Bodybuilding Nutrition In Simple Steps
Are you trying to find the right bodybuilding diet plan because you want to build muscle? There are some rules you should follow, but bodybuilding nutrition is less complicated than many workout gurus say.
Workout And Bodybuilding Nutrition
You reading this article means you realized one important thing about building muscle and bodybuilding: lifting weights is one half of the equation.
The other is giving your body fuel to perform workouts with maximum capability and afterwards feeding it the necessary building blocks to increase muscle mass. This side of the sheet has two components:
- Carbohydrates as a fast fuel source before workouts
- Protein to construct the muscle mass you encouraged your body to build
If one or the other is missing, your performance will suffer. We’ll look at both and why we can cover these diet needs without the help of protein and other workout supplements. Finally we’ll calculate how much of each you need.
To do stuff, your body has two nutritional fuel sources available: carbohydrates and fat. In certain situations it will use protein to keep going, but when it comes to energy protein plays distant second fiddle to these two.
During low maintenance tasks (simply being alive, typing at the computer, driving your car etc.) the body relies on fat. But for high intensity activities (weightlifting, fast running), carbs go to the forefront, because carbs convert to energy much faster than fat. As weightlifting is one of the tasks where you need a lot of energy, doing it without carbs in your system limits your performance.
Carbohydrates themselves belong to one of two types: simple or complex. Simple carbs you digest faster than complex, so the latter provide your body with fuel for longer.
The ideal is to have about 50% of your daily calories come from complex carbs and some simple carbs 30 to 60 minutes before a workout. I find that eating a banana works great for the latter, as bananas are a great mixture of simple and complex carbohydrates.
Your body builds your muscles from protein and without it, muscle-building just can’t happen. Giving your muscles a great workout but no protein is like giving a bunch of diligent construction workers a blueprint but no concrete.
Aim for 1 g of protein per lb of body weight per day (or 2 g per kg). That’s the maximum amount research says is beneficial. More is just a waste.
To get enough protein you don’t need expensive supplements. Protein powders and such are just substitutes for getting enough protein from real food. For ideas check my video on cheap natural protein sources and the top 10 list of high protein foods I sorted by dollar value.
About Fats, Oils, Vitamins
They’re why getting your protein and carbs from real food isn’t only equal, but better than getting them from supplements. Real food not only gives you protein and carbs, but also all the other stuff your body needs. Without you taking any multivitamin supps.
If you ate that banana before a workout, you not only get a good helping of simple carbs, but also part of your daily needs for vitamin B and C, potassium, magnesium and more. Next day choose an apple. Or some grapes. Or a peach. It will be impossible for you to not have enough energy for your workouts and you’ll never suffer from vitamin or mineral deficiency.
The same is true for protein sources: cycle between fish, milk, chicken, lentils, beans etc. All have tons of protein and each comes with different “smaller” nutrients. Eat a tuna salad with vinegar and olive oil dressing and you get a motherload of protein, but also vitamins, minerals, fiber and essential fatty acids. Next day have a nice helping of beans or other legumes.
Calculating Your Personal Nutrition Plan
Let’s put this into a nutrition plan we tailor to your exact needs. First we calculate your daily energy needs (the “total daily energy expenditure,” TDEE) by using the below calculator. When it asks for “daily activity level,” choose the appropriate one:
This TDEE number is the total amount of calories you get to spend per day. These we’ll now “invest” according to your bodybuilding needs. The calculator also shows your BMR (“basal metabolic rate,” what you burn when you do nothing) and other numbers, but these don’t interest us here.
Going by what we said above, 50% of your calories should come from carbs and you’ll need 1 g of protein per pound of body weight. Keep three numbers in mind:
- Carbs have 4 kcal per g
- Protein has 4 kcal per g
- Fats / oils have 9 kcal per g
The 50 / 25 / 25 Rule
Let’s say I weigh 165 lbs and the above calculator gives me ~2,650 / day. 50% of my calories I need from carbs, so that’s 2,650 / 2 = 1,325. As 1 g of carbs has 4 kcal, I divide 1,325 by 4 and find out I need 331 g of carbs per day.
Now I still have 1,325 calories left. As I also need the protein, that comes in next. I weigh 165 lbs, I want 1 g per lb of body weight and as 1 g of protein has 4 kcal, I take 165 * 4 = 660.
With the daily carbs and protein sorted we have 665 kcal left. Those will go into fats and oils. As I know that 1 g of them has 9 kcal, I divide 665 by 9 and find out that I can have 74 g of fat per day.
The end calculation resembles a 50 / 25 / 25 rule:
- 2,650 kcal / day
- 331 g carbs (1,325 kcal, 50%)
- 165 g protein (660 kcal, 25%)
- 74 g fat (665 kcal, 25%)
Free Complete Nutrition Plan
Find out how much you need of the “big two,” protein and carbs, cover that with a variety of foods, do your workouts right, and you are all set for spectacular muscle gains.
If you still feel confused check my free bodybuilding nutrition diet plan spanning a full week. It’s in PDF format and you can download it for free right here.
Pictures courtesy of “istolethetv” and the United States Department of Agriculture.
Great information! According to your calculator I need a tad over 200 grams a day. I’m probably about right on that one.
And reversing that calculation tells me you are a rather active person! 🙂
I would like to point out that your claim that “carbs can be turned into energy much faster than fat” is only partly true.
This is true when one consumes diet rich in carbs, e.g. when half of the calories come from carbs. If one relies on carbs as a main energy source than insulin levels are(and need to be) quite high during the day and insulin delivers carbs to cells. But insulin is the “enemy” of using fatty acids as fuel. Basically it provokes immediate storage of fatty acids in fat tissue and then it’s quite hard to break triglyceride molecules to fatty acids to use them for energy. So, the insulin levels drop and you need to eat again. Kinda vicious circle. 🙂
About couple months ago a decided to keep my daily carb intake below 100 grams (my maintenance calories are 2000). And I also keep smart timing, so that I consume carbs mostly after workout for glycogen replenishment or at least without fats (based on the info above). These measures shifted my body to rely on fatty acids more. Now I enjoy more yummy (healthy)fats and feel so much better without insulin swings.
Sorry if that was long, but I just wanted to share my experience and emphasize that many things that we consider “conventional wisdom” or “scientificly proven” sometimes require more background information or sometimes are even plain wrong.
Going back to your article, I think it is great, because the information is straightforward and easy to apply to one’s diet (carb-lover diet that is) 😛
Heah Natalie, you seem to have the timing down perfectly!
I do, however, believe that the #1 reason fat gets stored is when there is an energy surplus.
Yeah, I didn’t mention about calorie surplus, that’s what I also consider important. But at the same time I believe that it’s not JUST calories in/calories out, because dozens of hormones and enzymes are at play as well.
I mean, the law of thermodynamics doesn’t not work in human body the same as it works in machines… For example, low estrogen promotes fat storage because one enzyme (sadly, I forgot it’s name) gets more active when estrogen doesn’t control it’s activity. The body will sacrifice other organs and deplete them of nutrients, but will “feed” fat tissue. So, in my opinion, calories in/calories out approach work when hormones and enzymes are working properly.
But one thing I still have to experience is how appens muscle building on lower carb diet. 🙂
The law of thermodynamics works here just as it should – energy can’t be created out of nowhere. The enzymes you mentioned may play a role in how much you eat, but at the end of the day, it’s still how much you have eaten.
I think you can build muscle on low carb, as you get enough protein, but your performance during the workouts may be a bit more limited.
I can see that all of you are very into this world and I would like to ask something (not too sure if this is the right thread to do it).
Thing is I am a 32 years old female with 58 kg and more or less active life. I am working with liftweights 3 times per week.
The thing is that I got my blood test results giving very low amount of plaquetes and neutrofils.
I am far away of the 2000kcal intake I should take per day.
My question is where or how I can get a weekly planner diet considering that my economy can not pay a nutricionist?
Many thanks for your help,
“blood test results giving very low amount of plaquetes and neutrofils”
I’m guessing you mean platelets. If so what is the exact numbers on your labs? “Very low” can be much more than a nutrition issue, unless your doctor has ruled other factors.
What Dr. J said, Jesica: have this checked by your doctor. Are you by any chance underweight?
Hey i’ve been consuming 110-90grams of proteins/day when my requirement is like 130 as per your formula.
I’m not really growing much. And how necesary are carbs? m not concentrating so much on them. please reply 🙂
hey great read! But what’s your qualification? or just experienced?
Heah sk, experience and a lot of reading 🙂
hello when i type in the weight and height how does it know if i means kgs or lbs? and cm or inches? also how do you know how accurate this calculator is? thanks
If you want to use kg / cm, put “yes” into the field about using metric.
The calculator won’t be able to exactly pinpoint your TDEE, but it gives you a good basis to work from.
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Is this calculation only good for body building or any other set goals
Thanks, this helped me alot.
You guys also need to calculate your Estimated Energy Requirement. Believe me this will help you a lot.