The purpose of bodybuilding diets is simple: build up muscle mass and eliminate fat. To do this, body builders must consume a very strict regimen of protein, carbohydrates and fats, which is usually enhanced by vitamin and mineral supplements.
In more general terms, the diet followed by bodybuilders is often referred to as a ‘caveman diet’ because of it’s reliance on meat, fish, poultry, vegetables and nuts over grains and greens. Most advocates of this diet put the emphasis on consuming meat from animals allowed to roam wild or grass-fed animals – these are naturally leaner, and nutrient dense than the supermarket standard.
Some experts on diet for bodybuilding advocate eating a minimum of one gram of protein per kilo of body mass per day – others advocate supplementing the ‘natural’ proteins you consume by eating meats, cheeses, eggs and nuts with protein powders.
Key rules for a bodybuilding diet are:
1. Eat at least one gram of protein per kilo of body weight each day.
2. The majority of your calories should come from ‘whole’ foods such as meat, fish, poultry, vegetables and nuts; a smaller percentage should come from grains.
3. Supplement your diet with an appropriate multivitamin/mineral to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients you need – however, do not rely on supplements too heavily as it is impossible for these to replace ‘natural’ nutrients one gets from a healthy, well-balanced diet.
4. Drink around 3.5 litres of water each day.
5. Get plenty of fibre, it’s essential to help your body benefit from the protein you’re consuming.
6. Resist junk and processed foods, which are particularly tempting if you are following a cyclical bodybuilding diet and are in a ‘bulk’ phase.
There are a number of diets specific to the bodybuilding community – the two most prevalent are the anabolic and MCLL diets. The anabolic diet has been around for quite some time, though much controversy surrounds its effectiveness. Anabolic dieting aims to harness the body’s hormone production to achieve optimum muscle development - this involves eating a low carbohydrate diet during the week, and a high carbohydrate diet over the weekend. The other well-established diet followed by bodybuilders is the MCLL, or multiple carbohydrate leverage loading plan. MCLL involves carefully grouping foods to achieve muscle gain – at each meal, you have two complex carbohydrates, two simple carbs and a special metabolic optimiser drink. While following a MCLL plan, you’ll eat six meals each day.