Do you want to know about nutrition and diet for bodybuilding and weight training? This article is for you.
What Is Bodybuilding?
Bodybuilding is a phenomenon focused on developing your muscles via nutrition and weight lifting. Whether competitive or recreational, many people consider bodybuilding a lifestyle because of their time inside and outside the gym.
To improve results from the gym, one must stay focused on one diet. Consuming the wrong food items can be unfavorable to your fitness goals and objectives. This article will discuss all aspects of a bodybuilding diet with sample menus for beginners (wishing to become professional bodybuilders) and even professionals.
Basics of bodybuilding
Bodybuilding differs from Olympic lifting and powerlifting. We can determine that by a person’s physical appearance rather than his physical strength. It is the main reason many bodybuilders begin with an off-season and then in-season mode of eating. We call this phenomenon the bulking phase and the cutting phase, respectively.
The bulking phase is the first step that may last from months to years. In this phase, bodybuilders take high amounts of calories, protein-rich foods and lift weights with great intensity to build as many muscles as possible. A cutting phase follows it. Here, the bodybuilder concentrates on losing body fat while still maintaining muscle mass. The results happen because of specific changes in diet and workout over a certain period.
Advantages of bodybuilding
There are many health benefits of bodybuilding.
- To develop and maintain muscles, bodybuilders work out regularly to achieve aerobic and resistance training.
- Resistance training enhances your muscle size and strength. In addition, medical experts interlinked muscle strength with lower chances of cancer and heart/kidney disorders.
- Aerobic exercises can significantly reduce your body fat. It also helps improve your heart health and decreases your chances of developing chronic heart conditions.
- Apart from exercising, bodybuilders are also keen on their nutrition and diet. After thorough planning, they can eat in a way that supports their struggles in the gym and keeps them healthy.
What is a Bodybuilding Diet?
It is not different from a standard, healthy person’s diet.
Some people emphasize meal timing and meal quantity for training levels. You can create a bulking diet meal plan around different healthy whole foods. However, you must naturally regiment the meal plans. The process demands too much meal prep and initial planning. It is a little challenging to follow but not entirely impossible.
A Little Background
Bodybuilding, nutrition, and weight training are science. It involves different aspects of physiology, biochemistry, and biology. There are specific rules and a base of evidence to follow. Some other diets like Ornish, Atkins, and South Beach are also popular. The consent between nutritionists and dieticians is that a healthy diet is less strict in terms of requirements. It is also well-adjusted across critical nutrients.
It is about:
- Eating adequate fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, polyunsaturated oils.
- Less intake of cholesterol, salt, sugary foods, and alcohol
- Intake of plenty of water
- Maintaining a healthy, average weight.
- Regular exercising
How a Bodybuilding Diet Works
People with ideal weight gain are often interested in maintaining low body fat and gaining muscle mass with an effective bodybuilding diet plan. To develop those extra muscles, they must eat more than they currently eat and perform regular exercises with heavy weights. Then, they slowly increase the intensity, repetition, and weight gain, depending on the focus of increased muscle mass or strength.
We do not recommend overeating, especially if you are already obese. Instead, you must improve your health for a bodybuilding diet, have extra muscles, and have a low body fat percentage.
Here is how it works:
Augment your daily intake of calories at least about 15% or more. It shouldn’t just be about proteins, but the extra proteins via protein foods and supplements. Stay near the suggested guidelines for protein requirements or hire a professional sports dietician with weight training proficiency.
Workout with Weights
Start with an effective weight training program to target your large muscle groups. All the extra energy you have will promote your muscle growth, since exercising stimulates development.
Scratch, Drop, and Out-Build
Once you bulk up with added fats and muscles, you must lose extra fat and maintain muscle mass. Gaining weight is unavoidable during the process, but you must be careful by eating healthy foods only. Eat healthy, but as much as you can.
What Can You Eat
- Compliant foods (Fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, whole grains, and lean protein)
- Non-compliant foods (Added sweeteners, sugar, and refined carbohydrates)
During the cutting phase, your bulking meal plan on a budget should be low in fats (only 20%). You must maintain your protein intake to protect the muscles while cutting extra carbs and fat. Keep a regular supply of antioxidants in the form of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Aim for the following proportions:
- Proteins (15%-20%)
- Fats (20%-30%)
- Carbs (50%-60%)
- Proteins (20%-25%)
- Fats (15%-20%)
- Carbs (55%-60%)
Professionals, nutrition coaches, and nutritionists take a bodybuilding diet seriously. They believe that a few fractions of minutes, in the long run, can make an enormous difference. Even if you are a novice, you can augment your workout and eating manners to make the most of your hard work. Meal timing is the most significant part of this process. Eating at the right time prevents your body from breaking down muscle and using it for energy or storing extra energy from food as fat.
Many weight trainers do well with six small meals throughout the day instead of 3 enormous meals. But don’t focus on it too much because each body is different. However, never skip breakfast. You don’t have to be precisely aware of your carbohydrate intake to fuel your efforts. You must:
- Take meals that are low in fiber and fat with some carbohydrates and proteins. You can include fiber as a part of your healthy diet in other meals.
- Research and find out about your allergies to different food items before and during your workout sessions. This part is essential because people react differently to fiber, milk, beans, and fruits.
- Take your main meal at least 3-4 hours before hitting the gym.
- Within an hour of a workout, take plenty of liquids such as protein shakes, sports drinks, energy drinks, water, and even foods not too heavy.
- Go for pre-meal variety if you are not a runner.
Meals During a Workout
If you enjoy doing longer sessions or perform cardio/strength-endurance weight gain programs, you need nothing except water. Alternatively, consider taking electrolytes and carbohydrates as a sport’s drink.
For exercise nutrition, your meals to recover from the workout session are extremely important. Remember, glycogen and glucose are the primary fuel that you get from carbohydrate-rich drinks and food.
If you don’t adequately refuel your body after working out, the muscles’ glucose will stay empty for the next session. Doing so might lead to long-lasting muscle fatigue and poor gym performance. Inadequate refueling will also harm hard work by denying your muscles the anabolic boost (hormones) that remakes and repairs. Most foods also carry proteins and essential amino acids, the building blocks for cells and hormones.
Therefore, it is imperative to keep your glycogen stores stored up if you wish to be at your best on a bodybuilding diet. Also, know that low reps with heavy weightlifting improve strength, but lighter weights and more reps develop endurance and muscle size.
Take around 20gms of good-quality protein within an hour of your session. The closer the protein intake, the better the results. Also, right after your workout, take 3gms of carbohydrates for every 1gm of protein. There are many options to choose from, like:
- One cup of fruit salad with 7-8 ounces of flavored yogurt
- 17-20 ounces of flavored low-fat milk
- A large glass of fat-free milk, two slices of bread with jam/honey
Tips and Amendments
Experimenting with a diet and knowing how your body responds to food is very important. However, what matters the most is that you:
- Eat high-quality carbs 30 minutes before the workout session.
- Sessions with cardio are usually longer, with moderate to high intensity. So, it would help if you refueled with sports drinks while exercising.
- Eat some carbs or proteins instantly or within half an hour after your workout. Use a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein while eating.
- Never use protein supplements unreasonably. Instead, get the desired protein from fish, chicken, skim milk, soy, and red meat.
- Eat a diet low in cholesterol and saturated fats. Drink plenty of fluids to keep yourself hydrated. You may drink beverages like tea or coffee while on a bodybuilding diet.
Calorie Needs and Macronutrients
As a competitive athlete like Jay Cutler, a bodybuilder, your goal should be to improve muscle mass in the bulking phase while reducing it in the cutting phase. It means that you must consume more calories on the first level than the other levels to achieve your desired fitness level via a bodybuilding diet.
To determine your calorie intake:
Know Your Total Daily Energy Expenditure
The first step for a bodybuilding diet is to find out your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure). This is a close approximation of the number of calories you burn every day, depending on your age, height, weight, and activity level. Next, weigh yourself at least three times a week and record your meals via a calorie tracking application. If your weight is the same, the daily calories will be your maintenance calories (no gaining or losing, but maintaining the calories).
During the bulking phase, we advise you to increase your calorie consumption by 15%. Then, when transitioning to the cutting phase, decrease the amount by 15%.
Adjust According to Bulking or Cutting Phase
If you aim to lose fat and weight, eat fewer calories than your TDEE number. However, if you are looking to gain weight, eat slightly more calories than usual. Add or minus 250-500 calories from TDEE value to know your DTCI (daily target calorie intake).
Figure Out Your Macronutrient Ratio
Once you know the number of calories you require, it is time to choose your macronutrient ratio. We defined it as the ratio between your fat, carbohydrate, and protein intake. A bodybuilding diet’s macros remain the same throughout a bodybuilding diet, unlike your calorie intake that changes during the bulking and cutting phase.
Consider this example for both phases:
|Bulking Phase||Cutting Phase|
Body Fat Percentage Calculations
Body fat percentage calculations are essential for tracking your bodybuilding progress. It tells you how much of your weight is fat, muscle, and other stuff. It attempts to separate every kilogram of your body into two classes, i.e., your fat mass and everything else.
There are different methods to calculate body fat. The easiest and most accurate method to date is the body fat caliper method. Simply measure your skin folds and put them into a formula to know the estimated value. Such formulas can help you determine your lean mass weight as well.
No matter which formula you chose for yourself, don’t focus on the number. Instead, concentrate on the changes in that number. Once you have a constant reading, you may gauge your progress and transform your body through a bodybuilding diet and workout plan.
Pros and Cons of a Bodybuilding Diet
Undoubtedly, maintaining good nutrition is challenging for every individual. The ultimate bodybuilding diet can be tricky yet highly rewarding.
Let’s discuss several pros that experts linked to a bodybuilder’s diet.
- This diet can substantially impact your overall health and not just fat loss and muscle growth.
- Following this diet plan ensures you consume a wide range of macronutrients. These nutrients are critical for several functions in your body, such as maintenance and regeneration; they also help in muscle contraction, blood clotting, cell maintenance, and fluid balancing.
- A steady, well-thought-out, and nutrient-rich diet has a massive impact on your overall function and health. It also reduces your risk of developing chronic illnesses like cancer, coronary heart disease, and diabetes.
- A bodybuilder must follow strict nutrition. Some people might perceive it negatively. However, being strict about your diet, nutrition and sticking to nutrient-rich meals efficiently guarantees and promotes success and health.
- Moreover, a weightlifter’s diet regime is rich in proteins. This aspect is beneficial for bone health, muscles, satiety, and overall fat loss frequently.
- The diet fully maintains and optimizes your muscle protein synthesis (MPS). So it is because MPS is the binding force behind muscle growth, so a priority for most bodybuilders.
- People committed to this eating plan can see long-term results while eating foods with nutritional value.
Still, despite your commitment and devotion, a perfect diet doesn’t exist. However, it is essential when you are trying to motivate your body to do two opposite things (burning fat and maintaining weight).
There are some disadvantages to this diet as well
- Preparing for a bodybuilding competition can be a real challenge, as it involves a significant reduction in body fat percentage. To achieve this, a person must be very consistent and strict with their lean bodybuilding diet to ensure a steady decline in body fat. As mentioned before, you need a calorie deficit to decrease body fat. But sustaining a low-calorie intake, in the long run, can negatively impact your sleep and energy levels.
- A mixture of poor sleeping schedules and low energy may influence a person’s ability to build a muscular body at a high level. Moreover, failing to get proper sleep or poor sleep quality can disturb recovery from training sessions.
- Bodybuilders following this diet have to be quite strict with their meals. They cannot deviate from their nutrition plan at any cost. It means that going out, socializing, fancy dinners, and alcohol must be occasional and within defined limits to avoid alteration with the fitness goals.
- In addition to this, many people find a bodybuilding diet for cutting very restrictive. It is because of several harmful foods that cannot meet the encoded macro and calorie targets.
- There is a genuine need to track calorie count and macronutrients, especially for beginners. However, keeping track of everything may become an annoyance because it is the only way to ensure they are eating correctly to boost outcomes.
- Experienced bodybuilders like Ronnie Coleman Bodybuilders have no hassle tracking their diet every day. This is because they have expert knowledge about what they have to eat, when, and the quantities. But tracking is still a significant part of this diet regime despite experience and expertise.
5 Pillars of Nutrition in a Bodybuilding Diet
Fueling your body is as much part of your training as running, lifting, and exercising. Your eating habits also need attention and focus as your bodybuilding. There are five pillars of nutrition, and they all have a significant effect on your overall performance.
Eating at Least Six Times a Day
While on a bodybuilding diet, you must fuel your body with multiple small meals and snacks every day. It helps keep your blood sugar levels under control and makes your metabolism steady to promote new muscle production.
Plenty of Lean Protein
Try to fill your body with a healthy, weight-gaining infusion every few hours to enhance muscle growth. Doing so also helps stimulate the production of fat-burning hormones. The best quality protein sources are chicken, lean beef, soy, low-fat dairy food, and fish.
Whole foods should always be your priority. You can also use quality protein powder combined with your diet plan to reach the desired protein macros. Consider other options like adding whey protein between meals or slow-digesting casein protein to fuel gains while sleeping.
Restrict Processed Food
Highly processed food is available in a bag, carton, or box and is not worth eating. It is better to remove such nutrient-poor, high-calorie food from your diet to maintain your physique and be in excellent form.
Consumption of Strategic Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are available in two forms:
Starchy Carbs- These are fast-acting options like bread, pasta, and rice that raise your blood sugar quickly.
Non-Starchy Carbs- Vegetables, fruits, and whole grains are high in fiber content and slowly raise blood sugar.
Non-starchy carbohydrates are never an issue. You can enjoy them as much as you want. However, the timing of eating such starchy foods is critical to maintaining a muscular and lean body. Take them either early in the morning or immediately after your workout sessions to make them refuel your energy reserves.
Keep Yourself Hydrated
While you are on a bodybuilding diet plan, drink plenty of water and calorie-free beverages to keep your performance at its peak. Sugar-laden drinks are not suitable for your health. They can damage your body’s antioxidant shield and fatten your waistline, so avoid them as much as possible.
Foods to Eat and Avoid on a Bodybuilding Diet
There are some vital nutritional factors involved with the foods to consume during a bodybuilding diet. These factors dictate the rate of fat loss, muscular growth, calories, and macronutrients. Thus, you must select foods that affect these factors.
When a mass building is your aim, you need additional calories to achieve fitness goals. A calorie-excess state over a certain period, along with resistance training, may cause substantial muscular hypertrophy or muscle growth. When fat loss is your aim, calories are of great importance again. However, this time, you must establish a calorie deficit in combination with resistance training to promote fat loss and maintain muscle mass.
You must include whole grains like granola, quinoa, oats, brown rice, whole grain bread, and millet in a bodybuilding diet plan for mass. These grains are primarily carbs by nature. They provide your body with more satiety, energy, and chief micronutrients necessary for muscle maintenance and growth.
Proteins are the essential nutrients for a bodybuilder. You need them in both muscle gain and fat loss phases. Lean meats are the foods that nourish your body with ample protein to promote muscle growth and upkeep.
Some core examples of lean meat are chicken, turkey, lean beef, cod, salmon, and pork loin. All these foods are high in protein and highly beneficial for health.
Fruits and Vegetables
For a bodybuilder, we suggest eating a wide range of vegetables and fruits. It is to make sure that they are taking adequate minerals and vitamins for muscle growth and recovery.
Like lean meats, dairy products are also rich in proteins. Therefore, using cottage cheese, yogurt, cheeses, and milk should be a must in a diet to boost protein intake substantively.
Legumes and Nuts
Nuts and legumes are also an essential part of a bodybuilding diet. They are jam-packed with some of the most vital proteins, micronutrients, and healthy fats. Many nutritionists advise bodybuilders to eat various nuts and legumes to achieve general health and even greater muscles.
Foods to Avoid
Apart from beneficial foods, certain products can be harmful to muscle growth. Therefore, you must restrict these foods and avoid taking them as much as possible to prevent any interference with your progress.
Though not a food item, alcohol can inhibit recovery times and your muscular growth. Therefore, alcohol consumption must be in moderation, and you must know its adverse impacts on muscle gain.
Processed Food Products
Many manufactured foods are high in calories and low in terms of nutritional content. Such processed foods harm your bodybuilding progress; consuming a high volume can be detrimental to overall health. White bread, baked items, processed meats, white pasta, pizzas, ice-creams, soda, and candies are examples of processed foods.
Deep-fried foods can cause inflammation in your body and have a destructive effect on your health. Therefore, restrict chicken strips, donuts, French fries, mozzarella sticks, onion rings, and fried fish.
Muscle Building Diet Essentials
Foods that you consume can make or break your bodybuilding diet plan for cutting. The following are some muscle builders that you must know about:
Chicken and turkey are the best lean muscle-building protein for serious muscle gains. So these lean meats must be a staple in your diet plan. Apart from being an outstanding source of good-quality protein, they are deficient in trans and saturated fats.
There is a significant reason almost every bodybuilder known to the world has egg whites in his diet. This bodybuilding diet essential has a protein to fat ratio of 60:1, so undeniably the purest protein source in the world.
This excellent muscle-building food has a very high biological value. A body readily uses a significant portion of protein absorbed through egg whites for protein synthesis. They also contain very few carbs and are an excellent source of minerals and vitamins.
|Egg whites||50 calories
While bodybuilding, stay away from trans and saturated fats. But you need essential fatty acids (omega-3 fatty acids) to support the muscle-making process. Fishes like trout, salmon, tuna, and sardine are significant sources of healthy fats and proteins.
Slow Burning Carbohydrates/Low Glycemic Carbohydrates
You cannot build your muscles with protein only. Therefore, there is a need to include slow-burning carbs in the diet for proper fueling and sustenance for your muscles. These slow-working carbohydrates in food products such as sweet potatoes and oatmeal make the best pre-exercise snack while on a diet.
During exercise, you store carbs in your body as the primary source of fuel. However, as the level decreases from hard training, your intensity may decrease, which may cause your muscles to degenerate. Therefore, it is crucial to achieving a fitness goal; you consume an ample serving of low glycemic carbohydrates every day.
Legumes or Beans
You cannot ignore the influence of beans and legumes during a bodybuilding meal plan for beginners. Beans are the most delicious and nutritious source of fiber and protein. Fiber is vital to maintain a healthy/regular bowel movement and insulin response in the body. All these factors are crucial for muscle growth and the absorption of nutrients in the body. In particular, kidney beans are the favorite choice since they have a high protein and fiber per cup.
|Kidney beans||29 calories
For muscle builders, the number one item in the store is water. 70% of the human body comprises water. Your cells, muscles, and ligaments have ample water in them. The life source, i.e., blood, contains mainly water.
To build a massive physique with an ultimate bodybuilding diet, you must keep yourself well hydrated and in the most anabolic state possible. This is the reason many weightlifters suggest drinking at least 10 liters of water a day to keep your muscles full-looking. Apart from these benefits, water serves as a medium for nutrition transport to your cells and muscles. This phenomenon makes the use of nutrients effective.
7-Day Bodybuilding Diet Plan
For your 7-day bodybuilding diet plan, you will need to consume fewer fats and more starchy foods. It has to be done before and after workout sessions to promote muscle growth and energy. Your grocery list for the diet plan must include:
- Oils/fats (avocados, coconut oil, seeds, nuts, full-fat cheese, and canola mayonnaise)
- Starches (quinoa, brown rice, potatoes, yams, oats, cereals, bread, pasta, and wraps)
- Legumes/fruits/vegetables (beans, tropical fruits, and green leafy vegetables)
- Protein (Greek yogurt, protein powders, white meat, eggs, whitefish, and oily fish)
Bodybuilding Diet Supplements
It is not always easy to gain the proper nutrients and calories from a bodybuilder meal prep plan. If you are also struggling with the process, here are some supplements you can use to help with a bodybuilding diet.
If you wish to add any supplement to your diet, make whey protein your number one choice. It is a milk protein isolated from whey. It is a fast-digesting, extensive protein source that has all the amino acids in it.
Whey protein is available in different forms, i.e., isolates, concrete, and hydrolysates. The isolate form is the purest form of whey protein, with 90%-95% high-quality protein. The concrete form has 25%-80% of protein, thus a less refined form than isolates WP. In addition, they treated hydrolysates enzymatically to break longer proteins into short ones for easy absorption in the body.
It is a natural substance that turns into creatine phosphate after consumption in the body. This creatine phosphate then turns into ATP (adenosine triphosphate) to provide adequate energy to your muscles. You can find it in high-protein foods like fish and meat. Creatine is an excellent supplement for bodybuilding meal prep and positively affects lean muscle tissue, strength, and power.
Omega-3 Fish Oil,
Another supplemental addition to a meal plan is omega-3 fish oil. Consuming fatty fishes like salmon can deliver many health benefits to the body. For example, fish oil has decreased rigidity in joints and enhanced blood flow and recovery after workout sessions.
Regular use of omega-3 fish oil supplements means more productive exercising and extended gym longevity as a bodybuilder.
Things to Keep in Mind Before Starting a Bodybuilding Diet
For the significant part, bodybuilding and bodybuilding nutrition is a lifestyle linked with many health benefits. However, there are certain things one must know before starting the process.
Risks Associated with Anabolic Steroid Use
Bodybuilders use almost any muscle-building supplement that provides a competitive edge. In addition, these professionals often use performance-enhancing drugs such as anabolic steroids. Unfortunately, the internet, social media, and supplement companies may cause beginners to think they can achieve the same body as advertised.
People may develop naïve expectations, leading to body dissatisfaction and an urge to take anabolic steroids. But these steroids are very harmful substances when not monitored by medical professionals. Scientists linked steroids to many health risks and chronic medical conditions like infertility, heart diseases, and behavioral disorders when misused. A person who feels they have low hormone levels should consult a hormone therapist who can test hormones such as testosterone to determine the course of treatment.
Low Level of Body Fat Is Destructive
While training for a bodybuilding competition, people usually aim for insufficient levels of body fat. Some men and women even reach body fat levels of 5%-15%. However, such a moderate amount of fat with low-calorie consumption can decrease sleep quality. In addition, it negatively affects mood and also deteriorates the immune system.
As a result, you have less ability to function each day and are more susceptible to illnesses.
Bodybuilding and a bodybuilding diet demand a massive commitment and devotion in terms of training and nutrition. However, if you can be consistent throughout these aspects, you will make substantial progress towards your fitness journey.
Since we define bodybuilding based on leanness and muscularity instead of athletic performance, you must pay special attention to your diet. Your diet must include nutrient-rich food and high-quality proteins with every meal and snack. Doing so will ensure that you get all the body’s essential nutrients for overall health and building muscles.