Meal Plans

The Power of Raw Food

Take complete advantage of the muscle-building and recovery benefits of raw food to gain lean mass.


Hey, Muscle & Fitness: I want to include more raw food in my diet. Can it help me stay lean and build more muscle?

—Brandon G., San Francisco, CA

While going 100% raw (which means steering clear of any food heated to about 115° or more) can be daunting, you can certainly beneft from including more uncooked foods in your training diet. For starters, loading up on raw fruits and vegetables will flood your body with a larger dose of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which can improve muscle recovery and strength. Most raw veggies are also low in calories and high in fber, which can be a boon to guys trying to slim down.

More good news for your six-pack: Harvard scientists recently determined that cooking increases the amount of energy your body absorbs from food. That’s because cooking food performs some of the digestion for you, so your body doesn’t expend as much energy in the digestive process. If you’re looking to cut weight, the total amount of calories gleaned from raw spinach or beef tartare could very well be less than from the same portion of cooked spinach or hamburger.

You don’t have to shut of your stove permanently if you’re trying to reap the benefts of raw foods. Instead, simply look for opportunities to work more raw foods into your diet. Mix berries into your oatmeal and raw almonds into your Greek yogurt. Use large leafy greens, like collards or Swiss chard for “sandwiches.” Raw salsas can gussy up chicken, and grated raw kohlrabi or zucchini makes a good base for meat sauce in lieu of starchy pasta. You can even elevate convenience items like frozen pizza by adding raw vegetables.