Most of you have an understanding of weight training for bodybuilding, but how to eat like a bodybuilder seems to evade some people.
Here’s the deal…
Diet is the most important part, PERIOD, so if you are training like mad and taking a ton of supplements, even anabolic steroids or sarms, you will not see the same results you would have if your diet is on track.
This diet is geared towards a high protein and carb diet.
If you are looking for a high protein and fat diet look at our keto diet post.
At the end of this article you should be able to make a plan for yourself to obtain your own goals.
The Basics of Food
There are 3 basic micronutrients.
Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fat.
Carbohydrates and Fat are energy.
Protein is for building material.
Protein is essential for the whole body not just for building muscle. Everything we have, skin, bones, muscles, organs, hormones, and enzymes are built from protein. So Protein is the most important macronutrient. Protein the word means most important. The word ‘Protein‘ comes from the Greek ‘Proteos’, meaning the ‘first one’ or the ‘most important one’.
Argued constantly, muscles are not built on carbohydrates or fat. These are energy sources only.
When examining the RDA (Recommended Daily Allowance) of protein, don’t be confused with minimum amount to survive and optimal amount for building tissue and muscle.
Optimal Amount of Protein
For the average person, 1 gram per pound of bodyweight minimum is optimal. However for the bodybuilding or fitness athlete whose goal is muscle gain and athletic performance, 1.5 to 2 grams per pound of bodyweight is needed.
As a bodybuilder breaks down muscle tissue (that is just amino acids and protein) they need much more than the average person does when it comes to protein requirements.
Example: Let’s take a bodybuilder that weighs 200lbs. One gram of protein being 4 calories, a 200lb bodybuilder eating 200 grams per pound of bodyweight would equal 800 calories from protein sources.
The body trying to digest 200 grams in one sitting is too much for the body to assimilate, so small frequent meals will be the most ideal situation. Minimum being 5 meals per day.
This constant drip feed scenario will give your body constant amino acids into the blood stream throughout the day.
If your body does not get the amino acids from food, it will then take it from other parts of the body known as catabolism, or that you are catabolic.
So bottom line is your body requires protein to build muscle tissue. If it doesn’t have those things, it will not grow.
If you are training hard and you are breaking down the muscle tissue and do not replenish your bodies need for protein (repair), you will not only not grow but will become smaller instead.
But That’s Not All…
Small Frequent Meals
Each protein source needs different amounts of time to digest. Beef generally takes 24 hours to digest, chicken takes 6 to 7 hours to be broken down and have the amino acids available. Fish is about 5 hours, whey protein about 20 mins. So all the diversified protein sources take different times to digest and have the amino acids available and should be consumed throughout the day for best case scenarios.
How To Eat Like a Bodybuilder Continued..
Carbohydrates and fat giving us energy are broken down this way in calories.
1 gram of carbohydrates will equal 4 calories, 1 gram of fat equals 9 calories. When on a calorie diet, it’s important to know where your calories are coming from and why.
Ask yourself, is this calorie diet optimal for muscle growth?
When am I eating carbohydrates?
Is it when my body will use the energy?
Body fat = too much energy
Energy coming from Carbohydrates and fat, ask yourself am I eating too many carbohydrates and fat for the energy I output?
Watch your 24 activity, adjust your carbohydrates accordingly.
Example: Let’s say this individual is a computer worker and works out in the evening.
This individual will require less carbohydrate than a construction worker as an example.
So a complex carbohydrate in the morning will give sustained energy throughout the day.
Fibrous carbs (vegetables) can be eaten throughout the day and do not have an effect on fat storage.
You can opt for fibrous carbs or no carbs at all.
45min before the workout you can eat complex carbs that will be easily digested for energy.
During an intense weight training workout we will deplete the glycogen in the muscle and after the training session we can have simple carbohydrates.
So in this example-
- Complex carbs in the morning for sustained energy
- Fibrous carbohydrates during the day for energy but not stored as fat.
- Complex carbs again 45min before a workout
- Simple carbohydrates after a workout for glycogen replenishing
- Fibrous carbohydrates for the rest of the day
So during inactivity ingest fibrous carbohydrates, preferably green leafy carbs. Green leafy carbs can help burn fat because of what it does to the digestive system so keep your fibrous carbs in your diet.
After your workout ingesting simple carbs to sky rocket blood sugar contrary to what some believe, high blood sugar is ok after your intense weight training session. High blood sugar will trigger the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin is released in the blood, and now finds and takes all the nutrients available including amino acids and glucose and stores them in the cells.
Post workout when the glycogen is depleted, now there is empty space for glycogen and amino acids to be restored and replenished.
If you are on a no carbo hydrate diet, fat will be ingested as needed like carbs. Eat as you expend energy. Fat consumption like some of the fab diets are high in saturated fats and should be looked at for health reasons. Although some would argue, carbohydrates used as energy if properly executed will be much healthier than some of the saturated fat diets employed.
Fat and protein diets do work, but need to be very specific for them to be successful in a health way.
Fat should be at minimum daily if on a Protein and Carbs diet. Things like steak have hidden or marbled fat (saturated fat) anyway so you will get “bad” fat from these sources. Yes you can have a little bit of “bad” fat but not too much. Saturated Fats are hidden in a lot of protein sources so it’s almost impossible not to eat them. Fish has omega 3 (essential fats) so that would be a good source of fat. So basically don’t take any extra fat unless its essential fats (EFA’s)
omega 3, or omega 6 and choose your protein sources carefully.
EFA’s are essential fatty acids are NOT manufactured by the body so it is very important to take EFA supplements along with your diet.
Body Types and How to Eat Like a Bodybuilder
There are 3 body types that we will explain below. Each person can be a mix of two so don’t think you have to be one or the other.
- Endomorphic- usually a little overweight, can gain weight very quickly, low calorie intake can still cause weight gain
- Ectomorph- will be long limb, tall, and lean type (think basketball player). These types generally have a hard time gaining weight. Generally considered hard gainers in bodybuilding.
- Mesomorph- usually very muscular (like bodybuilders) large bones and wide shoulder types
Now when it comes to protein intake what type needs how much?
Ectomorph will usually require much more protein so start at 1.5 and even up to 2 grams per pound of bodyweight.
Endomorphic still start at 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight and change/reduce how much carbs and fat are ingested.
Mesomorph can get away with 1 gram per pound of bodyweight in some cases like Lee Haney former Mr. Olympia, however if they are struggling with muscle gains then they will want to up their protein to 1.5grams or higher.
Depending on the body type this is the range you will be looking to stay in.
These numbers are based on a 200lb person
- 200g to 400g of Protein
- 100 to 500grams of carbs – this is based on different body types and activity levels
- 30 to 100 grams of fat
- Endomorphic should stay around 100 grams of carbs to start to see where you are.
Based on the 200lb person start at 200 grams of protein and 100 grams of carbohydrates.
- Mesomorph should stay around 200 grams of carbs to start to see where you are.
Based on the 200lb person start at 200 grams of protein and 200 grams of carbohydrates. If you are very active you may need to possibly increase this number (carbs) from 300 to 500 grams.
- Ectomorph could possibly increase carbs to 500 grams and see where you are.
Based on the 200lb person start at 200 grams of protein and up to 500 grams of carbohydrates.
You can always start at 50% of each (Protein and Carbs) and see how much fat gain you are getting etc. and adjust from there. If you are an individual that is not concerned with gaining muscle don’t concern yourself with anything higher than 1 gram per pound for protein.
IF YOU ARE ON A LOW CARB ALLOWANCE LIKE AN EDOMORPHIC PERSON. ADD COMPLEX CARBS IN THE MORNING AND THE REST AFTER YOUR WORKOUT FOR BEST RESULTS.
What Are The Best Times To Eat Carbs?
STARCHY CARBS – In the morning or before physical activity
FIBROUS CARBS- Anytime, no limit. The more the better
SIMPLE CARBS- Only during or after the workout
What Are Examples Of Simple, Complex, & Fibrous Carbs?
- Oatmeal (old-fashioned or Steel Cut)
- Brown rice
- Sweet potatoes
- Multigrain hot cereal (mix or barley, oats, rye, triticale, and a few others)
- Products with added sugar, such as baked goods or some cereals
- Fruit juice concentrate
- Green Beans
- Brussels Sprouts
How Many Grams Of Protein Can Be Digested In One Sitting or Meal?
There is a myth that only 30grams of protein can be digested in one sitting and that myth is all it is…a myth. While it is not recommended that 80 grams or more of protein be ingested in one sitting, the body can assimilate more than 30 grams in one sitting.
Adding more meals is the best case scenario, 50 to 60 grams per meal for ease of digestion will be much better than trying to get in 80 grams per meal. If you need to do 8 meals then that’s what you need to do. Experiment on how many meals you need to do to reach your protein goals.
The process of learning how to eat like a bodybuilder takes time. Even if you hire a diet coach they will need an evaluation period to understand what is working for your body, so be patient.
TEF (Thermic Effect of Feeding)
TEF is the calories that our body uses to digest the food we ate. Having more meals throughout the day will give a better TEF than fewer meals, meaning they will lose the most fat and get more nutritional value than one or two meals because each time we eat, our metabolism is working at a higher rate. A high protein, and high fibrous carb diet will give you the best TEF for fat loss.
A protein and fat diet has a lower TEF, so it is recommended to have a protein, complex, and fibrous carb diet.
TEE (Thermic Effect of Exercise)
TEE is simply as our body is exercising we are burning more calories.
The weight loss factor, or fat burning factor, has to do with these two, TEF and TEE.
Frequent Meals for TEE & TEF
For the best TEF, small frequent meals are a must for losing weight.
Eating one meal per day will slow your progress and may cause you to derail your diet progress.
EXAMPLE: A Client comes to you and is trying to lose weight. She is only eating the bare minimum daily to reach her goal. So take an average 2000 metabolic rate (Basic Metabolic rate of 2000 calories per day, or eating 2000 calories per day without losing or gaining weight/maintenance level)
Anything else that’s done during the day effects the BMR (Basic Metabolic Rate), such as TEE & TEF.
So if this individual ate 2000 calories per day they wouldn’t lose or gain weight.
Let’s say they went down to 1000 calories for the first week. And she loses weight the first week.
What has happened is that the body is shocked into taking nutrition from the energy reserve (Fat & Glycogen stored in the liver and muscle) during the first week.
Because your body stores emergency reserves (for emergency situations) and is taking from those reserves during that first week, the body uses the glycogen and release water. This is what she is seeing on the scale (weight loss/water loss).
Muscle and fat will also be tapped into as well, and muscle will be lost.
If you’re constantly doing this process and not maintaining your BMR, your body will eventually die, so this is a very unhealthy way to lose weight.
What will happen is your body will eventually adapt to the 1000 calorie per day BMR, and if you eat more than 1000 calories you will gain weight.
So what is lost over that week is water, some body fat, and a lot of muscle.
Why is so much muscle lost?
1 pound of fat needs 9 calories per day to be maintained.
1 pound of muscle tissue needs 69 calories per day to be maintained.
So our body needs 7xs more calories to maintain the muscle than it does to maintain the fat.
So what happened?
The body recognizes that the fat only needs 9 calories and the muscle needs 69. We are in a deficit of 1000 calories. If the body loses one pound of fat it’s only saving 9 calories, but if it loses 1 pound of muscle it’s saving 69 calories. So the body uses that muscle tissue as “food” and you lose muscle.
Now the body has lost water, muscle, and a little fat. The individual now is in a 1000 BMR, and is now struggling to lose any more weight. So what some try, is to drop the calories even lower to say 500 calories. And they will lose some more weight but eventually the same process will occur again.
The body will keep adapting however this is extremely unhealthy, and the body fat, even if the individual lost 50 lbs., the body fat of the individual would not be that much lower, but the muscle tissue would be extremely reduced.
So imagine that you lost 10lbs of muscle. That’s 690 calories that your body now doesn’t need.
This whole scenario is why people get frustrated with this kind of diet and they don’t last. This individual will usually go back to the diet they were eating before, and she will gain a tremendous amount of fat.
Because she has now lowered her BMR to 500 and now goes back to eating 2000 she is over by 1500, and her body will not be able to assimilate the food properly as she did before. Now her body will be thinking it has a surplus, and will go into storage mode.
This YO-YO dieting will do this every time and does not work.
So what’s the answer?
How does this woman lose the weight she is trying to lose the right way?
Muscle will burn body fat.
We need to build muscle.
- Eating the right foods,
- Frequent meals
This will give you a better TEF and she will burn the fat.
If she did even 10 small meals (protein and fibrous carbs), she would get in better shape faster than the previous Yo-Yo diet that doesn’t work and is very dangerous.
So… boosting the metabolism and eating the right kinds of foods is the key to success.
TEE and TEF = lean muscle mass and less fat.
HOW TO EAT LIKE A BODYBUILDER WRAP UP
So What’s the Best Scenario for Laying Out My Diet?
- Frequent Meals
- Protein in every meal
- Fibrous carbs (leafy greens & vegetables) anytime
- Essential Fats (EFAs) as needed
- Carbs taken as demanded
1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, up to 2 grams.
Complex carbs only as needed. Fibrous carbs all day.
Fats are minimum on this diet except for EFAs.
Try this ratio out and adjust as needed.
- 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
- No more than 100 grams of carbs daily
- No more than 100 grams of fat daily
- Complex carbs in first meal or meal before workout
- Simple carbs only after workout
- Fibrous carbs all day long as much as you can eat / the more the better for TEF
Adjust as needed over a 2 week period and see how you are looking and feeling. Readjust as needed.
If you decide to do a fat and protein diet, use health fats instead of saturated fats and adjust that number as needed for fuel. It will take some experimenting to find the right fit, but try no more than 100 grams of carbs and fat to start, and adjust it over a 2 week period to see how things are looking and how you are feeling. Remember things like whole eggs and even chicken do have some saturated fats, and that is fine, but keep that in mind when working your numbers.