Author: Nicholas Gregory, MA, CSCS
Bodybuilding is a sport and training style in which followers work to develop high amounts of lean muscle. These high levels of muscle are achieved through consistent resistance training and strict eating. Often referred to as a lifestyle, bodybuilding requires extreme dedication and consistency.
Curious to see what a bodybuilders daily meal plan looks like? Let’s first break down the goal of bodybuilders and see how these goals can impact overall training and food choices!
What are the goals of bodybuilding?
Bodybuilding competitions exist in both recreational and professional settings. Different from other fitness competitions such as Olympic weightlifting or Crossfit, bodybuilding competitors are judged solely on their appearance. Appearance in this setting refers to the amount of muscle mass, body fat, and overall symmetry of the musculature.
Given the metrics of judging, training and diet for bodybuilders are extremely specific. Competitors may work for months to improve the size or conditioning of one specific muscle group in order to receive better scoring during competition.
Although the training and diet in bodybuilding can be intense and sometimes extreme, there are health benefits to eating a consistent diet and strict physical training. The most common style of training (resistance) for bodybuilders and subsequent gains in overall muscle mass combined with calculated and consistent eating typically leads to healthier body composition and lower risks for many chronic diseases.
What do bodybuilders eat?
Multiple factors play into the type and quantity of foods that bodybuilders eat. First, the season (whether they are actively competing or not) can change overall calorie balance and the goal of food choices. Since bodybuilders are attempting to build as much muscle as possible, a positive calorie balance (eating more calories than you burn) is required. This positive calorie balance is typically referred to as “bulking” and takes place in the off season.
On the flip side, when bodybuilders are prepping for a competition, they switch their focus from actively building muscle to burning body fat while maintaining the muscle they have worked so hard for. This process of restricting calories in order to burn body fat is typically referred to as “cutting”.
The life of a bodybuilder is a constant up and down of bulking and cutting as they seek to gain muscle, lose fat, and prepare for competition. This cycle of gaining and cutting is necessary because of the inherent difficulty of gaining large amounts of muscle without gaining any body fat.
Food choices can typically remain consistent in the different phases of bulking and cutting as the overall amount of calories and macro nutrients (protein, fat, carbs) are adjusted. A bodybuilder whos maintenance calories are 2500 would aim for around 3000 calories per day when actively bulking and around 2000 calories per day when actively cutting. In general, bodybuilders use high protein, moderate carbohydrate, and lower fat as a guide for their eating.
Let’s take a look at a weekday eating plan a bodybuilder may follow. Remember, depending on their goal, overall amounts of food may be adjusted to reach the necessary calorie goal.
Sample Bodybuilding Meal Plan
- Breakfast: Scrambled eggs w/ oatmeal
- Lunch: Ground turkey, broccoli, brown rice
- Snack: Protein shake and apple
- Dinner: Sirloin, sweet potato, and green salad
- Breakfast: Egg white omelet with toast
- Lunch: Grilled chicken over green salad
- Snack: Protein shake and almonds
- Dinner: Grilled salmon, brown rice, broccoli
- Breakfast: Protein smoothie w/ peanut butter and fruit
- Lunch: Sirloin, brown rice, green beans
- Snack: Protein shake and banana
- Dinner: Chicken over brown rice pasta
- Breakfast: Scrambled eggs and toast
- Lunch: Ground turkey, brown rice, corn, lettuce, salsa
- Snack: Protein shake and berries
- Dinner: Blackened tilapia, sauteed veggies
- Breakfast: Egg white omelet with toast and avocado
- Lunch: Protein smoothie with spinach, almond butter, and berries
- Snack: Boiled egg and peach
- Dinner: Grilled chicken, kale salad, sweet potato
As you can see, daily choices are focused on whole foods. Carbohydrate choices are more complex (brown rice, fruits, sweet potatoes) and daily fat is controlled (egg whites, lower fat meats). Changes in food choices during bulking vs. cutting phases may also include more or less fat and carbohydrates to reach overall calories.
Is following a bodybuilder meal plan sustainable?
When looking at bodybuilding meal plans, it is important to remember the overall goal of bodybuilding, which is to develop as much lean muscle as possible. This goal requires extreme dedication and consistency and often times does not leave margins for flexibility or balance. This lack of balance and freedom to enjoy a treat or have a social meal friends can make this style of eating difficult in the long term if not committed and focused on competition.
Another important fact to consider is the role of support and guidance. Most bodybuilders have some form of coach to help them stay on track and accountable. Whether you are looking to compete in bodybuilding, run a 5k, or just wanting to lose some weight, support is key to success. Taking on these journeys alone can be isolating and make consistent progress difficult. Looking for that accountability? Not sure where to start? Look no further than Noom!
Wanting to gain some muscle? Looking to incorporate more daily exercise? Tired of yo-yo dieting? Regardless of your health goals, Noom can provide you the one on one support you need! Your goal specialist will work with you to find areas of motivation, barriers to progress, and help you create the most sustainable approach to reach your goals! Interested? Try a risk free trial today!