It is an almost universally accepted truth that the majority of hard work involved in bodybuilding is dieting.
Sure, we repeatedly put ourselves through massive amounts of pain in the gym – breaking down our muscles, pushing our bodies as far as they can go – but it’s the actions you take after you leave the gym that will determine whether or not you’re going to be building muscle. Simply put, it’s all about nutrition.
What do I need?
So we all know the basic ingredients of our macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein and fat. These three nutrients all work within our body to keep us alive, provide fuel for everything from breathing to walking, and of course for repairing our muscles after a workout.
A typical Western diet will consist mostly of carbohydrates, with a small amount of protein and moderate amount of fat. For the average Joe this is fine, as carbohydrates are the body’s preferred fuel source. If you’re a bodybuilder or even hobbyist trainer however, your dietary requirements are going to be different. Carbohydrates still play an important role in our diet, but we need a high level of protein to build and repair muscle, as well as enough fat to maintain healthy bodily functions and to control hormone levels.
The most commonly seen macro breakdown for muscle building is a 40/40/20 split of carbs/proteins/fats. For many of us, this won’t mean a huge transition as most weightlifters are used to eating a higher intake of calories than the standard sedentary lifestyle required. As for what sort of protein to eat, choose rich sources such as steak, chicken and eggs. Vegetarian options include tofu, soy, beans and lentils, so there really is no excuse for not being able to maintain the correct macro balance.If you’re pushed for time, you could use high quality whey protein.
How much do I need?
The exact calorific requirements of each individual can be calculated using an online calculator. I use Free Dieting, and have been very successful with my dieting so far.
To demonstrate how to work out your macros, let’s take a look at an example person who wants to add some mass in a bulk, following the 40/40/20 split. For arguments sake, we will say he has worked out he needs 3000kcal per day to be in a calorie surplus and therefore add mass.
From this, we can calculate that 40% of 3000kcal is going to be 1200kcal, and 20% will be 600kcal. Therefore, he would need 1200kcal from carbs, 1200kcal for protein, and 600kcal from fats.
You need to remember that whilst carbohydrates and protein contain 4 calories per gram, fat contains a whopping 9, which is why we need less of it.
From these calculations, to hit the daily goal of 3000kcal, we would need 300g of carbs, 300g of protein and 67g of fats. To calculate this, I used a simple formula – 1200/4 = 300g carbs, 1200/4 = 300g protein, 600/9 = 66.6g fats. You can alter this simple calculation to fit in with your daily requirements.
Be sure you are tracking your macro intake effectively; I use the MyFitnessPal app to calculate my macro intake on the fly.
If you’re a frequent reader of my articles, you’re probably more than fed up of hearing me say this, but it’s a point that always holds immense value – stay consistent! Once you have your macronutrients worked out, the important part is being able to stick to them. This is why I recommend having several daily diet plans in place, alternating your meals between days as to not get bored with your food and be tempted to slack off.
Having personally stuck to the 40/40/20 split for many months at a time, I can tell you that meal diversity and enjoying your food will be the deciding factor in sticking to the plan and making incredible gains.