Bodybuilding can be defined as the pursuit of lean muscle mass. The importance of a proper diet to accomplish this goal cannot be understated. In fact, many experts argue that diet can account for up to 90% of a person’s success at building their body. Fortunately, there is an easy-to-follow meal plan that works like magic to burn fat and gain muscle.
In this day and age of fad diets and trendy diets and so on, it is important to note that bodybuilding involves a lifestyle. Regular, intense, and goal-oriented training sessions combined with an intelligent approach to eating will promote the development of a muscular physique that most trainees desire. What is required is discipline, patience, persistence, and consistency. All of these attributes are favourable and can lead one to success in not only physique goals, but also in personal and professional pursuits.
When an individual adopts bodybuilding as a lifestyle, the physique improvements can be maintained over the long term. A steady, consistent and daily approach will prevent the agony of short-term weight loss followed by a quick regain of weight and the accompanying depression and feeling of hopelessness. Training and eating like a bodybuilder works, becomes habit-forming, and eventually gives one a real sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.
I like to adhere to the KISS (keep it simple, smart guy) principle when it comes to meal plans. So I am not going to get too technical. I’m just going to lay it out for you. First of all, you should eat smaller meals, 5-6 times per day, 2 ½ -3 hours apart. This will keep your metabolism going and provide your muscles (stimulated by short, intense workouts) fed with nutrients required for growth. These meals will consist of protein, carbohydrates, and fats.
Proper protein intake will vary according to age, gender, goals and so on. Generally speaking, each meal should contain between 25-50 grams of protein. A rule of thumb is that a healthy male trying to promote lean muscle mass should ingest 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight. Therefore, if your body weight is 200 pounds, a daily intake of 300 grams of protein (6 meals with 50 grams of protein each) would be required. The key is that if you are training hard, you need protein.
Sources for protein include lean meats, fish, egg whites, low fat cottage cheese, and whey protein. Avoid fatty meats, and try to grill your meats and do not fry them in fat. Remember to include a protein selection at each meal.
When discussing carbohydrates, it is vital to distinguish between the different types of carbs. For this discussion we will identify 3 different types of carbs: complex carbs include potatoes, yams, bread, cereals, grains, pasta, and rice; simple carbs include most fruit, and veggie carbs which include most vegetables and leafy greens.
Fats are also a necessity but should come from the following sources: extra virgin olive oil, flax seed oil, nuts (almonds are best), and fish oil.
The diet is very simple. For every meal, choose a portion from the protein group, the complex carb group, and the veggie carb group. A good rule of thumb is that a serving size for your protein and carbs should be about the size of your fist. Have a serving of fats at 2-3 meals per day and only have simple carbs first thing in the morning at breakfast and immediately following your workout. Actually, it’s critical to have a post workout shake with whey protein and a simple carb like a banana. Bring it to the gym with you and have it while the sweat is still on your body.
Now to fine tune this diet you can do this: if you are trying to increase muscle mass and not worried too much about losing fat, eat as above. However, if you wish to accelerate fat burning, do not eat complex carbs at your last 2-3 meals of the day. Lean protein (chicken breast or fish) and salads or chunky veggies (broccoli and asparagus are excellent choices) will do the trick.
Let’s take this one step further. Here is a magic formula for extreme lean muscle mass and fat burning. For three days in a row, come hell or high water, only eat complex carbs first thing in the morning (a serving of oatmeal will do it) and immediately after your workout. On the fourth day, eat a ton of carbs. Actually cheat on this day. Eat whatever you want, but ensure that you eat sufficient protein and lots of complex carbs. This is the time to eat pizza, pasta, cake and so on.
This three day off, one day on carbs has produced fantastic results in many bodybuilders. I like it because any cravings I have I can put off until my “carb” day (which isn’t really that far off in the future) and then indulge at that time. The secret is to remain strict on the low carb days. This takes planning, preparation, and discipline. You can do it. Once you start to see the results you get from this carbohydrate manipulation, you will find it much easier to stick to it.
This meal plan should produce such dramatic results so quickly that your friends will be asking you what you are “on”. The real secret is daily discipline. Take it one day at a time. Eat right according to the principles outlined above, manipulate your cab intake, and train with intensity focusing on basic, heavy movements. This is the bodybuilding lifestyle. Engage in it and change your life, long-term and for the better.