Bodybuilding Nutrition Basics

Fuel your body right for the best results.

Muscular man measuring his waist
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A key component of bodybuilding success is nutrition. Nutrition gives you the raw materials for recuperation, energy and growth. Without a good diet, you'll never achieve your ideal body. Read on to learn about how to fuel your body for the best results.

Nutrition Basics

Depending on your height, weight, metabolism and other factors, you should consume 1,600 to 2,400 calories per day if you are an adult woman and 2,000 to 3,000 if you are a man, says health.gov, and follow these tips:

  • Eat smaller meals more frequently throughout the day instead of large, infrequent ones. When you feed your body several times a day, your metabolism increases and you burn more fat.
  • Include the right mix of macronutrients -- carbohydrates, protein and fat. Kaiser Permanente recommends that you get 50 to 60 percent of your total daily calories from carbohydrates, 12 to 20 percent from protein and 30 percent from fat. Understanding the macronutrients is key to understanding nutrition.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are your body's main source of energy. When you ingest carbohydrates, your pancreas releases a hormone called insulin. Consuming too many carbohydrates can cause a huge release of insulin turning your body into a fat-storing machine. The type of carbohydrates -- complex or simple -- you eat is also important.

  • Complex carbohydrates give you sustained energy while simple carbohydrates give you an immediate boost. Eat mainly complex carbohydrates throughout the day except after a workout when your body needs simple carbohydrates to replenish its glycogen levels, which will lead to faster recuperation and rebuilding of muscle.
  • Complex carbohydrates include starchy foods like oatmeal, sweet potatoes, rice and peas, and fiber-filled foods like broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, green beans and spinach. 
  • Simple carbohydrates include apples, bananas, grapefruit, grapes and oranges.

Protein

Every tissue in your body is made of protein -- your muscles, hair, skin and nails.

Without protein, building muscle and burning fat efficiently would be impossible. If you are involved in a weight-training program, consume 1 to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of lean body mass per day.

Good sources of protein include eggs, chicken breast, turkey, lean meats and tuna. A 6-ounce serving size of each of these equals approximately 35 to 40 grams of protein.

Fat

All the cells in the body have some fat in them. Fats lubricate your joints. If you eliminate fat from your diet, an array of important chemical reactions will be interrupted. Your body will start accumulating more body fat than usual so that it has enough fat to keep on functioning. Since testosterone production is halted, so is muscle building.

There are three types of fats:

  • Saturated fats are associated with heart disease and high cholesterol levels. They are found in products of animal origin. Some vegetable fats are altered in a way that increases the amount of saturated fat in them through a chemical process known as hydrogenation. Hydrogenated vegetable oils are often found in packaged foods. Coconut, palm and palm kernel oils and nondairy creamers are often loaded with hydrogenated oils.
  • Polyunsaturated fats are often found in vegetable oils, such as corn, cottonseed, soybean and sunflower oils.
  • Monounsaturated fats have a positive effect on your cholesterol levels. These fats are usually high in essential fatty acids and may have antioxidant properties. Good sources of these fats are avocados, peanut butter, nuts and seeds, as well as canola, peanut, safflower and sesame oils.

Water

More than 65 percent of your body is composed of water. Without water, you would not survive very long. Water is good for the following reasons:

  1. It cleanses your body of toxins.
  2. You need water for complex chemical reactions that your body performs on a daily basis, including energy production, muscle building and fat burning.
  3. Like fats, water helps lubricate your joints.
  4. When the outside temperature is high, water serves as a coolant to bring your body temperature down.
  5. Water helps control your appetite. Sometimes when you feel hungry after a meal, it may indicate a lack of water. Drinking water could stop your cravings.
  1. Cold water increases your metabolism.

Drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, but if you're working out, you should drink much more. So, next time you hit the gym, bring a quart-sized bottle of water and take a few sips between sets.