While everybody talks about the latest exercises and the latest programs, the thing most should be discussing is the best diet. Why? Because bodybuilding is probably 90% diet, or more, and, is the place where most people completely foul up.
The universal rule is, you don’t eat more than your body needs, you don’t grow. Calories are the units which you should be concerning yourself with, and you should make it your business to know how many calories you need to eat daily in order to grow.
- Eat far too little and you’ll lose size fast
- Eat a bit too little, and you’ll lose size slowly
- Eat just enough, and you’ll stay the same size
- Eat a bit more than you need, and you’ll gain size slowly
- Eat far too much and you’ll gain size fast
But, don’t get carried away by thinking you’ve got to eat far too much. The muscles only require so many calories to grow, and this differs from person to person and even can have variations in that individual depending on many things such as how broken down the muscles are, etc. If you eat way past that amount, you’ll put on a lot of fat. The idea is through your own testing, to find how many calories you need per day to gain weight at a slow and steady pace, around maybe 1 – 1.5lb a week. Doing so will mean you should be avoiding putting on too much fat while still maximizing muscle gains. You’ll need to check your body fat with callipers regularly – they are an essential piece of equipment.
To get you started, an estimate is around 12-15 calories per pound of bodyweight. It could be less, or it could be more – only you can find out for yourself.
So, overall calories are a large piece of the puzzle, but, the macronutrients which make up the calories is equally important. When building muscle, you need a lot of protein. Maybe 1 – 2g per pound of bodyweight per day. Make sure it’s high quality complete protein, such as whey, egg, milk, fish, beef, chicken and cheese.
Good quality, healthy fats are also essential. People like to supplement their fats with fish oils and flax seed oils, but, ensuring you cook with good olive oil, and don’t shy away from dietary fats (yes, even saturated) you will drive up your testosterone levels which is absolutely critical for building muscle.
Carbohydrates are the final macronutrient, and they are a double edged sword. Contrary to popular belief, it’s generally not fats which make you fat, it’s carbohydrates. This is because carbohydrates are the macronutrient quickest to turn into energy – and what happens when energy isn’t burned? It gets stored as fat.
Carbohydrates are important to bodybuilders, but, many eat them at the wrong time. You want to use carbohydrates most on 2 occasions: pre-workout, and post workout. Eating them at this time will provide fuel for the workout and fuel for the recovery, at the time when the greatest amount of energy is being expended. This means very little will be stored as fat. Carbs should always be complex carbs, such as potatoes, pasta and brown rice.
Meals should be eaten every 3 hours to keep a steady stream of nutrients and muscle-building energy flowing into the muscles, and should always include a good dose of protein to keep the body in a positive nitrogen balance, to really keep your body in an anabolic state.