Feeding Muscles – Nutrition and Bodybuilding


Bodybuilding, like many forms of exercise, is demanding. It requires you not only conform to a specific regime, but also that you eat to meet the nutritional requirements of your body. If you wish to eat appropriately, you need to understand the specific nutrients you need to build your body and to lose weight.


If you are bodybuilding, your body needs a certain diet to survive and thrive. In strength training, for example, research and practice note that the diet must change in order for the exercise regime to be successful. Overall, the total of macronutrients and energy for those who are bodybuilders or involved in strength training is high. Moreover, they need to use the complete nutrient intake effectively if they really want to achieve all their goals that are based on the nutrition-exercise equation1.

Strength training requires you increase the amount of protein you are eating. This will help you increase your skeletal muscle. Increased protein combines with a demanding and strenuous workout requires sufficient hydration or may result in certain problems of the liver and kidneys. Carbohydrates are also a basic requirement. They are a source of energy. Carbohydrates also act to help return levels of glycogen to normal in your muscles.

Therefore, if you are planning to be a successful bodybuilder, you need to be aware of the basic nutritional requirements for your specific body type, gender and type of exercise. Furthermore, you also need to look at the goals you plan to achieve. Generally, bodybuilders focus on specific nutritional items. The main ones are:

  • Protein
  • Carbohydrates
  • L-Glutamine
  • Carnitine

While some professionals in the field of bodybuilding encourage a balanced diet with the sources of nutrition being natural, others do not. They believe that for an athlete to reach his or her ultimate potential, it is necessary to consider food outside of its natural sources.

Do you Eat or Drink your Nutrition?

Most people obtain their required nutrients from food. Good nutrition conforms to the foods and amounts listed in the MyPlate Guidelines (formally the Pyramid). Yet, bodybuilders are involved in a specialized form of sport. They require specific amounts of certain types of nutrients to achieve their goal. As a result, they do not eat according to the guidelines2. This frequently results in the addition of specific dietary supplements to their nutritional plan.

Supplements are to help make up for the gap in your diet – one you are unable or do not have the time to fill by eating as part of a regular diet. Dieting has several dietary or weight loss supplements available. Many bodybuilders also rely on supplements to help them lose weight, obtain the right type of nutrients on a daily basis and build up muscle mass.

Supplements may be taken in any number of ways.

  1. Shakes – This is a common practice. Whey protein comes in a powder form and is tossed down before a workout as part of a liquid.
  2. Juices – Some drink down a combination of juices and electrolytes
  3. Pills or tablets – These are another alternative to achieving your goal. They may be vitamins, multivitamins or other concentrated substances. Many alternative supplements now come in gel, capsule, tablet or pill form
  4. Teas – Some natural supplements come in tea form. These can be tisanes or infusions or similar means of allowing the individual to drink the desired ingredient. Green tea, for example, is a tea commonly drunk to provide specific supplemental aids to losing weight
  5. Smoothies – these often combine a variety of ingredients including milk, whey powder, glucose and other nutrients or additives perceived as helpful

Strategic Nutritional Practices: It’s All about Timing

Generally, the rule of thumb for nutritional eating and exercise is simple. You need to eat lightly, consume a light meal, before you exercise. This works to ensure you have the right amount of energy to perform strength training, aerobics, weight lifting or resistance training. Eating just prior to exercise also means your body will have sufficient amino acids at its disposal.

In bodybuilding, there is one crucial factor of concern for athletes – timing of the intake. It is essential to consume the right amount of nutrients at the right time in order to maximize such things as building up body mass, fuelling for the exercise and recovery from the bout of physical exertion3. The following chart summarizes certain basic nutrients, their purpose and when an athlete needs to take them.

Nutrient Optimum Time to Ingest Purpose
Protein Before and After workout Muscle growth
Carbohydrates Before and after workout Muscle growth
Water Throughout the workout Prevent dehydration
Glucose (or other simple sugar) After the workout Restocks any glycogen used during the workout
Creatine or related amino acids As part of overall training program Aids in muscle growth


Nutritional guidelines for athletes in bodybuilding differ from those of the mainstream public. Research in this area tends to be sparse. In order for the right type of nutrition to be given at the right time, it is essential more studies be performed. Until a generalization of what is needed to achieve the maximum possible, it is best to look at the characteristics and demands of each athlete and focus on what he or she requires in order to execute his or her bodybuilding goal.


1 Clark, N (2008). Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook 4th Edition.Champagne, IL: Human Kinetics Books.

2 Slater G, Phillips SM (2011). Nutrition Guidelines for Strength Sports: Sprinting, Weightlifting, Throwing Events, and Bodybuilding. J Sports Science, June: 1-11.

3 Ivy, J and Portman, R (2004). Nutrient Timing.Laguna Beach,CA: Basic Health Publications.


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