As bodybuilders, we are forever having drilled into our heads the notion that proper nutrition is responsible for over 60 percent of the gains (and cuts) we’re likely to make, with training, recovery and other associated factors comprising around 30-40 percent. We get it. But do we really get it?
Nutrition, Nutrition, Nutrition
For most of us, training is the easy part; we hit the gym, work our muscles into submission, go home exhausted and satisfied after a job well done. Regular intensive training, combined with the fast-paced lives many of us lead, often leaves little time to properly prepare, and consume, a bodybuilding diet perfectly suited to our individual requirements. To be blunt, many bodybuilders are simply too busy to structure their nutrition in line with their bodybuilding requirements; rather, they’ll throw down what is most convenient and, as a consequence, their diet is lacking the nutritional quality their hungry muscles deserve. So, while we do know nutrition’s importance, and we do our best to eat enough to grow, we often neglect to fully prioritize this essential component that facilitates the majority of our muscle growth. Following the move to a more regimented nutrition program, most bodybuilders will rapidly add to their nutrient deprived physique 15-20 pounds of quality muscle. Has this captured you attention? Good. Now here are five non-negotiable nutritional tips to get you growing again.
1. Get Your Ratios Right
Whether off season or pre-competition, acquiring the right ratios of proteins, carbohydrates and fats is essential to supporting muscle growth and keeping unnecessary fat deposition at bay. So, just what are these perfect ratios and do they change in accordance with our training goals? The answer may surprise you.
Should be kept high, at 35% of our daily nutritional composition. More fatty sources of this nutrient such as red meat and the occasional pre-contest “off-limits” dish can be eaten at this time as well.
Can be maintained at 45%, primarily complex types, but simple sugars can be consumed post workout and as occasional treats.
Should be held at 20%, with a focus on essential sources, but saturated fats are a necessity and should be included to support heavier training and a positive hormone balance.
Bottom line: quality gains can only be made with quality nutrition, so stick to good wholesome fare.
When you’re on a first name basis with the staff at your local McDonald’s, then it’s time to make a few not-so-subtle nutrition changes.
Pre-contest, the rules change, but only marginally. Protein is slightly elevated to 40% (clean sources such as skinless chicken and egg whites), while carbohydrates remain at 45% (from mostly complex, and fibrous, sources) and fats are reduced to 15% (ideally taken in supplemental form to ensure only essential types are consumed, though natural, more beneficial forms such as egg yolks and various seeds and nuts can be consumed sparingly). Pre-contest or off season – aim for nutritional quality over off-limits quantity.
2. Timing is Everything
Your macronutrient ratios are sorted and your bowel movements are as regular as red posing trunks on a bodybuilding stage, but when and where in your diet do you include your protein, carbohydrates, fats and fiber?
Proper timing: an essential life component. Without it our days would be chaotic episodes of unbridled mismanagement; we would be late for meetings, say the wrong things at the wrong times, fail to meet deadlines, and wake late. With it, we are organized and efficient. To prevent nutritional disorganization, be sure to schedule your meals and prepare them in advance if you’re facing what is shaping up to be a hectic day. Each main feeding should include the aforementioned macronutrient ratios.
A high casein shake, like CASEIN-FX, should be taken directly before retiring for the night. Do not deviate from this schedule. No excuses. Enough said.
3. Don’t Neglect Your Greens
As well as supplying an all-important compliment of various health-boosting vitamins and minerals, greens such as broccoli, cabbage, kale and Brussels sprouts contain a rich helping of dietary fiber. That being said, all whole-plant foods include a surplus of different types of dietary fiber, and the consumption of these, along with greens, are also encouraged.
In addition to keeping the bodybuilder regular, maintaining optimal metabolic efficiency, and enabling proper macronutrient absorption and utilization, greens also boost testosterone.
As an example, the fiber-dense cabbage (4g per one cup serving), contains roughly six times the zinc content of beef. Who said greens are for sissies? Further, the type of fiber found in greens – insoluble fiber – is comparatively low in carbohydrates, yet provides bulk and requires significant energy to process, making it perfect during the pre-contest phase when a lower calorie diet, and high satiety value, is preferred. Aim for three servings of fiber-rich foods per day (with lunch, afternoon snack and evening meals), both off season and when shaping up. Green leafy vegetables, and the fiber they contain, boost health and promote muscle building gains.
4. Protein is Key
While carbohydrates serve as our major fuel source, and fats form the building blocks of our hormonal and nervous systems, proteins are used primarily to build muscle. Without enough protein, and the nine essential amino acids it supplies for the repair and rebuilding of our battle weary muscles, we can kiss goodbye to ever building a championship physique. If, for whatever reason, we are unable to consume a particular macronutrient source, be sure it is NOT protein. Given protein often comes in the form of dry chicken breasts, tasteless egg whites, and high-fat steaks, many athletes under-emphasize this valuable nutrient in their diets. Fatty, carbohydrate-laden foods, tend to be more satisfying to the taste buds.
Smart athletes try diligently to consume at least 1 g of protein per pound of body weight every day, even if they have to supplement with high biological-value whey protein.
Whether we acquire it through whole foods alone, or whole foods and supplements, protein consumption, with its key role in protein synthesis, must never be neglected.
So far so good. You are now properly scheduling your nutrient intake, obtaining the critical nutrients needed to be healthy and to support positive muscle growth, time your daily feedings to optimize in-gym performance and recovery from arduous workouts, and prioritize the key muscle building nutrient, protein, in your quest for Coleman-like mass gains. But can you do all of these things consistently?
When trying to build a chiseled physique, hit or miss nutrition practices will only take you so far, and not very far at that.
Should your training be on point, yet your diet remain sub-optimal, diminishing returns are likely to characterize your mission to grow. Knowing and doing are two separate things – this articles has outlined the basics steps you need to succeed in your dietary regimen. The question is, can you consistently apply this knowledge?
A champion is defined by their willingness to do all of the required work, all of the time.
A failure to correctly apply this information each and every day of your bodybuilding life will have you constantly falling short of excellence. Now is the time to make the best gains of your life. And now you know exactly what to do to achieve them.