Your Guide to the Ultimate Bodybuilding Diet Meal Plan
If you’re new to the world of weightlifting, the thought of moving to a bodybuilding diet and meal plan can seem daunting. However, it’s not as confusing or complicated as some companies would like you to think. Your primary goals are to develop muscle and lose fat, which is achieved through a mix of diet and exercise. The most important things are to train hard, rest for recovery and to maintain a focus on nutrition.
That said, there are definitely some foods you should mostly avoid, and it’s important that you understand your macros. Read on to discover everything you need to know about the ideal bodybuilding diet meal plan in our no-frills guide.
What Is Bodybuilding?
Bodybuilding is the practice of encouraging muscle hypertrophy and minimizing body fat purely for aesthetics. However, powerlifters, Olympic lifters and people who regularly include resistance training into their fitness regime benefit from the same type of routine. Even though the aim of bodybuilding is ultimately aesthetics, the diet plan is designed to promote maximum performance in the gym.
Bodybuilding is a lifestyle, and anyone who’s serious about making gains is just as focused on nutrition as they are on training. In terms of general weight loss, it’s actually quite important to focus on the gains you’re making by changing your diet as opposed to focusing on the foods you’re reducing. Many diet plans don’t work because they make you obsess over food — which is what happens when you restrict too much.
Bodybuilding diets can be effective for everyone because you don’t drastically restrict calories. Instead, you carefully balance your macros and minimize sugary and highly-processed food. Resistance training increases your muscles’ strength and size. More muscle mass means an increased metabolism. Aerobic exercise promotes heart health and reduces the risk of heart disease. A great diet supports your efforts in the gym, fuels your body and keeps you feeling satiated.
When you focus on eating whole foods and performing resistance training a part of your daily routine, you have the best chance of maintaining a great body long-term.
How Many Calories a Day?
People are all unique, with different body compositions, heights, weights and metabolisms. As such, there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to calorie counting. For a long time, people believed that the main focus of any diet should be eating less and moving more. Science is showing us that this really isn’t the case — and any bodybuilder who’s had a cheat day will tell you how much they suffer in the gym the day after!
Rather than obsessing over the quantity of what you eat, you should focus on the quality. Whole foods have the best nutritional profile and they should make up the majority of your diet. Don’t deny yourself the occasional treat, but always think carefully about how what you eat will impact gains.
The best way to determine how many calories you should consume on a daily basis is to use a calculator that determines your total daily energy expenditure. During a bulking phase, you should increase your calorie intake by around 15%. Bulking is all about hitting the gym as hard as possible to gain muscle, and you need a high calorie diet to support you during this stage.
On the other hand, during a cutting phase, you reduce 15% so you’re eating ‘maintenance’ calories. During a bulking stage, you add a bit of fat as well as muscle, so you need the cut phase to get that all-important muscle definition and tone. As your weight changes, so does your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). As such, you need to consistently check and recalculate your caloric needs.
If you are overweight or obese at the beginning of your weight loss journey, you’ll probably need to spend three to six months at a caloric deficit of no more than 15%. During this time, it’s not advisable that you train hard. Instead, dedicate 15-20 minutes, five days a week to moderate exercise. Mix it up between resistance training and cardio to get the best results — and focus on getting great form in bodyweight exercises like pushups and dips.
By the end of six months you’ll be lean enough to start the bodybuilding diet meal plan and fit enough to safely use gym equipment and heavier weights.
Macronutrients for the Bodybuilding Diet Meal Plan
In the cutting phase, it’s recommended that you cut between 5% and 15% of the amount of fat you were eating and split the difference between carbs and protein. While there’s a whole lot of mythology out there about ultra-high protein diets, they can actually damage your kidneys. Carbohydrates should make up the majority of your diet because glucose is the fuel your muscles use for power.
In general, foods to embrace include:
- Lean protein sources like chicken, turkey, beef fillet, seitan and tofu
- Vegetables and fruits — with more focus on veggies
- Whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal
- Healthy fats like avocados and nuts
While you should reduce the amount of added sugar and refined carbohydrates, don’t get overly hung up only cutting them out entirely. A good rule of thumb is to focus on healthy foods 80% of the time and enjoy an occasional treat or bowl of pasta within the remaining 20%.
Your macros will change slightly depending on whether you’re in a cutting or bulking phase.
- Carbs: 50%
- Fat: 25%
- Protein: 25%
- Carbs: 55%
- Fat: 15%
- Protein: 30%
Elite athletes, sports coaches and nutritionists understand the finest details of how eating affects performance. A few seconds can be the difference between a win and a loss, so bodybuilders plan out the timings of each meal. It’s possible to maximize your workout just by carefully scheduling what you eat.
A lot of people might tell you that bodybuilders need six meals a day otherwise they won’t make gains. While this works for some people, it doesn’t work for others — it’s more important that you’re getting the right proportion of macros in the correct quantities. Weight training doesn’t require the same amount of carbohydrate consumption as endurance athletics, but everyone responds differently to various foods.
You should always experiment with your foods to see what works for you and what doesn’t. Lots of individuals have minor food intolerances, and you want to avoid anything that activates your immune system.
Ideally, you’d eat your main meal at least four hours before training and eat a smaller meal around an hour to two beforehand.
Refueling is an essential aspect of exercise nutrition. Glycogen is the main source of energy during exercise, and a workout depletes these significantly. If you don’t refeed, you risk your glycogen stores remaining depleted for your next workout. Even if it’s just an electrolyte and protein shake, adequate refueling is the best way to maximize the hard work you’ve performed.
Daily Bodybuilder’s Meal Plan
Your general routine should look pretty similar to the following, although it’s a good idea to cycle in phases of change so that your body never fully adapts to your diet. We’ll discuss intermittent fasting and carb cycling in detail after the meal plan. Some people might require nutritional supplements to ensure they’re making the maximum possible gains.
This example is for a bodybuilder who requires approximately 3,000 calories per day, based on their TDEE.
Breakfast Options 8am
- Avocado with salmon and two poached/scrambled/fried eggs (750 calories)
- Spinach, potato and ricotta omelette (750 calories)
- Brown bagels with peanut butter (750 calories)
Lunch Options 12pm
- Two garlic-roasted chicken breasts with buttered green beans and brown rice (700 calories)
- Trout with olive oil, sweet potato mash and sesame seeds (700 calories)
- Beef fillet with charred bell peppers and chimichurri (900 calories)
- Seitan fajitas with cumin, onions and quinoa (800 calories)
- Follow workouts with whey protein powder shake (if you require additional grams of protein for the day), blended vegetable and potato smoothie or Greek yoghurt, chia seeds and fruit (400)
Dinner Options 7pm
- Tuna steak with cilantro, avocado, onion and bulgur wheat (900)
- Ribeye steak with mashed potatoes, spinach and broccoli (1000)
- Tofu Thai green curry with zucchini, sugar snap peas, baby corn and rice (900)
- Homemade lentil and chick pea burgers with whole meal buns and salsa (1000)
There’s a lot of conjecture online and in medical studies about low carbohydrate diets and their benefits for health. As a bodybuilder, you need to make sure you eat an adequate amount of carbs because they provide the main source of fuel for your muscles. However, it’s a good idea to experiment with carb cycling during cutting phases as a way of avoiding adaptation, which your body is extremely good at!
Another great tool for cutting phases is intermittent fasting. This where you cut specific meals with the aim of boosting insulin sensitivity and eliminating insulin resistance. While it’s not advisable to implement this type of regime permanently, cycling a fasting day into your overall routine once or twice a month can help you to stay healthy with a powerful metabolism.
You should always seek medical advice before embarking on any new diet to make sure it’s right for your body.
Start Making Gains Today
If you’re ready to start taking control over your diet and tweaking your meal plan so you can see the results you want in the gym — and the mirror — check out the ALLMAX Nutrition website today.