The goal of any bodybuilder, whether pro or recreational, is to build lean muscle while cutting fat, or at least keeping body fat minimal. And the only way to achieve this is through nutrition.
You can kill the weights in the gym but if you’re not providing your body with the proper nutrients (and amounts!) needed for energy and recovery, you’re not going to make gains. And you’ll more than likely get fat – I’ll tell you why this happens later.
The nutrition requirements for someone who trains hard and consistently are much different than a normal person, which is the majority of the population.
That said, there are a lot of diet trends and fads floating around out there. Some of these may work for normal people (although some are just outright crap)…
But somehow many of these trends have made their way into the bodybuilding world. You have thousands of ‘gurus’ who know nothing about building muscle telling you how to build muscle through some weird diet hack or trend.
Of course, every guru claims the nutrition method they follow is backed by science. The funny thing is many of the methods out there (that are backed by science) contradict one another!
And that’s exactly why I’m clearing the air with this post. You’re going to get 5 bodybuilding diet mistakes and myths and what you need to do to stay on the right path so that you can build muscle.
***To reiterate, this is for bodybuilders, not normal people who don’t train consistently!
Mistake 1 – Not Eating Before Your Workouts
Decades ago someone started a trend of doing fasted cardio in the morning. That trend led some to train with weights first thing in the morning on an empty stomach.
The idea is that you’ll burn more fat when training on an empty stomach. And it makes sense on the surface. Besides, you’re going to replenish your body and muscles with a hefty post-workout meal, right?
And it’s convenient. Wake up early, chug a glass of water and your pre-workout, and head to the gym.
Why Training on an Empty Stomach Limits Your Muscles Gains
- The problem with working out on an empty stomach is that it can put your body into a catabolic state. This means your body is breaking down protein, which can cause you to lose muscle.
- Secondly, you’re not going to have the energy to train properly because there’s nothing to use for energy.
Dr. Darryn Willoughby goes into detail of why fasted training doesn’t work for bodybuilders in the video below:
Mistake 2 – Fasting (and Intermittent Fasting)
Now, here’s where many gurus will attack!
Everyone and their uncle are on the intermittent fasting kick. As you would expect, it’s backed by loads of science and research.
The truth is fasting and intermittent fasting can work great for many, especially when it comes to weight loss. It’s also a great plan for super-busy people who don’t have the luxury of eating several meals per day.
There are some other benefits as well. Some studies show that this gives your body a better chance to repair itself (but remember that you’re ‘intermittently fasting’ when you’re sleeping, too!).
Again, intermittent fasting and time-restricted eating does have it’s benefits.
Why Fasting Doesn’t Work for Serious Bodybuilders
However, intermittent fasting is probably not the best approach for bodybuilding. Why?
Because when you’re not eating consistently, your body is going to feed on muscle tissue first. And it’s going to store fat as reserves while you’re fasting.
Now, if you’re just a regular person who wants to workout and look decent, perhaps you can try fasting techniques.
But if you’re serious about gaining substantial muscle and burning fat, stick to the typical bodybuilder diet of eating every 2-3 waking hours.
Dr. Layne Norton talks more about the truths of intermittent fasting and debunks some of the outrageous claims of intermittent fasting in the video below:
Mistake 3 – Not Eating Carbs
The first thing that probably comes to your mind is:
“What about keto, bro?”
The fact is, the ketogenic diet can work wonders for many people.
For this to happen, you need to eat a higher ratio of fats, moderate protein, and extremely low carbohydrates (it’s almost impossible to get ‘0’ carbohydrates).
In short, the goal with ‘keto’ is to force your body to produce ketones, which are made in your liver and used for energy when glucose is not available, per WebMD.
The benefits of getting your body into ketosis are endless. There’s everything from reducing the risk of diseases to giving you more mental clarity. And many claim to have more energy on keto.
Technically, we don’t need carbohydrates as long as we’re eating plenty of health fats and protein.
Why the Majority of Professional Bodybuilders Eat Carbs
However, many pro bodybuilders still maintain a decent amount of carbs in their diet. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy, according to the Blackmores article Facts on Carbohydrates.
Carbs are ideal for bodybuilders for:
- Getting that pump in the gym when you’re working out.
- Absorbing nutrients and even supplements like creatine and amino acids.
- Replenishing glycogen levels after training.
Dave Bourlet explains why eliminating carbohydrates may not be the best approach for those wanting to gain muscle mass on the Jay Cutler TV YouTube channel:
Mistake 4 – As Long As You Get Your Macros that Day
There’s a trend out there that says ‘as long as you get your macros in, you’re fine.’
This group believes that it doesn’t matter when or how often you eat, as long as you’re hitting your daily macronutrient requirements.
The concept is that your body needs a certain quantity of protein, carbohydrates, and fats to build muscle and burn fat. So instead of eating several times a day, why not just eat once or twice a day to get your macros (aka intermittent fasting)?
Here’s the problem…
Why This Is Not the Proper Approach for Bodybuilding
Your goal as a bodybuilder is to feed your body an appropriate amount of food that it can utilize.
If you scarf down your entire daily requirements in one meal or been split it into two meals, your body cannot use those nutrients efficiently.
Pro bodybuilder, actor, and model Mike O’Hearn breaks this down perfectly in the video below:
Mistake 5 – Reducing Calories As You Age
Naturally, many think that they need to eat less as they get older. They feel like if they eat now the way they did in their 20’s, they’ll get fat.
This might make sense…for normal people. Especially for those who were in the gym in their 20s but practically inactive now.
Another thing is that many didn’t eat healthy in their younger days, even if they were training hard. Some people can seemingly eat whatever they want when they’re young and get away with it. But when you get older, those bad habits can catch up to you and be difficult to change.
So it’s not so much that you need to reduce calories. It’s that you need to change what you’re eating. If you continue training hard as you get older, your body still needs those nutrients, which leads us to…
Why You Shouldn’t Necessarily Eat Less When You Get Older As a Bodybuilder
Regardless of age, your body still needs adequate portions of food to gain or even maintain muscle mass. If those calories are reduced, you risk losing muscle.
Not to mention you may also be preventing your body from getting proper recovery, energy levels, and overall health if you’re not eating enough quality calories while training hard.
Mike O’Hearn gives you a full day of eating in this video below. And at the time of this video, Mike was in his early 50’s!
The Most Sensible Bodybuilding Nutrition Guide
I want to revert back to the point I made throughout this post. These nutrition tips are intended for bodybuilders, NOT average people that don’t train hard on a regular basis.
There’s a lot of confusion out there with all of the trendy diets and so-called nutrition hacks. And although everything the days claims to be ‘backed by science’ many of these concepts contradict one another.
First, the best meal plan you can be on is one that works for you
Secondly, you don’t have to overcomplicate things. Just choose a sensible and sustainable bodybuilding meal plan that utilizes all of the macronutrients and nutrient timing to build muscle.
Lastly, if you want simplicity and sustainability in your nutrition, pick up your copy of my Sensible Muscle Building Meal Plan below. I wrote this book for you to help clear things up about nutrition and building muscle.
I hope this article helps you simplify your nutrition and focus on eating for muscle gains!
Train (and eat!) with Passion,