Our objective is to feed you the information needed to realize your full potential as a bodybuilder. There's no way to build a championship physique without a nutritional regimen that's every bit as intense as your training regimen. This article will help you construct meal plans to complement your hardcore workouts. Use this handy seven-step nutrition primer to build the ideal personalized bodybuilding diet to suit your goals and aspirations.
STEP 1: UNDERSTANDING MACRO-NUTRIENTS
We recommend that you purchase a dietary handbook that lists not only the calorie counts of foods but also their macronutrient values: protein, carbohydrate and fat grams. That will give you the basic knowledge around which you can build your diet.
- Carbohydrate - This is a bodybuilder's principal energy source for fueling workouts. An inadequate supply of carbs will force the body to look elsewhere for fuel; the source it typically turns to is protein (often muscle), which is converted into glucose and then used as energy.
A diet lacking in carbs can screw up the entire muscle-building process in two ways: by depleting precious muscle tissue and preventing you from producing maximum intensity and peak contractions during training.
- Protein - This is the key ingredient used in building muscle. To spur anabolism (the creation, maintenance and repair of muscle tissue), the body must be in a state of positive nitrogen balance; the metabolic state in which muscle growth can occur. To achieve and sustain positive nitrogen balance, the body must be supplied with adequate quantities of protein on a consistent basis throughout the day.
The bottom line is that you should ingest protein five or six times a day. The servings should be spaced about two and a half to three hours apart. The consensus is that a bodybuilder needs a daily intake of one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight to achieve optimal gains. We recommend that you strive for 1¼ grams of protein per pound of bodyweight; hence, a 200-pound bodybuilder should try to consume a total of 250 grams of protein daily, split up among five or six meals.
- Fat - Despite the negative rap on fat, it is another viable source of energy, whether it's stored or consumed as part of your diet. The body will tap into fat stores to fuel your day-to-day activities and low-to-moderate nonstop aerobic exercise. Bodybuilding does not fit into this category of continuous exercise. Instead, bodybuilding is defined as an anaerobic activity, consisting of short high-intensity bursts of exercise during which the body is able to supply energy needs with little or no oxygen available.
Beyond its value as a source of energy, fat keeps skin tissue healthy, aids in the cushioning of internal organs, helps to lubricate joints and plays an important role in the absorption of certain vitamins. Although fat is considered anathema to a bodybuilder, the plain truth is that your body can't function without it.
STEP 2: PLAYING PERCENTAGES: IDEAL PROPORTIONS FOR MACRONUTRIENTS
Now that you understand what the macronutrients are all about, let's break them down into the daily proportions you should aim for: 15-30% protein, 60-65% carbs, 10-20% fat. If you want to shed surplus fat, reduce daily fat intake to 10-15%. For most bodybuilders, 15-20% fat is an approprlate ratio.
Here are a few reliable sources of protein: fish, lean red meat, chicken and turkey breasts, and eggs mixed in a ratio of four whites to one yolk. More than half of the protein in an egg is contained in the white; the fat is housed in the yolk. Do not neglect the yolk completely, however, as it contains the remainder of the egg's protein. plus other essential nutrients not found in the whites. Finally, if you're pressed for time, protein shakes are an efficient and convenient source of protein.
You should derive 70-80% of your carbs from complex sources (including fibrous vegetables, such as broccoli or salad greens; beans; oatmeal; potatoes; and brown or wild rice). Complex carbs are superior to simple carbs (including table sugar, honey and corn syrup) because the former provide a long steady release of glucose into the bloodstream, minimizing the secretion of excess insulin and keeping fat-storing enzyme systems at bay. In other words, the more complex the carb, the slower it burns and the more sustained will be the energy release. Finally, choose whole or natural foods over refined or processed sources of carbohydrates, which are usually high in sugar and low in fiber.
Don't go out of your way to put fat into your daily diet. The fat inherent in your protein and carb sources will easily account for the desired 15-20%.
STEP 3: WATER WORKS
Water is truly the beverage of choice for bodybuilders. It helps the body regulate energy production, fat metabolism and metabolic processes. Your body will be unable to synthesize protein without an adequate supply of water. Remember that high-protein bodybuilding diets promote dehydration, so it's essential that you drink water throughout the day.
To calculate your specific daily water requirement, multiply your bodyweight by 0.7, the product will be the number of fluid ounces you should drink each day. The daily water requirement for a 200-pound bodybuilder, for example, would be 140 fluid ounces (200 x 0.7 = 140). A pint of water consists of 16 ounces; a gallon, 128 ounces.
Avoid alcohol, as it is high in calories and promotes dehydration. Natural fruit juices are fine, though you should check the label to track the calories. Three cups of coffee or tea per day are OK, too.
STEP 4: MULTIPLE MEALS MADE SIMPLE
For bodybuilders at all levels, the classic three-meal-a-day eating schedule is not the best way to go. Optimum muscle growth is better served by a system that feeds the body the right mix of nutrients every two and a half to three hours. The body can most efficiently absorb only a limited number of calories and nutrients at one serving, so more frequent smaller meals ensure that little is wasted. By eating frequently, you will also maintain stable blood sugar, which leads to more consistent energy levels, better glycogen storage and superior fat metabolism.
The bottom line is that a successful bodybuilding diet enables you to meet the nutrient demands of your muscle tissue throughout the day. If that demand is not satisfied, you'll end up in a catabolic state, that's why it's so essential to consume the right kinds of food five or six times per day. This meal program ensures that your body is continually topped off with muscle-building nutrients and helps guarantee maintenance of a positive nitrogen balance, the condition in which muscle tissue repairs itself after intense training (as described in step 1).
STEP 5: BUILDING THE DIET
To construct a bodybuilding diet, it's essential to calculate the number of calories you need each day to gain quality bodyweight. To pack on muscle, you must take in more calories than the amount required to sustain your current weight. Since we all have individual metabolic rates, physical-activity levels and bodyfat/muscle ratios, we all burn calories at varying rates. It's inaccurate to make a blanket statement, therefore, that each 150-pound person burns the same number of calories.
The Sample Meal Plan
|Meal 1: Breakfast|
|5||Ounces oatmeal (150 grams)|
|2||Slices wheat toast|
|Meal 2: Midmorning snack|
|1||whey protein shake (mixed with nonfat milk or juice)|
|Meal 3: Lunch|
|5||Ounces (150 grams) skinless chicken breast|
|7||Ounces (200 grams) baked potato or 3.5 ounces (100 grams) rice|
|3.5||Ounces (100 grams) mixed vegetables|
|1||Gram vitamin C|
|Meal 4: Midafternoon snack|
|1||Whey protein shake (mixed with juice or nonfat milk)|
|Meal 5: Dinner|
|7||Ounces (200 grams) extra-lean beef|
|10.5||Ounces (300 grams) baked potato|
|3.5||Ounces (100 grams) mixed vegetables|
|1||Gram vitamin C|
|Meal 6: Evening snack|
|5||Ounces (150 grams) oatmeal|
To solve for this, keep a record of all the food and liquid you consume in a week. Then, referring to your nutrition handbook, add up the total number of calories you consumed during that span. Divide that figure by seven to come up with the daily caloric intake needed to maintain your bodyweight (this assumes that you didn't gain or lose weight during that week). Add 400 calories to your daily calorie count and base your diet on that new number, adhering to the protein/fat! carb ratios given in step 2. The sample six-meal-a-day plan presented on this page is suited to the needs of an athlete seeking approximately 3,500 calories per day.
Increasing daily caloric intake by 400 calories should help you add one to two pounds of quality body-weight per month. Surpassing the 400-calorie mark is a mistake, as most of the gains in size will come in the form of fat, not muscle. After one month, if you have gained less than one pound, then and only then add an extra 300 calories per day to the diet, continuing to follow the macronutrient ratios outlined in step 2.
STEP 6: TIMING IS EVERYTHING
The timing of the six meals in this nutrition plan will help determine muscle growth. The postworkout meal is the single most important variable in this equation. Following an intense training session, the body undertakes special metabolic processes during which the absorption and utilization of carbs and proteins are especially critical. If you fail to eat (even if it's just a protein shake) within about 45 minutes of training, you're destined to enter the dreaded catabolic state (a condition that inhibits growth and retards recovery). Instead of reaping the benefits of your workout, you will have now set the scene for muscle breakdown.
Another important factor is the preworkout meal, which should come approximately 60-90 minutes before you train. Don't gorge yourself! The goal is to ingest only enough carbs and protein to help prevent your body from breaking down hard-earned muscle tissue in order to meet the energy demands of the workout.
Next in importance is the first meal of the day. Metabolically speaking, your body makes great demands for energy and nutrients in the morning hours. You should therefore adjust your calorie intake accordingly. When you wake up in the morning, your body depends on a fresh intake of fuel to generate a metabolic response. Food is that fuel.
STEP 7: SUPPLEMENTING
With a good meal plan, there is no need to go bonkers on supplements. It is true, however, that certain supplements (multivitamin/mineral packs, extra vitamin C and E, protein shakes and meal replacement powders (MRP5)) can benefit your diet.
Multivitamin/mineral packs can help safeguard against dietary deficiency. Look for one that includes one gram of vitamin C, 50 milligrams of vitamin B complex and 400 international units of vitamin E. Vitamin C aids recuperation and helps keep infections at bay, so you should also take an additional gram of C at meals three and five.
Preparing six meals a day can be time-consuming. Protein shakes and MRPs are invaluable in a busy schedule. Also, they are often superior to protein-source foods because they provide a better balance of essential amino acids and are easier to digest. Drinking even a few small shakes throughout the day, for instance, can help potentiate protein utilization from your protein food sources.
Shakes are quick to prepare and easy on the stomach (depending on the protein source and other variables). In the accompanying meal plan, protein shakes are the principal component of meals two and four. We suggest that you use a shake that has casein and whey protein as basic ingredients. The rule of thumb is simple: The better the quality of the protein source, the better the muscle-growth benefits.
Follow the diet plan faithfully and you should be able to add one to two pounds of muscle per month. Remember, the key to the role of diet in muscle growth is consistency of application. In your diet and in your training, consistency will yield steady progress and excellent results for the evolution of your physique.
NINE NUTRITION NIBBLES
Handy diet tips to clip and save
- Think of your training and diet as inseparable, with each relying on the other for optimal progress.
- Buy a nutrition book that lists the calories and protein/carb/fat counts of most common foods.
- Calculate your daily calorie-maintenance level, then increase it by 400 calories.
- Split your calories according to the following percentages: 60-65% carbs, 15-30% proteins, 10-20% fats.
- Get your carbs from natural complex sources.
- Drink protein shakes to supplement your meals.
- Include a serving of protein and carbs at each meal. Sufficient amounts of fat should be derived naturally from your diet.
- Eat five or six nutritious meals per day.
- Consume 1% grams of protein per pound of bodyweight per day.