The Reasons Why Nutrition Is Crucial To Bodybuilding And The Reasons Why It Isn’t
Great nutrition definitely underpins good health. Everyone knows that if you eat well, you stand a better chance of being healthy.
So what I’m going to do here though is talk you through the basics of nutrition relating to bodybuilding. In actual fact, although great nutrition can help you to make the maximum progress both in terms of gains, strength, health, and cutting fat, it’s also not all essential at all to a certain degree.
What I don’t want you to do is to get obsessed with nutrition and think that you aren’t making the gains because of it. Nutrition underpins your work at the gym, but what’s crucial is that you follow the golden rules of getting the maximum gains:
- Make sure you’re working every muscle group at least once per week
- Have a gap of a couple of days between working muscle groups
- Don’t try and lift too heavy and go for full range in motion instead
- Develop a good routine and stick to it
- Incrementally add weights every few weeks
- Get plenty of rest
- Do cardio and strength work
- Cut out the rubbish like alcohol
If you’re doing all that, then nutrition is the next thing to look at. You should be starting to target great nutrition from the start, but within a few months it definitely needs to come more to the forefront. However, as I’m going to talk to you about in a moment, that comes with a huge caveat.
- Great Nutrition Can Underpin Everything You Do
For me, nutrition underpins everything good that I do. I know if I’ve eaten rubbish for a couple of weeks, and I think you know what I mean.
If you have been hitting fast foods, greasy foods, heavy refined carbohydrates, lots of bread, alcohol, not drinking enough water, not getting the macronutrients right, not getting fruit and vegetables into your diet, then you start to feel rubbish.
Your energy levels go down, you feel tired more quickly, and it starts to affect your mental health. Seriously, food can completely damage your body and mind over time. Then you start getting obese, and it rolls down the hill like an ever-growing snowball of physical and mental health problems that you can’t stop.
So generally, great nutrition can help you to be the best you can be. That’s specifically for working out, great nutrition will help you to make fast progress. Especially for the long term.
What Does Great Nutrition Look Like?
It can be quite complex to pin down what great nutrition looks like, because your needs will be different to someone else’s.
If you’re trying to bulk up, then calories are crucial. You don’t want to really be getting your calories from just anywhere because of the long-term damage you can do if you just eat poor quality calories.
You shouldn’t always be focusing on protein either. Bodybuilders rave about proteins, that’s not the whole story. Your body can only use so much. Any excess is just wasted and can put pressure on your liver as well because of all the processing it has to do.
If you’re already eating high-protein diet, and then you top up with a lot of high-protein shakes as well, you could actually be more doing more harm than good.
You really should look in the beginning at focusing on macronutrient balance. The three macronutrient groups are fats, proteins, carbohydrates.
I don’t panic, because I know that the word carbohydrate can send bodybuilders into a spin. They think of it as excess calories that build fat.
However, the truth is it carbohydrate is the energy you’re going to burn at the gym mostly. It’s then protein which builds the muscle and tone. So you do need to have a balance.
Fats should also not be ignored, because good fats are essential to the healthy running of your body and mind.
That’s why I do laugh when I see guys stuffing huge amounts of proteins into them before they hit the gym. That’s not the way to do it.
In the hours leading up to going to the gym you should have a carbohydrate rich meal. That will start to deliver glucose energy into the body ready for you to use.
Afterwards, that’s when you hit the protein. But don’t do it in isolation. Just having a protein shake, a huge plate of meat, isn’t enough. It should also be balance, by making sure you have some vegetables there as well, because your body doesn’t work, your muscles don’t grow, on one macronutrient alone.
What About The Guys Out There Just Eating Calories Regardless Of Type?
I’ll never forget when I was starting out watching a load of YouTube videos about bodybuilders. They will talk about SARMs, steroids, shortcuts, and diet.
There was one that you are a member especially when these two guys were sitting in a burger joint. They were going to the gym later that day, and they were stuffing calories in to get their 5000 they were aiming for each day.
It was an insane 20 minute video where they literally ate about six burgers each, chicken wings, you name it.
It was massively unhealthy and if they carry on like that, they will be dead within a decade not only from heart disease, but also the strains they put on their bodies.
However, there is an important point to be made with that craziness.
The truth is that in the short term, calories don’t matter in terms of the construction. All that matters is that you are getting calories in if you are bulking.
For a few weeks, almost any calories will do to get the bulk on because otherwise you will be working out harder and gaining strength, but not building the large muscles you want.
However, there are far better ways of getting those massive amounts of calories. You can still do it using calorie dense foods, without resorting to eating tons of carbohydrates, poor quality proteins, and fat.
But sure, if you are hitting the gym tomorrow and you know that you aren’t getting enough calories, then have a couple of burgers, in the short term it’s not going to hinder your progress. But for the longer term, you need to learn about macronutrients, get yourself a balanced diet, and make sure that the long-term you are fueling your body with what it needs to make the best progress.
Here’s How I Would Structure Beginners Bodybuilding Nutrition
I’m not going to give anything hard and fast here. Just give you some guidelines to start with.
If you are bulking you need to be adding 15% of the average daily calorie intake. The average male intake is around 2500 cal, so you’re going to be taking in 2875 cal (or you could round to 3000 cal on average).
So when bulking, you don’t actually need such a big increase as you maybe think in terms of total calorific volume. What actually matters is the type of calories you are taking in. As I’ve already said, carbs for energy, and protein for muscle building and recovery.
When you are cutting, you should decrease your calorie intake by around 15% from the normal average. So it works the other way in exactly the same way. That’s all you need to cut out.
You also need to look at the balance of macronutrients. That’s what crucial. At least 50% of your calories should be from carbohydrates, which often surprises people who are starting out in bodybuilding. They need to be good quality and not refined carbohydrates, but that is the fuel that will get you the energy you need.
Then you’ll need about 35% of your remaining dietary proteins, and the last 15% good quality fats.
Ignore The Fads & Supplements That Won’t Do You Any Good
I want to finish here by telling you to ignore all the fads and supplements that people try and sell you in the beginning.
Now I’m not saying that in a blanket way. There are some great quality supplements out there that can truly help you to bulk up, cut fat, build strength and endurance. They aren’t cheap, but I know they work, and I do recommend some to you from time to time on my site.
However, even at the basic level, you should be skeptical. People will push protein shakes on you. However, if you’ve got your macronutrient and calorie balance right, you don’t need protein shakes. Your body will simply suffer under the stress, and you won’t actually retain and use most of what you drink, you are burning money for nothing.
Also, people spend a lot of money on things like creatine. However, it’s poorly metabolized, and you’ll need a large dose to get any benefit at all. A lot of guys I know, and in my own trials, if they were honest, didn’t really see any difference in performance levels or recovery times when using creatine against not.