Bodybuilding Nutrition 101 - Healthy Nutrition Tips For Bodybuilders (2023)

Nutrition Tips For BodybuildersBodybuilding Nutrition 101 - Healthy Nutrition Tips For Bodybuilders (1)

As a natural bodybuilder, I know proper nutrition is a key component to building a better physique.

I know this through personal experience and the results of my clients, but don’t just take my word for it. The American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine state that optimal nutrition will enhance physical activity, athletic performance and recovery from exercise1.

Without proper diet and nutrition, even with all the best training in the world, you’re still selling yourself short. You must meet energy and macronutrient needs, especially carbohydrate and protein, during times of high physical activity in order to replenish glycogen stores, and to provide adequate protein to build and repair tissue.

In this article, I’ll teach you how to improve your physique by following these basic bodybuilding nutrition principles.

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Bodybuilding Nutrition 101 - Healthy Nutrition Tips For Bodybuilders (2)

Adequate Protein

If you’re trying to build muscle, your body will need an adequate amount of protein. Protein builds and repair tissues and it has been documented that increased protein intake improves performance. Exactly how much protein do you need to meet your goals? The ADA, DOC and ACSM recommend that endurance and strength-trained athletes (bodybuilders) have between 1.2 and 1.7 g per kg of body weight (0.5 – 0.8 grams per pound) of protein for the best performance and health1. Therefore, any excess protein consumed isn’t going to improve your performance or strength gains.

However, does that mean you should never consume more than the recommended amount and does consuming too much protein damage your kidneys? Let us set the record straight on protein and your kidneys. When protein is metabolized by the body nitrogen is produced as a by-product. Thus, making kidneys work to remove the extra nitrogen from the body, but making the body work harder isn’t necessarily bad. A review of the scientific literature on protein intake and renal function found that “there is no reason to restrict protein in healthy individuals.”The study also concludes that a low protein intake did not prevent the decline in renal function with age, and it could actually be the cause of this decline2 (discussion about low protein and renal function seems out of place here.) Now that the record on protein is cleared up, let us discuss how it pertains to you.

Ideally, as a bodybuilder you should try to consume at least .8 grams of protein per lb bodyweight on a daily basis. That’s roughly 144 grams of protein for a 180lb person, but bodybuilders beware, not all protein sources are physique friendly. Not only are some animal protein sources high in saturated fat, which is a health concern, but the higher fat content means you’ll be consuming more calories as well. Consuming excess calories may lead to gaining the wrong kind of weight so try to stick to lean protein sources such as turkey, tuna, chicken breast, salmon, low fat dairy, lean beef, and egg whites.

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Bodybuilding Nutrition 101 - Healthy Nutrition Tips For Bodybuilders (3)

Slow digesting Carbs

Carbohydrates have gotten a bad reputation over the years, but the truth is not all carbohydrates are created equal. The glycemic index or GI describes this difference by ranking carbohydrates according to their effect on our blood glucose levels. Refined/processed carbohydrates, found in products made with white flour, such as bread, pasta, muffins, donuts, cakes, and cookies are depleted of their naturally-occurring fibers. Because of this, these foods have a high glycemic index value, meaning they rapidly digest and enter the blood stream causing a spike in blood glucose levels3. In response, the pancreas releases insulin, which directs the cells to absorb the glucose. The more blood glucose the more insulin the pancreas releases.

Unfortunately, insulin also promotes the storage of fat in the body if there’s excess glucose; which is why it is important to limit refined carbs and sugars. Sweet potatoes, oatmeal, bran cereal, brown rice, whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables are all examples of low GI foods, meaning they’re slower to digest and affect blood glucose levels less3; thus, increasing the likelihood of those carbs being used as energy instead of stored as fat. Plus, choosing carbs that digest slowly can help stave off hunger by making you feel fuller longer. Another benefit of low GI carbs is most of them contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals which provide a plethora of health benefits as well.

Bodybuilding Nutrition 101 - Healthy Nutrition Tips For Bodybuilders (4)Healthy Fats

Fat doesn’t always have to be the enemy. Dietary fat is a vital part of any diet because fat helps supply our bodies with essential fatty acids (EFAs), provides energy, helps us absorb certainvitamins, helps us grow and supports a strong immune system. Also, according to research published in the Journal of Applied Physiology by a team of Penn State University researchers, a positive correlation exists between dietary fat and testosterone levels 4 and when it comes to building muscle testosterone is the king of hormones. Studies show that testosterone, especially when combined with strength training, increases fat-free mass and muscle size and strength5.

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However, all this doesn’t mean you need to go on a high fat diet. Limit your intake of saturated and trans fats as they are thought to play a role in cardiovascular disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes6. Try to stick to monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats as such as olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, flaxseed, flax oil, walnuts and cold water fish like salmon as these fats have been associated with improved blood cholesterol levels6. So exactly how much fat do you need? The USDA recommends that only 20%-35% of your diet come from dietary fat as these ranges have been associated with a reduced risk of chronic diseases, and it provides adequate fat intake for essential nutrient absorption7.

Pre Workout Meal/Snack

Skipping out on your pre workout meal is a big no no. Providing your body with a pre workout meal or snack that is high in carbs, moderate in protein, low in fat, and sufficient in fluids will help your body maintain blood glucose concentrations during exercise, maximize exercise performance, improve recovery time, and maintain hydration. Everyone’s workout schedule is a little different so the size and timing of the meal should be interrelated. Consume smaller meals 30-60 minutes prior to exercising, and larger meals when more time is available before exercise.

However, most of us have heard the claim that exercising on an empty stomach burns more fat. Well, a study published in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition Exercise and Metabolism8 concluded that not only is the metabolism higher in the fed condition compared to the fasted condition, but that fat use is higher after exercise as well. Want to start burning more fat after your workout? Also, the study points out that after a pre-workout meal, not only is the metabolism high during the workout, but it stays at a high level for 112 hours after the workout. Start eating a pre workout meal.

Bodybuilding Nutrition 101 - Healthy Nutrition Tips For Bodybuilders (5)

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Post Workout Meal/Snack

Weight training increases insulin sensitivity and glucose absorption, meaning it is easier for the body to absorb sugar from the bloodstream and store it in muscles and other tissues where it can be used as fuel to replenish glycogen stores and rebuild muscle tissue. After an intense training session, consuming carbs in conjunction with protein post workout provides more amino acids for muscle repair and promote a more anabolic (muscle building) hormonal profile1. Besides a protein shake, you can try chicken stir fry with brown rice, turkey/ tuna on whole wheat bread, egg white and spinach omelet, or even chocolate milk as a post workout meal or snack.


How does this article benefit you if you don’t apply these nutrition tactics? It doesn’t. Just like you have to consistently lift weights over time to build muscle you have to consistently eat properly to achieve a better physique. ” Success is the sum of small efforts repeated day in and day out” (Collier,R) .

Julian Brown ACE CPT

Disclaimer: Before you begin any exercise program, and before you follow any of the advice, instructions, or any other recommendations in this article, you should first consult with your doctor and have a physical examination.

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Bodybuilding Nutrition 101: References

1^ Position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and athletic performance. J Am Diet Assoc. 2009 Mar;109(3):509-27.
2^ Walser M. Effects of protein intake on renal function and on the development of renal disease. In: The Role of Protein and Amino Acids in Sustaining and Enhancing Performance. Committee on Military Nutrition Research, Institute of Medicine. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 1999, pp. 137-154.
3^ Am. J. Clin. Nutr.Glycemic Index of Foods: a Physiological Basis for Carbohydrate Exchange. Jenkins DJ et al. 1981, 34: 3.
4^ Volek, J.S., Kraemer, W.J., Bush, J.A., Incledon, T., & Boetes, M. (1996). Testosterone and cortisol in relationship to dietary nutrients and resistance exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology, 82, 49-54
5^Bhasin S, Storer TW, Berman N, Callegari C, Clevenger B, Phillips J, Bunnell TJ, Tricker R, Shirazi A, Casaburi R (July 1996). “The effects of supraphysiologic doses of testosterone on muscle size and strength in normal men”.N. Engl. J. Med.335(1): 1–7.
6>^”Dietary Guidelines for Americans”. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2010. Retrieved 2011-09-27.
7^ “Dietary fats: Know which types to choose”.Mayo Clinic. 2011-02-15. Retrieved 2011-09-02.
8^ International Journal of Sports Nutrition Exercise and Metabolism (21:48-54, 2011)


What is the healthiest diet for bodybuilding? ›

Foods to Focus On

Meats, poultry, and fish: Sirloin steak, ground beef, pork tenderloin, venison, chicken breast, salmon, tilapia, and cod. Dairy: Yogurt, cottage cheese, low fat milk, and cheese. Grains: Bread, cereal, crackers, oatmeal, quinoa, popcorn, and rice.

How much food does a bodybuilder eat a day? ›

In the off-season, energy intake is usually substantially higher compared to the dieting phase with dietary intakes among male bodybuilders being reported at an average intake of ~3800 kcal/day during the off-season and ~2400 kcal/day during the dieting phase [2].

What nutrients do bodybuilders eat? ›

So, the correct answer is 'Proteins'

What do bodybuilders drink? ›

Some professional bodybuilders recommend drinking as much as 10 quarts of water each day. I suggest consuming at least half of your body weight in ounces of water each day. If you have been sweating, drink even more.

What fruit is best for bodybuilding? ›

Bananas, dates, and raisins are excellent fruits for muscle development. These are the most calorie-dense choices, which will help you achieve the calorie excess required to grow. They are also rich in potassium and antioxidants that contribute to the reduction of swelling and muscle cramp during exercise.

What are 5 bodybuilding foods? ›

Muscle building foods for gaining lean muscle
  • Eggs. Eggs contain high quality protein, healthy fats, and other important nutrients like B vitamins and choline ( 1 ). ...
  • Salmon. Salmon is a great choice for muscle building and overall health. ...
  • Chicken breast. ...
  • Greek yogurt. ...
  • Tuna. ...
  • Lean beef. ...
  • Shrimp. ...
  • Soybeans.

What should bodybuilders eat before bed? ›

Muscle Building Meal Plan Before Going to Bed
  • Cottage Cheese and Almonds. ...
  • Casein and Flax. ...
  • Greek Chia Yogurt. ...
  • Deviled Avocado Eggs. ...
  • Whey Protein and Peanut Butter. ...
  • Nuts and Seeds. ...
  • Grilled Fish. ...
  • Chicken Breast with Salad.
17 Jan 2022

What should I not eat when building muscle? ›

5 foods to avoid when building muscle
  • 1) Alcohol. ...
  • 2) Sugary drinks and foods. ...
  • 3) Refined carbohydrates. ...
  • 4) Fried foods. ...
  • 5) Branched-chain amino acid supplements. ...
  • 1) Dairy products. ...
  • 2) Lean protein. ...
  • 3) Vegetables of all kinds.
13 Sept 2022

Why do bodybuilders eat 5 times a day? ›

Eat More Meals More Often

If you're active and train hard, you likely burn a lot of calories each day. It's very difficult to eat clean foods that replace all the energy you've spent in just three meals. That's why bodybuilders—competitive and recreational alike—eat 5-8 meals per day to support mass-building.

What is bodybuilding food called? ›

Proteins are generally referred to as bodybuilding food. They are macronutrients that provide the body with materials for cell growth and repair. Milk, chicken, fish, egg and pulses are rich sources of proteins.

Which meat is good for muscle building? ›

Chicken breasts get considered amongst the most effective foods for the growth of muscles. It is so because they contain a lot of protein and other essential nutrients that are a must requirement of the body. Three ounces of chicken breast that makes about 85 grams of it contains a total of 26 grams of protein.

What are examples of body building foods? ›

Food rich in proteins are generally referred to as bodybuilding food. They are required for the growth and repair of cells in our body. Milk, chicken, fish, egg and pulses are rich sources of proteins. Fruits and vegetables are sources of vitamins and minerals.

Which juice is good for muscles? ›

Pomegranate juice is a rich source of quercetin shown to help with muscle recovery and improved exercise performance.

Which alcohol is best for gym? ›

7 Healthy Alcoholic Drinks
  • Dry Wine (Red or White) Calories: 84 to 90 calories per glass. ...
  • Ultra Brut Champagne. Calories: 65 per glass. ...
  • Vodka Soda. Calories: 96 per glass. ...
  • Mojito. Calories: 168 calories per glass. ...
  • Whiskey on the Rocks. Calories: 105 calories per glass. ...
  • Bloody Mary. Calories: 125 calories per glass. ...
  • Paloma.

What is the best milk to drink for bodybuilding? ›

Clearly whole milk comes out on top when it comes to bulking, with the additional calories making it easier to pack on size. Additionally, whole milk is abundant in omega-3 fatty acids which improves bone & joint health but can also aid with sleep quality (3) which indirectly improves recovery and training adaptation.

What foods give you strength? ›

10 Foods to Increase Muscle Strength
  • Wild Salmon. With 20 grams of protein in every 100-gram serving, wild salmon will accelerate your results while sports training in Phoenix. ...
  • Quinoa. Interestingly, quinoa packs more protein than any other major grain. ...
  • Spinach. ...
  • Greek yogurt. ...
  • Sunflower seeds. ...
  • Soybeans. ...
  • Chicken. ...
  • Tuna.
19 Nov 2021

Which food is best for gym? ›

  • An energy bar.
  • A banana, an apple or other fresh fruit.
  • Yogurt.
  • A fruit smoothie.
  • A whole-grain bagel or crackers.
  • A low-fat granola bar.
  • A peanut butter sandwich.
  • Sports drink or diluted juice.

Is milk good for bodybuilding? ›

Milk is an excellent addition for bodybuilding routines. It contains high quality and easily absorbable protein, carbohydrates, and micronutrients (calcium, phosphorus, and B vitamins) which are made for muscle building.

What foods should bodybuilders avoid? ›

  • Are you new to fitness and wish to build muscles like Jeff Seid or Steve Cook? Then this article is a must-read for you. ...
  • Flax seeds. ...
  • Sugar. ...
  • Unhealthy Carbohydrates. ...
  • Alcohol. ...
  • Fried food items. ...
  • Fast food. ...
  • Spicy food.
24 Sept 2020

What should I not eat when building muscle? ›

5 foods to avoid when building muscle
  • 1) Alcohol. ...
  • 2) Sugary drinks and foods. ...
  • 3) Refined carbohydrates. ...
  • 4) Fried foods. ...
  • 5) Branched-chain amino acid supplements. ...
  • 1) Dairy products. ...
  • 2) Lean protein. ...
  • 3) Vegetables of all kinds.
13 Sept 2022

How should I eat to build muscle? ›

You need protein to build and maintain muscle mass. To achieve this, you should be looking to eat at least 1g per 454g of body-weight.
These include:
  1. Red meat. Beef, pork, lamb, etc.
  2. Poultry. Chicken, turkey, duck, etc.
  3. Fish. ...
  4. Eggs. ...
  5. Dairy. ...
  6. Whey. ...
  7. Vegan options such as lentils, tofu, seeds and nuts.

Why do bodybuilders avoid dairy? ›

The protein type in milk is 20% whey and 80% casein. You may have heard of whey since its the main ingredient in many muscle drinks and supplements. However, when whey is processed, like in protein powder, research has shown that it may contain toxins and cause digestive distress (gas, upset stomach).

What food is full of protein? ›

Protein foods
  • lean meats – beef, lamb, veal, pork, kangaroo.
  • poultry – chicken, turkey, duck, emu, goose, bush birds.
  • fish and seafood – fish, prawns, crab, lobster, mussels, oysters, scallops, clams.
  • eggs.
  • dairy products – milk, yoghurt (especially Greek yoghurt), cheese (especially cottage cheese)

What is bad for your muscles? ›

“Anything that is high fat but low protein” is a problem, says Phillips, because you're scarfing way too many calories for way too little protein. Bye bye, fried, sweet dough. After a hard workout, your body needs fuel to replenish.

What causes muscles to grow larger? ›

Muscle size increases when a person continually challenges the muscles to deal with higher levels of resistance or weight. This process is known as muscle hypertrophy. Muscle hypertrophy occurs when the fibers of the muscles sustain damage or injury.

What is the secret to building muscle fast? ›

How to Build Muscle (Fast)
  1. Increase Your Training Volume. ...
  2. Focus on the Eccentric Phase. ...
  3. Decrease Between-Set Rest Intervals. ...
  4. To Grow Muscle, Eat More Protein. ...
  5. Focus on Calorie Surpluses, Not Deficits. ...
  6. Snack on Casein Before Bed. ...
  7. Get More Sleep. ...
  8. Try Supplementing With Creatine ...
23 Sept 2019

What should you eat immediately after a workout? ›

Good post-workout food choices include:
  • Yogurt and fruit.
  • Peanut butter sandwich.
  • Low-fat chocolate milk and pretzels.
  • Post-workout recovery smoothie.
  • Turkey on whole-grain bread with vegetables.

Is rice good for muscle gain? ›

Similar to weight loss, caloric intake is the most important factor when it comes to gaining lean mass. However, quality carbohydrates from foods like rice can support bulking efforts a few different ways. Higher carb intake typically supports more glycogen storage in muscles, which helps fuel your workouts (20).


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