In recent years, the yogurt aisle at the supermarket has experienced something of a cultural revolution. Made by straining away liquid, Greek yogurts are packed with twice as much muscle-friendly protein and fewer carbohydrates as regular versions. One key amino acid that Greek yogurt has in spades is leucine, a branched-chain amino that appears to be an anabolic activator and a vital part of muscle protein synthesis.
Choose lower-fat plain varieties (which are just as creamy and thick) for a better protein-to-fat ratio, and less gut-busting sugar and calories than flavored yogurts. Expect to pay a little extra for Greek versions because of the labor required to make them, but this must-have item is worth the dough.
Extra credit: Dairy products such as Greek yogurt are among the best sources of calcium, a mineral shown to help boost fat oxidation, and research shows its fat-burning prowess is more potent when consumed via whole-food dairy vs. supplements. Case in point: A 2011 Journal of Nutrition study reported that subjects eating a high-protein, high-dairy diet gained more muscle and shed more belly fat than subjects on a low-dairy plan.
Eat up: For a muscle-building snack, combine Greek yogurt with omega-rich walnuts and antioxidant-rich blueberries. You can also use it to replace mayonnaise and sour cream in recipes.
Excerpted from the May 2012 issue of MuscleMag.