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Diet For BodyBuilders

Bodybuilders aim to develop their muscle mass through regular and intensive weightlifting and proper diet and nutrition. Moreover, because bodybuilding is more of a lifestyle than an activity, bodybuilders should practice a set of habits inside and outside the gym which includes a healthy food intake and diet.

Bodybuilding is specifically done in order to promote massive growth with special emphasis on appearance over performance. So unlike weight training which frequently involves lifting weight to improve general health and lean muscle mass, there is much greater requirement for athletes and bodybuilders to retain a lean body that highlights their muscles’ aesthetic appearance.

Bodybuilding diet is just like all other science out there. It is strongly based on physiology and biochemistry of the human body. In general, the principle of bodybuilding diet is to intake a lot of fruit and vegetables, beans, seeds, nuts, and whole grains; some lean meats, fish, eggs, low-fat dairy products; and mono and polyunsaturated fats; to limit intake of saturated fat, cholesterol, alcohol, salt, added sugars, and sugary foods; to drink a lot of water; to maintain a normal weight; and to exercise on a regular basis.

However, there are more important things you should remember when you are a bodybuilder. This includes your bulking and cutting phase. In the bulking phase, you tend to increase your muscle mass, while in the cutting phase you tend to reduce your body fat. With that, you should consume more calories in the bulking phase than in the cutting phase.

If you are interested in learning more on what is the proper diet for bodybuilders, then you should definitely keep on reading throughout the article.

Caloric Intake

One of the most important factors, not only for a diet made for bodybuilders but also for maintaining a healthy and proper diet in general, is your caloric intake.

First you have to determine how many calories you need by weighing yourself at least three times a week and use a calorie tracking app that is available to your mobile phone in order to help you track the calories you intake on a daily basis. If your weight stays the same through tracking your caloric intake, it means that you have established your maintenance calories which is actually the daily number of calories you eat which do not cause you to lose or gain weight, but only maintain it.

If you are in your bulking phase, about 15% of caloric intake is recommended. So if your maintenance calories are about 2,500 per day, you should eat about 2,875 calories during the bulking phase. If you are in your cutting phase, a decrease of about 15% from your maintenance calories is usually recommended. So for example, if your maintenance calories are about 2,500 per day, you should eat about 2,125 calories during the cutting phase. It is important to note that as you gain weight in the bulking phase or lose weight in the cutting phase, adjusting your caloric intake at least on a monthly basis is highly recommended. This is because you need to account the changes in your weight to adjust your maintenance calories. In general, for consequent progression throughout the phase, you must increase your calories as you gain weight in the bulking phase and decrease your calories as you lose weight in the cutting phase. In the end, it is highly discouraged to gain or lose weight per week more than 1% of your body weight. This makes sures that you do not gain too much body fat during the bulking phase and you also do not lose too much muscle during the cutting phase.

Foods To Eat

Once you know your caloric intake, it is time to focus on your food (micro and macronutrient) intake. Dietitians usually recommend that during the bulking phase, you intake 15% to 20% of Protein, 20% to 30% of Fat, and 50% to 60% of Carbohydrates. While during the cutting phase, you intake 20% to 25% of Protein, 15% to 20% of Fat, and 55% to 60% of Carbohydrates.

You must remember that during the cutting phase, a diet low in fat should be followed. As seen above 15% to 20% of fat should be observed. Moreover, regulating protein intake should be followed in order to aid in protecting muscle while cutting excess carbohydrates, specifically those with added sugar and sweets and white flour products. Furthermore, in either the bulking or cutting phase, you should not intake protein that is more than 1 gram per pound of body weight or about 2.2 grams/kilogram because based on the science of protein requirements, intaking such high amounts of protein does not help in muscle building.

(Source: Elements.envato.com)

It is the amount, not the specific type of food that you eat, that should change between the bulking and cutting phase. In general here are the things you should remember:

Foods to eat:

Your food should include those that promote muscle development. These include fruits such as berries, grapes, bananas, oranges, pears, apples, peaches, and watermelon; vegetables such as leafy salad greens, mushrooms, asparagus, cucumber, tomatoes. broccoli, spinach, green beans, zucchini, peppers, green peas, cassava, potatoes, green lima beans, and corn; Protein containing food such as lean meats, poultry, and fish, specifically you can intake ground beef, pork tenderloin, sirloin steak, chicken breast, salmon, cod, and tilapia; grains such as oatmeal, crackers, bread, quinoa, cereal, rice, and popcorn; nuts and seeds such as walnuts, chia seeds, almonds, flax seeds, and sunflower seeds; dairy such as yogurt, cottage cheese, low-fat cheese and milk; legumes and beans such as black beans, chickpeas, pinto beans, lentils, and kidney beans; and oils such as flaxseed oil, avocado oil, and olive oil.

Supplements you should take

One of the most common supplements that bodybuilders take is the whey protein. Many are fond of consuming such products because it is convenient and easy to take. This supplement significantly helps in increasing your protein intake to make sure that you get enough protein especially during the bulking phase.

Another supplement you can take is the creatine. Creatine can be helpful especially during intensive weight training. It can provide your muscles with the energy required to perform an additional rep. Most experts highly recommend the intake of creatine monohydrate for it is the most effective among all that are available in the market.

Caffeine is also a suggested supplement that you can take before doing intensive workout. Science has shown that caffeine has the ability to reduce fatigue and promote more muscle performance, allowing you to work significantly more. Many companies in the market sell coffee- or tea-based supplements.

Lastly, you can intake multivitamins and mineral supplements. They can be helpful to maintain a healthy body especially during the cutting phase because you are limiting some minerals and vitamin intake from food during the cutting phase.

Foods to avoid

There are indeed a lot of different foods you should include in your diet as a bodybuilder. However, there are some foods and drinks that you should limit intake such as alcohol because it can reduce your body’s ability to promote muscle development. In fact, when taken in excessive amounts, it can promote your body to lose fat. Added sugars should also be avoided because these foods have a high amount of calories but very minute levels of nutrients. These foods include candy, cookies, doughnuts, ice cream, cake and other sugar-sweetened beverages including soda and sports drinks. Also you should avoid eating deep-fried foods. Studies have shown that indulging in such food, especially in excess, can stimulate the inflammatory pathways of the body and even increase the risk of chronic disease formation. Deep-fried foods include fried fish, french fries, onion rings, chicken strips and cheese curds.

Lastly, in addition to avoiding the foods stated above, you may also want to practice not to eat specific foods, especially before going to the gym because they can cause indigestion and even cause stomach upset while doing your workout. These foods include high-fat foods such as high-fat meats, buttery foods, and heavy creams; high-fiber foods such as beans and cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower or broccoli; and carbonated beverages such as diet soda or sparkling water.


In summary, bodybuilding is a lifestyle that includes doing intense workout training to promote muscle mass and eating a healthy and proper diet. With that, in order to achieve your goal to have your desired body, you need not only to have regular exercise, but also a well-compounded healthy diet which is basically divided into bulking and cutting phases. Your caloric intake is the main factor which guides these phases and is also the determinant of your protein, fat, and carbohydrate intake. Your diet should include lean protein, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats and should be free of alcohol and deep-fried or high-sugar foods. With this diet, you can make sure that you are able to get all the vital nutrients your body requires for developing your muscles, while also promoting a good overall health.

1. BodyBuilding. 2020. Bodybuilding Meal Plans For Every Guy. Retrieved from: https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/meal-plan-for-every-guy.html. Retrieved on 1 December 2020.
2. Healthline. 2018. Bodybuilding Meal Plan: What to Eat, What to Avoid. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/bodybuilding-meal-plan. Retrieved on 1 December 2020.
3. Nuts. 2019. The Complete Guide To The Bodybuilding Diet: Macros, Meals & More. Retrieved from: https://nuts.com/healthy-eating/bodybuilding-diet. Retrieved on 1 December 2020.
4.Rogers, P. Verywell Fit. 2020. What Is a Bodybuilding Diet?. Retrieved from: https://www.verywellfit.com/the-weight-trainers-bodybuilding-diet-3498427. Retrieved on 1 December 2020.

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