In bodybuilding, your diet is very important. Getting your calorie intake is vital, as eating too many calories will cause you to put on fat, and eating too few will make you lose muscle. The macronutrients you eat also play a role in your body composition. Macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates and fat. They are all essential for bodybuilding, but need to be planned carefully, so that your diet gives you optimum results.
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Work out how many calories you need to consume; there are two ways to do this. Follow the United States Department of Agriculture's calorie recommendations, which are 1,800 to 2,400 per day for women, and 2,000 to 3,000 per day for men. As a bodybuilder, however, you'll carry more muscle and less fat, and exercise more than the average person. In this case, an individualized plan may be in order. Bodybuilding diet coach Tom Venuto advises using an on-line calorie calculator to work out your calorie needs, as this will take into account your body fat percentage, goals and activity levels.
Aim to consume at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body-weight each day. Protein is vital for muscle growth and repair, and plays a role in many of the chemical reactions that take place inside your body. Nutritionist and bodybuilder Shelby Starnes advises 1 gram per pound when gaining mass, but advises that you increase this to 1.5 grams per pound when losing fat on a low-calorie diet, to help prevent muscle loss. Get your protein from meat, fish, eggs, protein supplements and dairy products.
Plan your carbohydrate consumption depending on your workout schedule. Carbs are needed for providing energy and increasing your recovery rate after training sessions; therefore it's a good idea to eat more carbs on your training days. Justin Harris, owner of Troponin Nutrition, advises using high carbohydrate days when you have intense training sessions. On these days, you should consume 2 to 3 grams of carbs per pound of body weight. On your easier training days and rest days, 0.5 to 1.5 grams per pound will suffice. Your carbs should come from fruits, starchy vegetables such as yams and potatoes, grains such as rice, oats and bread, and sports drinks.
Adjust the amount of fat you eat to the amount of carbs you consume. Protein and carbohydrate both contain 4 calories per gram. Add your grams of protein and carbs together and multiply them by four. Take this number away from your total recommended calorie intake, and the number you're left with is how many calories you should consume from fat. Fat has 9 calories per gram, so divide by nine to get the grams of fat you need to eat. Do this for low, medium and high carb days, as the result will be different for each. Sports nutritionist Dr. John Berardi advises splitting your fat consumption equally between saturated fats, such as coconut oil and butter; monounsaturated such as nuts, avocados and olive oil; and polyunsaturated fats from fish and seeds.