If you’re serious about building muscle, you know that just hitting the gym isn’t going to give you the physique you want. To really get cut, you need to eat right too. For most people looking to bulk up, that means eating lots of protein plus plenty of foods that are rich in other vitamins and minerals that help your body repair itself after a tough workout.
Sticking to a muscle-building diet can be hard, though. Protein shakes, cottage cheese, and chicken breasts are convenient ways to give your body the fuel it needs, but they can get a little boring after a while. But between work, the gym, and the rest of your life, who has time to cook?
Enter the slow cooker. You can throw together delicious, healthy meals in a matter minutes with this handy counter-top appliance. Just take a few minutes in the morning or evening to prepare your food, and you’ll have a delicious meal ready to eat as soon as you walk in the door after a workout. Here are five recipes that will help make those hours you log in the weight room count.
1. Slow Cooker Greek Lentil Soup with Spinach, Tomatoes, and Feta
Call it the Popeye effect. Scientists have found that consuming nitrates, which are found in high quantities in foods like spinach, can help increase muscle strength. When paired with a high-protein food like lentils (1 cup of cooked lentils contains 18 grams of protein), as in this soup recipe from Kalyn’s Kitchen, you have the perfect muscle-building meal.
- 2 cups brown lentils, washed and picked over
- 8 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 medium onion, small dice
- 1 cup chopped celery, chopped into fairly small pieces
- 1 tablespoon Greek seasoning
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 teaspoon dried oregano (preferably Greek or Turkish)
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- Fresh-ground black pepper to taste
- 1 (14½-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes with juice
- 1 bunch spinach leaves, stems cut off, chopped and washed
- 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
- Crumbled feta cheese for serving
Directions: Combine the onions, celery, lentils, vegetable or chicken stock, Greek seasoning, dried thyme, dried oregano, minced garlic, black pepper, and canned tomatoes with juice in the crock of a 5-quart slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 to 9 hours, or until the lentils are soft. (Fresher lentils will cook a little faster than older ones.)
When the lentils are fully cooked, chop and wash the spinach. Add the greens along with the lemon juice to the soup. Add a little more stock if the soup seems too thick. If the slow cooker was set to low, turn it to high. Cover and cook for another 30 minutes.
Ladle soup into bowls, top with some crumbled feta, and serve.