According to nutritionist, author and onetime bodybuilder Anita Bean, nutrition is every bit as important as exercise. Without the correct nutrients, your muscles will not have the necessary energy and biochemical building blocks to repair and grow after your workouts. A bodybuilder's diet needs to be nutrient-dense; provide essential vitamins, minerals and fiber; and not promote excessive fat gain.
Create Calorie Surplus
Building muscle requires energy, You need to eat slightly more than your normal daily requirements to gain muscle. Eating too much food will result in fat gain, so you should monitor your waist measurement as well as your weight. If you are gaining weight, but your waist measurement is staying constant, you are gaining mostly muscle. If your weight and waistline are both increasing, you may be gaining fat. A slow and steady weight gain of around half a pound a week is desirable. Aim to eat as cleanly as possible and do not consume excessive amounts of junk food in an effort to gain weight, as these types of foods are more likely to result in fat weight gain rather than muscle.
Bodybuilders usually eat five to six meals a day. Some may consume more if they are trying to build large amounts of muscle. Frequent feedings keep your muscles supplied with essential nutrients such as protein and carbohydrates. Frequent meals also help you to regulate your blood glucose levels, which will ensure your energy levels stay constant throughout the day. According to "Men's Health Muscle Chow: More Than 150 Meals to Feed Your Muscles and Fuel Your Workouts" by Gregg Avedon, each meal should contain protein and carbohydrates to ensure your muscles receive the fuel they need for growth, repair and energy.
"Macro-nutrients" is the term used to describe protein, carbohydrates and fats collectively. This trio is the energy part of your diet. Protein is essential for the growth and repair of your muscles and is obtained from meat, fish, eggs, chicken and dairy as well as protein supplements such as whey. Carbohydrates are essential for energy to power your bodybuilding workouts and to promote recovery after training. Fats, obtained from animal and vegetable sources, are essential for health and also provide energy for low-intensity activities.
The recommended quantity of each nutrient depends on a number of factors, including body weight, daily activity levels, individual glucose sensitivity and personal preference, but most experts agree that you should consume at least one gram of protein per pound of body weight, plus adequate carbohydrates and fats to fuel your daily activities.
Common Bodybuilding Foods
Several foods are common in bodybuilders' meal plans. These foods have either muscle-building properties, will benefit your health or provide energy for workouts. While not definitive, this list is representative of the types of food that should make up the majority of your meals: oatmeal, eggs, whole yogurt, milk, fresh vegetables, fresh and dried fruits, chicken, organ meats, beef, fish, nuts, beans, seeds, wild rice, whole grain pasta, quinoa and whey protein.
Building your meals around a variety of these foods will ensure you get adequate nutrients for the process of building muscle--called hypertrophy--and give you the energy you need to work out with the necessary intensity to trigger muscle growth.
A successful bodybuilding meal plan requires organization. Most bodybuilders prepare food in advance so they can carry their meals with them. This may require cooking large batches of food, then freezing it, or spending time at night preparing food for the following day. If you carry food with you, it is a good idea to use an insulated food bag to ensure your food stays hot or cold as necessary and to prevent your meal from spoiling. As of October 2010, these bags are available from outdoor sporting goods stores for around $15.
- "Complete Guide to Sports Nutrition"; Anita Bean; 2009
- "Men's Health Muscle Chow: More Than 150 Meals to Feed Your Muscles and Fuel Your Workouts"; 2007; Gregg Avedon
- "ACSM's Resources for the Personal Trainer"; American College of Sports Medicine; 2009