Meal Plan For Muscle Gain: What to Eat, What to Avoid
Bodybuilding is a form of physical exercise and nutrition that aims to increase the size and strength of muscles through weightlifting and proper nutrition. It is often considered a lifestyle, as it requires dedication and effort both inside and outside the gym.
To get the best results from your bodybuilding efforts, it is important to pay attention to your diet and make sure you are consuming the right nutrients and avoiding foods that could hinder your progress.
This article provides information on what to include and avoid in a bodybuilding diet and offers a sample menu for one week.
The Basics of Bodybuilding
Unlike powerlifting or Olympic lifting, bodybuilding competitions judge competitors based on their physical appearance rather than their strength. As a result, bodybuilders aim to have a well-proportioned, lean, and muscular body.
To achieve this, they may follow a specific diet and exercise plan called the "bulking and cutting" cycle.
The bulking phase, which can last for an extended period of time, involves eating a high-calorie, protein-rich diet and lifting weights intensely to build muscle mass.
The cutting phase, which typically lasts for 12-26 weeks, focuses on losing fat while preserving the muscle gained during the bulking phase through adjustments to diet and exercise.
In bodybuilding, training and nutrition are often separated into two phases: bulking and cutting. The bulking phase focuses on building muscle mass through weightlifting and a high calorie, protein-rich diet. The cutting phase, on the other hand, aims to maintain muscle while losing body fat through specific changes to diet and exercise. Both phases are used to prepare for bodybuilding competitions, which judge physical appearance rather than strength.
There are several health benefits associated with bodybuilding. Bodybuilders engage in both resistance and aerobic training to maintain and build muscle mass. Resistance training increases muscle strength and size, which has been linked to a lower risk of death from cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, and other serious illnesses.
Aerobic exercise, which bodybuilders often use to reduce body fat, improves heart health and significantly lowers the risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in Australia. In addition to exercise, bodybuilders also pay attention to their nutrition.
With careful planning, they can eat in a way that supports their workouts and overall health. A healthy eating pattern that includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods from all food groups can reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
Bodybuilding involves regular exercise and careful nutrition planning, which can have numerous health benefits. Bodybuilders may engage in resistance and aerobic training to maintain and build muscle mass, and may follow a healthy and nutrient-dense diet to support their workouts and overall health.
Calorie and Macronutrients Needs
Competitive bodybuilders aim to increase muscle mass during the bulking phase and decrease body fat during the cutting phase. This involves consuming more calories during the bulking phase and fewer calories during the cutting phase. The goal is to build muscle mass while maintaining or reducing body fat in preparation for bodybuilding competitions, where physical appearance is judged rather than strength.
How Many Calories Do You Need?
To determine your daily calorie needs, it is helpful to weigh yourself at least three times a week and track your food intake using a calorie tracking app. Your maintenance calories, or the number of calories you need to consume to maintain your weight, can be calculated by finding the daily calorie intake at which your weight remains stable.
During the bulking phase, it is recommended to increase your calorie intake by about 15% above your maintenance level. For example, if your maintenance calories are 3,000 per day, you should aim to eat 3,450 calories per day during the bulking phase.
When transitioning to the cutting phase, it is advised to decrease your calorie intake by about 15% below your maintenance level, so in this example, you would aim to eat 2,550 calories per day.
As your weight changes during the bulking and cutting phases, you may need to adjust your calorie intake monthly to account for these changes. It is generally recommended not to lose or gain more than 0.5-1% of your body weight per week in order to avoid losing too much muscle during the cutting phase or gaining too much body fat during the bulking phase.
After determining your daily calorie needs, you can calculate your desired macronutrient ratio, which is the ratio of protein, carbohydrates, and fat in your diet. While your calorie needs may vary between the bulking and cutting phases, your macronutrient ratio should remain consistent.
Protein and carbs contain four calories per gram, while fat contains nine calories per gram. The following are general recommendations for macronutrient intake:
30–35% of your calories from protein
55–60% of your calories from carbs
15–20% of your calories from fat
Here’s an example of the ratio for both a bulking and cutting phase:
It is important to keep in mind that the above recommendations are general guidelines and may not be suitable for everyone. It is best to consult with a registered dietitian to determine your individual macronutrient needs based on your specific goals and ensure that your diet is nutritionally adequate. A registered dietitian can help you create a balanced and healthy meal plan that meets your bodybuilding and overall health needs.
During the bodybuilding bulking and cutting phases, the recommended calorie intake may vary, but the macronutrient ratio should remain consistent. It is important to adjust your calorie intake monthly to account for changes in weight and support your bodybuilding goals. This can help prevent losing too much muscle during the cutting phase or gaining too much body fat during the bulking phase. The macronutrient ratio, or the ratio of protein, carbohydrates, and fat in the diet, should not change between the bulking and cutting phases.
Bodybuilding Nutrition: Foods to Eat and Avoid
During the bulking and cutting phases of bodybuilding, the types of foods you eat do not typically change, but the amounts may vary. It is the calorie and macronutrient content of the diet that differs between the two phases, not the specific foods consumed.
In the bulking phase, you may eat more calories and consume a higher amount of protein, carbohydrates, and fat, while in the cutting phase, you may eat fewer calories and reduce your intake of these macronutrients.
However, the types of foods you eat, such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains, should remain consistent throughout both phases to provide a balanced and nutritionally adequate diet.
Foods to Focus On
how many calories should you consume? The foods you eat don’t need to differ between the bulking and cutting phase — usually, it’s the amounts that do.
Foods to eat include:
Meats, poultry, and fish: Sirloin steak, ground beef, pork tenderloin, venison, chicken breast, salmon, tilapia, and cod.
Dairy: Yogurt, cottage cheese, low fat milk, and cheese.
Grains: Bread, cereal, crackers, oatmeal, quinoa, popcorn, and rice.
Fruits: Oranges, apples, bananas, grapes, pears, peaches, watermelon, and berries.
Starchy vegetables: Potatoes, corn, green peas, green lima beans, and cassava.
Vegetables: Broccoli, spinach, leafy salad greens, tomatoes, green beans, cucumber, zucchini, asparagus, peppers, and mushrooms.
Seeds and nuts: Almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, and flax seeds.
Beans and legumes: Chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, black beans, and pinto beans.
Oils: Olive oil, flaxseed oil, and avocado oil.
Foods to Limit
While you should include a variety of foods in your diet, there are some you should limit.
Alcohol: Alcohol can negatively affect your ability to build muscle and lose fat, especially if you consume it in excess.
Added sugars: These offer plenty of calories but few nutrients. Foods high in added sugars include candy, cookies, doughnuts, ice creams, cake, and sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soda and sports drinks.
Deep-fried foods: These may promote inflammation and — when consumed in excess — disease. Examples include fried fish, french fries, onion rings, chicken strips, and cheese curds
In addition to limiting these, you may also want to avoid certain foods before going to the gym that can slow digestion and cause stomach upset during your workout.
High-fat foods: High-fat meats, buttery foods, and heavy sauces or creams.
High-fiber foods: Beans and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli or cauliflower.
Carbonated beverages: Sparkling water or diet soda.
Supplements to use while bodybuilding
Many bodybuilders use dietary supplements as part of their training and nutrition routine. Some supplements can be beneficial, while others may not be as effective. The most useful bodybuilding supplements include:
whey protein or protein powder, which is an easy way to increase protein intake;
creatine monohydrate, which provides energy for muscle contractions;
caffeine, which can reduce fatigue and increase exercise performance;
multivitamin and mineral supplements, which may be helpful during the cutting phase when calorie intake is restricted.
It is important to note that supplements should be used in addition to, not as a replacement for, a balanced diet and should be taken under the guidance of a healthcare professional.
it is important to include a variety of nutrient-dense foods from all food groups and limit or avoid alcohol, foods with added sugars, and deep-fried foods. In addition to a well-rounded diet, supplements such as whey protein, creatine, and caffeine may be useful to support your bodybuilding goals.
Bodybuilding Meal Plan Sample Menu (one-week plan)
Many people believe that bodybuilding diets are restrictive, repetitive, and boring due to the limited food choices and lack of variety often included in traditional bodybuilding meal plans. This can lead to inadequate intake of essential vitamins and minerals.
To ensure that your nutritional needs are being met, it is important to include a variety of foods in your diet, especially during the cutting phase when calorie intake is restricted. During the bulking phase, you may eat more calories, but you can still enjoy the same types of foods as in the cutting phase, just in larger portions.
Here is a sample one-week bodybuilding menu:
Vary the types of foods in your diet and consume plenty of protein with each meal and snack.
Things to Consider (Concerns)
While bodybuilding can offer many health benefits, there are a few things to consider before starting a bodybuilding routine.
One potential issue is that very low levels of body fat, which are often required for bodybuilding competitions, can negatively impact sleep quality, mood, and immune function.
Men and women typically aim for body fat levels of 5-10% and 10-15%, respectively, for competition preparation. However, this low body fat level, combined with a low calorie intake, can lead to decreased sleep quality, negative mood changes, and a weakened immune system in the weeks leading up to and following a competition.
These changes can decrease daily functioning, affect relationships with others, and increase the risk of illness.
Anabolic Steroid Use Risks
Many advertisements for muscle-building supplements feature bodybuilders who use performance-enhancing drugs, such as anabolic steroids, which may lead inexperienced bodybuilders to believe that they can achieve similar results by taking the advertised supplement.
This can create unrealistic expectations for natural muscle growth and lead to body dissatisfaction and the temptation to try anabolic steroids.
However, it is important to note that anabolic steroids are illegal to possess without a prescription in Australia and can have serious health risks, including an increased risk of heart disease, decreased fertility, and psychiatric and behavioral disorders like depression.
It is important to focus on natural, healthy methods of muscle building and to consult with a healthcare professional before using any supplements or performance-enhancing drugs.
It is also important to understand that the muscular physiques often depicted in supplement advertisements may not be attainable without the use of anabolic steroids, which can have serious health consequences.
It is best to focus on natural, healthy methods of muscle building and to consult with a healthcare professional before using any performance-enhancing drugs or supplements.
Bodybuilding is a discipline that focuses on developing muscular size and definition, rather than athletic performance. To achieve the desired bodybuilder physique, regular exercise and a carefully planned diet are necessary. Bodybuilding diets often involve phases of bulking and cutting, during which calorie intake is adjusted while the ratio of protein, carbohydrates, and fat in the diet remains the same. To support muscle growth and overall health, it is important to consume a diet that is rich in nutrients and includes plenty of protein at each meal and snack, while limiting or avoiding alcohol, deep-fried foods, and foods high in added sugars.