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Bodybuilding Diet: The Dos and Don’ts For The Best Results

From enhancing body strength to self-gratification, bodybuilders exercise for various reasons. It entails adherence to a consistent series of resistance and aerobic training linked inextricably with proper nutrition.

In fact, undermining nutritional effects while prioritizing workouts can cause retarding outcomes. Appropriate amounts of the right foods provide the muscles with recovery strength from exercises, in contrast to inadvisable ones, which could prove detrimental to bodybuilding goals.

This article aims to prevent the latter by expounding on what to eat in specific quantities and avoid. It also includes an expert-revised one-week sample menu to consider for bolstered gyming efforts.

Diet for bodybuilders

A typical bodybuilding diet, according to Verywellfit, improves overall protein & calorie consumption while incorporating conventional strength training into exercises.

Bodybuilding nutrition hardly differs outright from a regular balanced diet. Meal-timing and nutritional quality are just the most distinguishing factors.

In renowned Dietitian Nutritionist Kelly Plowe MS, RD’s words, “meal plans are typically very regimented. They require a lot of planning and prep meal.”

Bulking and cutting phase

Bodybuilders go through two significant phases to develop and maintain muscles – the bulking and the cutting phases. It is essentially an off-season eating pattern followed by an on-season one.

The ultimate goal in the bulking phase is to build muscles, claims Maximuscle, attained by a 15% increase in calorie consumption and intense weightlifting. Depending on a bodybuilder’s aims, it can span from weeks to months to even years.

During the cutting phase, fat intake is reduced least possibly, with unique exercises slightly increased. Bodybuilders try to preserve muscle mass developed during the bulking phase. Exercise modifications anytime from 12 to 26 weeks, as advised by Healthline, assisted by a nutritionist and training coach, ensure this feasibility.

Calories and Macronutrients

Calories, arguably the most vital consumable for bodybuilders, especially at the bulking phase, need to be taken in specific amounts.

To ascertain the right amount needed, first weigh yourself no less than three times weekly and record the values. If your weight averagely remains unchanged, it means most calories consumed over the period were maintenance calories.

The average values should be higher during the bulking phase due to increased calorie intake and, contrarily, lower in the cutting phase.

Elaborately, for an average weight gain of 0.3% – 0.5%, experts recommend consuming 10–20% above your daily weight maintenance calorie needs during the bulking phase and reducing it by the same amount during the cutting phase.

Macronutrient Ratio

With a macronutrient ratio, you can determine the balance between carbohydrate, protein, and fat intake from the required calories. Unlike the calorie difference, a macronutrient ratio doesn’t change.

Experts recommend

· 55-60% of calories from carbohydrates;

· 30-35% of calories from proteins; and

· 15-20% of calories from fat for bodybuilders.

Incline towards the higher range during the bulking phase and lower during the cutting phase.

The USDA reports that carbohydrates and proteins provide four calories per gram. And fat provides nine calories per gram. Personal dieticians can precisely evaluate more to determine the right quantities.

Foods to eat

Below are but not limited to recommended foods bodybuilders should gravitate to:

· Vegetables: Vegetables have essential therapeutic and healing properties to keep bodybuilders healthy as possible. Examples include mushrooms, cucumbers, pepper, broccoli, leafy salad greens, spinach, asparagus, tomatoes, zucchini, green beans, and cucumber.

· Starchy vegetables: Like other starchy foods, they help prevent excess calorie absorption. Cassava, sweetcorn, green peas, potatoes, sweet potatoes, green lima beans, and parsnips are vital sources.

· Beans & legumes help maintain healthy bowel movements and proper insulin response and are vital in muscle growth. Kidney beans, pinto beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas, soybeans, navy beans, peanuts, and black beans are rich sources.

· Fruits: Fruits are rich in antioxidants with vitamin C, potassium, and carbs, essential in bodybuilding. The most recommended ones include pineapples, bananas, berries, watermelon, grapes, apples, pears, oranges, peaches, and papayas.

· Oils: Oils are vital in muscle synthesis and contain key natural constituents. Notable sources are avocado oil, fish oil, olive oil, coconut oil, and flaxseed oil.

· Poultry, meat, and fish: They are rich in proteins with high nutrient values; also beneficial to bodybuilders. Sources include chicken breasts, pork tenderloin, beef, tilapia, venison, cod, salmon, and sirloin steak.

· Seeds & nuts: They help bodybuilders lose weight. Flax seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, cashew nuts, chia seeds, and walnut are recommended seeds/nuts.

· Grains: According to Mindfood, whole grains contain over 26 nutrients and phytonutrients, beneficial to bodybuilders. They have also proven effective in the prevention of weight gain. Whole grains include cereals, bread, amaranth, crackers, quinoa, oatmeal, buckwheat, popcorn, wild rice, and triticale.

· Dairy: Dairy is essential in bulking muscles owing to its high-calorie count. Low-fat cheese, yogurt, and low-fat milk are rich dairy products.

Foods to avoid

While most of the aforelisted foods are an integral part of a bodybuilder’s diet, avoidable ones include:

· Added sugars: They are carbohydrates added to foods during their production. Despite containing high calories, which seems essential, experts advise against them, containing fewer nutrients than recommended. Some foods high in added sugars include pies, cookies, candies, cakes, ice creams, doughnuts, sugar-sweetened drinks like sports drinks, and juice.

· Alcohol: Alcohol is also not recommended while bodybuilding due to its decelerating role in muscle building and fat reduction. Bodybuilders should abstain from excess beers and wines with high alcohol.

· Deep-fried foods: When excessively consumed, they promote inflammatory diseases. Examples include French fries, hush puppies, onion rings, chips, fried fish, cheese curds, and chicken strips.

Aside from limiting the aforelisted, reducing the intake of the following before exercises due to stomach upsets and slow digestion is also advisable.

· Carbonated beverages: Soft drinks, sparkling water, or diet sodas.

· High-fiber foods: Beans, nuts and seeds, broccoli, cauliflower, berries, potatoes with skin, etc.

· High-fat foods: Buttery foods, avocados, fatty fish, high-fat meat, or whole eggs.


Although not all necessary, supplements boost bodybuilders’ effort at the gym. Some of the approved ones include:

· Creatine: It is a natural substance found in muscle cells. Providing energy to muscles improves a bodybuilder’s general performance during heavy-lifting exercises. The monohydrate supplement is most recommended due to its efficacy over others.

· Caffeine: Bodybuilders take caffeine supplements to reduce fatigue, enabling them to work harder or longer. Tea and coffee are well-known caffeine sources.

· Whey protein: Since protein intake is essential in bodybuilding, quick pre-workout supplements conveniently provide it. Those at kidney disease risk should take it with caution as the potential dangers when overly consumed can be fatal.

· Weight gainers: Most bodybuilders with difficulty gaining muscles intake weight gainers. They help them build muscles by increasing calories and protein absorption. Bodybuilders without eating appetites appreciate them more.

· Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAAs): This supplement consists of three different amino acids: isoleucine, valine, and leucine. It is crucial for muscle growth by either improving muscle gain or reducing muscle loss. They are primarily in protein sources, including poultry, fish, dairy, meat, and eggs.

· HMB: The supplement has proven to increase muscle mass for bodybuilders who have newly begun the weight training program. The body produces this molecule from processing amino acid – leucine.

· Glutamine and Carnitine: Studies show that Glutamine and Carnitine are more beneficial to the elderly than middle-aged or youth bodybuilders. They help attain the ultimate bodybuilding goal – increased muscle mass.

Supplements cannot maximally meet all a bodybuilder’s dietary necessities. Although their intake has become more customary among bodybuilders, most nutritionists don’t recommend relying on them to build muscles. It is always better to opt for whole meals whenever possible, especially when unsure of the appropriate supplement amount to ingest.

One Week Sample Menu

A quintessential bodybuilding diet is highly repetitive and somewhat restrictive for newbies.

As earlier highlighted, bodybuilders can use the same menu in varying quantities regardless of the bodybuilding phase they are in at any moment.

Below is a recommended sample menu for a week.


· Breakfast: Roasted potatoes with chicken sausage.

· Lunch: Sweet potato, Sirloin streak, and spinach.

· Dinner: Quinoa, asparagus, with salmon.


· Breakfast: Avocado toast with some eggs sunny-side up.

· Lunch: Sirloin steak, sweet potato, and spinach salad with vinaigrette.

· Dinner: black beans, cheese, bell peppers, with diced beef.


· Breakfast: Strawberries and vanilla Greek yogurt on oats with Blueberries

· Lunch: Black and pinto beans with seasonal veggies and Tilapia fillets.

· Dinner: Brown rice, egg, broccoli with veggies like peas and carrots.


· Breakfast: Ground turkey, egg, cheese, and salsa in a whole-grain tortilla.

· Lunch: Chicken breast, baked potato, sour cream, and broccoli.

· Dinner: Brown rice and salad leaves with vinaigrette and Mackerel for protein.


· Breakfast: Oatmeal with scrambled eggs and mushrooms.

· Lunch: Basmati rice with turkey breast.

· Dinner: Ground beef with corn, brown rice, green peas, and green beans.


· Breakfast: Chicken breast and egg with corn, salsa, and cheese.

· Lunch: Potato wedges, Tilapia fillets, and bell peppers.

· Dinner: Ground turkey with Marinara sauce over pasta.


· Breakfast: Pancakes with light syrup, peanut butter, and raspberries.

· Lunch: Roasted garlic potatoes with pork tenderloin slices & green beans.

· Dinner: Meatballs & parmesan cheese over pasta.


The dietary role in bodybuilding can’t be overemphasized, being as important as exercises. It’s more than mere abstinence and particular craving for healthier foods.

Bulking and cutting phases are the initial steps where calorie intake markedly changes during the transition. Contrarily, the macronutrient ratio is always constant.

Desisting from alcohol and foods with high added sugar is also necessary as bodybuilders incline towards protein-rich foods. Necessary supplements in calculated amounts are also very beneficial.


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