Vegetables can easily be overlooked in a bodybuilding diet. When you're so focused on getting your protein and carbohydrates in, concentrating on more calorie-dense foods like steak, oats, eggs and rice, vegetables often fall by the wayside. Bodybuilders need vegetables for their antioxidant and phytochemical content, however, notes registered dietitian Matthew Kadey on the Muscle and Fitness website. These can help you fight off illness, recover quicker and aid post-workout muscle repair.
Bodybuilders typically count sweet potatoes as a carbohydrate source, alongside pasta and bread, but these vegetables are packed full of bodybuilding benefits. As they're a root vegetable, sweet potatoes are higher in carbohydrates than other vegetables, which can be useful when you're trying to add calories into your bulking diet. Sports nutritionist Dr. John Berardi recommends sweet potatoes with cinnamon on top as part of your lunch, or as a post-workout snack. If you're not big on sweet potatoes, try parsnips, turnip or squash for a higher carbohydrate vegetable instead.
When it comes to dark green vegetables, broccoli is a heavyweight contender. It as a good source of fiber and iron, plus it has more vitamin C gram for gram than an orange and more calcium than milk, notes Mark McManus of the Muscle Hack website. Alternatively, add any dark green vegetables such as kale, spinach, cabbage and Swiss chard to meals to get similar benefits.
Peppers for Pecs
Vitamin C is vital for bodybuilders, as it helps ward off illness, meaning you take fewer breaks from training. Levels or vitamin C are also inversely associated with insulin resistance and visceral belly fat levels, according to trainer Charles Poliquin, meaning those with higher vitamin C levels are likely to be leaner. Brightly colored vegetables such as bell peppers, along with their spicier counterpart, chili peppers, are high in vitamin C, as are tomatoes and dark green leafies.
The Vegetable Cookbook for Bodybuilders
Eating vegetables needn't be a chore and there are many veggie-packed, bodybuilding-friendly dishes. Bodybuilder and trainer Steve Stiefel recommends adding vegetables to every meal and cooking them in bulk so you always have some on hand. He advises getting a minimum of five servings a day, with a goal of eight or more. Try packing out a lean steak casserole with extra onions, mushrooms and carrots. Chop up spinach, broccoli and sprouts to add to rice, or eat a side salad before each main meal.