Bodybuilding is different from other sports, as it primarily focuses on how the body looks. They are judged on their muscle size, proportion, and lack of body fat.1 Bodybuilders achieve this through a rigorous training regime and a proper diet. Those that partake in bodybuilding must watch their diet all year around. They usually have two nutritional stages – the bulking phase, which is the off-season phase, and the cutting phase, which is the competition phase.2
The bulking phase is a time of lean muscle growth, which means that bodybuilders will increase their calorie intake. However, it is key to walk the balance between sustainable muscle growth and preventing fat accumulation.3
The cutting phase is a time of restriction, when most bodybuilders will restrict their calorie intake and increase how much aerobic exercise they do. The goal of this stage is to decrease fat mass and to increase muscle definition.4
Becoming bigger – off-season
At this stage, you’re looking to put on muscle mass, mainly through resistance training. Pair that routine with plenty of food to ensure musclebuilding – the average intake of bodybuilders on their bulking phase can be around 3800 calories a day.5
Muscle grows when you have a positive energy balance, meaning that you consume more calories than you spend in a day.6
How much you need to increase your intake by depends on training status – those that are starting out can benefit from larger energy surplus than those that have been training for a while.7
For seasoned bodybuilders, a 10-20% increase from maintenance calories will be sufficient to grow muscle without putting on additional fat.8
Get into the habit of setting a weekly weight gain goal and monitoring progress through a weekly weigh in and body composition check. This will prevent unnecessary fat gain.
Most calories will come from carbohydrates and fats. You should aim to get around 0.5-1.5g of fats per kilo per day. Pay attention to the type of fats you consume, prioritizing unsaturated fats and fats like omega-3 and omega-6.9
Carbohydrates, in the form of glycogen, help fuel muscle contractions, so it’s necessary to get enough.10 For bodybuilders, getting around 3-5g of carbohydrates per kilo every day seems to be a good range.11
Bulking - how much protein?
Gaining muscle is also about shifting the muscle protein turnover towards a net muscle synthesis. This means that as our muscles naturally go through cycles of being degraded and then being synthesized, we need to favor the process of growth and synthesis.12 To do so, aim to get 1.6-2.2g of protein per kilogram of body weight each day.13
Those relying on plant proteins, like vegetarians and vegans, should pay attention to the amino acid profiles of their protein sources. Choose plant sources containing essential amino acids and leucine, as they increase muscle growth. Soy and pea proteins are the best choices.14, 15 Plant foods also contain less protein per portion, so ensure to eat more of them to meet your intake goals.
To get extra protein, consider shakes. Maxler Ultra Whey provides 22-24 grams of protein per serving with a balanced amino acid profile. Essential amino acids help promote muscle growth.16 The protein powder contains an additional enzyme blend to ensure you’re getting all the benefits from the shake and fabulous flavors.
The cutting stage is a period where you slowly decrease overall calories, aiming for a loss of around 0.5-1% of your bodyweight per week. A sustainable and gradual loss helps you feel your best and retain enough energy. Low energy availability can decrease performance and wellbeing.17
Bodybuilders can benefit from having around 4-7 g/kg of bodyweight of carbohydrate daily. However, when cutting, it is likely that your intake will be closer to the lower end of the scale.18 A few weeks before competition, once you’ve already reached your leanness goals, you can increase your daily intake by around 20-50 g. This way, you’ll preserve performance.19
Fats are required to make enough testosterone.20 This helps to preserve lean mass.21 Aim for around 20-30% of your calories from fat, but if that interferes with getting sufficient protein or carbohydrate, cut down to 15-20%.22
You should have around 2.3-3.1 g/kg of protein every day. For those that are leaner or in a large caloric deficit, consider increasing your consumption to the higher end of that range.23
Preparing for the win – before the competition
The week before a competition many bodybuilders may play around with their water intake and carbohydrate intake. It is essential to keep hydrated, as dehydration may make muscles look smaller and may compromise performance.24 Therefore, stick to getting plenty of water, and if you need to rehydrate quickly, consume an electrolyte drink.
Some bodybuilders also load carbohydrates in the days before the competition. This means that they increase their carbohydrate intake to increase the amount of glycogen in their muscle. This may be effective if you increase overall calories, rather than simply increasing the proportion of carbohydrates to other macronutrients.25
Boosting nutrition – the power of supplements26
Supplements for bodybuilders take on a few purposes. Bodybuilders can benefit from supplements that support overall health. These are supplements like vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids, which provide key nutrients for the body.
Maxler Omega-3 Gold is a formulation containing DHA and EPA, which are the omega-3 fatty acids that support brain health, mood, and have anti-inflammatory properties.27 Paired with a great citrusy taste, it will make you skip fish oil in favor of these great softgels.
Those that would like to support their joint health can consider adding collagen to their routine. Collagen is a building block of our cartilage, and supplementing it helps to decrease joint pain and help your body make more cartilage.28
Maxler Flex Joint is a powerful combination of collagen, vitamin C and other ingredients known to benefit the joints. These extra ingredients make up the fluid that’s in your joints, keeping them lubricated and cushioned.
Bodybuilding performance is dependent on achieving great results during resistance training. That’s where supplements designed to boost overall muscle mass, such as amino acids can come handy. When paired with ergogenic aids, which can help you train for longer, supplements can support your goals.
Amino acid supplements that can improve performance include:
- BCAAs – branched-chain amino acids support muscle growth and may help with muscle soreness after a workout .29 Maxler BCAA Powder provides 6g of BCAAs in each serving in the optimal 2:1:1 ratio.
- Glutamine – glutamine supports immune system and helps mitigate muscle damage done by exercise.30 Maxler 100% Pure Glutamine, which contains 5 g of glutamine with no added ingredients.
Ergogenic aids used by bodybuilders include the likes of creatine, caffeine, citrulline malate. Here is a breakdown of how they support bodybuilding efforts31:
- Creatine is the safest supplement that improves muscle size and strength32.
- Beta-alanine is a compound used to make carnosine. Carnosine acts as a buffer in muscles, helping you increase muscular endurance and reduce fatigue.34 Maxler Beta-Alanine Powder provides 5 g of the vegan dietary supplement in each serving.
- Citrulline can break down ammonia and reduce lactic acid. It increases endurance, can increase the number of repetitions and decrease muscle soreness.35 Maxler L-Citrulline Malate provides 5 g of citrulline malate with no additional ingredients.