If you’re embarking on a bodybuilding journey it is essential to get your diet right. There’s truth behind the term ‘abs are made in the kitchen’. For me, bodybuilding comes down to 70% nutrition, 30% training, others may weight it differently, but I really do consider nutrition to far outweigh the work you do in the gym. By paying attention to and creating a good bodybuilding diet, you really can transform your gains.

There are certain variables to consider when setting up your diet which are absolutely essential, these include;

  • Macronutrient split
  • BMR (base metabolic rate)
  • Calorie count
  • Whether you’re looking to bulk or cut

The first thing that I will say, is that if you’re not eating enough to support your body and your activity level, it doesn’t matter how much you train, you will not grow. So the first step for me is to work out what your BMR is and factor everything else around that.

You can work out your base metabolic rate with the following formula:

Men BMR = (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) – (5 × age in years) + 5
Women BMR = (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) – (5 × age in years) – 161

Then, work out your number of maintenance calories via the formula below:

Little to no exercise Daily calories needed = BMR x 1.2
Light exercise (1–3 days per week) Daily calories needed = BMR x 1.375
Moderate exercise (3–5 days per week) Daily calories needed = BMR x 1.55
Heavy exercise (6–7 days per week) Daily calories needed = BMR x 1.725
Very heavy exercise (twice per day, extra heavy workouts) Daily calories needed = BMR x 1.9

So, for myself the calculation would be as follows:

BMR = (10×78) + (6.25×178) – (5×22) + 5 = 780 +1112.5 -110+5 = 1787.5

Daily calories needed = BMRx1.725 (I train 5 days per week, but these are heavy sessions) = 1787.5 x 1.725 = 3083.4 calories per day

The first thing you’ll realise, is that 3083.4 calories is significantly higher than what the government recommends. I.e. 2400 calories per day. And that’s before adding in a surplus to attempt to gain weight. So as you can see, if you’re looking to gain weight, or even maintain weight and you’re training frequently, you need to eat, a lot.

When I first started training, I was eating 3 meals a day. This is not enough. Think about how difficult it would be to eat 3×1000 calorie meals in a day. If you double the quantity of meals, but reduce the portion size, it becomes a much easier task. I can quite easily eat every 2-3hours with larger meals when I have the time available to eat. Quite simply, if you’re looking to gain weight, you should be eating at least 5 meals a day, personally, I eat 5 then supplement two.

It becomes easiest to do this if you prep food in advance. Every night, cook the following days food, tupperware will become your best friend. You can plan your meals, get into routine and know what to eat and when.

Macronutrients are carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Now rookie error number 1 is to just massively increase protein. Don’t do that. Just focus on taking in around 2.5-3g of protein per kg of bodyweight. So for me that would be between 195g and 234g of protein.

As a rule of thumb the macronutrient split of 40/40/20 is generally not a bad starting place for most people. Dependent on the way your body responds to food types, you could change to 40/30/30.

This would be 40% carbs, 40% protein, 20% fats.

What I would suggest is for you to begin tracking what you eat. You don’t have to track it down to the gram, god knows I don’t, but if you start to understand the calories and contents of what you eat, then you’ll be able to see the effects it has on your body.

If you’re looking to bulk, it is a good idea to consume 500 calories per day above your maintenance in order to build muscle, making sure that you are in surplus on training days in particular. When looking to cut weight, there’s many different ways to reduce body fat, and dependent on your goal, I personally wouldn’t recommend dropping more than 250-300 calories per day under maintenance.

I’ll do some more in depth articles in the future on breaking down food types, and looking into specific diet plan examples, including my own diets for bulking and cutting.

Here’s some key points to summarise:

  1. Eat more and more often
  2. Take a food diary
  3. Your entire diet shouldn’t be protein
  4. (Forgot to add this but) Drink more water
  5. Prep your food in advance

Musclefood is a great site offering premium lean meats, high-protein foods and sports nutrition supplements for athletes, bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts.

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