So, you’re a beginner to bodybuilding, huh? Ready to dive right into the deep end and get cracking? – I admire your enthusiasm, but hold on just a second… you need to know the fundamentals of what makes good bodybuilding nutrition or your efforts are going to be in vain!
I’ve no idea what you eat like now. It could be pretty good already, or it could be terrible. I have to tell you, eating for bodybuilding takes dedication, persistence, and time. Processed foods (i.e. TV dinners) should be avoided as they contain many empty calories, and your diet should include as many unprocessed, natural foods as possible.
The basic building blocks of a diet are calories. Eating varying numbers of calories can have different effects upon a person’s body. If you wish to lose weight, you must eat fewer calories than your body requires (known as cutting). To stay the same, you must eat the same (known as maintaining). And to put muscle on, you must eat more calories than your body usually requires (known as bulking).
As a general rule of thumb:
- To cut, you should eat 15 calories per lb of body weight, minus 500.
- To maintain, you should eat 15 calories per lb of body weight.
- To bulk, you should eat 15 calories per lb of body weight, plus 500.
Also, the most important nutrient for building muscle is protein, and it is recommended that for either cutting, maintenance, or muscle building, protein is kept at no less than 1g of protein per lb of bodyweight.
Please keep in mind that, these numbers are only a general rule of thumb. Adjustments may need to be made depending on your metabolism and body type, but the above are certainly a good place to start.
It is also recommended that if you have a body fat of 15-20% or above, you should cut first to get it below 10% before bulking. (More on how to calculate your body fat in another article.)
You should make every meal count, and aim to eat no less than 4 meals a day: breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper. Each meal should contain plenty of calories, protein, and carbohydrates.
Taking into account the calories needed for you personally, you should aim to structure your diet in the common 40% Protein, 40% Carbs, and 20% Fat, regardless of your aims.
Some of the best protein foods are: Eggs, Milk, Fish, Beef, and Chicken
Some of the best carb foods are: Brown Rice, Pasta, Potatoes
As for fats, many shirk away from saturated fats, but, in moderation they are fine and play an important role in building muscle by helping to create an anabolic environment. But, supplementing your fats with a healthy dose of fish oils wouldn’t go amiss.
It’s also important to know that there are two types of carbs, complex and simple. Complex carbs are what you should be gunning for, as listed above, because they release their energy slowly and don’t cause a sugar spike. Simple carbs turn into glucose and release their energy quickly, causing a sugar spike, which isn’t an advisable practice over any sustained period. (So don’t think eating spoonfuls of sugar will cut it – it won’t!) Plus, a huge flood of sugar will overwhelm your system, and inevitably be stored as fat… which you don’t want.