So you are starting your bodybuilding journey. You have already got your training sorted and you now need to sort out your equally important diet. Here are the commandments to live and die by.
DO Learn about your Macros
Most people put whatever they want into their mouth, or opt for “healthy” options like sugar coated granola or high sugar low fat yogurt. You know better than that. If you need help figuring out your macros look here. You are now going to be fully aware of what you are putting in to your mouth. Bodybuilding requires protein, lots of protein. You will be eating 1 gram of protein for every 1lb of your body weight. It might seem like a lot, but you’ll get used to it.
We will put a sample diet together at the end of this article, but protein is your most important macro to keep in mind. It is the biggest adjustment that people have to make when they begin bodybuilding.
DO learn about your calories
This isn’t the be all and end all of training, but calories are an important indicator of how much you are eating, and adjusting them can lead to muscle gain and fat loss. Start reading the backs of the packets you buy, and download a food tracker app. This will help you to integrate calorie tracking effortlessly into your daily routine.
DO eat loads of veg
Something that a lot of trainees make the mistake of doing is focusing so much on their protein and carb intake, that they neglect vegetables. You want to be healthy long term, and a diet low in vegetables is a one way ticket to a dysfunction in your system. Many diets will allow almost unlimited green veg, eating it will keep you full and give you all the vitamins and minerals you need for your body to function optimally.
Do drink plenty of water
Throw away your juices, your sodas and anything else that has liquefied sugar in it. It will differ from person to person, but for starters, drink 8 glasses of water per day. If you need more drink more, especially around training. Most people find it hard to give up all the sugary garbage they drink, but this simple step can throw you forward light years in your training.
DO keep a food diary, be honest with yourself.
The majority of people out there are eating themselves into heart disease, cancer and many other largely avoidable conditions. The food that is given us by our corporate overlords is loaded with chemicals, sugar, fat and almost no nutritional value. Get real with yourself, eat food that comes from the ground or that used to run or swim. A bagel with raspberry jam doesn’t fit into those categories.
It might take some mental adjustment, but if you are serious about your body and your health, it is an adjustment you need to make. It is the way your body wants to eat, oblige it.
One of the quickest ways to burn out in this game is not not allow yourself any flexibility and to always be panicked about your calories. Yes, you should be eating right, yes counting your calories is a good tool. However, if you obsess so much that it is painful, you will crash and burn. Many people can keep up an extreme diet for 2 or 3 weeks, then they go back to pop tarts and beer. This is not a diet, this is a lifestyle. This isn’t for 2 or 3 weeks, it is for 40 or 50 years. Be smart, you know yourself, be flexible with your food. No food is evil in small amounts. Stick to mainly healthy things, but give yourself treats too.
DON’T go crazy on cheat days
It is fine to have a cheat meal, or even a cheat day. Many bodybuilders will swear by it. It can help you deal with cravings, satisfy desires beyond chicken breast, and balance your week out.
This might be the case for you, but you need to make sure you aren’t being unbalanced about it. If you are going to have a cheat day or meal, make sure you have the discipline to stop it from turning into a cheat weekend, or a cheat week. That will make your progress go backwards, frustrate you and achieve nothing.
If you are going to have a cheat day then eat at normal meal times, don’t take 24 hours to gorge on every sweet and salty treat out there. Eat whatever you want, but remember, the more you cheat, the less progress you make.
DON’T think you can out train a crappy diet
This is a mistake many people make. They assume that because they are getting stronger and bigger, they can continue to eat whatever they want. Now, while some select few are not too badly effected by this (in the short term), the majority of us will just wreck our physique, and create some internal troubles.
If you gain 40 lbs and 30 lbs of that is fat, what have you really done that is so spectacular? Being smart and careful about your diet is what will stop you from piling on the fat. No amount of training can stop you from ruining your insides and getting chubby while bulking.
DON’T assume all calories are the same
Related to the point above, in essence, and oreo and a chicken breast are not the same, even if the calories are the same. This is well based in nutrition and science, for more detail check out this article here.
You are going to be eating slightly more often that you are used to. Whilst it is not required to eat 6 or 7 times per day, you may want to up it to 4 times. The quantities of these will need to be calculated with the macros and calories that you need. Find this out, and use the below ingredients in the right measure.
Post Workout/Mid afternoon snack
DON’T give up
This journey you have started isn’t easy, and it won’t be quick. If you can commit to this, and follow it through day after day, you will see results. Don’t give up.