If you are just starting out in bodybuilding, you need to understand that what you eat is just as important as what you exercise. In other words, you can lift as many weights as you want, but if your muscles aren’t getting the fuel they need to grow, you’re wasting a huge amount of effort.
you need protein
With just a little bit of research on an effective bodybuilding diet, you’ll quickly discover that a sufficient amount of protein is one of the most (some say tea most) important parts of their nutritional intake. In short, protein is the building block of lean muscle – a lack of protein means your muscle building potential is much less.
There are many opinions on how much protein your body needs each day and it may depend on your bodybuilding goals. Typically, you might consider getting around 1 gram of protein per pound of your body weight each day.
Using Nutrition Facts to Choose Your Food
There are many foods at your local supermarket or grocery store that contain a useful amount of protein. Current regulations that ensure food manufacturers display the nutritional content of their products make choosing your food a breeze. However, before you rush out and buy all the protein-rich foods you can find, some caution should be exercised. Take the time to read the Nutrition Facts table for foods. In its whole. You are not only looking at the protein content, but you also need to consider the fat content, sugar content, carbohydrates, etc. If your goal is to build lean muscle, then it’s a good idea to avoid too many products that are high in simple sugars, calories, and refined carbohydrates.
Popular Protein-Rich Foods in Your Bodybuilding Diet
Now you are ready to go to the supermarket in search of quality protein food sources. These are foods that are high in protein but not so high in other elements that they will hinder your lean muscle mass goals (i.e. calories, carbs, etc.):
MEAT: If you like to eat meat, 3 meats are generally recommended. The favorite is chicken (the number of recipes you can find in bodybuilding forums prove it). Chicken is very lean and cheap. Similarly, turkey is slightly leaner than chicken and has a higher percentage of protein. Lean beef (look for cuts that are really red and no visible fat when possible) is another great source of protein.
EGGS: Raw or cooked, eggs are another staple in many bodybuilders’ diets. Many people will skip the yolk of the egg and just eat the white, discarding any quality protein. It’s true that the yolk of an egg contains the most calories, but it also contains most of the egg’s nutrients, as well as some protein. Why not save some of the yolks?
FISH: Fish is a major source of protein and many bodybuilders live off canned tuna. In fact, I knew a guy who mixed a can of tuna into his cereal every morning; not really my idea of a tasty start to the day.
MILK/DAIRY: ‘Skim’ or ‘fat-free’ milk is another good source of quality protein and can be consumed as is (think homemade smoothies or your breakfast cereal) or in many dairy foods. You have to be careful about which dairy products you choose, but there are always options for those on a diet. You can eat fat-free versions of your favorite yogurts, ice cream (watch out for other ingredients), cheeses (cottage cheese is always highly recommended), and more.
SOY: The vegetarians among you will no doubt be aware of the protein content of soy products. Soybeans are legumes and contain a good portion of protein. Soybeans are used to make soy milk, tofu, and many meat substitutes, many of which taste just like the real thing. This not only helps vegetarian bodybuilders, but also people with a lower tolerance for dairy.
AND…: There are many other protein-rich foods such as nuts (good for vegetarians), legumes (another good source for vegetarians), grains, etc. Take some time to research other foods on the internet – there is a wealth of information on websites, forums, newsletters, etc.
Is protein all a bodybuilder needs?
No. Protein, while a vital part of a bodybuilder’s diet, is not the be all and end all. Bodybuilders also need energy to physically perform their exercises and this comes mainly from carbohydrates, or more specifically, complex carbohydrates. This is a topic for another article, so please watch this space. You need both a higher protein intake to “rebuild” your muscle and the appropriate complex carbohydrates to fuel your workouts.
Now go ahead and make a quality protein shopping list and then hit the grocery store!