If you’re trying to gain muscle and get into bodybuilding, you’ve probably found yourself questioning what your diet should consist of. Proteins, carbs, fats, high calorie, low calorie, macronutrients, calorie tracking, bulking, cutting… it’s a minefield of knowledge that you’ll need to learn.
Not to mention identifying the right supplements to help you bulk, strengthen and recover, such as creatine, whey protein, caffeine…
How you start your day sets the tone for the rest of the day – if you’re eating sugary cereal with a Red Bull, it’s unlikely you’re going to see the physique results you want. But you know that, don’t you? It’s the more difficult choices – whether to eat three meals or 5/6 a day, for instance, and how on earth to manage that – which may stump you.
So for your benefit we’ve summarized what you should be eating for your all-important first meal of the day and the key supplements you should be taking if you’re trying to make it as a bodybuilder…
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All About Bodybuilding
Bodybuilding is the art of redesigning the body, using the process of hypertrophy.
Hypertrophy is the process of increasing the size of your muscles by strength training and nutrition. It is not as easy as occasionally lifting weights and downing a protein shake post lift, unfortunately, – unless you have freak genetics – it’s a long process that requires careful monitoring, pain and commitment.
Different style of training
Bodybuilding is a competitive sport that has moved into the mainstream gym culture with your everyday gym-goer giving it a go. A large percentage of people in the gym training in a bodybuilding style also refer to it as the ‘bro split’ – a workout regimen that involves training each body part on specific days.
This has in part been due to the rise of fitness influencers, who have a large platform from which to spread information about the art of redesigning the body in the gym. But it’s up for discussion as to whether this makes them ‘bodybuilders’ or just individuals training in a similar style.
It’s a lifestyle
When it comes to real bodybuilding, it becomes your life, requiring a level of unparalleled commitment. Ronnie Coleman, who won Mr. Olympia eight times in a row, famously said ‘everyone wants to be a bodybuilder, but nobody wants to lift no heavy-ass weights’ and another Mr Olympia Jay Cutler said ‘I don’t eat for taste, I eat for function’. Not only do you have to lift heavy weights, you have to closely monitor your diet, eat regularly, adjusting your macronutrient intake based on your energy expenditure in order to gain muscle and keep your body fat percentage low enough to see your visible muscles.
Breakfast and Bodybuilding
When it comes to your diet, if you’re not eating right, you’re not going to be making gains, period. As mentioned, hypertrophy is the physiological process that underpins muscle growth, but it’s not just related to your workout routine, there are numerous components that characterize this process.
These components include your diet, your hormone levels, your recovery, stress, genetics and so much more. If you’re not feeding muscle growth, you won’t experience it.
Eat regularly and don’t skip meals
As a bodybuilder, you should be eating regularly – so no skipping breakfast! Starting the day with a balanced meal that will fuel your muscles after being in a fasted state overnight is key to ensuring your muscles are getting the nutrients they need to grow and recover.
Studies show that statistically if you eat breakfast, you’re less likely to binge or make bad food choices for the remainder of the day. If you routinely skip breakfast, you’re most likely getting the majority of your calories in towards the end of the day. Based on the sensitivity of muscle tissue and fat tissue, a sensitivity that adjusts throughout the day, eating the bulk of your calories in the evening is more likely to result in fat tissue gains, rather than muscle tissue gains.
Breakfast could really be the most important meal of the day…
So if you eat a bigger breakfast and your meals get consecutively smaller throughout the day, you’re more likely to use that energy consumed rather than storing it as excess body fat. A study published in 2014 found an association between breakfast consumption and strength, which was tested by measuring participants grip strength after breakfast or without breakfast.
The large-scale study that included more than 1,400 participants found that breakfast consumption was consistently associated with greater strength. When it comes to bodybuilding, strength is important. In order to complete an intense workout with heavy weights – enough to elicit muscle growth – feeling strong is a pretty key prerequisite.
What more Clinical Studies say
In a study published in the Journal of Translational Medicine, researchers analyzed the impact of time restricted feeding (TRF) (i.e. skipping breakfast) versus eating normally on the body composition of well-trained males over eight weeks. The study found that the participants who were in the TRF group decreased their testosterone and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), two hormones that are integral to muscle growth. While the TRF group were able to maintain their muscle mass and strength, the hormonal changes indicate that the group would struggle to gain muscle as easily as individuals who are eating consistently.
So what should you eat for breakfast as a bodybuilder?
As the research dictates, it’s important to eat breakfast to optimize muscle gains. But what you decide to eat for breakfast is up to you, as long as you’re getting enough macros. Your actual macronutrient breakdown depends on your size, age, gender, activity level and the speed of your metabolism.
Don’t neglect carbs!
Once you have calculated your macros, split the protein and fat up throughout the day and have most of the carbohydrates in the morning and around your workout. This nutrient timing will help to keep you feeling satiated throughout the day, as well as helping to optimize your ability to use the energy consumed.
As everyone knows, protein is important
According to a study, 20 to 40 grams of protein must be consumed in order to trigger muscle protein synthesis, so consuming at least (ideally more than) this amount at breakfast is recommended. A lot of bodybuilders and ‘gym bros’ have a protein shake in hand as they leave the gym, while this isn’t 100 percent necessary, they do have a good point.
If you aren’t regularly consuming enough protein, your muscle protein synthesis may be reduced and you may enter into a catabolic state.
Catabolism refers to the process of muscle breakdown, which for a bodybuilder is less than preferred. Ideally, a bodybuilder or anyone looking to gain muscle should be in an anabolic state, meaning that their muscles are fueled correctly with enough protein and carbohydrates and their testosterone and IGF-1 levels are high. But when it comes to boosting your hormone levels, adjusting your diet alone is unlikely to do this.
This is where supplements come in.
Supplements ensure all your bases are covered. If you’re taking the right ones, they will guarantee you’re fulfilling your full requirements of vitamins and minerals, optimizing your hormone levels, recovering quicker and having the energy to complete intense workouts.
Here’s an example of an ideal bodybuilding breakfast:
150g oats – protein and carbs
200ml whole milk – protein and fat
1 banana – carbs
1 scoop protein powder – protein
3 whole eggs – protein and fat
3 egg whites – protein
As well as optimizing your diet, choosing the right supplements can ensure you give your body and muscles the best energy, fuel and nutrients it needs/ they need. We like the Performance Lab sports range from Opti-Nutra for its carefully chosen blend of ingredients designed to fulfil several different functions.
Performance Lab supplements are stimulant free, non-GMO, gluten/soy/dairy free and only use the highest quality nutrients grown in their own lab using a process called NutriGenesis ™.
From its Whole-Food Multi for men or women, its all-rounder highly bioavailable multivitamin, to the Performance Lab BCAAs, T-Booster and its pre-and post-workout supplements containing useful ingredients such as creatine, beta-alanine and L-citrulline.
An additional benefit of the above supplements is that the different products in the Performance Lab range can be safely used together. All Performance Lab products are also stimulant-free.
As mentioned above, a whey protein shake is also an easy way to boost your protein intake.
If your diet is on point and you’re taking the right supplements, you’re going to be able to properly aid the process of hypertrophy to gain and retain the maximum amount of muscle mass to level up as a bodybuilder.
So, calculate your macros, make yourself a meal plan and get your hands on these supplements and start to enjoy more effective workouts and better muscle gains.