Nutrition Strategies For Bodybuilding

Unlike most other sports that use resistance training as a part of their training routine, sports like bodybuilding, powerlifting, and Olympic lifting solely focus primarily on resistance training with very little accessory work. Among these sports bodybuilding’s primary goal is to induce skeletal muscle hypertrophy.

Bodybuilders follow a special type of training style, usually of a greater volume with higher numbers of repetitions and sets per each muscle group, with very little rest times in between. This leads to the fact that the sport of bodybuilding also requires a hypertrophy focused diet. Therefore it is widely accepted in literature that high carbohydrate and high protein intakes are crucial for bodybuilders in that they help fuel demanding workouts, whilst also boosting recovery, and maintaining anabolism. 

Helms, Aragon and Fitschen (2014) claim that most bodybuilding athletes would respond best to consuming 2.3-3.1g/kg of lean body mass per day of protein, about 15-30% of estimated energy intake from fat, and the rest of calories in the form of carbohydrates. On the other hand Lambert, Frank and Evans (2004) argue that bodybuilders should consume about 55-60% of their EEI (Estimated Energy Intake) in form of carbohydrates, about 25-30% in form of protein and the remaining 15-20% as fat, for both the off-season as well as the pre-contest phases (see table below).

Table 1. Comparison between recommended macronutrient breakdowns from literature

MacronutrientHelms, Aragon and FitschenLambert, Frank and Evans
Protein2.3-3.1g/kg BW25-30% EEI
CarbohydrateRest55-60% EEI
Fat15-30% EEI15-20% EEI

As pointed out earlier during both off-season and pre-contest phases 25-30% of calories should come in the form of protein. This is not only because of proteins contribution to optimal hypertrophy and prevention of muscle loss, but also due to its relatively large thermic effects which could assist in reducing or maintaining body fat levels. Antonio et al. (2015) also suggests that the consumption of a high protein diet (3.4g/kg/d) whilst following a resistance-training programme may aid with regards to body composition. Antonio et al. (2016) also denies the claims that a high protein diet might have negative health effects due to a lack of evidence in scientific literature.

The consumption of 55-60% of calories in form of carbohydrates in both off-season and pre-contest periods is considered to be beneficial in regards to maintenance of training intensity. Guidelines on this field suggest an intake of carbohydrates up to 6g/kg of body mass for male strength athletes.

When it comes to the third macronutrient that is fat it is important to find the optimal range for the individual athlete as excess dietary fat (especially saturated) can increase the occurrence of coronary artery disease whilst an intake below requirements can result in a reduction in circulating testosterone, which is extremely counter-productive. That is why Lambert, Frank and Evans (2004) recommends an intake of fat that would comprise 15-20% of the athletes’ off-season and pre-contest diet.

Finally the fluid consumption also requires close monitoring. Leiper, Carnie and Maughan (1996) express that the daily amount of fluid loss can exceed 3L in inactive populations, and this number in active populations can almost reach up to 5L.

Aydin Parmaksizoglu

IG: aydinpar


(Slater and Phillips, 2011)

(Lambert and Flynn, 2002)

(Lambert, Frank and Evans, 2004)

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