Bodybuilding Diet and Nutrition Basics
The nutritional side of bodybuilding is often overlooked and many people are left wondering why their efforts in the gym aren’t truly reflected upon the overall appearance of their physique. I can’t stress enough the importance of diet and nutrition within the bodybuilding lifestyle. If you use the analogy of a construction site for example, all the hard work and labour applied by the builders (time in the gym) wouldn’t get them anywhere without the materials needed to complete the build (food). So you can see what I’m trying to say, you’re body is exactly the same!
A typical healthy human being will only consume enough calories on a daily basis to maintain their natural body weight. If they intended to put on weight, they would need to consume more calories to allow their body to do so. This is the mindset of a bodybuilder, they don’t intend to have a normal everyday physique, so therefore neither should they consume a normal everyday diet.
Within bodybuilding nutrition, there are two typical phases of diet, bulking and cutting. Bulking refers to the process of building muscle and putting on weight, whereas cutting is the term used in relation to loosing body fat to expose the underlying muscle, often referred to as getting ripped! The reason why these two different phases are attributed to different nutritional processes is because it is highly unproductive to attempt to lose body fat whilst gaining muscle mass at the same time. A typical bodybuilding method is to go on a bulk to allow your body to build a solid muscular physique, then once the desired weight is reached, cut down to reduce the level of body fat.
In order to build muscle, our bodies need to be in a state of calorie surplus. This means we are consuming more calories than our body requires to maintain it’s current state or weight. This allows us to be in a positive energy balance which is essential for building and increasing muscle mass. A calorie surplus combined with working out hard in the gym will prompt your body to use the extra calories to build muscle and put on weight.
To loose body fat, we need to produce a calorie deficit so our bodies enter a negative energy balance. This is the total opposite to bulking as our aim is to consume less calories than what our body burns off throughout energy output (weight training and cardiovascular activity). This results in our body being forced to use up stored energy (body fat) in order to fuel itself resulting in a loss of body fat.
Building our diet
OK, so I guess the next step is to assemble a diet and apply your new found knowledge. When building your diet, bare in mind that all foods fall under one of the following categories; carbohydrates, proteins and fats. In order to reach our goals, we need to consume the correct amount of these macro-nutrients for our body to process.
Here are the basic principles to building a healthy bodybuilding diet, whether you are cutting or bulking.
- Aim to eat 6 meals per day (this will help increase your metabolism)
- Each meal should be made up of a whole protein source (for example; lean meat, poultry, fish or dairy)
- Try to eat wholemeal carbohydrates wherever possible
- Consume fibrous vegetables with every meal
- Don’t neglect fats (include essential fats in your diet)
- Eat a variety of fruit and veg
- Eat seeds, nuts and pulses
- Drink plenty of water
The quantity and portion size of food you should consume is dependant upon your goal. Do you want to bulk or cut? Another consideration is your bodily makeup, do you have a fast metabolism? This is why it is good to establish a base point so you can adjust and monitor your diet accordingly to see what works best for you. As long as you stick to the basic principles of bulking and cutting, you should be fine. Consume more calories to put on weight and less to loose weight.
I will be publishing various different example bulking and cutting diets so keep your eyes out for them in you need a helping hand getting started. I will also delve into more detail for each specific method to give a greater insight into the different principles.