For bodybuilders or for those who are looking to get into bodybuilding, nutrition plays a vital role in success and failure. For many, nutrition can be a real challenge both in terms of understanding nutritional requirements and diet consistency.
It is not only imperative that an adequate number of calories are consumed on a daily basis to bring about muscle growth or fat loss but consumption of macro nutrients (proteins, fats, and carbs) will also play a significant role in body compositional changes.
This article will serve as the ultimate guide for bodybuilding nutrition and provide crucial information that will guide you through to success.
A 7-day sample diet plan can also be found towards the conclusion of the article for future reference.
Foods to Eat for Body Building
When considering which foods should be incorporated into our diet, there are two major nutritional factors that dictate the rate of muscular growth and fat loss – calories and macronutrients. Therefore, foods that influence these two factors should be selected.
When muscle building is the aim, additional calories are needed. Being in a calorie surplus over a period of time in combination with resistance training will result in significant muscular hypertrophy (growth).
If fat loss is the goal, calories are of utmost importance once again. This time, a calorie deficit must be established and resistance training must be practiced and maintained in order to facilitate fat loss and to maintain as muscle mass.
Macro-nutrients play a role in altering body composition and subsequently, it is vital that the correct ratios of macro-nutrients are consumed. Considering the role it plays in growth and repair, protein should be of particular interest for the bodybuilder.
Taking all of this into account, which foods should be prioritized in a diet plan?
1) Lean Meats
Proteins are the most important nutrient for a bodybuilder during both muscle gain and fat loss phases. Lean meats provide the body with a significant amount of protein which will promote muscle growth and maintenance.
Turkey, chicken, lean beef, pork loin, salmon and cod are examples of lean meats that are high in protein and beneficial for health.
Whole grains such as brown rice, whole grain breads, millet, quinoa, oats and granola should be added in a bodybuilder’s diet. Whole grains, being primarily carbs, provide the body with energy, improve satiety and provide key micro-nutrients that are essential for muscle growth & maintenance.
As with lean meats, dairy products are typically high in protein and therefore be included in a bodybuilder’s diet. Consuming produce like greek yogurt, cottage cheese, milk & cheeses will boost protein intake substantially.
4) Fruit & Vegetables
For the bodybuilder eating a wide range of fruit and vegetables is recommended to ensure that they are consuming enough vitamins and minerals to facilitate growth and recovery.
5) Nuts & Legumes
Nuts and legumes are packed with vital micro-nutrients, proteins, and healthy fats. It is recommended that the bodybuilder eats a range of nuts and legumes to contribute towards greater muscular and general health.
Foods to Avoid for Body Building
There are a number of foods that can be detrimental to muscular growth. As a bodybuilder, with the goal of improving aesthetics, it is critical that these foods are restricted or avoided as much as possible as they can interfere with progress. Not only can these foods interfere with muscle growth, they can have an impact on overall health more generally.
1) Processed Foods
These are foods that have been manufactured and often are high in calories and low in nutritional value. Not only can processed foods negatively impact bodybuilding progress, eating a high volume of processed foods can be detrimental to health.
Baked goods, white bread, white pasta, processed meats, ice cream, pizza, soda and candy are all examples of processed foods.
2) Deep-Fried Foods
Foods that have been deep-fried tend to cause inflammation within the body and negatively impact health. Consumption of products such as french fries, chicken strips, onion rings, fried fish and mozzarella sticks should be limited.
Although technically not a food, alcohol has been found in a number of studies to inhibit muscular growth and recovery times. Therefore, drink in moderation and be aware of the negative impact alcohol may have on gains.
7 Day Body Building Diet Plan Chart
Below is a 7-day diet plan which can be used during both on and off-season. During both, the type of foods that you eat should be the same with the only difference being the quantity – this explains why quantities of each food have not been prescribed.
Be sure to calculate both calorie and macro targets prior to beginning any nutritional plan. If this is not determined, significant progress is unlikely to follow. Ascertaining these targets will give you a greater understanding of food quantities and food types to prioritize.
Remember that this is a sample plan and therefore it can be adapted to suit season, nutritional preferences and dietary requirements.
Day 1 Diet Plan
BreakfastOatmeal (with milk or water)
Handful of Dried Fruit and Assorted NutsSnack 1Boiled EggsLunchChicken or Turkey
Medium-sized Baked Potato
Brown RiceDinnerSalmon Fillet with Sweet Chilli Sauce
SpinachSnack 2Protein Shake
Day 2 Diet Plan
Whole Grain ToastSnack 1Peanut butter
Green SaladDinnerChicken Stir Fry
Peppers, Onion & BroccoliSnack 2Protein Shake
Day 3 Diet Plan
BreakfastChicken / Turkey Sausage
Whole Grain ToastSnack 1Greek Yogurt
GranolaLunchWhole grain Wrap with lettuce
Chicken / Turkey
Black BeansDinnerPork Tenderloin
CornSnack 2Protein Shake
Day 4 Diet Plan
BreakfastOatmeal (with milk or water)
Handful of Dried Fruit and Assorted NutsSnack 1Whole Grain Toast with Peanut Butter
OrangeLunchChicken in tomato gravy
Brown RiceDinnerBeef Sirloin
Boiled sweet Potato Side SaladSnack 2Protein Shake
Day 5 Diet Plan
BerriesSnack 1Cottage Cheese with Fresh BerriesLunchWhole Grain Wraps
Whole grain wrap with tandoori chicken and bell peppers
AvocadoDinnerCod Fillet with boiled quinoa
PeasSnack 2Protein Shake
Handful of Dried Fruit & Nuts
Day 6 Diet Plan
Boiled green peasSnack 1Mixed seeds and pearLunchMultigrain Roti
Carrot saladDinnerTurkey Meatballs
Whole wheat Spaghetti
SpinachSnack 2Protein Shake
Day 7 Diet Plan
Whole Grain ToastSnack 1Greek Yogurt
Handful of Fresh Berries & NutsLunchBeef curry
BroccoliDinnerMedium-sized Baked Potato
Green SaladSnack 2Protein Shake
Pros and Cons of Body Building Nutrition
There is no doubt that maintaining good nutrition can be tricky for all individuals. The bodybuilding diet can be particularly challenging yet also be highly rewarding at the same time. This section will detail a number of pros and cons often linked with the bodybuilder diet.
Keeping in mind the foods discussed above, basing a diet around many of the aforementioned food can have a substantial impact on overall health, not just muscle growth and fat loss.Following a diet similar to the sample plan will ensure that a wide range of micro nutrients are consumed. Micro nutrients are required for a number of functions including blood clotting, muscle contraction, fluid balancing, and cell maintenance & regeneration.A consistent, well-planned, nutrient-rich diet, has a clear and significant effect on overall health & function and minimizes the risk of developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, coronary heart disease and cancer. .Furthermore, a bodybuilder’s diet tends to be high in protein which has been found on numerous occasions to be beneficial for muscle & bone health, satiety, and for facilitating fat loss.Bodybuilder’s nutrition is typically highly regimented – this is often seen as a negative. However, being very strict in your nutrition and sticking to this nutrient-dense diet is clearly the most efficient method for ensuring success and for promoting health & function.Lastly, often bodybuilders are in the envious position in that they are permitted to eat meals and snacks at frequent intervals (as seen in the sample nutrition plan). The reason for this is to ensure that muscle protein synthesis (MPS) is optimized and maintained.MPS is the driving force behind muscular growth & maintenance and therefore, maximizing MPS is a top priority for all bodybuilders. By stimulating MPS, the rate of adaptation will increase thus facilitating a greater recovery and consequent growth.Failing to consume protein at regular intervals can cause MPS to drop to a suboptimal level and impede muscle building process. However, eating protein-based meals at regular intervals throughout the course of the day stimulates and optimizes MPS.
In preparation for a bodybuilding competition, it can be a real challenge for bodybuilders to significantly drop their body fat percentage down. For this to occur, the individual has to be strict and consistent with their nutrition to ensure that body fat is lost at a consistent rate.As mentioned earlier, a calorie deficit is required to bring about a reduction in body fat. However, maintaining a low-calorie intake over a long period of time can have a negative impact on energy levels and sleep. A combination of low energy and poor sleep may impact the individual’s ability to train at a high level. More specifically, failing to get enough sleep or having poor sleep quality can affect the recovery process from training bouts.As mentioned, bodybuilders have to be very regimented with every meal and should not deviate from their nutrition plan if at all possible. This does mean that socializing, drinking alcohol and eating out has to be occasional and in limits so it does not alter their goal.In addition, some may find the bodybuilder diet to be quite restrictive as there are a number of foods that may either be detrimental to progress or fail to fit the predetermined calorie and macro targets.Finally, there is a real need to track both macros and calories, particularly for the beginner. Tracking can become mundane and an annoyance at times, however, is the only way that the bodybuilder can ensure that they are eating correctly to optimize results.For more experienced bodybuilders there may be less of a demand to track every day as they will have a greater knowledge of what they need to eat, when to eat and the quantities required. However, tracking will still be required at certain times, regardless of experience.
Bodybuilding requires a large degree of commitment in terms of both training and nutrition. Those who are able to be consistent in training and nutrition will make the greatest progress.
To optimize the rate of change, it is imperative that bodybuilders consume a range of nutrient-dense foods to fulfill their calorie and macro-nutrient requirements Foods that can be detrimental, such as processed foods and alcohol, should be restricted as far as possible.