The Ultimate Nutrition Q&A

Expert answers to 25 of your most pressing bodybuilding diet and supplement queries.

6. How many calories do I need daily?

In addition to protein and carbs, you need adequate calories to grow. Muscle growth requires energy: if you don’t provide enough energy in the form of calories, you won’t grow. As a general rule, you need about 20 calories per pound of bodyweight per day to put on muscle. That’s 4,000 calories for a 200-pound bodybuilder. But everybody’s biochemistry is different. If this doesn’t pack on the mass, up the calories. If you’re packing on mass along with too much bodyfat, lower the calories.

7. Should I be following a low-fat diet if I want to get or stay lean?

It used to be that when bodybuilders dieted to get lean, they slashed their fat intake to below 10%. Today, we know that is not just unhealthy, but it’s also not as effective as a diet containing 20%-30% fat, with the majority of fat coming from healthy sources. Fat is critical for maintaining testosterone levels. If these levels drop, you lose muscle and burn less fat. In addition, healthy fats don’t get stored readily — they encourage fat burning; on top of that, they aid joint recovery and promote cardiovascular health. Be sure to include plenty of fatty fish like salmon, trout and sardines in your diet to get sufficient essential omega-3 fatty acids. Also take in plenty of nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil and egg yolks for the healthy mono- and polyunsaturated fats in them.

8. How many meals should I eat per day?


were the first athletes to incorporate five, six and even seven meals a day as a nutrition strategy because they found it produced better results. Eating throughout the day provides a nearly nonstop influx of amino acids from protein and of glucose from carbohydrates. Amino acids help repair muscle tissue and glucose keeps insulin levels constantly elevated, which prevents muscle breakdown while enhancing the formation of glycogen. On the flip side, consuming the same amount of food in three or four bigger meals can cause an increase in bodyfat and promote seesawing blood sugar levels — which can leave you tired and weak.

9. Should I stick with the same meal plan every single day to see results?

Although many bodybuilders fill upon carbohydrates, protein and the right kinds of dietary fat, many follow the same approach every day, using and reusing one or two menu plans.

The danger here is failing to consume a variety of foods, especially fruits and vegetables. Fruits and veggies contain an assortment of phytochemicals that strengthen the immune system, ward off pathogens and, overall, keep the body fine-tuned and healthy.

Include at least three servings a day of fruit and another three to five servings of vegetables. Mix blueberries, a banana, strawberries or sliced melon into your yogurt, oatmeal or protein shake. Add one-half to one cup of broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms or chopped onions and peppers to your rice or pasta. Have at least one large garden salad each day, preferably topped with a dressing made with extra virgin olive oil or a cold-processed vegetable oil.

10. How much water do I need?

Failing to drink adequate liquid can affect your gains in mass. How so? Water comprises up to 75% of the body, and maintaining a hydrated body aids growth. When the body becomes dehydrated, water leaves muscle cells and can initiate a trigger that sends the body into a muscle-wasting state. Research also shows that even slight dehydration decreases muscle strength. In fact, one way that, creatine and glutamine work is by hyperswelling the muscles with fluid. They push water into muscles to facilitate an anabolic or growth state. Be sure to drink about a gallon of water each day.

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