If you want to really transform your body then taking your bodybuilding seriously is essential. You can’t dip in and out as you want, which is why it approaches the scale and intensity of basically being a lifestyle choice for many people, especially those who get the best results.
At the heart of getting those results lays an excellent diet and nutrition. It’s often overlooked, or not understood clearly why it’s so vital. I’ve seen videos on YouTube of the bodybuilding guys stuffing huge amounts of junk food just to get calories down their throats, burgers, chips, anything. It’s ludicrous macho nonsense, and completely unneeded.
So what I’m going to do here in this post is talk you through everything you need to know to succeed. It’s not a complete meal plan in a box for you, it’s not a complete strategy guide, but it will tell you exactly why you have to do these things to develop and maintain the physique you want, and how to get started doing it.
The Basics Of Diet And Nutrition In Bodybuilding
Diet and nutrition are crucial to bodybuilding. But because it’s not powerlifting (well, not completely although some may do it), what we are talking about creating a highly defined body tone is the main girl.
That means it has to be balanced, well-fueled, and as fat-free as possible, to get results across your body. You can’t achieve that unless your diet and nutrition are consistently spot-on.
There’s a lot to talk about here so I want to try and keep it simple. At its most basic, most people tend to have a bulking phase first. That’s where they spend quite a lot of time pushing themselves hard in the gym while eating a highly targeted, highly calorific diet, to fuel significant muscle growth.
The second part is the cutting phase. They then maintain the muscle again, while shredding fat. This usually lasts weeks rather than months.
Why A Great Bodybuilding Diet Is Essential
Having a great bodybuilding diet isn’t just about building muscle and cutting fat. It about your general health.
At the end of the day, you’re putting quite a lot of stress on your body and mind. You don’t eat healthily, if you’re not creating a frame to build on that solid, then you’re not going to create a healthy body and mind the long term. That’s why some people struggle.
But doing the good work in the gym, and it’s proven that moderate levels of muscle building and aerobic exercise are linked with lower risks of serious disease, alongside great diet and nutrition which also achieves the same results, will actually underpin your entire life, not just the way you look.
So that’s why really working hard on your diet and nutrition composition is just as important as progression in the gym, especially initially when you are setting up good habits.
How Many Calories Do You Need In The Bulking And Cutting Phases?
So let’s drill down into a bit more of the specifics around creating a great bodybuilding nutrition plan by talking about the ballpark calorie amounts you should be calculated into the bulking and cutting phases.
During the bulking phase, the general recommendation is to up your calorie intake by about 15%. So if you are eating 2000 cal per day at maintenance level, you’ll be eating an additional 300 cal, for a total of 2300.
It swings the same into a cutting phase. Where you would decrease your total calorie intake by about 15% of your average maintenance calorie intake.
This all assumes that you are doing roughly the same maintenance routine at the gym. But usually, when you are bulking you will actually be doing heavier gym routines, so you may need to add more calories to do that.
The best way to understand your maintenance calorie level is to take a look at the male average of 2500 (if you’re male obviously), and also track yourself using a calorie tracking app for a few weeks to see what your average daily intake at a maintenance level (ensuring you are doing a maintenance work out routine) actually is.
The Balance In Micronutrients A Bodybuilding Meal Plan Should Have
So it’s going to take you a few weeks to understand exactly what your maintenance calorie intake is, so that you can understand how much needs to go up, or down depending on the phase you are going into.
Once you’ve established it though, you need to also take a look at your macronutrient ratio, that’s basically looking at how much protein, carbohydrates, or fat, is in your calorie intake. That’s why a tracking app can be superb for working all this out.
Once you understand where you are, you can move yourself to where you need to be. It’s quite simple because the facts are well established. Carbs and proteins both contain 4 cal per gram, while fat contains a much higher 9 cal per gram.
These are the ratios you should be looking at from that point:
- 35% protein calories
- 50% carbs calories
- 15% of fats calories
So you want to maintain those ratios while upping or lowering the calorie totals depending on whether you are bulking or cutting.
Some people will think that carbs’ calorie amount is high. You’ll be told protein calories are crucial. Some people focus on that so much that they are getting 60% protein calories, and like 10% carbs calories. That’s unhealthy and can create long-term negative problems.
The Common Food Groups You Need To Focus On Consuming
So now you have nailed down the calorie range you should be working within, and the percentages of the different macronutrients you should be using, let’s look at the food groups you should be focusing on eating within what you’ve established:
- Lean meats such as poultry and fish, steak, tenderloin pork, all low-fat meats
- Low-fat dairy, natural yogurt, cottage cheese, good quality low-fat milk and cheese
- Grains in things like whole-wheat cereal, crackers, oatmeal, rice, quinoa
- Fruits in moderation, things like apples, bananas, grapes, pears, berries
- Plenty of starchy vegetables like corn, green beans, beans, asparagus, and a few potatoes
- Try and eat seeds and nuts, unsalted, things like almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds
- For oils, stick to avocado oil and olive oil in moderation
None of that is rocket science, and it should underpin a healthy diet in anyone. But because you’re trying to fuel muscle growth and long-term positive behavioral change, these foods are essential to focus on. They will also help to improve your natural hormone balance and improve your mood.
Avoid These Food And Drink Types When Conducting A Bodybuilding Diet
If you want to make progress with bulking or cutting and follow that superb nutritional diet that brings the best benefits, then there are certain common things that you definitely should be steering clear of:
- Alcohol has negative impacts on both fat burning and muscle building (and the mind)
- Sugary foods should be avoided for all the reasons everybody knows
- Don’t go near deep-fried foods, they can cause inflammation in the body
- Foods based around refined carbohydrates, and I’d include white pasta and bread here
- Avoid high-fat foods, things like butter, rich sources, high-fat meats
Now unless you’re a saint or an evangelist, you never going to avoid all those things 100% of the time over several months. If you could knock out 90% of them, then you’ll do your chances of maximizing your gains and slashing fat the world of good though.
Top Up Your Excellent Diet With Specialist Bodybuilding Nutritional Supplements
There’s often a lot of confusion around whether you should take bodybuilding supplements, and whether they should count towards the proportions of fat, carbohydrates, and protein I talked about earlier.
You can think of the supplements as being additional, or build them right into your diet, as I will highlight when I show you an example meal planner.
These are the typical bodybuilding supplements people take:
- Any supplement containing whey protein is fine
- Caffeine helps you to work harder without dangerous stimulants
- There’s no harm in taking multivitamins or oil supplements (especially when cutting)
- Creatine fuels muscle energy (but always get creatine monohydrate)
if you don’t build them directly into your diet, then the best time to take them is just before, or just after your workout.
Example Menu Snapshot To Build On
There are absolutely tons of meal planners out there, all of them slightly different. None are the gold standard, and you have to tailor things to your own taste and lifestyle as well.
Variety is also important, so you don’t get bored, and you have to build in snacks as well so that you are getting a constant stream of fuel.
You don’t have to switch diets depending on whether you are bulking or cutting either, as you keep the proportions of macronutrients the same, it’s purely about altering the calorific values you consume each day.
Here is a short example of how you can build a weekly bodybuilding meal planner:
Example day 1
- Breakfast: scrambled eggs with mushrooms (you can mix oatmeal in as well)
- Mid-morning snack: blueberries with cottage cheese (low-fat)
- Lunch: turkey breast, Basmati rice, asparagus
- Mid-afternoon snack: a piece of fruit (for example a banana) and a protein shake
- Dinner: beef with rice and black beans, peppers, and another stir-fry ingredient.
Example day 2
- Breakfast: blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, low-fat Greek yogurt
- Mid-morning snack: hard-boiled egg and a piece of fruit
- Lunch: pork tenderloin with garlic potatoes and plenty of green beans
- Mid-afternoon snack: a piece of fruit in a protein shake
- Dinner: lean cut of steak, sweet potato wedges, asparagus
Example day 3
- Breakfast: blueberries or other Fruit, mixed with low-fat Greek yogurt or cottage cheese
- Mid-morning snack: yogurt with granola
- Lunch: tilapia fillets, pinto beans, oven-roasted vegetables
- Snack: mixed berries and a protein shake
- Dinner: stir-fry containing chicken, brown rice, broccoli, peas, carrots
So as you can see, there is an endless supply of things you can try. But it is an investment in time, and I have to say an investment in money. You can’t do this if you are unemployed for example, you simply can’t buy the quantities and variation in the food you need. You could get close, but your diet will necessarily have to be more boring.
But it is a big change, an investment that really is a lifestyle and habits change for the long term. But once you do it, you won’t look back.
Should You Use Bodybuilding Supplements To Increase Your Performance?
I want to finish here by telling you in summary that fueling your body the right way, in the right proportions of macronutrients will pay dividends massively in a few months.
But you won’t change things quickly with a bodybuilding diet. However, a three-month bulking phase, followed by a month cutting phase, with exceptional work in the gym and superb diet as I’ve outlined here, and you will definitely start to notice the difference.
Nutrient-dense food, with around 30 g of protein with each meal, while cutting out alcohol and those high sugar, fried, refined foods, will work wonders pretty quickly.
I’ll finish though by talking about other types of bodybuilding supplements you can use. I’m not talking about whey protein, I’m talking about SARMs, and I’m talking about CrazyBulk natural supplements. I take them both back up what I do with my diet and nutrition.
I use the CrazyBulk supplements all the time because they are natural, and I use SARMs in cycles when I’m really wanting to go up another level. I will push my exercise harder, while using SARMs for bulking, or for cutting, depending on where I am.
If you put all that together, you have got an absolute blueprint for muscle growth and fat cutting. But please don’t underestimate it, it is incredibly hard work, and to get the full results, even the beginnings of them is an investment of at least six months before you can push things up another level.