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Bodybuilding: A Guide to Nutrition and Meal Planning

Updated on December 4, 2016

Bodybuilding Nutrition Basics

When it comes to bodybuilding and strength training, the foods you use to fuel your body are just as important as the time and effort spent pumping iron at the gym. Proper nutrition and meal planning is critical to achieving growth and experiencing progress in the gym, and you should always consider your nutrition as the number one priority in regards to bodybuilding training.

Bodybuilding meal plans often get a negative reputation for being bland, boring, and monotonous. However, the staples of any bodybuilder meal plan are versatile, nutritious, and cost effective. Stock your fridge and pantry with the right bodybuilding foods, and take your meal planning to the next level!

Time to break down the top bodybuilding foods! First, let’s look at the best sources for protein.

Best Food For Protein

Protein is truly the building block for muscle growth. Protein molecules are built up of amino acids, and amino acids are transported in the blood to torn muscle tissue to begin muscle synthesis following a workout. In order to create your best physique and grow, it is important to intake a sufficient amount of protein from a variety of protein sources.

What are some foods that are high in protein?

Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt bowls are packed with protein!
Greek yogurt bowls are packed with protein!

Greek yogurt is yogurt that is given a higher protein content by removing excess carbohydrates and liquid from standard yogurt. The protein found in yogurt is casein, which is typically the protein found in milk-based products. Casein is a slow digesting protein, and numerous studies, such as a 2004 study conducted by Medical Science Sports, found that ingestion of casein saw a significant increase in muscle protein synthesis. Greek yogurt contains approximately 10 grams of protein per 100 grams of yogurt, making it an easy way to add some protein into your diet as a snack.

You can use full or reduced fat Greek yogurt based on your meal plan needs, and there are many recipes and ways to implement Greek yogurt in your diet. It can be added to smoothies as a thickening agent, to oatmeal for a boost of protein, or eaten by itself with nuts, berries, and honey.

Check Out This Greek Yogurt Pancake Recipe

Courtesy of - go check them out!
Courtesy of - go check them out! | Source

Egg Whites and Eggs

Egg whites are a very popular food for bodybuilding diets, and for good reason. Egg whites have very little fat, making them an incredibly pure source of protein. They also have very few carbohydrates but are packed with vitamins and minerals. Try substituting or adding in egg whites to your morning omelette to reduce fat and add protein!

If you think your diet could use a little more fat, don't be afraid to throw in some regular eggs as well!

Salmon and Tuna

Gym goers sometimes make the mistake of shying away from fatty fish like salmon, or even tuna. Don’t make the same mistake! Saturated or trans fats are good to avoid, but fish like salmon are high in essential fatty acids like omega 3, which promote muscle synthesis. Tuna and salmon are also extremely high in protein, and both fish are offered in cans at almost every supermarket, allowing for quick access to a quality source of protein.

Bodybuilding and Carbohydrates:

Carbohydrates are often avoided or misunderstood when constructing a bodybuilding meal plan. In reality, carbohydrates are critical for both muscle development and workout performance and recovery! Carbohydrates are used to make glycogen, which is a sugar and the primary source of energy your body uses. When you work out, your body breaks down glycogen to fuel your workouts and drive performance.

However, carbohydrates are not created equal. When selecting your carbs, you should look for food sources that are comprised of complex carbohydrates. Complex carbs break down more slowly in the body, providing you with longer lasting energy. They also promote stable blood sugar levels, which helps reduce fat storage! Oh, and did I mention complex carbs are usually higher in fiber than simple carbs? What’s not to love?

So what are some good sources of complex carbohydrates?


Oatmeal is both high in complex carbohydrates and fiber, and breaks down very slowly in digestion allowing for longer lasting energy. Oatmeal is also full of micro nutrients like zinc, magnesium, and vitamins. Overall, oatmeal makes for a great pre-workout snack as it will keep you feeling full while giving you the energy boost you need to crush a workout.

And don’t be afraid to get adventurous with your oats! Throw in a banana and honey on days where you need that extra energy boost, or add some walnuts and peanut butter for extra healthy fats! Or take oatmeal beyond the bowl, and make some high protein oat muffins!

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes really are the ultimate package. Sweet potatoes have fewer calories than regular white potatoes, and the carbs found in sweet potatoes are lower in the glycemic index, meaning they will break down into sugars more slowly and leave you feeling energetic. Sweet potatoes are also full of fiber and potassium. Potassium is an critical electrolyte for maintaining muscle control and functioning, and is especially important for high performance athletes or regular gym goers.


Speaking of the importance of potassium, it would be plain wrong to not mention bananas! Bananas are packed with potassium, and they can provide a quick and easy source of carbs right before a workout that you can use for fuel. Bananas also contain antioxidants like dopamine and catechins, which can help reduce the risk of many disease like heart disease. Most importantly, bananas taste great and are very easy to add into your diet!

Dietary Sources of Fats

Fats are necessary, and good for you. End of story. Fats provide you with energy and can be stored in the body as energy reserves. Essential fatty acids are also crucial for brain development, hormone regulation, and managing inflammation. Fats are also very calorically dense, with 9 calories per gram of fat. This is very useful for athletes who struggle to gain weight, as they can slightly increase their fat intake in order to slowly gain mass.

Don’t go running off to the nearest burger and fry joint just yet! Just like with carbs, it is important to know what separates a good fat from a bad one. Saturated and trans fats are typically found in animal products like fatty meats and cheeses, and these fats increase the bad cholesterol levels in your body. In general, avoiding fatty meats, cheeses, vegetable oils, and fried or processed foods is a good way to steer clear of saturated and trans fats. Unsaturated fats are your true friends. You can find unsaturated fats primarily in fish (like salmon), nuts, or olive oil.


Avocados are also a great source of healthy unsaturated fats that can assist with putting on lean muscle mass. Unsaturated fats can actually help support fat loss when substituted for saturated fats, so don’t be scared to incorporate some unsaturated fat and avocados into your diet. And if you’re worried your avocados will go bad before you can use them, don’t fret! Simply stick them in the fridge to slow down the ripening process. Besides, there are plenty of ways to incorporate avocados into your meals! Make some guacamole, or slice up an avocado as a side to your morning omelette.


Unfortunately, I don’t mean the kind that is covered in chocolate. But almonds are still a tasty snack that are packed with vitamins, fiber, and unsaturated fats that can increase good cholesterol levels in your body and improve heart health. Almonds also make for an easy and on the go snack. Throw a handful in a sandwich bag before heading to the gym, and your body will thank you later.

Supplements - Whey Protein For Bodybuilders

There are a lot of supplement brands and supplement types out there, and there is no single supplement that is perfect for the needs of every single bodybuilder. However, for athletes who find it difficult to intake enough protein to maintain optimal levels of muscle growth, whey protein may be a suitable supplement to take.

Whey protein is the protein found in milk, and, when separated and formed into a powder, offers a high quality, amino acid packed protein source that can be quickly absorbed. Furthermore, whey protein is relatively affordable, and many brands offer a variety of flavors and types of whey protein for your selection. Whey protein can be used in shakes for a quick post workout recovery drink, or mixed into morning cereals and oats.

If you have a dairy intolerance, don’t worry! Pea, hemp, and rice protein supplements also exist, and these supplements are still rich in protein and vital amino acids without compromising on flavor. Do your research first, but give supplements a fair chance before making any decision.

Fitness Pro Jeff Cavaliere - What You Need to Know About Whey Protein

Some Final Tips and Thoughts

Now that you’ve read about some of the basic building blocks for your new bodybuilding diet, you’re ready to hit the gym hard! I hope you have found this hub page to be informative, but just remember, there’s always more research and reading out there! There are plenty of other high quality, tasty, and affordable food options out there that can meet your nutritional needs! Don’t be afraid to explore!

And finally, there’s more to your bodybuilding meal plan than just protein, fat, and carbs. Vitamins and minerals are still important, so follow your mother’s advice and eat those fruits and veggies! Also, never forget to stay hydrated. Our bodies are made up of approximately 70% water after all. This includes your muscle tissues and blood, so be sure to drink plenty of water, especially after a hard workout!

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