Nutrition planning remains central to all training success, whatever the season. The following article will outline a series of nutritional requirements and meal replacement options that will give you the edge in properly planning for and experiencing greater progress in the coming months.
Meal Prep Fundamentals:
Why Bodybuilders Meal Prep
Competitive bodybuilders, athletes and amateur lifters who are serious about building great looking, high performance physiques can be identified not only by their impressive builds but also by the lunch coolers strapped over their shoulders. It makes little sense putting in all that hard work at the gym only to deprive your body of important nutrient-rich calories when you need them most: to help repair and build muscle. In fact, many bodybuilders are frightened to death of losing hard earned gains just because they failed to top off their nutrient/caloric requirements.
Bodybuilders are trailblazers in meal prepping and, for decades, have been on a quest for protein sources that can be transported with a modicum of effort and consumed whenever the muscles are in need of replenishment. Go dumpster diving behind a typical hardcore gym and you’ll be awash in tuna cans and chicken bones. As well as getting in enough protein from chicken and tuna, smart bodybuilders have also learned the value of carbohydrates and fats in boosting training energy and laying the foundation for health and wellbeing.
The evolution of meal prep has seen several key changes, but many things have remained the same. Here, bodybuilders can be found browsing dollar stores for Tupperware and are still big consumers of chicken, tuna and other high protein staples.
Keep reading to learn how, through a series of specific meal prep goals, you can both maintain the time-tested traditions of nutritionally well-prepared bodybuilders while further evolving your own prep plan to improve your own training success.
Bodybuilding Meal Prep – a Week at a Time
Preparing meals in advance is common among competitive athletes, but bodybuilders will often take it to the extreme, prepping meals for up to seven days in advance (frequently consuming the same meals day in and day out).
Indeed, eating smaller meals more often is a healthy way to allow your body to efficiently process nutrient-rich calories while keeping the metabolism functioning at a high level to blast bodyfat 24/7. Bodybuilders eat often to achieve the desired growth state of constructive muscle anabolism by providing the calories a bigger body demands.
While the concept of bulking up is not as prevalent as it once was, many bodybuilders still believe in consuming excessive calories to gain both muscle and fat with the expectation that by reversing this process (reducing calories and increasing the protein to carb/fat ratio) they can reduce fat while maintaining hard earned muscle when shredding time arrives.
As reasonable as it may seem, this meal prep strategy can be counterproductive in that the extreme dieting and excessive cardio needed to get body fat levels under control come cutting time may only serve to strip the body of valuable muscle tissue and make shaping up a more arduous process than it needs to be.
Let’s now turn to four specific meal prep goals for Fall (complete with an exhaustive list of key foods and supplements) that, when followed to the letter, will allow you to build quality muscle minus the excess fat many offseason lifters allow to accumulate, while also enjoying greater health and more energy.
- Bodybuilding Meal Prep Made Easy
- Specific Meal Prep Goals
- Maximizing Training Intensity
Many of us tend to eat more and train less during the colder months, making Winter somewhat of a training hibernation period where some may regress and have to slog it out in Spring to get (in many cases, only partially) ready for Summer. As winter approaches, do not fall victim to the general complacency that can make shaping up for summer harder than it needs to be. Rather, by keeping training intensity high during the Fall you’ll be well-equipped to achieve your best shape year-round.
While the motivation to train all-out in Winter may pose a problem for many, we’ll be less “compromised” if we can keep the gains coming during the months leading up to our coldest season. Here, we’ll be well served with a good selection of high-energy, nutrient dense foods and supplements replete with a hefty complement of valuable micronutrients and low in preservatives and added sugars and fats.
Prioritizing Fat Burning/Muscle Building:
Ultimately, the main reason for preparing our meals well ahead of time is so we may have the muscle building nutrients we need to keep the muscles in an ongoing anabolic state that’s beneficial to continuous muscle growth.
This anabolic state (signified by a high degree of muscle protein synthesis and continuous muscle tissue remodelling) also keeps the metabolic machinery functioning at maximum efficiency. This all adds up to steady mass building and gradual fat losses: primary objectives for all hard-training lifters.
Just as there are specific foods and supplements that work best for energizing the body and optimizing training effectiveness, there are certain key nutrients critical to bolstering muscle recovery and growth. And while each of the recommended foods in the plan to follow will increase our mass building potential to some degree (either directly or indirectly), there are two that must be kept at consistently high levels, day in and day out: protein and water.
As such, when meal prepping it pays to be aware that every gram of protein and every ounce of water consumed will ultimately be used to fuel muscle growth. Skimp on either of these and you’ll likely delay the growth process and, into the bargain, compromise metabolic efficiency, which may in turn limit the amount of fat burning we may experience.
What are the staple foods in a bodybuilders diet?
Foods to Include:
Steel Cut Oats
The healthiest of grains, steel cut oats are subjected to minimal processing, full of health-boosting fiber, and high in energy-sustaining complex carbohydrates.
While all fats (with the exception of trans fats) are in some way beneficial for health and wellbeing, healthy versions should be prioritized over those with fewer health benefits.8 Healthy fats include the omega 3s, MCT oil, olive oil and, to a more limited extent, those found in certain foods (for example, egg yolks and red meat).
While often caloric dense and high in natural sugars, fruits are nevertheless packed with valuable micronutrients and fiber and useful as a high-energy nutritious snack when meal prepping for the gym.1
High in complex carbohydrates and fiber, sweet potatoes are also a rich source of iron, calcium, selenium, B vitamins and vitamin C. A great way to keep the muscles full and energized.
Fresh, Clean Water
An essential nutrient required in amounts that exceed the body’s ability to produce it, water is crucial for all of the body’s numerous biochemical reactions. This includes muscle building and fat loss, both of which would be greatly compromised without sufficient H2O.
Containing the most bioavailable form of readily assimilated protein besides whey isolate, eggs remain a lean body staple and should be prioritized when meal prepping for maximum muscle growth.
One of the leaner animal proteins when consumed skinless, chicken is considered to be among the very best muscle-building sources of non-vegetarian protein. Chicken also contains the stress-reducing nutrients tryptophan and Vitamin B5; thus, its inclusion can make it easier to sustain a regimented eating plan. A mere 100g serving provides 31g of high biological value protein.
A nutritional powerhouse that contains ample protein and calories to enhance recovery and support lean muscle gains. Uniquely, beef also includes high levels of creatine and zinc to boost anaerobic performance, testosterone production, cellular hydration and strength, and is rich in both iron and the B vitamins.20
Fish (both cold and fresh water types)
Another low-calorie protein source, saltwater fish contains many valuable minerals to support lean muscle growth and performance, while the fattier cold-water variety contains (along with its protein complement) essential fats to maximize brain and heart function, and enhance fat burning.
- Bodybuilding Meal Prep Made Easy
- What supplements are in a bodybuilders diet?
- Adding Key Supplements
Always have a Meal Replacement ready. Rather than sitting down to a full meal of meat, vegetables and salad, lifters may now eliminate the associated time and energy of preparing a regular meal by instead blending up and drinking a delicious dessert-like meal replacement that contains all of the vital nutrients found in a nutritionally well-balanced diet, and more.
For pure muscle-building it’s hard to go past a good meal replacement for its numerous growth-enhancing benefits. As a nutrient-dense substitute for the typical protein heavy bodybuilding meal, meal replacements typically deliver a range of whole food proteins (including beef, chicken, egg, fish and almond protein). Best of all, the protein in meal replacements is rapidly assimilated, with much of its highly-active and readily absorbed protein being used to sustain muscle growth.
Include a Whey Isolate. While a meal replacement can be substituted for an entire meal and may feature whole foods and a broader range of nutrients, a good whey isolate product is perfect post-workout to rapidly expedite muscle protein synthesis and lean muscle growth. Packed full of muscle-boosting whey isolates and immunity- and health-enhancing bioactive protein fractions (peptides), top selling whey isolate products have become a necessary part of the muscle growth process for many thousands of serious trainees.
Add a Casein to your plan. The muscle building process does not end with the final main meal of the day (whether it be a whole foods meal prepared from scratch or a great tasting meal replacement). In fact, it’s right before bed that we must ensure that our muscles our well-nourished through the night with a sustained-release high-quality protein source.
Fortunately, the meal prep process is again made easier with a good casein protein product, which, on average, will provide 25 grams of enzymatically-absorbed slow release micellar casein per serving to provide the muscles with exactly what is needed to ensure that the body remains anabolic (growth enhancing) during sleep.
Meal prep to maximize training output, recovery and overall nutritional status can be difficult at the best of times. While this article will provide you with the tools you need to get your food and supplement schedule on point, one of the best ways to further refine and improve the meal prep process is to include an all-in-one advanced nutrition product (i.e., a reputable meal replacement supplement).
Meal replacements have been around since the 90s and many have been a blessing for hard training athletes, including bodybuilders. Such products free up valuable time so the athlete can get on with other areas of life besides spending countless hours in the kitchen preparing food. A good meal replacement should include many health and physique-enhancing benefits, a broad selection of fruits and vegetables, and be formulated in such a way that each of its nutrients can be optimally digested and assimilated into energizing muscle glycogen to power the toughest workouts.
Creatine and Carb Products
Specifically designed to improve physical performance and optimize recovery, specific carb products typically contain an advanced blend of high-performing carbs (such as medium-chain maltodextrins) and, often, intensity-sustaining electrolytes to keep the body working at maximum efficiency and capacity at a time when fatigue would normally set in.
While best known for their advanced muscle protein synthesis boosting properties, premier BCAA formulas also double as an energy source that’s carbohydrate sparing and effective in maintaining a high levels of training intensity when working out.