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A Low-Carb Meal Plan for Bodybuilding

author image Jill Corleone, RDN, LD
Jill Corleone is a registered dietitian and health coach who has been writing and lecturing on diet and health for more than 15 years. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Diabetes Self-Management and in the book "Noninvasive Mechanical Ventilation," edited by John R. Bach, M.D. Corleone holds a Bachelor of Science in nutrition.
A Low-Carb Meal Plan for Bodybuilding
You need some carbs in your diet for energy. Photo Credit Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

Low-carb does not mean no-carb. When trying to build muscle, carbohydrates help spare the use of protein for energy, making it an important part of a bodybuilding diet plan. However, limiting your carb intake may help improve muscle definition. The key is finding the right balance of nutrients to get the results you desire. Consult your doctor or dietitian before making changes to your diet.

Focus on Protein

Protein is an important nutrient for muscle building. At the most, you should get 35 percent of calories from protein on a low-carb diet. If you need 2,500 calories a day, that means 875 calories, or 219 grams, a day come from protein. Eating more than this will not improve muscle growth, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and may be harmful to your health. Good low-carb sources of protein include poultry, fish, lean meat, eggs, cottage cheese, nuts and seeds.

Carbs for Muscle Sparing

You need carbohydrates on a bodybuilding diet. Not getting enough may have an effect on your strength and may impair your workouts, according to a 2014 article published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. For muscle-building and overall health, get a minimum of 30 percent of your daily calories from carbohydrates. A 2,500-calorie diet needs 750 calories from carbs, or 188 grams a day. Add high-quality carbs to get the most benefits, such as fruits, vegetables, whol- grains, beans and low-fat dairy.

Fat For Energy

Fat also acts as an important source of energy for a low-carb diet plan and should provide no more than 35 percent of calories. On a 2,500-calorie diet, 875 calories, or 97 grams, should come from fat. Include mostly healthy fats on your bodybuilding diet plan, such as avocados, oils, nuts and seeds. Also, some of your protein sources, such as fatty fish like salmon and tuna, are also good sources of healthy fat for your diet plan.

Sample Meal Plan

Aim to eat three to six meals a day with a minimum of 20 grams of protein at each meal. A healthy breakfast on a low-carb bodybuilding diet might include four boiled eggs or 2 cups of tofu scramble served with one slice of whole-wheat toast topped with 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, 1 cup of low-fat milk and a small orange for 660 calories, 43 grams of protein, 47 grams of carbs and 32 grams of fat.

At lunch, eat 7 ounces of grilled salmon with 2 cups of mixed greens topped with 1 tablespoon of salad dressing, a 6-ounce container of nonfat Greek yogurt and 1 1/2 cups of fresh blueberries for 700 calories, 70 grams of protein, 46 grams of carbs and 40 grams of fat.

A healthy dinner might include 8 ounces of baked chicken breast with 1 1/2 cups of roasted sweet potatoes tossed in 1 teaspoon of olive oil and 2 cups of broccoli sauteed in 2 teaspoons of olive oil for 755 calories, 69 grams of protein, 65 grams of carbs and 18 grams of fat. For snack, you might enjoy a high-protein smoothie made with a 6-ounce container of nonfat Greek yogurt, 1 cup of fresh strawberries, a small banana, and 1 tablespoon of almond butter blended with ice for 320 calories, 20 grams of protein, 39 grams of carbs and 9 grams of fat.

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