A bodybuilder's diet

Bodybuilder. Source: Pixabay
Bodybuilder. Source: Pixabay

Health24 received the following from a regular user regarding what they eat to build muscle.

User's comments:

I do bodybuilding, so I thought it would be interesting to share what I eat in a day.

Meal 1: Protein shake (40g protein)
Meal 2: 4 scrambled egg whites, 200g oats (dry before cooked), 10ml omega 3-6-9 oil, multi-vitamin, 500mg vitamin C
Meal 3: 150g chicken fillet, 100g potatoes
Meal 4: 300g chicken fillet, 500g stir-fry veggies
Meal 5: Protein shake (80g protein)
Meal 6: 30g of liquid carbs (dextrose), 6 egg whites
Meal 7: 300g chicken fillet, 250g mixed veggies, 150g brown rice
Meal 8: Protein shake (40g protein), 10ml omega 3-6-9 oil, 500mg vitamin C

I am 1.85m tall and I weigh 95kg. My body fat is currently at approximately 12%.

I only use ‘Spray ‘n Cook’ when I stir-fry my food, do my eggs and chicken. I steam my potatoes and veggies. I use very little salt and no sugar.

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Our expert's comments as follow:

1. You are currently consuming a very-high-protein, low-to-moderate-carbohydrate and very-low-fat diet. You should avoid excluding a particular food group completely as this will almost inevitably cause nutrient imbalances.

Current acceptable recommendations on protein requirements are 1-2.2 g/kg body weight or 15-25% of the total energy intake. Fat requirements may be as low as 20% of total intake with carbohydrates making up the balance. So you do need a small amount of healthy fat. Try to incorporate this into your diet (avocado pears, canola or olive oil, nuts and seeds, peanut butter).

2. In terms of protein intake and building muscle, we now know that your muscles are only able to use a limited amount of protein for growth, as long as there's adequate carbohydrate to fuel the strength training required to build muscles. Any excess protein (amino acids) will be broken down and either stored as fat or later used as a source of energy.

Breaking down amino acids requires excretion of water, so excessive protein intakes contribute to a fluid imbalance in your body. In time, it may accelerate calcium losses, lead to kidney problems and gout.

Even after training, when you need the extra protein for anabolic/muscle building and recovery benefits, protein should always be consumed in combination with carbohydrate. Make sure you're eating adequate amounts of carbs for the amount of protein that you're eating. Too little carbohydrate will also result in low energy levels, making it difficult for you to train and perform at your best.

Portions of foods providing 10g protein (taken from ‘Eating for Sport’ by Shelley Meltzer & Cecily Fuller):

  • 50g grilled/ cooked fish
  • 50g tuna, salmon, pilchards
  • 35g lean beef, lamb, veal, game (cooked)
  • 40g chicken, turkey (skinless, cooked)
  • 50g ostrich (cooked)
  • 2 small or 1 large chicken egg
  • The whites of 3 large eggs
  • 70g cottage cheese (low fat/ fat free)
  • 30g low-fat cheese
  • 200ml (¾cup) low fat fruit yoghurt
  • 300ml (1¼cups) low fat milk
  • 30ml (2Tbsp) low fat or skim milk powder
  • 250ml (1 cup) liquid meal replacement (made with skim milk or water)
  • 160ml (? cup) cooked lentils
  • 125ml (½ cup) cooked soya beans
  • 200ml (¾ cup) baked beans
  • 40ml (31/2 Tbsp) nuts
  • 60ml (5 Tbsp) sesame seeds
  • 200ml (¾cup) cooked soya mince
  • 120g raw tofu
  • 125ml (½ cup) hummus

3. I am concerned that your overall fruit intake is low. You should aim for ‘5-a-day’ in terms of fruit and vegetables to ensure optimal intake of various vitamins and minerals. The vitamin supplements which you take should be just that – supplements to the food you eat to complement your overall intake.

4. With regards to body fat, we all have storage fat (in adipose tissue under the skin) and essential fat (in organs). Essential fat is needed for normal physiological functioning. Acceptable ranges of total body fat associated with optimal health are 8-24% in men and 21-35% in women.

A low body fat is a distinct advantage in weight-making sports because it improves your power-to-weight ratio and also helps increase an athlete’s rate of acceleration. Body fat levels below 3-5% for males and 12-14% for females, however, are considered dangerously low and associated with poor health and performance.

Your BMI is 27.7 kg/m2 which as you are probably aware would be classified as overweight in a ‘non-body building’ individual. 

Calculate your BMI

Although I don’t know what you look like, you are by no means overweight with your current percentage body fat. Remember that BMI is only a screening tool to assess a person’s nutritional status.

It does not take your body’s composition into consideration and since muscle weighs more than fat, muscular individuals (bodybuilders) are likely to have a higher BMI measurement.

Read: Your guide to banned substances

5. It is unclear how much water you drink.

Dehydration of 3-5% of body weight decreases physical strength and performance, and is the primary cause of heat exhaustion. Estimating water or fluid intake requirements is not easy and individual requirements are highly variable depending on the person as well as factors such as activity, humidity, climate, body temperature and body composition, protein intake.

As a guide, the recommended Adequate Intake (AI) of fluid for sedentary men (aged 19-50 years) is 3.71 liters (12 glasses of 250ml) per day of which at least 6 glasses (250ml) should be water.

Different sports have specific fluid intake recommendations in order to ensure an adequate intake before, during and after a strenuous bout of exercise. You need to ensure that you always replace fluid after exercise.

During long periods of intense exercise, it is best to use a sports drink that contains sodium, as this will help replace sodium lost in sweat, provide glucose to prevent fatigue and reduce the risk of developing hyponatraemia, which can be life-threatening when it occurs.

I have included some guidelines specific to weight-making sports below:

  • Recovery of fluids lost through dehydration may take 24-48 hours.
  • Drink with all foods taken before a training session.
  • Take sufficient drink bottles to training and keep them easily accessible (or use convenient drink containers that can be worn). If possible take drink breaks every 15-20 minutes – adopting a pattern of drinking small amounts of fluid at regular intervals during exercise is optimal.
  • Rehydrate fully after training, using your pre-training weight as a guide.
  • Sports drinks (5-7% concentrations) are good options as they are quickly emptied from the stomach and replace sodium losses, without causing gastric cramps (may occur with 10% concentrations). In your case, however, your choice of drink may depend on your weight goals, particularly if you are competing. If you wish to lose weight, dilute sports drinks. Sports water (need electrolytes, not calories) or plain water may be preferred with solid foods providing your carbohydrate.

6. Be aware of the amount of food that you are eating. This should also be practical and able to be implemented in other settings outside of home. I have included a guide for visualising various servings:

  • 90g red meat/ poultry/ fish = deck of playing cards
  • 30g cheese = 1 matchbox
  • 1 muffin/roll = a fist
  • 1 tsp butter = 1 thumb tip
  • 125ml (½ cup) pasta/ rice/ vegetables = tennis ball
  • 125ml (½ cup) ice cream = tennis ball
  • 30g (2 Tbsp) nuts/ sweets = one handful
  • 1 medium potato = computer mouse
  • 1 biscuit = a bath plug
  • 250ml (1 cup) cereal = a fist
  • A medium apple/ pear/ orange = tennis ball

Read: Building muscle: the skinny on how to bulk up

7. Visualise the following when dishing up your plate of food:

  • Carbohydrate-rich foods (bread, pasta, rice, mielies, fruit, vegetables) should make up approximately one third of your plate.
  • The rest should be reserved for protein-rich foods (egg, fish, lean meat/ chicken, legumes such as beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils, low fat dairy, soya and tofu).
  • There should be a minimal amount of fat (butter, margarine, mayonnaise, salad dressing, peanut butter, cream, oil).

8. I would like to suggest that you include more fish in your diet – ideally 2-3 times a week. Fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which is an essential fat, meaning our bodies are unable to produce it and therefore it needs to be obtained from external sources (food and supplements).

Omega-3 fats have received much attention recently and have been shown to protect against heart disease, maintain a healthy blood cholesterol profile and improve brain power and concentration. The fat has also been implicated in management of ADHD and potentially minimising the effects of eczema and food allergies.

Ask The Dietitians or our Biokineticist for more info on nutrition and sports. 

Read more:

What it takes to be a female bodybuilder

What is glutamine and does it work?

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