If you think bodybuilding takes place only in the gym, think again. According to International Federation of Bodybuilders (IFBB) Professional Figure athlete Rachel Cammon, as much as 80 percent of extreme hypertrophy, as seen in bodybuilding competitions, can be attributed to the athlete’s diet. Make your workouts in the weightroom even more productive with the following changes in the kitchen.
Eat Several Small Meals
To keep blood-sugar and energy levels consistent throughout the day, Cammon recommends bodybuilders eat six small meals, every two to three hours. Ensure each meal provides a balance of all three macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein and fat. Not only will this fuel your workouts, but it will also mitigate any snack cravings and the likelihood of eating unhealthy convenience foods in a pinch.
Choose Low-Glycemic Carbohydrates
The Glycemic Index (GI) measures how quickly certain carbohydrates in foods break down and enter your bloodstream and raise blood glucose levels. The faster this happens, the higher the GI. Cammon recommends bodybuilders eat carbohydrates with low GI values, below 55 on a scale of 1 to 100. Examples of low GI carbohydrates include oatmeal, lentils, pears, grapefruit and many types of beans.
Gorge on Vegetables
Get the most nutritional bang for your calorie buck with vegetables. Packed with water, fiber and precious micronutrients, vegetables provide a solid foundation for the bodybuilder’s diet. Moreover, calorie for calorie, green vegetables offer as much or more protein than animal sources. For example, 100 calories of 80 percent lean ground beef contains 6.7 grams of protein, whereas 100 calories of spinach contains 12.4 grams of protein. Maybe Popeye was on to something.
Consume Lean Protein
Protein is perhaps the single greatest macronutrient on the bodybuilder’s menu. To get the most protein for the fewest calories, consume lean meat and dairy products. A study conducted by researchers at McMaster University’s Department of Kinesiology and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition states, “Chronic post-exercise consumption of milk promotes greater hypertrophy during the early stages of resistance training in novice weightlifters when compared with isoenergetic soy or carbohydrate consumption.” To boil it down, drinking fat-free milk after a workout may mean bigger muscles.
Drinking adequate amounts of water ensures proper hydration, but its benefits stretch into the gym as well, maintaining energy levels through a workout, keeping appetite in check, and playing an integral role in fat metabolism. A general recommendation for water consumption is 96 ounces, or three quarts, each day. However, for bodybuilders the number goes up to a gallon or more. If you’re sweating profusely in your workouts, ensure you’re also replacing electrolytes.
About this Author
Pamela Ellgen is an award-winning journalist and certified personal trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She graduated with a B.A. from Washington State University where she studied writing. Ellgen wrote for the Portland, Ore.-based newspaper, “The Asian Reporter,” for 10 years.