When you decide to start a new workout routine, or even just increase the intensity of your current one, you must have a meal plan in place.
When building this meal plan, there are many factors to consider:
What are my fitness goals?
Where am I currently on my fitness journey?
All these questions help determine how many macros you need per day.
If not enough food is ingested daily then your body won’t have enough energy to complete your workout or recover.
This can lead to overtraining and injury which would defeat the purpose of being healthy!
Read on for some tips on how best to build an effective bodybuilding meal plan.
Benefits of a Bodybuilding Diet Plan
Bodybuilding and fitness without a nutrition plan in place can be a huge waste of time. There are several benefits of using a bodybuilding diet plan:
- a bodybuilding diet plan improves your physique and muscle strength which is correlated with a lower risk of cancer, heart and kidney disease, and other serious illnesses
- a bodybuilding diet plan supports efforts in the gym and help keep you healthy by eating nutrient-dense foods to prevent chronic disease
Bodybuilding Essentials for Building Muscle
Whether your goal is to bulk, lose weight, or stay healthy, training plays only a small role in achieving your fitness goals.
To see the best results, you must combine your workout routine with a diet plan that helps you push through your workouts and recover.
No matter your fitness goals, one thing remains the same:
Your workouts will be better if you consume starchy carbs and fewer fats before and after your workout to help promote energy and muscle growth.
Even more importantly, you must be able to decide on healthy food options that you are willing to eat consistently or you will never stick to your diet.
Protein: Eating enough protein is important for a bodybuilding meal plan because it breaks down into amino acids and helps build lean muscle mass. This is necessary for improving overall strength, energy levels, and metabolism to help you burn calories faster!
Meat, Fish, and Poultry (per ounce, 28g)
Dairy and Egg Products (per ounce, 28g)
Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates are the main source of fuel for your workouts so they must make up about half of your daily meals! They are broken down into glucose which is stored in the muscle as glycogen. This glycogen provides fuel for high-intensity workouts so if there aren’t enough carbohydrates, you won’t have any energy to complete them and will be at risk of injury.
Grains, Breads, and Pasta (per ounce, 28g)
Fruits: Fruit is a great way to get essential vitamins into your diet without too many calories.
Fruits (per ounce, 28g)
Veggies: Vegetables should make up the majority of what you eat because they are low in calories and high in nutrients which promote better health.
Vegetables (per ounce, 28g)
Legumes: They are an excellent plant-based source of protein, which is why they should be included in your meal plan if you’re looking to build muscle or lose weight. Legumes are low calorie and nutrient-dense making them great for those watching their waistline as well!
Legumes (per ounce, 28g)
Nuts/Seeds/Oils: The benefits of getting enough healthy fats into your diet can’t be understated. From optimizing hormone function to promoting weight loss and stabilizing blood sugar, healthy fats are a necessity for everyone – especially those who hit the gym hard regularly or want to optimize their health.
Nuts/Seeds/Oils (per ounce, 28g)
Foods to Avoid
- Alcohol: Alcohol is bad to include in bodybuilding nutrition plan because they negatively affect your ability to build muscle and lost fat.
- Added sugar: These options are super high in calories which can help with weight gain, but they are empty calories with limited nutrients.
- Deep-fried foods: These options increase inflammation and promote disease if consumed in excess.
You should not only limit or cut out the above options, avoid certain foods in your pre-workout meal as they can upset your stomach during the lift such as:
- High-fat foods
- High-fiber foods
- Carbonated beverages
10 Pillars of Bodybuilding Nutrition Success
- Eat throughout the day. You can achieve your fitness goals by sticking to two or three meals per day, but it is more effective to eat multiple smaller meals and snacks during the day. You need to ensure you’re getting a constant stream of nutrition rather than spreading it out. This will help you feel energized and keep your blood-sugar levels in check so your metabolism can adapt to your training regimen.
- Focus on balance. You do not need to eat the same boiled chicken and broccoli every day to get your macros. You should not have to avoid going to restaurants or bringing tupperware containers full of chicken and rice every where you go. Shoot for a nutrient-dense diet 80-90% of the time and don’t be if you cheated on your diet plan.
- Limit processed food intake. If you focus on a calorie-based diet, you need to make sure your calories are not coming from nutrient-poor foods in an attempt to reach your calorie goals. Try to remove them from your diet, gradually if needed. You will find that as you decrease their consumption, cravings will decrease and you’ll feel better!
- Be realistic. You need to know your body’s limitations and a diet plan that is too tough to maintain or creates too much stress isn’t sustainable. Aim to choose a balanced approach with a variety of healthy options to choose from. It’s easier to set smaller goals and habits than making larger changes.
- Stay hydrated. Water is super important for your health. Make sure you’re drinking at least .5 ounces to 1 ounce per pound of body weight. Avoid getting water from drinks high in sugar which sabotage your immune system.
- Know your “why”. Map out your goals and what you want to achieve with your diet plan. Brainstorm your strengths and weaknesses to play them to your advantage. For example, if you’re a morning person, shoot to workout in the morning to get it out of the way in case you’re more likely to skip as the day progresses.
- Optimize Carb Consumption. The two main carb sources are simple and complex. Simple carbs are fast acting and come from white rice, breads, and pastas. They rasie your bood sugar quickly. The best pre workout diet plan for muscle gain contains some simple carbs to ensure you have energy available for your workout. The main source of your carbohydrates should be complex carbs that come from veggies and whole grains. They contain more fiber and raise your blood sugar gradually. Include them in your pre workout meal to have a source of fuel throughout the entire workout. Make sure you eat enough carbs post workout to refuel your glycogen levels.
- Eat enough protein. Maximize your workouts by consuming enough protein to stimulate muscle growth and releasing fat burning hormones. Focus on lean protein sources and use a good protein powder to make sure you eat enough. Shoot for about 1-1.5 ounces per pound of bodyweight. Use whey in between meals or post workout while casein should be consumed at night as it is slow-digesting and can help recovery over night.
- Set a goal and attack it with purpose. Act with conviction and don’t half-ass it. Reflect and ask why you are using a bodybuilding diet plan. Adjust your calories and macros based on your personal diet needs and goals.
- Meal prep. Prepare your meals for the next few days in advanced as cooking each meal separately will take up WAY too much time.
Bodybuilding Meal Preparation Tips
- Start small. It can seem like a daunting task so focus on prepping only a few meals or snacks at first then ramp it up as you get better as it.
- Represent each food group. The healthiest meals contain whole foods while limiting refined grains, sugar, and excess salt. Make sure to fill in gaps if you notice whole grains, fruits, veggies, or healthy protein sources are missing!
- Get organized. Good organization is key. Use a system that works for you so you know where your tools and ingredients are for a more efficient meal prep session!
- Invest in quality storage containers. Meal prep will involve putting most of your meals in storage containers. Make sure you consider the intent of the container based on freezing, microwaving, hand-cleaning, or using a dishwasher. Glass containers might be best since they’re eco-friendly and dishwasher and microwave safe.
- Keep a well-stocked pantry of ingredients. Make sure you keep a healthy supply of all of the ingredients you plan to include in your meal prep for the week. This will reduce stress and improve efficiency.
- Use spices. Herbs and spices make a huge difference in a good meal versus bad meal. My girlfriend showed me how to better spice up my dull chicken recipes and opened my world! Plus, herbs and spices provide greath health benefits such as reducing inflammation.
- Take inventory of your pantry. Before very meal prep session, check what you have in your pantry, fridge, and freezer to find foods you need. This will help save you money and reduce wastes.
- Make time. If you want to reach your fitness goals with a bodybuilding diet plan that will gain muscle or help you cut, you need to make meal prep a priority in your life. Figure out how much time it will take you to cook and craft your routine and carve that time out from your schedule.
- Save recipes. Designate a digital folder and save your favorite recipes for reference reduce stress.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you have others in your household, ask them for help in planning and prep. If you’re on your own, ask your friends or use online sources such as blogs or social media for inspiration.
- Record your favorite meals. Find out which of your recipes you like best to help you ensure you eat nutrient-dense meals you enjoy.
- Never grocery shop without a list. Bringing a list will keep you on task and help save time. It also helps reduce temptation of buying foods you shouldn’t be including.
- DON’T SHOP WHILE HUNGRY. I’ve been a victim of this before. You go to the grocery store starving and everything you see looks like a great option and soon your cart is full of poor choices and your wallet is empty. Not fun.
- Buy in bulk. Save money and buy in bulk to reduce packaging waste.
- Utilize leftovers. If you cooked more than expected, you can save it for a different meal.
- Batch cook. Cook all of the meals for the next several days all at once to save time and increase efficiency.
- Don’t be afraid to use your freezer. Freezing portions of the large batches you cooked helps save time, reduce waste, and stretch your budget further.
- Portion meals. Pre-portioning meals into individual containers saves time on measuring out the correct portions later on. It can help with bulking, cutting, or getting the right number of nutrients.
- Wash and prep fruits and veggies immediately. By preparing your fruits and veggies as soon as you get home will help ensure you eat them as you can just open the fridge later and they’ll be ready for consumption.
- Work smart, not hard. You can find shortcuts such as buying pre-cut veggies or pre-seasoned meats to make it easier and reduce stress. Be wary as these options tend to be more expensive, though!
- Get a pressure cooker. Using a slow cooker or pressure cooker for your meal prep allows you to prep meals without requiring you to stand over the stove the entire time. These give you more freedom to walk away, just don’t forget the food!
- Vary your menu. You will get tired of eating the same thing over and over again. This can also contribute to nutrient deficiencies. Don’t be afraid to swap out for new foods. I included a ton of different options to choose from below.
- Make it enjoyable. You won’t be able to turn a bodybuilding diet plan into a habit if you don’t enjoy doing it! If you live with people, have them help you make the meals so it becomes quality time together. If you’re alone, turn on music or a podcast.
Bodybuilding Meal Plan Examples
Bodybuilding nutrition plans are usually thought of super-restrictive, repetitive, and boring.
For the sake of simplicity, they typically contain limited food selections and little variety which can result in inadequate mineral and vitamin consumption.
Whether you’re in your bulking or cutting phase in your bodybuilding diet, you can use the samples below as a start and adjust the portion sizes to reach your goals.
Here is a one-week meal plan to gain muscle:
- Option 1: Greek yogurt, berries, granola or oats, eggs
- Option 2: Scrambled eggs with spinach, and oatmeal
- Option 3: Protein pancakes, peanut butter and berries
- Option 4: Chicken sausage, eggs, roasted potatoes
- Option 5: Ground turkey, eggs, cheese, and salsa in tortilla wrap
- Option 6: Berries, greek yogurt, and oats
- Option 7: Ground turkey, eggs, corn, peppers, and salsa
- Option 8: Eggs and avocado toast
- Option 1: Protein powder, milk, berries, flaxseed
- Option 2: Cottage Cheese and berries
- Option 3: Hard boiled eggs and an apple
- Option 4: Greek yogurt and almonds
- Option 5: Yogurt with granola
- Option 6: Jerky and mixed nuts
- Option 7: Can of tuna and crackers
- Option 8: Oat protein balls and berries
- Option 1: Lean-beef hamburger and green beans
- Option 2: Pork tenderloin with roasted potatoes and green beans
- Option 3: Salmon fillet, potato wedges and peppers
- Option 4: Tilapia fillet, beans, and veggies
- Option 5: Chicken breast, basked potato, broccoli
- Option 6: Turkey breast, brown or basmati rice, mushrooms
- Option 7: Lean cut of steak, sweet potato, spinach salad
- Option 8: Lean beef burger, white rice, and broccoli
Meal 4 (snack)
- Option 1: Protein bar or shake with berries or piece of fruit
- Option 1: Chicken, brown rice, spinach salad
- Option 2: Salmon, quinoa, asparagus
- Option 3: Ground turkey, marinara sauce, and whole wheat pasta
- Option 4: Tilapia fillet, brown rice, spinach salad
- Option 5: Stir-fry with chicken, egg, brown rice, and veggies
- Option 6: Ground beef with corn, brown rice, and green beans
- Option 7: Diced beef with rice, beans, peppers, and pico de gallo
- Option 8: Meatballs, saurce, parmesan cheese on whole wheat pasta
A bodybuilding diet plan is a great way to help you reach your fitness goals.
You will feel more energized during your workouts and recover better to be ready for the next workout.
Including nutrient-rich options into your lifestyle will help develop a friendly, sustainable diet routine for you to follow.
If you enjoyed this article, share it with your workout partner that eats poorly so they can get their diet habits in order!