For a bodybuilder to achieve optimal gains their nutrition program needs to be a healthy diet just like anyone else who is a health conscious individual. However, as well as bodybuilders following the healthy diet plan guidelines, they need to have other considerations. Therefore, if you’re adopting a suitable bodybuilding diet the following points apply, and should be adapted to whether your goal is ‘cutting’ or ‘bulking’:
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day
- Watch your fat intake and make sure you have a good intake of essential fats
- Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables each day; at least five servings
- Eat quality carbohydrates as appropriate, i.e. ensure you have adequate amounts and appropriate types for training and gains, or not too much if you are looking to cut
- Include plenty of fibrous foods in your diet
- Eat plenty of good quality protein rich foods
- Eat a variety of different foods every day – an aspect of nutrition which bodybuilders are notoriously bad at doing!
- Split food up into regular portions throughout the day
- Supplements should only be used to supplement a good food intake
- Enjoy your food!
What do I eat to gain quality weight?
The key to a healthy diet to gain weight is to eat big and eat consistently throughout the day following structured nutrition courses. Aim to eat six or seven meals/snacks per day. Include plenty of high protein food choices, like lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs and milk; high fibre complex carbs like cereals, bread, pasta, rice and potatoes; and fruit and vegetables (don't forget nuts and pulses are also good sources of protein).
Timing of meals is also important; spread the meals regularly through the day, and especially important is to eat good amounts of protein and carbs after training. Some protein and weight gain supplements can also be useful aids to packing on the bulk, but not in place of good wholesome food.
There are three meal plans in separate articles which indicate how good nutrition can help you gain quality weight.
What should I eat if I’m looking to lose body fat but maintain my muscle?
When you have gained some good muscle, you may want to strip off the surrounding fat and go for the more aesthetically pleasing defined look. The key to this lies both in good sports nutrition, as detailed in our three meal plan article, as well as through appropriate cardio-vascular exercise.
Nutrition here should continue to be fairly high protein but lower in carbs. However, carbs should not be excluded and should be small portions of slow-release carbs structured through the day. All part of a healthy balanced diet full of high nutrition food.
What should I eat before and after workouts?
Obviously, this depends on your goals. Firstly let's assume you're wanting to bulk up. Energy levels to fuel training will depend on your entire diet and nutrition, although pre-workout nutrition can give you that edge. Have simple carbs for short bursts of energy, but also fibrous slow release carbs for more sustained energy to keep you training hard towards the end of your workout. Don't eat just before a workout as this may bloat you and may actually stop your workout 'buzz'. Energy drinks based on caffeine and other stimulants may also be useful, but don't depend on them, and certainly, don’t overuse them.
I must emphasise that the most important factor for energy during a workout, actually lies in optimal nutrition after your previous workout. After exercise, a good quality whey protein drink in water will get straight to the muscles. Follow this up shortly with rapidly absorbed carbohydrates, either from supplements or from appropriate food. This not only gives you good nutrition for growth but will also help re-fuel those worked muscles to help them recover ready for your next workout. Then within 90 mins, have a good high protein meal.
What about cheat days?
Some keen trainers like to include so-called ‘cheat’ days into their plans, where they can consume whatever they like and lots of it! Obviously, there’s more scope for ‘cheating’ when following a bulking plan, as opposed to cutting, and whilst this can give some psychological relief, and indeed add variety into your diet, ‘cheat’ days too regularly could be detrimental to progress.
For this reason, I prefer the term ‘treat’ to ‘cheat’ and treat meals (as opposed to entire days) may be incorporated into your diet plan as often as once or twice per week on a bulk, though less frequently on a cut. For treat meals, you may like to simply go out for a meal.
Enjoy your Food!
Too often bodybuilders unnecessarily make their own diets boring and monotonous. You need to have variety; it is after all ‘the spice of life!’ Follow the simple guidelines in this and the other articles and including high protein meals in your diet, you’ll find that, not only are you consuming a balanced, varied diet directly tailored to bodybuilding and fitness, but you’re enjoying your food and are able to stick to a suitable nutrition regimen without straying.
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