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Years ago when pictures of bodybuilders and athletes were taken in black and white technology was still in black and white too. The knowledge that is now applied to producing (some) of the supplements you now use to enhance your physique was not available, legends like Reg Park, Bill Pearl, Steve Reeves and John Grimek built their physiques on food.

Science and technology has allowed men to become bigger, stronger and faster than would have ever been forecast 50 years ago, this is in part due to advances in the medical world but also due to vast improvements in the understanding of the needs of a body being regularly exercised or having its capabilities pushed to new levels on a regular basis. Increased protein requirements, understanding of how different carbohydrates are stored, a knowledge of good and bad fats are all fairly recently learned wisdom, but there is one thing that has not changed in 50 years, the foods that made the old legends become legends.

Our basic food sources have not changed, eggs, chicken, steak, oats have been around as long as man himself, but we now know how to use them to our advantage better than ever before. I will go on to list 10 foods which should be classed as essentials for anyone who wants to build a muscular or powerful physique, I also explain why these foods have additional benefits other than their main one, being natural.

1. YOGURT
Yogurt is processed by adding bacterial cultures to dairy milk, this transforms lactose (milk sugar) into lactic acid, thus giving yogurt its texture and taste. This process assists in creating an anabolic state by maintaining the gastric balance which can be effected through intense training, strict diet and other aspects of modern life. By maintaining gastrointestinal balance absorption of nutrients is improved and the immune system is strengthened too.

Yogurt is a good source of calcium which assists in the prevention of fat storage, also a good source of protein but beware of yogurts with added sugar. When mixed with protein powder it thickens up to form a very high protein low fat healthy dessert.

2. COFFEE
Coffee is loaded with caffeine which stimulates the central nervous system, assisting in alertness and preventing drowsiness, it also has a distinct thermogenic effect which basically means it helps burn fat. So a strong coffee an hour prior to training not only makes you more focused and alert but it also helps you burn fat too.

Caffeine at 10mg per kg of bodyweight can increase time to exhaustion by up to 18% and was shown to increase exercise intensity by 24%, it also increased fatty acid as an energy source and reduced lactate build up. This is the reason the Olympic committee set levels of acceptability for caffeine, it is a powerful ergogenic agent when used properly.

Additional benefits of drinking 3 cups of coffee per day is that it also decreases the risk of type 2 (adult onset) diabetes and liver disease.

3. GARLIC
Garlic is a good contraceptive, would you like to roll around with someone smelling like a Frenchman hunting Vampires? On a serious note garlic is a fantastic vegetable, it assists in testosterone production and suppresses cortisol production.

A cousin to the onion, garlic lowers blood pressure through its ability to thin the blood and has anti cancer properties too. Rich in allicin, diallyl disulphide, diallyl trisulphide and other compounds rich in sulphur which can provide a long list of health enhancing benefits themselves.

Recently the medical journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy have confirmed the chemotherapeutic Effects Of Garlic. A molecular mechanism may be the basis for some of garlic's therapeutic effects. The researchers were able to study how garlic works at the molecular level using allicin, garlic's main biologically active component. One study, appeared a recent issue of the American Society for Microbiology's Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, explains how allicin fights infection. This research supports the notion that garlic is an excellent, although smelly, natural antimicrobial drug that can disable an unusually wide variety of infectious organisms.

4. GREEN TEA
Well known for its benefits in fat loss, joint recovery and liver health green tea also is thought to prevent cancer and cardiovascular disease. The flavanoid epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is the main source of these benefits, it also has antioxidant properties and its fat burning prowess is due to it preventing the breakdown of norepinephrine. In the joints it inhibits the the enzyme that breaks down cartlige.

To quickly name just a few of the possible benefits, there are studies that strongly suggest that the antioxidants in Japanese sencha may reduce the risk of cancer, prevent cavaties, fight the flu virus, lower high blood sugar, lower blood cholesterol, and have an antibacterial action against food born illnesses. Studies show that green tea contains antioxidants, polyphenols, theanine, as well as a wide variety of vitamins and minerals.

5. WATERMELON
Watermelon is remarkably high in citrulline, an amino acid which the body converts to arginine to produce nitric oxide. Nitric oxide increases the blood flow to your muscles allowing a greater delivery of nutrients, hormones and oxygen which will allow you a bigger pump when you train, the bigger the pump the more the fascia around your muscles is stretched too, this in turn allows more amino acids into your muscle cells to assist with growth and recovery.

Watermelon is also high in Vitamin C and Vitamin A, in the form of disease fighting beta-carotene. Research also suggests that the red pigmented foods provide this protection. Lycopene and beta-carotene work in conjunction with other plant chemicals not found in vitamin/mineral supplements. Potassium is also available, which is believed to help control blood pressure and possibly prevent strokes.

6. GRAPEFRUIT
Grapefruit is rich in naringenin, a compound which slows the breakdown of caffeine, thus prolonging the thermogenic effects of caffeine. Grapefruit also contains the soluble fibre pectin which helps slow down the rate which carbohydrates are absorbed, this keeps insulin levels in check.

A 12 week study discovered when half a grapefruit or 250ml of juice was consumed 3 times daily and no other dietary changes were made subjects lost an average of just under 2kg, the insulin lowering effects were also noted in the subjects too.

7. GINSENG
Ginseng has been shown to increases in brain and hormone activity, an increase in lung power and a reduction in lactic acid fatigue, research also shows over a 12 week period strength gains rose by 20% above the placebo group. For trained athletes that's a phenomenal improvement. Taking 200mg daily for 12 weeks resulted in a 40% improvement in vital lung capacity in the same study.

Approximately 29 ginsenocides, known by their scientific name "tripterpenoid saponins" and also sometimes called panaxosides, have been identified in ginseng root. These ginsenocides have been demonstrated to have a powerful function as an adaptogen, invaluable in helping the body adapt to and recover from the effects of stress, disease, and fatigue. They also contain a strong anti-oxidant component that has been shown in clinical studies to aid in combatting the effects of aging. Additionally, saponins are analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-convulsant, and a regulator of blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure.
Ginseng also contains several steroid compounds, including panaxtriol. The steroid components contained in ginseng are remarkably similar to anabolic steroids found naturally in the human body. While this makes ginseng root ideal for athletes and body builders looking for safe natural alternatives to anabolic steroid use, when buying Ginseng look for standardised Ginseng with a guaranteed % of Ginsenosides.


8. BROCCOLI
A member of the cabbage family and a close relative of cauliflower, broccoli packs more nutrients than any other vegetable. Broccoli contains large amounts of vitamin C and beta carotene which are important antioxidants. In the United States, broccoli has become the most favoured cruciferous vegetable (cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, and all forms of cabbage). Researchers have concluded that broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables should be included in the diet several times a week. Consuming foods high in antioxidants can reduce the risk of some forms of cancer and heart disease.

Broccoli contains high amounts of indole-3-carbinol (I3C) and its derivative diindolymethane, naturally occurring phytochemicals that reduces the strength of oestogens by converting them to weaker varieties in the liver. This lowers oestrogens effects on fat gain and water retention and possibly strengthen the anabolic effects of testosterone. Recent studies suggest it may neutralise the negative effects of di-hydro testosterone, the bad test which causes many side effects.

9. SPINACH
Spinach is better eaten raw to preserve the high levels of naturally occurring glutamine. Spinach is also rich in octacosanol, a compound displaying various health benefits and an ability to increase muscular strength (think Popeye).

It is exceptionally rich in the carotenoids , including beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin, and also contains quercetin, a phytochemical with antioxidant properties. Spinach is rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly folate (folic acid), vitamin K, magnesium, and manganese; it also contains more protein than most vegetables.

Cartenoids lutein and zeaxanthin are also found in spinach, these both preserve eye health.

10. TOMATOES
Tomatoes provide 2 valuable phytochemicals, the cartenoid lycopene which is an antioxidant compound that fights heart disease and cancer, especially prostrate cancer which is a major concern to users of anabolic steroids. Lycopene is actually MORE active in tomato products like ketchup, tomato paste and the like. While lycopene has many health benefits, researchers point out that there may be other, as yet unidentified, substances in tomatoes that make them protective against diseases, and they say itís best to get lycopene and other phytochemicals from foods, rather than from pills or other supplements.

The second phytochemical, the flavonoid quercetin also has antioxidant properties which helps prevent arterial plaque and it also has an anti inflammatory effect too which would help with recovery after intense exercise.

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