but it also might be the most important. When you’re trying to bulk up, eating foods with minimal nutritional value is only going to help contribute to the kind of gains you don’t want to make. Take a break from fried foods and prepared desserts, and get the chips, crackers, and sugary cereals out of the cupboard. It’s for your own good.

Acquire the meats.

Meat has protein. Protein builds muscle. Building muscle is good. Sure. But not all sources are created equal. Skinless poultry, fish, and eggs are the no-brainers, and when shopping for beef and pork, look for cuts involving the word “loin,” which usually signals a leaner option. You should be aiming for one gram of protein per pound of body weight, which has been shown to help exercisers lose weight and body fat while preserving their existing lean muscle mass.

Fill up on filling carbs.

You’ve long heard that nutrient-rich whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are best. Yet another good reason to choose these foods over white bread and processed grains, though, is that they contain generous portions of fibre, which helps your body feel full. Cutting down on those second and third helpings will go a long way in ensuring that the weight you gain is the right kind of it.

Ideal Sources of Fibre

Get fats that work.

Fats were vilified for years among dieters for their higher calorie content, but these days, we know that food sources like avocados, nuts, olives, and fatty fish are essential to a balanced diet. While on a strength training program, sources of omega-3 fatty acids are even more important, since they help to fight the inflammation caused by intense activity. Salmon, lake trout and albacore tuna will do the trick. (Sardines are also high in omega-3.)

Recover smart.

Speaking of exercise, the average guy should be consuming at least 30 grams of protein within 45 minutes of finishing a workout. Make sure when perusing your sports nutrition retail store of choice that you’re getting a high-quality protein source that provides all essential amino acids – milk protein-based supplements are great – to give those tired muscles what they need to repair and rebuild. (And rebuild. And rebuild again.)