Healthy Body Building Diets

Karen Frazier
Female Body Builder
expert checked

When considering healthy body building diets, a number of factors come into play. Competitive bodybuilding requires more than one type of diet, depending on how close you are to competition. Some bodybuilding diets can be unhealthy, and it is important you protect your health and lean body mass by eating a healthy diet that maximizes your muscle development.

Diet Considerations

As a competitive bodybuilder, there are two major phases to your diet, plus a third phase that helps you to prepare for competition. The first phase is the "building" phase. During this time, your goal is to build muscle. You can do this through a combination of time spent in the gym and eating a protein-sparing diet that allows you to successfully build muscle.The second phase is the "cutting" phase. During the cutting phase, your goal is to maintain the muscle you have built while carving away at the body fat in order to have your muscles show underneath your skin during competition. This is done through a diet that helps maintain muscle while promoting fat loss, as well as through weightlifting and fat burning exercise. The final phase is a special diet you may follow in the week or so prior to competition. It is a diet designed to remove the water from underneath your skin so your muscles are clearly defined. If you are competing as a bodybuilder, your coach or trainer will help design a special diet for the final week before competition. Use the following tips for healthy body building diets during the building and cutting phases.

Healthy Body Building Diets

One of the most important aspects of a bodybuilding diet is making sure you get adequate calories and protein to maintain the lean body mass you've worked so hard to build.

Building Phase Diet

During the building phase of your competition cycle, gaining quality muscle tissue drives both your diet and your workout. Unless you are overweight, your goal in this cycle is not weight loss. Your body's calorie needs will be determined by how much time you spend in the gym and the intensity of your workout. You can do a basic calculation of caloric needs using the Harris-Benedict equation and applying it to your BMR - both which can be calculated using an online calculator. This will give you a rough amount of how many calories you need to eat to maintain your current activity level. The best diet for a bodybuilder in the building phase meets the following requirements:

  • You get adequate calories to build muscle. Many trainers also recommend you cycle calories so your body doesn't get used to any one single caloric level, which can help you when you begin cutting.
  • You eat enough protein. Many bodybuilders find Barry Sears' Zone diet is an excellent diet because it provides adequate protein and stresses eating healthful fruits, vegetables and whole grains. The Zone diet calls for 40 percent protein, 30 percent carbohydrates and 30 percent fat.
  • You eat frequently. When you are building muscle, your body needs small, frequent feedings throughout the day.
  • Avoid sugar and saturated fats. Instead, choose fresh foods like fruits and vegetables. Eat whole grains and choose a variety of foods in order to assure you are getting adequate nutrition.
  • High protein diets are generally not recognized as terribly healthy diets by medical professionals. There is some evidence that high-protein diets can lead to kidney disease and other health problems. It is always best to undertake such a diet under the recommendation of a physician.

Cutting Phase Diet

When you are preparing for competition, your goal is to maintain your muscle mass while losing body fat. Bodybuilders typically compete at a fairly low body fat percentage, which is gained through a combination of diet and fat-burning activity. Most bodybuilders begin their cutting diets about 12 weeks out of competition. Cutting diets are usually low-calorie, low fat diets high in complex carbohydrates, protein and vegetables. A diet during cutting phases include the following guidelines:

  • Eat mostly lean protein like chicken and fish and fresh or steamed vegetables and slow-digesting carbs like whole wheat and steel-cut oats. Try to maintain a 40 percent protein, 40 percent complex carbohydrate/vegetables and 20 percent fat ratio.
  • Eat several small meals throughout the day in order to stabilize blood sugar and keep your energy high.
  • Gradually decrease the amount of calories you eat by about 300 calories per week. Never eat fewer than your BMR.
  • Increase your cardiovascular training gradually by about 10 minutes every week in conjunction with the decrease in calories.
  • Avoid sugar and junk food. Instead, only eat foods that are a source of high-quality nutrition.

These are general guidelines. Your coach or trainer will have guidelines tailored to your specific body type and needs as a bodybuilder, including recommendations for supplements you can take to help the process of building muscle. It is always best to undertake vigorous fitness activity such as bodybuilding and an extreme diet such as that required for competitive bodybuilding under the supervision of a physician.

Healthy Body Building Diets