Nutrition for bodybuilding

Proper nutrition for bodybuilding is important, if you want to see the best results from a training program, a healthy diet is essential, a good diet of macronutrients, protein (key), carbs and fats, calories are essential for building a healthy, great-looking body.

What type of nutrient you provide is a key factor in producing the type of results you want; be it strength or size, this includes knowing what kind of food you can eat to get the best results without getting fat. As this not only helps build body but also helps keep the body healthy and helps support your immune system and other parts of your body like heart, liver and other internal organs.

In bodybuilding as a sport, nutrition is important as well as exercise. Training helps to build muscle through heavy intense exercise, but for your training to be effective you will need a sufficient amount of resources and strength to help achieve growth and recovery in your training and that is where nutrition comes to play.

Nutrition are broken down into larger nutrients and smaller nutrients otherwise known as macro nutrients and micro-nutrients. Macro-nutrients are the nutrients we need in abundance such as proteins, carbs and fats while smaller amounts are like your vitamins and minerals which we need in small amounts. Nutrition in bodybuilding cannot be overemphasized as it plays a major role regardless of the type of training.

Therefore, the basic nutrients needed to get the full amount of growth are;


These are made up of amino-acids, which provide the building blocks of muscle tissue, essential for growth, and are also used by the body to build, repair and maintain muscle tissue. Proteins made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen and nitrogen, nitrogen is one of the most important elements of all proteins which is why we are told to eat enough protein, eating enough protein keeps our body in a state known as anabolic state that helps maintain a good nitrogen balance (ability to build muscle), while a lack of sufficient protein, indicates a catabolic state; loosing muscle.

Some foods contain what is called complete protein which means they contain all the amino acids needed to produce usable protein. Examples include milk, eggs, fish and meat.

The study (quoted extensively by the University of Western Ontario) found that 1.6-1.8 grams per kilogram of body weight is not enough for athletes, but high intake can also be allowed depending on a variety of factors including strength, carbohydrate intake, exercise, duration and type of protein and protein content.



Carbohydrates are another main type of carbohydrates; they are the most important source of energy for your body. Your digestive system converts carbohydrates into glucose (blood sugar) and your body uses this sugar to get energy from your cells, tissues and organs.

Carbohydrates are currently viewed to be the cause of body fat but carbohydrates are not bad, some can be healthier than others especially when it comes to weight gain, because of the many benefits, carbohydrates have a right place in your diet, the body needs carbohydrates to function properly.

When trying to build muscle, here is how to make healthy carbohydrates work in a balanced diet;

  • Emphasize fruits and vegetables that are rich in fiber; aim for whole fruits and vegetables without added sugar. All fruits and vegetables also contain fiber, water and bulk which helps in a full diet of fewer calories.
  • Choose whole grains; whole grains are better sources than refined grains and other important, nutritious foods such as vitamin B.
  • Stick to low-fat dairy products; Milk, cheese, yoghurt and other dairy products are good sources of calcium and protein as well as many other vitamins and minerals.
  • Reduce sugar.

Carbs are the easiest form of food for the body to convert to energy. Once ingested they are converted to glucose, circulating in the bloodstream and speeding up muscle contraction and glycogen stored in muscle and liver for future use. Without adequate carbohydrate in muscle, there won’t be enough fuel (energy) to exercise and lack the strength to train hard.

As long as your carb diet does not overwhelm your energy needs, you do not have to worry about fat gain from a carb diet, adequate carbohydrate intake is important when it comes to nutrition.

Good carbs for building muscle include; Foods of oats, fruits, yams, vegetables, whole grains, brown rice.

However, the actual amount of carbohydrates a person should consume each day varies greatly from person to person. As a general rule, if you are naturally lean or overweight, you should eat more carbs than someone who is naturally high in fat or trying to lose weight.


Fat is a type of nutrient, they are necessary component of our diet. They perform both structural and metabolic function. Our body needs fats in our diet but not too much. Fats provide the body with energy and help the body absorb vitamins.

Fats also play a big role in our cholesterol levels.

They are made up of building blocks called fatty acids, which fall into three main categories; saturated, polyunsaturated and monosaturated.

Saturated fats: are found mainly in animal and dairy products such as whole milk, beef, lamb, cheese. It is used by the liver to make the cholesterol involved in the production of hormones such as essential testosterone when trying to build muscle.

Polyunsaturated fats are found in things like corn, beans, safflower and fish oil. This type of fat can help lower total cholesterol levels.

Monosaturated Fat is found in vegetables and nuts such as olives, peanuts and canola.

Fat intake should be kept low, health experts recommend fats that about two-thirds of saturated foods should be polyunsaturated fats. Saturated fats such as butter and Trans fats that are found in margarine, cookies, snack-foods and other foods made or fried with hydrogenated oils, try them with oils such as olive, canola, sunflower or safflower.

Fat has twice as many calories as proteins and carbohydrates, so it should be kept to a minimum.



It is beneficial in that it helps maintain high energy levels, providing a lubrication between joints, regulates body temperature and aids in digestion and absorption, all of which are essential for improving performance when trying to build muscle.

Water is very important because more than 60% of our bodyweight is made up of water, almost every process of our body needs water such as digestion, to remove toxins from the body. Lack of water known as dehydration can lead to reduced performance or reduced mental function.

When it comes to nutrition for bodybuilding, hydration plays a big role because hydration affects protein synthesis while dehydration actually leads to protein degradation.

When your muscle cells are hydrated it helps promote integration because it expands, the hydration creates an environment within the muscle cell that is more conducive to protein synthesis (muscle growth), but when the cell is dehydrated the cell shrinks, creating an area where the cell is more likely to break down easily.

Therefore, the more you hydrate your muscles the more likely you are to build muscle, through protein synthesis and less chance of you experiencing protein degradation or muscle loss while dehydration will decrease your energy efficiency that can lead to muscle loss.

Water intake can also help with weight loss, and research has shown that drinking a lot of water can make a person lose weight not only because their metabolism is high but also because the water makes them full and they don’t feel hungry, their stomach is full of water which makes it easier to keep solid food.

As for how much water you should drink daily, drink a glass of water every 15 minutes during exercise especially if you are sweating it will ensure you are well hydrated.

Among the general public, the most common guideline is to drink an 8-oz glass of water per day (approximately 2 liters per day).



When it comes to nutrition in bodybuilding vitamins plays an important role in hemoglobin synthesis, maintenance of bone health, energy production and adequate immune function.

They help with synthesis and repairing muscle tissue during exercise recovery from and injury. Vitamins are organic substances that the body needs in minute amounts. They do not provide energy, and they do not give much weight; instead they act as a catalyst, something that helps start other pathways in the body.

Vitamins can either be fat soluble or water soluble.

Fat soluble vitamins are stored in fatty tissues of the body and liver. Vitamins A, D, E and k are fat soluble, which are absorbed through the intestinal tract with the help of fats or lipids.

While, water solubility is dissolved in water and can be stored in the body. Excess is excreted through urine. It is necessary to take water-soluble vitamins daily, but fat soluble can be taken less often.

These are water-soluble vitamins;

B1 (thamin)

B2 (riboflavin)

B3 (niacin, nicotinamide, nicotinic acid)

B5 (pantothenic acid)

B6 (pyridoxine)

B12 (ganocobalamin)


Folate (folic acid, folacid)

Vitamin c (ascorbic acid).


Minerals are one of the many micronutrients that are mostly over-looked compared to their distant relatives, such as proteins, carbs and fats. Finding the right amount of minerals is important in building a healthy bone.

They are inorganic substances that contains elements that the body needs such as;

Calcium: is a major mineral involved in muscle contraction, essential for bone strength.

Excellent sources are milk, seafood, cheese.

Magnesium is also involved in muscle contraction and helps to increase energy levels.

Excellent sources are whole grains, meat and nuts.

Phosphorus is directly linked to exercise metabolism. It produces powerful molecules such as adenosine triphosphate and creatine phosphate, which regulate the ph of the body.

The best sources are legumes, egg yolks, fish and milk.

Sodium regulates body fluid levels, which are involved in activating muscle contraction.

The best sources are found in common table salt, seafood, milk and eggs.

Iron forms part of the hemoglobin pigment that carries oxygen from the lungs to the muscles. It is also important to maintain high levels of energy and helps to keep the immune system strong.

The best sources; grains, sardines.

Zinc stimulates the body to produce testosterone to build muscle; promotes recovery in exercise.

Best sources include pumpkin seeds, cheese, and red meat.

The above mentioned is a very good overview of important minerals for a good diet when it comes to nutrition for bodybuilding. Other minerals are also important to the body such as copper, sulfur, chlorine, fluoride, vanadium.

However, for a healthy diet minerals are important for a peak performance, but overdosing on one or all of them can be harmful to the health.

Nutrition in bodybuilding: Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best diet to take when wanting to build muscle? A bodybuilder’s diet should provide the right amount of energy, essential vitamins, minerals, protein and enough water. No single food or supplement can supply all your daily needs. A variety of daily foods are needed.

Are the dietary requirements of bodybuilders different from those of non-bodybuilders?

Competitive bodybuilders, sedentary people and individuals who exercise for health and fitness all need the same basic nutrients. Certain health conditions may require additional supplementation. The intensity of a training program can cause some athletes to have higher calorie and water requirements. Eating a variety of foods to meet additional calorie needs helps to ensure that their diet contains the right amount of carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins and minerals.

Are there specific dietary guidelines for bodybuilders?

The specific guidelines for a bodybuilding diet includes 55-60% from carbohydrates, no more than 30% fat and the remaining 10-15% from protein. The exact percentage may differ slightly amongst bodybuilders based on their training program. These guidelines will improve health and serve as the basis for a diet that will increase performance.

How many calories do I need per day?

This depends on your age, body size, sports program and training. For example, a 250-pound weightlifter needs more calories than a 98-pound workout. Your exercise or training can increase calorie needs by 1,000 to 1,500 calories a day.

Which is better for changing fluids – liquid drinks or sports?

Depending on your muscles, 55-70% of your body weight is water. Being “hydrated” means maintaining your body’s moisture level. When you sweat, you lose the water that needs to be replaced if you want to do your best. You need to drink the fluids before, during and after all training. Whichever you choose to drink is a matter of choice. If your workouts lasts longer than 90 minutes, you can benefit from the carbohydrates provided by sports drinks. A sports drink containing 15-18 grams of carbohydrate in every eight ounces of liquid should be used. Drinks with high carbohydrate content will delay water absorption and may cause thirst, cramps, nausea or diarrhea. Try sports drinks during exercise instead of trying them for the first time on training event day.

What do the muscles use during exercise?

Many activities use a combination of fats and carbohydrates as sources of energy. The intensity and length of your exercise directly affects the energy your body uses. With high-intensity short-term workouts, bodybuilders rely heavily on carbohydrates for energy.

Will the extra protein help build muscle mass?

Many athletes, especially those who are involved in strength training or who participate in power bodybuilding, are told that eating protein or taking protein supplements will help them gain weight. The real secret to building muscle is training hard and eating enough calories. While some extra protein is needed to build muscle, most American diets provide more than enough protein. Between 1.0 and 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day is sufficient. For a 150-pound athlete, that represents 68-102 grams of protein per day.

Should I take an iron supplement?

Taking iron supplements will not improve performance unless the athlete really lacks iron. Too much supplementing with iron can cause constipation, diarrhea, nausea and can interfere with the absorption of other nutrients such as zinc. Therefore, iron supplements should not be taken without proper medical guidance.

Why is calcium so important?

Calcium is needed for strong bones and muscle function. Dairy foods are an excellent source of calcium. However, research shows that many female athletes who are trying to lose weight should reduce dairy products. Female athletes who do not get enough calcium may be at risk for hypertension and, in old age, will be at risk of osteoporosis. Young women between the ages of 9 and 18 need 1,300 milligrams of calcium a day. Adults aged 19 to 50 need 1,000 milligrams daily, while those aged 51 and over should aim for 1,200 milligrams. Low dairy fat products are a rich source of calcium and are low in fat and calories.

What Does It Mean to Eat Clean?

A healthy diet means avoiding foods that are not compatible with weight gain, such as fried foods, butter, and refined foods, including snacks and fast foods. By “clean,” bodybuilders often refer to “natural” and “low fat”. Clean foods include fish, bird, red meat, eggs, low-fat dairy products, potatoes, yams, brown rice, whole wheat bread, oatmeal and fruit. Clean foods are usually high in nutrients – high in vitamins, minerals, and / or fiber – and are prepared with little or no fat.

Can I Have a Cheat Day and See the Results?

Your ability to break free from your diet and still see results depends on your body type. If you have a fast metabolism, you can get away with a cheat date once a week, but, if you have a slower metabolism, cheating once a week may make gain body fat. If you get fat easily, limit yourself to junk food once a week. Or you can schedule a cheating date once every 2-3 weeks to eat whatever you want, but not so much that you are so full you can’t get any of your five healthy meals a day.

Can I lose weight on a particular area of my body?

No, you can’t. Spot reduction is an old-fashioned exercise myth. When you train a part of the body, the muscles under the skin will tighten. Over time, this can improve the appearance of that particular part of the body part of the body (e.g., chest, arms).

The fat layered on the muscles does not decrease. Think about it for a moment. If you do 500 crunches every day but don’t make any changes to your diet, you will grow strong abs. The problem is that they will be hidden under a lot of body fat.

Will my muscles turn to fat if I stop lifting weights?

This is also an ancient myth of exercise. The answer is no. Muscles and fats are made up of a variety of chemicals compounds. It is impossible for your muscles to turn into fat. The reason bodybuilders and weightlifters add a lot of body fat after they stop exercising for an extended period of time is usually because they have not made any changes in their diet. In other words, they continue to eat like bodybuilders but do not burn as much energy (carbs, fats) as they do when they hit the weights regularly.

If I train regularly, can I eat whatever I want?

The simple answer is no, you can’t. Adding muscle to your body will require you to eat more nutritious food. This is especially true for bodybuilders.

If your goal is to get a six-pack, you’re eating habits will need to be as focused as your trainings. Having knowledge of your body type will help you to plan on how to properly eat according to your body type. That’s why knowing your body type is important.

Nutrition in bodybuilding Final Thoughts

Good nutrition in bodybuilding. If you want to grow your muscles in a meaningful way, you will need to focus on the foods you put in your body. Unlike weight training, which involves lifting weight to improve general health and lean muscle mass, nutrition for bodybuilding is specifically geared toward massive muscle growth and building strength with an emphasis on appearance.

This emphasis requires athletes in bodybuilding to maintain a lean body that puts the definition of their muscles on display. To do this effect, they must be on a healthy diet In order to achieve their goals, and Nutrition is one path to accomplish those goals.

Nutrition for bodybuilding cannot be over-emphasized as it plays a major role regardless of the type of training.