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Simple Bodybuilding Meal Plan for Quality Muscle Gains

January 29, 2015

If you’re confused by all the new muscle building diets and just looking for a simple and basic bodybuilding meal plan that works, you’ve come to the right place.

In fact, I’m going to give you my personal meal plan that I follow (at least most of the time!). It’s easy-to-follow and there’s nothing really special about it.

FIRST, there are 2 things I want you to do…

  1. Forget about those trendy so-called bodybuilding diets that are shoved down our throats (literally!) in all the internet ads we see.
  2. And forget what all the ‘gurus’ and social media fitness experts are telling you to eat.


What I’m going to share with you will simply help you create your own bodybuilding meal plan that caters to your physique and goals.

What Kind of Meal Plan Do Real Bodybuilders Follow? 

What Kind of Meal Plan Do Pro Bodybuilders Follow?

You may not be a pro bodybuilder (and I’m far from one!). But you train hard and want to eat like a bodybuilder.

Whether you’re elite, compete or not, or just getting started, gaining muscle is your goal. And eating is a ‘huge’ part of attaining that goal.

If we rewind back to the 1970s, Arnold Schwarzenegger ate about 5 high protein meals a day. His diet consisted of mostly meats, eggs, and vegetables according to BroScience’s article ‘Arnold Schwarzenegger Diet and Workout Plan In The 70’s’ on broscience.com.

Here’s what happened after that Golden Era…

  • About a decade or so later, pro bodybuilders started eating more carbohydrates.
  • High protein was still the core of their diet, but they would also eat carb sources like rice, potatoes, and oatmeal.
  • Because carbs were increased, dietary fat was naturally decreased.

In fact, Tom Platz reveals how upping his carbs to 300 grams per day for the 1980 Mr. Olympia got him in the best condition he had ever been in, per the article ‘Old School Bodybuilding Diet’ on oldschoollabs.com

Modern Day Bodybuilding Eating Habits Haven’t Changed Much

Fast-forward into the 1990s and 2000s and that trend had continued with the greats like Dorian Yates, Ronnie Coleman, Jay Cutler, and Phil Heath.

In fact, the article ‘Phil Heath Goes Into Depth On His Olympia Diet Secrets’ on generationiron.com, you’ll see Phil’s diet strategy, which is high protein and a decent amount of carbs.

So a simple bodybuilding meal consists of…

  • High protein
  • Moderate complex carbs (some sugars post-workout)
  • Some healthy fats (overall fats are low)

You could stop there and experience some great results if you’re training hard and getting enough rest!

Eating to build quality muscle mass isn’t complicated. It also doesn’t have to be super strict either. In fact, once you finish this post, read my new Flexible Meal Plans for Mass Gains.

Things You Should Know About This Meal Plan

simple bodybuilding diet

You may notice that my meal plan below looks like a typical modern-day bodybuilder diet. For the most part, it is. But with a few personalized modifications, which you may like more.

There are 3 things you should know about my simple bodybuilding meal plan:

  1. No, this is NOT Keto, Paleo, or Whatever-O (so many trendy diets). Rather, it’s based on a balance of macronutrients and basic muscle-building foods.
  2. This is not a super strict meal plan. But it is super simple! You will see several cheat meals, but they are planned and timed in conjunction with my workouts and personal goals.
  3. As I mentioned, use this as a guide to creating your own bodybuilding meal plan. I’m not claiming this is the best way to eat, right or wrong. It’s simply what I do and what has worked best for me.

You may find it works awesome for you…or not. It’s ok, my feelings will not be hurt!

Simple Meal Plan for Bodybuilders

simple bodybuilding meal plan for bodybuilders

This is the bodybuilding meal plan I follow during the week, Monday through Friday. We will sometimes more relaxed meal (buffet) about every other Wednesday for dinner. 

**I will also give you an example of my weekend meal plan after this. 

Bodybuilding Meal 1

6:45 AM (post-workout shake)

  • 1.5 – 2 scoops of whey protein powder
  • 8 ounces of almond milk
  • 1 banana
  • 1/3 cup of frozen blueberries
  • 10 grams of creatine monohydrate

Bodybuilding Meal 2

7:45 AM

  • 3 whole eggs (free-range)
  • 1 serving of grits
  • 1 serving of organic oatmeal
  • 1/3 cup of blueberries (I put these in my oatmeal)
  • coffee

Bodybuilding Meal 3

11:30 AM

  • 6-8 ounces of beef or chicken
  • 1-1.5 servings of rice or whole wheat pasta
  • some green veggies or beans

Bodybuilding Meal 4

3:30 PM (I sometimes skip this meal…just being honest! Don’t skip it!)

  • Greek yogurt or 1 scoop of whey protein
  • apple or banana

Bodybuilding Meal 5

6:30 PM

  • Steak, beef, or chicken
  • Rice or sweet potato or red potatoes
  • veggies

Bodybuilding Meal 6

9:00 PM

  • Whey protein
  • 1/2 serving of natural peanut butter
  • Sleepy Time tea

*I have an entire post for muscle mass building meal plans, both purpose, and calorie-specific in this post: Meal Plans for Mass and Strength Gains

How To Keep Your Meal Plan Simple

how to keep your bodybuilding meal plan simple

As you can see, meals 3 and 5 have multiple choices. You can only eat the same thing for so long, so it’s good to switch up the types of meats and carb sources every day or so. 

Here’s how to keep your bodybuilding meal plan simple; just choose a food from each source below:

  • Quality protein source
  • Complex carbohydrate source

If you stick with that, you’ll get the healthy fats in there as well, especially with meat. The same goes for meal 2 above, which consists of eggs and oatmeal. And eat whole eggs…do not waste the yolks! That’s the best part! 

I’ll also freely admit that I occassionally have a small bowl of cereal after dinner (meal #5). Usually Cocoa Pebbles.

I do not recommend that you do this!

Should You Have a Pre Workout Meal?

pre workout meal

You may have noticed my first meal of the day is my post-workout meal (protein shake). So you’re probably wondering why I did not list a pre-workout meal.

Since I train in the early mornings (waking up around 4:10 AM), I don’t eat any solid food before the gym. I’ve tried this before, but it just doesn’t work out well for me.

*You can also check out my bodybuilding workouts in this post: 9 Bodybuilding Workouts for Mass Gains 

Early Morning Workouts: Pre Workout Options

I go through phases with my pre-workout methods, and here’s what I’ve rotated over the years:

  • Option 1: 1 scoop of whey protein with pre-workout energy drink
  • Option 2: BCAAs with a pre-workout energy drink
  • Option 3: Just a pre-workout energy drink

All of those options have worked quite well. At the current time, I’m doing option 3. 

Weekend Meal Plan for Bodybuilders

pizza cheat meals high carb meal

Now it’s time for the fun meals we all look forward to!

Here are the major differences between my during the week meal plan and what I eat on the weekends.

  • Fewer meals per day on weekends
  • The weekend meals are typically more calories per meal
  • May have a dessert
  • Will usually enjoy a few craft beers

Favorite Weekend (Cheat) Meals

crepes bodybuilding dessert

Now I’m going to share some of my favorite cheat meals with you. Not all of these are unhealthy meals. In fact, the first one is a true bodybuilder meal (without the last part). 

  • Churrasco steak with chimichurri sauce and plantains (there’s a local place in Ybor we love called El Puerto…the absolute best churrasco steak!) – a lot of protein, but also some fat and carbs since I eat my fair share of plantains with this meal!
  • Pizza (our favorite is Sally Oneal’s pizza in South Tampa)
  • Crepes (one of our favorite dessert spots is La Creperia in Ybor City)
  • Thai food (not necessarily unhealthy, but I usually load up on food!)

Why Bodybuilders Should Avoid ‘Dieting’

One special note before we dive into the bodybuilding meals, I’m asking you to mentally replace the word diet with nutrition

You see, dieting and bodybuilding do not mix. Here’s why…

  • We subconsciously associate the term diet with boring, bland foods with no taste.
  • We also automatically think of restricting calories and in some cases, practically starving ourselves. 

That’s not healthy, nor will it help you build muscle.

Nutrition means eating foods that provide your body, and muscles, with the proper nutrients to…

  • function
  • recover
  • grow

How to Stick to Your Bodybuilding Meal Plan

deadlifts 405

This may or may not be the perfect bodybuilding meal plan. But it is a realistic meal plan to follow. And realistic is what will work as opposed trying to follow an unrealistic plan that you know you’ll drop after 2 days. 

That’s what you have to ask yourself when you’re creating your own meal plan. Is this something that you’re going to truly stick with? Is it sustainable?

On that note, make sure you leave yourself some room for the foods you enjoy. If you don’t, you’re more apt to fail. 

My personal rules are:

  • Be somewhat strict during the week with 6 balanced meals per day
  • Relax a little on the weekends with your nutrition
  • If your physique can afford it, throw in a mid-week cheat meal
  • Be honest with yourself, and adjust your meal plan accordingly

As far as trendy diets, eh, don’t bother with them. Those will always come and go, and there’s no magic diet that’s going to give you overnight results.

Rather, just be sensible with your nutrition plan

Stick with a balanced diet high in protein, with healthy fats, and quality sources of carbs. You’ll have to play around with the amounts of each, as well as different types of foods, to see what your body responds to best.

And in the end, what will truly work is creating a bodybuilding meal plan that fits you!

Leave me a comment below and let me know if this helped you, and let me know what works best for you! 

The Perfect Bodybuilding Recipe Book

Now that you have my personal bodybuilding meal plan, you want to create your own! But the problem is ‘What do I cook? How do I know what to prepare?

Anabolic Cooking is my absolute go-to for bodybuilding meals and recipes. They’re easy to follow, prep, and cook, and the meals cater to us bodybuilders!

Definitely check that out, and I hope you enjoyed reading this meal plan. Remember to keep it simple!

Train (and eat) with Passion,


About the author

Jason Stallworth

Hi, I'm Jason Stallworth and I created The Muscle Program in 2010 for the purpose of helping you build muscle. I know first-hand how weight training and being in the gym has shaped my life in more way than one. And here is where I share that experience with you so that you can continue pushing yourself and becoming the best version of yourself each day!