When people think of difficult sports, they tend to imagine long distance marathon races, professional football leagues, and athletics in general. The last thing they would ever think of, is bodybuilding, because truthfully, many people don’t actually see bodybuilding as a sport at all. Needless to say, the people that don’t see bodybuilding as a sport are those that don’t truly have any idea as to what bodybuilding actually entails. These are the same people that see a muscular, in-shape individual and immediately accuse him of being on steroids, despite the fact that they have no evidence to suggest he is whatsoever. These people think that bodybuilding is simply a case of walking into a gym, grabbing a set of dumbbells or a barbell, doing a few exercises, drinking a protein shake, and then heading home to relax and do whatever they like. Anybody who thinks this way is extremely close-minded and borderline ignorant as bodybuilding isn’t just a sport, it’s a lifestyle that must be adhered to 24/7 for optimal results.
When you talk to many people new to bodybuilding, or those thinking about getting into the sport, and ask them what they believe to be the most difficult aspect of the sport itself, 90% of the time they’ll tell you that they think it’s the actual training itself, but that is not the case at all. If you were to ask any professional trainer, bodybuilder, coach, or athlete, what the hardest part of bodybuilding is, they’ll tell you that it’s actually the diet and nutrition. Getting your diet and nutrition on point can be the difference between a poor physique, and a good physique, and a good physique, to a world-class physique. Even something as one small meal can be the difference between success and failure, especially for competitive bodybuilders and so to help provide as much useful information about bodybuilding diets and nutrition as we possibly can, here are 5 handy diet and nutrition tips for up and coming bodybuilders.
First off, why is nutrition so important?
Bodybuilding is very much a sport about transformation, because you’re literally taking your body, and transforming it, much like an artist will take paints and materials and transform them into works of art. You’ve also probably heard the expression that “your body is a temple” which is basically telling you to look after it and it will look after you. The goal with bodybuilding is to burn body fat whilst simultaneously building muscles and toning them, building a lean, symmetrical, and defined physique. Some bodybuilders choose to work on their bodies in this way so as to compete on stage or appear in magazines and photo shoots, but others simply bodybuild to look better and feel better about themselves. If you wish to build muscle, grow, recover, and burn fat, you need to pay extra special attention to not only what you put inside your body, but how much you put inside your body, and at what time. The foods and drinks you consume are crucially important, but so too is meal frequency, quantity, and timing as well. Put very simply, you can train in the gym 5 – 6 days a week, following the training routine of an IFBB pro bodybuilder, pushing your body to its absolute limits, executing strict form and training to failure with each working set. If however, you then head home, wait a few hours, and order a pizza and wings, followed by a chocolate milkshake right before bed, and basically eat and drink whatever you like, whenever you like, not only are you likely to gain fat, you also won’t build anywhere near as much muscle as you would if you cleaned up your diet. Bodybuilding is a combination of around 70% diet and nutrition, and 30% training, meaning no matter how hard you train, if your diet sucks, you won’t progress anywhere near as much as you should be. Now that we’ve cleared up the importance of diet and nutrition, let’s get around to these handy hints and tips we keep mentioning.
Eat little and often
If you’re looking for optimal results from your training, I.E to burn body fat and build lean muscle mass, you’re going to have to get used to eating regularly. Whereas before you may have only eaten two or three large meals per day, every four or five hours, with the odd snack thrown in here and there, now you will need to get used to eating every two and a half to three hours. Ideally you will want to be consuming around 6 – 8 meals each day, but don’t panic, two of them can be protein shakes (not including your mandatory protein shake) and they should not be huge portions of junk either. For optimal results, think little and often as you will want to consume several small, healthy, and balanced meals throughout the day. This is ideal because it keeps your muscles constantly supplied with a steady stream of fuel and nutrients, not to mention the rest of your body as well. Eating in this manner is also ideal for fat loss because it keeps the metabolism running at full capacity, preventing it from becoming bogged down by huge portions which would then slow it down. The more efficient your metabolism is, the more calories you burn, and the more energy you have as a result.
Protein, protein, and more protein
If you’re sure you want to be a bodybuilder you’d better get used to protein, both eating it and hearing about it on a daily basis. Our muscles, and indeed our cells in general, rely in protein as it is vital for cellular health, function, recovery, and regeneration. Our muscles also need protein for the same reasons. Each gram of protein contains roughly 4 calories, and protein itself is actually quite literally the building blocks of our bodies, because we ourselves are made from cells, which cannot function without protein. Generally, moderately active people need around 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight in order to maintain their bodies in their current state, but you as a bodybuilder will not be a moderately active individual, because you want to become a shredded machine! That means jacking up your protein consumption to 2 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight, so if you weigh 200lbs, you’ll be looking at 400 grams of protein a day. Include a protein source with each of your meals, aim for between 30 and 40 grams per meal, and above all else, only get protein from clean and healthy sources. Stay away from processed, salty, and fatty meats such as bologna or salami, and instead go for lean and natural cuts such as turkey, chicken, beef, lean pork, fish, seafood, organic eggs, nuts, and seeds. On top of that, to help you reach your daily macros, a protein powder supplement should also be incorporated, though as mentioned, you will only want between 1 – 3 shakes a day.
The bodybuilding supplement industry is more competitive now than ever before, which of course indicates that it is more successful now than ever before. If you read any bodybuilding magazine, or visit any bodybuilding expo, you’ll see sign after sign, and advertisement after advertisement for various supplements. Whilst bodybuilding supplements are indeed beneficial and effective when used correctly, you must always remember that they are designed to be “supplemented” with a healthy diet and training routine and they are most certainly no substitution for real foods. That being said, when you need to take your body to that next level, choosing the right supplement stack can be extremely beneficial. For those of you starting out, a multi-vitamin and a whey protein concentrate along with a fish oil supplement will be sufficient enough, but after a while you may need a little extra help:
Pre-workouts – Pre-workout supplements primarily contain caffeine and other stimulants such as taurine which help to provide temporary increases in energy levels and mental focus levels. For those of you who struggle to find the energy and motivation to workout, a pre-workout supplement consumed before you train will give one heck of an energy boost. Many of these supplements also contain Nitric Oxide (NO2) which acts as a vasodilator and dilates the blood vessels. This enhances vascularity, muscle pumps, and performance because the more blood that passes through the blood vessels, the more oxygen and nutrients are transported to the muscles, and so the more efficient they become.
Whey concentrate vs isolate – Whey protein is the most popular sports supplement in the world, though it comes in both concentrate, and isolate form. The most simple way of describing the difference between the two, is that whey concentrate is made up of around 80 – 85% protein per serving, with the remaining 15 – 20% coming from carbohydrates and fats, whereas whey isolate is around 90 – 95% pure protein per serving, making it more beneficial. The downside is that it costs more, and in reality a good quality whey concentrate is still incredibly beneficial, just not quite as beneficial as isolate.
Casein protein – Whey protein is a fast-absorbing protein, which means once consumed it gets into the muscles very quickly, and is quickly used up. Casein protein however, is a slow-digesting protein which means that once consumed, it is absorbed much slower and can take several hours to be fully used up. To keep our muscles fuelled during sleep, it’s recommended that we consume casein protein as it can prevent muscle wastage and breakdown by providing the muscles with what they need during the night.
Don’t avoid fats!
For years upon years we were led to believe that all fats were bad for us and were the primary cause of us getting, well, fat. It sounds like it makes sense – you eat fat, you get fat, though the reality is actually not that black and white. Some fats are good, and some fats are bad. Bad fats are trans fats and most saturated fats (though some natural saturated fats are also good) and these are the fats that contribute towards visceral body fat, as well as high cholesterol as they can clog our arteries. Healthy fats however, are polyunsaturated fats, and monounsaturated fats and these fats are not only very, very good for us, they can actually help us to lose body fat in the process, which sounds pretty bizarre when you think about it. Our muscles rely on glycogen as their primary source of energy, though the rest of our body, and our muscles when glycogen is low, rely on fats as a primary source of energy instead. One gram of fat however, contains 9 calories, which is more than double those found in carbs and proteins, which is why we still need to limit how much we consume on a daily basis. The best sources of healthy fats include: Natural butter, avocados, grass-fed red meat, oily fish (mackerel, salmon, anchovies etc), coconut oil, olive oil, nut butters, whole eggs, nuts and seeds.
Stay well hydrated with water
Don’t be “that guy” at the gym drinking water from a gallon milk jug because you shouldn’t be drinking that much water during training to begin with. What you should be doing on a daily basis however, is ensuring you stay well hydrated by drinking a minimum of one gallon of water per day. Water is essential as it assists the muscles, it’s essential for brain health, it improves internal organ health and function, it lubricates the joints, it assists with digestion, and it hydrates us which improves athletic performance. Space your water consumption out throughout the day, though if you are worried about getting up to pee in the night, try to drink more water during the day, and then reduce the amount you consume in the evening. When working out however, make sure you head to the gym fully-hydrated, and that you sip on water as you exercise, to replace lost fluids, and drink plenty immediately following your workout.