How to Eat Like a Body Builder
If you are working on building up your muscles, you probably already know that working out, on its own, isn't enough. Diet is also important. Body builders try to keep their body fat lower than what is considered normal—between 3 and 8% for men and around 10% for women—so that their muscles show through and are not hidden by a layer of fat. Eating like a body builder will help you build muscle and lose excess weight if you combine this diet with the right exercise regimen. The basic idea is to eat a diet high in protein and fiber, and low in carbohydrates and fat. This diet also involves eating a lot more often.
Eat the right amount of protein.You probably know that the body builder's diet is very high in protein. Growing muscles do need quite a lot of it, but past that point any extra protein is just calories, and therefore less effective than carbs.For most people, 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day should be plenty.However, body builders need to get between 1.2 and 1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight.
- To find your weight in kilograms, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2. For example, 200 pounds divided by 2.2 is about 91 kilograms. To get your daily range for grams of protein, just multiply your weight in kilograms by 1.2 and then by 1.7. For example, 91 x 1.2 = 109 and 91 x 1.7 = 155. This means that your range for the day would be between 109 and 155 grams per day. (You can round your answers up or down to the nearest whole number for convenience.)
- Some good options for high-protein meals include: London broil/top round steak, salmon, chicken breast and pork tenderloin.
- Being vegetarian or vegan doesn't mean you can't eat like a body builder. In fact, vegan body builders are becoming more and more common. Some vegan substitutes include soy (and other legumes), seitan, quinoa, buckwheat, and mycoprotein.
- For breakfast, try egg yolks and oatmeal, or high-protein cereal and a protein shake. Stay away from sugary cereals.
Use liquids for nutrition between meals.Protein shakes are a great way to get more energy in between meals. They're especially useful if you need to fight off junk food cravings.
- Whey protein is easy to digest and absorb.
Never skip meals.Skipping meals is as bad as skipping workouts. Your body needs the nutrients in your meals to keep building mass.
- If life makes it hard to schedule meals, consider keeping a small cooler with you with a meal or two in it at all times.
Keep it balanced.While protein is crucial, it's also important to eat balanced meals. In particular, vegetables and complex carbohydrates need to be a staple in your diet.
- Some bodybuilders recommend asparagus, broccoli, or spinach, but there are many other options.
Stay hydrated.Your body is mostly made up of water. To keep it functioning smoothly, you need to stay hydrated. This is important for everyone, but especially for anyone doing hard training.
Moderate the fat.Some fat is fine, but avoid excessive amounts. Avoid foods with added fats like butter and fried foods.
- In particular skip the butter, oil, and rich sauces when possible. Use a light cooking spray in the place of butter and oil whenever you can.
Avoid processed food.Body builders try to "eat clean." This means that you should avoid unhealthy choices like fast food and processed food.
- These foods turn into fat and not muscle. Remember, you are what you eat!
Don't eat sweets.You should avoid refined sugars and other simple carbohydrates in most scenarios. These foods are empty calories that take the place of healthier options that build muscle mass.
- Your best bet is to get these foods out of your home so you aren't tempted to eat them.
- Carbohydrates before bed are the worst. Because you won't be exercising for several hours, your body will store these carbs as fat.
- There is one exception to this rule: right after a hard workout, some simple carbohydrates are okay. If you're craving a bagel right after a session at the gym, you can indulge that craving, as long as you don't forget to eat your protein.
Dine out moderately and carefully.When you eat out, you lose some control over what goes into your meal. Restaurant food in general also usually contains more fat and salt than the food you prepare at home. Try not to eat out too often.
- When you do eat out, try to stick to clean proteins and simple vegetable side dishes. Scan the menu for the choice that best fits the body building diet.
Don't eat too much.Many people hear "bulk up" and assume that means you have free reign to eat as much as you want. This is definitely not the case. Body builders need to watch the amount they eat just as much as anyone else.
- The math here is simple. If you are taking in more calories than you are burning off through exercise, your body will store those calories as fat. As a body builder, your calorie threshold might be higher than the average couch potato. But that threshold is still there.
- It's a good idea to read food labels, count calories, and make sure you are taking in as close to the right amount of protein as possible. You need lots, but there is such a thing as too much.
Part 1 Quiz
Which of the following is the best way to avoid eating too much?
Possibly Effective Approaches
Cheat occasionally.It's usually a good idea to plan for occasional cheating. If you know you get to cheat on a meal, maybe once a week, it will help control the temptation to cheat at other times.
- You can use you "cheat" meal as a reward for reaching workout goals. This can be a strong motivator!
Snack on micellar casein protein before bed.A pre-bedtime snack can help you fight the urge for an unhealthy midnight snack. Some bodybuilders swear by micellar casein protein for this, either as a supplement or in cottage cheese.The argument goes that this protein takes longer to digest, letting your slower nighttime metabolism take full advantage of it. This is because it is a milk-derived protein that curdles when it contacts the acid in your stomach. This curdling slows down digestion and absorption of amino acids.
Consider changing the type of fat you eat.Fats pack in a lot of calories in a small volume, making it easier to meet your meal goals when bulking up. You definitely need some fat for a healthy diet anyway — the question is, what kind? Most experts tout monounsaturated fatty acids and Omeg-3 fatty acids, found in fish and avocadoes.Saturated fat is generally considered unhealthy, but some bodybuilders suggest fitting a small amount into your diet.
- Monounsaturated fatty acids and Omega-3 fatty acids are important for muscle growth. They can be found in foods like fish and avocados.
Consider taking supplements.Used in moderation, dietary supplements can help you fill in any gaps in your diet. Prepackaged body building supplements, along with a good protein powder, can compliment your daily meals.It's important, however, not to over-rely on supplements. You should be getting the bulk of your nutrition from fresh foods, which are better for your body.
- Supplement sellers often make inaccurate claims. Most will not have any effect that you couldn't replicate with a good diet.
Part 2 Quiz
Why do some people suggest eating micellar casein protein before bed?
Choose your meal schedule based on what works for you.One common myth claims you need to eat 6+ meals a day to encourage glycogen storage, or replenish amino acids, or prevent catabolism. A thorough look at the evidence demolishes these ideas.What matters is the amount of calories and nutrients you consume, not how you spread it throughout the day. If you feel better and work out harder on 3-4 larger meals a day, go for it.
Treat breakfast just as you would any meal.Many bodybuilders overstate the importance of breakfast. In fact, eating in the morning has no extra effect on muscle mass compared to eating at other times.You should eat a healthy, protein-rich breakfast, but choose your portion size and mealtimes based on what makes you alert and ready to work out.
Part 3 Quiz
Which of the following is a myth about bodybuilding?
QuestionFor lunch and dinner what type of food should I take?
Registered DietitianRegistered DietitianExpert AnswerThere are many menus available online, like shrimp with spinach and brown rice or steak with salad and chickpeas. Your meal should include a lean protein, vegetables and a complex carbohydrate.Thanks!
QuestionCan I include lots of fruit in my diet?
Registered DietitianRegistered DietitianExpert AnswerEat fruits in moderation. Fruits are high in fructose, the natural sugar found in fruit.Thanks!
QuestionCan I take protein shakes on an empty stomach?
Registered DietitianRegistered DietitianExpert AnswerYes, protein shakes will provide the essential amino acids your body needs to build muscle.Thanks!
QuestionCan I eat egg yolks?
Registered DietitianRegistered DietitianExpert AnswerYes, egg yolks are fine. They do contain cholesterol but unless your doctor has said to follow a low cholesterol diet, you can have the yolk.Thanks!
QuestionI am vegetarian and do not eat any soy products other than moderate quantities of tofu. How can I eat the recommended 150 grams of protein per day?Community AnswerIn addition to the supplements you mention, legumes (beans, lentils, nuts) are a great source of protein for vegetarians. When combined with grains like wheat, corn, and rice, they form a "complete protein" (a protein that contains all the amino acids your body needs). If you are not vegan, you can also get a lot of protein from milk, Greek yogurt and eggs.Thanks!
QuestionHow old does a person have to be to gain muscle mass with this diet?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYou can gain muscle at any age. A young kid named Little Hercules (age 10) got huge doing this. You can also be 50 and still gain muscle. It just depends on your metabolism, your immune system, your genes and how much body fat you have.Thanks!
QuestionCan I still drink a lot of water in this diet?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerAbsolutely. Water is essential for muscle building. It also helps all of your organs to function properly.Thanks!
QuestionShould I drink water between workouts?KoliaCommunity AnswerYes, between and during workouts. When exercising, you need to keep your body hydrated.Thanks!
QuestionWhat are the best foods to eat if I want to be a body builder?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerChicken, brown rice, fish, sweet potatoes, high protein foods.Thanks!
QuestionWhat fruits should I eat for body building?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerGreen leafy vegetables are crucial to a healthy diet. You should consume at least the same amount of vegetables as you do fruits, according to Mypyramid.gov. You can eat apples, oranges, bananas, etc. It is cheaper to purchase the fruit whole than to purchase pre-cut tubs of it. Be wary of nuts, they are high in fat.Thanks!
Is there any main effect or aside effect by using suppliments as a gym goer?
What foods I have to eat regularly?
How do I weigh my meals?
What should I do in order to become more muscular?
What should I eat for breakfast?
- Make your own meals. Making meals ahead of time for the week will make it easier to eat right for body building.
- Get a whey protein mix that's low fat, low carbohydrate, and low sugar content (ex. 3 grams or lower). Many stores have samples, so take some home before you buy one; there are some really gross kinds of protein shakes.
- Eat foods low on the glycemic index.
- If you are allergic to milk, whey protein shakes may not be good for you. Find a protein shake without dairy.
- Excluding the majority of food groups from your diet in return for processed protein shakes/powders further increases your risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, illness, anemia, gastro-intestinal malfunction/back up, and other unpleasant side-effects.
- Always pay attention to your doctor's advice before starting any diet.
- Consuming extreme levels of protein comes at the cost of increasing your cholesterol. If you have high cholesterol or are at risk, do not follow this plan.
- Children and women who are pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or nursing should be careful to avoid excessive mercury consumption. The EPA recommends consuming no more than 12 oz. of salmon or light tuna per week (6 oz. of albacore tuna), and to entirely avoid swordfish, shark, tilefish, and king mackerel. The decision to avoid other fish should be based upon local advisories.
Sources and Citations
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