Bodybuilding Nutrition & Sports Supplements for Bodybuilders
Bodybuilding is a popular sporting activity that involves athletes, known as bodybuilders using weight training, resistance exercises and nutrition to control, develop and sculpt their physical appearance with a specific focus on symmetry, muscularity and conditioning.
As anyone who’s ever been involved in the sport knows, the bodybuilding lifestyle can be very demanding, with monumental training schedules to endure and a huge number of diet myths to unravel.
Under such circumstances it can be very challenging for both novice and experienced bodybuilders alike to identify what to eat and still maintain a healthy and varied diet; while at the same time working towards their bodybuilding goals and meeting all the nutrient requirements to achieve their desired body composition.
if you are a competitive bodybuilder, you should seek to maintain a high degree of muscle mass and tone with excellent symmetrical shape, visible musculature and vascular definition
Before we start to consider nutrition and supplementation you should note that drug testing takes place within the sport of bodybuilding in an attempt to stamp-out the use and abuse of prohibited performance-enhancing substances.
Whilst the use of such performance-enhancers can have a detrimental effect on your health and wellbeing and are not recommended, they are also considered unnecessary as natural bodybuilding can be achieved successfully without any banned pharmaceutical aids being used.
In general, if you are a competitive bodybuilder, you should seek to maintain a high degree of muscle mass and tone with excellent symmetrical shape, visible musculature and vascular definition.
However, you should note that there are various bodybuilding styles and competitive events where emphasis is placed on different characteristics and specific aspects of fitness and physique, and therefore these place different demands on the body and dietary intake.
Bulking and cutting
In order to achieve your bodybuilding goals, you will have to split your competitive year into two phases – bulking and cutting.
Competitive bodybuilders will spend between eight and ten months bulking, which focuses on high-intensity resistance training to build good muscle mass and excellent symmetry.
The cutting phase usually follows two to four months before competition and involves maximising body fat losses while minimising muscle loss to enhance overall muscle definition.
During this cutting phase aerobic activity is combined with continued weight training to assist in fat loss.
During the bulking phase bodybuilders should ideally seek to consume an excess of energy in order to gain muscle mass.
During bulking you will therefore have a higher protein requirement due to your need to increase muscle mass and carbohydrate
A low-to-moderate fat intake is also required to maintain hormones such as testosterone, which are vital in muscle building, and for an adequate intake of essential fat soluble vitamins.
When it comes to cutting, the amount of food you eat should be decreased, whilst your energy use increased with extra aerobic exercise.
At the same time, however, carbohydrate and protein must be sufficient to prevent the loss of overall muscle mass.
You should be aware that it is not desirable to lose weight too rapidly, as muscle mass is also more likely to suffer, which will have a detrimental effect on your performance, form and physique.
Hydration for bodybuilders
Athlete hydration and specific fluid requirements have also to be taken into consideration when undertaking high intensity resistance and aerobic training.
It is especially important for bodybuilders to ensure that hydration and fluid levels are optimal as a higher protein diet may necessitate an increased fluid intake to flush the kidneys.
Muscle strength and control are key components in meeting the great demands of training regimens and therefore hydration is important to optimise mental focus and concentration when lifting heavy weights.
Good hydration can be achieved using water and specially formulated sports drinks during and after lifting such weights in training.
Dehydration as a cutting technique
If you are involved in competitive bodybuilding dehydration practices are common in the days leading up to an event in order to further reveal muscle size and definition.
Such dehydration techniques include the use of saunas, decreased fluid and sodium intake – and even the use of diuretics.
The use of diuretics however, can pose serious health risks, so you are advised not to go down that particular road.
Prior to a bodybuilding competition or event, in order to “cut” the muscle, your diet for meals – four to seven each day – should ideally include a low fat intake and lower energy diet, therefore protein becomes more important to preserve muscle mass.
Low fat animal products, including the following, are ideal:
- Lean beef with the excess fat removed.
- Skinless chicken breast fillets.
- Skimmed milk, natural yoghurt and fresh cheese.
- Egg whites.
Nutrition during competition
Dehydration and restricted food intakes prior to bodybuilding competitions can have a detrimental effect on your overall physical performance, resulting in muscle fatigue, weakness and lack of energy, so it is important to have snacks and fluids handy during competition in order to maintain fuel levels.
This is especially important if you are competing in categories requiring fitness routines.
Handy snacks could include sports drinks, energy bars, jam on bread or fresh or dried fruit, depending on what suits an individual need.
Post-training and recovery nutrition
After an intense training session it is essential that you recover body carbohydrate and fluid stores before the next session.
The recovery process is vitally important and there are no two ways about it; bodybuilders need to recover properly after training, especially if they want to keep their body in the best possible shape.
There are three golden rules to successful bodybuilder rehabilitation; and we refer to them as the three R’s:
Bodily carbohydrate stores (glycogen) must be quickly restored to allow quality training to be maintained – the optimum time to restore muscle glycogen stores is during the first hour after training and this is when you need to consume carbohydrates.
If you do not replenish glycogen stores adequately however, recovery may well be affected leading to unwanted fatigue and poor training performances may then follow.
High GI foods are recommended immediately after training including white bread, potatoes or energy supplements such as sports drinks.
Following on, within two or three hours of training, there should be a regular intake of carbohydrate and further fluid.
A protein and carbohydrate supplement is effective in increasing muscle building if it is taken within the first 30 minutes after resistance training.
It is true to say that restricted eating can mean a limited variety of foods, especially during the cutting phase, so it is advisable to include as much variety as possible… consider eating as many different fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy products and lean meat as possible during training and competition.
Another tip: try not to binge after bodybuilding competitions or particularly hard training sessions as this can lead to unwanted weight gain.
Want to get involved in bodybuilding?
If you’re not currently involved in bodybuilding and are keen to learn more about taking part then read on. Here we’ve brought together a number of useful links to bodybuilding organisations that may be able to help you.
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Get in touch now for more information about bodybuilding nutrition and the use of sports supplements to help improve bodybuilder symmetry, muscularity and overall conditioning. Our team of sports scientists and nutritionists are always happy to help.