Essential Nutrition Tips for Bodybuilding Beginners

Essential Nutrition Tips for Bodybuilding Beginners

One of the most critical aspects of bodybuilding is proper nutrition. Most beginner bodybuilders either neglect essential nutrition or focus on diet guides and plans meant for the advanced bodybuilder.

Without the right nutrition, it’s hard to achieve the desired goals of bodybuilding.

This article serves to guide the beginner on the fundamentals of proper nutrition to help optimise the outcome of bodybuilding.

Before delving into the health tips, it’s important to note the following general points on bodybuilding:

  • Just like every other endeavour that would yield long-term benefits, bodybuilding requires time and dedication. The beginner must not be fooled into leaning on shortcuts, tricks, and hacks often offered by merchants in the industry.
  • There is no one-size-fits-all model for achieving desired results. It pays to set personalised targets, and have one's routines and diets tailored after one's body-build and personal preferences.
  • Always keep track of your progress. Adjust your workouts and nutrition when progress is not optimum or as expected.
  • Workouts alone are never enough. To build muscles, the relevant building blocks must be supplied to the body, and the hormonal environment must be supportive of growth.

With these foundations, we can now point out the basic aspects of nutrition that the beginners should concern themselves with.

To Build Mass, Energy Input Must Be More than Energy Output

If the muscles are ever going to grow, the rates at which building nutrients are supplied to them (anabolism) must be greater than the rates at which their structures are broken down (catabolism).

For example, if at a weight of 200 pounds, you expend an average of 2,000 calories of energy per day, then to build up the weight to 250 pounds, your total energy intake must exceed an average of 2,000 calories per day.

The proportions of the macronutrients, carbs, proteins, and fats that constitute the total energy requirement determine how effectively muscles are built and maintained.

Proteins are Extremely Important

Muscle structures are mostly made up of proteins. From time to time, these proteins are broken down and new ones formed.

Some of the amino acids that form the building blocks of these proteins may be made in the body using other materials. These are often referred to as the ‘nonessential' amino acids; whereas others must be gotten through the diet, the ‘essential' amino acids.

To build more muscle tissue, there is an increased requirement of dietary proteins generally.

In addition to their use in building new muscle fibres, proteins are necessary for repair of damaged fibres and are also relevant in the production and actions of the anabolic hormones.

An average daily intake of 0.8g of protein per kg body weight is recommended. [1] However, the exact figure is body mass-specific. For a 100kg bodybuilder or athlete, a recommendation per meal of 0.24-0.30g/kg works great. [2]

To facilitate absorption, it's best to spread the daily requirement over about six regular meals.

Natural sources such as meats and eggs are best. Meats are particularly rich in creatinine and carnitine, which are important components of muscles.

Taking proteins pre- and post-workout helps reduce and repair muscle damages inevitable with workouts.

Carbs are Essential

Carbohydrates are generally the major sources of energy for the body.

For amino acids to be linked up into proteins, energy is required. Hormones released through carbohydrate triggers also help to move amino acids into cells.

An average daily requirement of 3g of carbohydrates per pound bodyweight is fine. However, having carbohydrates provide 45 to 65% of the total daily energy requirements is ideal. [3]

The carbs should be gotten mainly from complex sources such as potatoes and wheat bread.

In the immediate post-workout period, however, rapidly digesting carbs are necessary to help replenish energy stores and forestall further breakdown of tissues that usually accompany heavy exercises. [4]

Pre-workout, a major diet rich in carbohydrates should be taken to help with energy requirements.

Don’t Be Scared to Eat Your Fats

Many people take on diets very low in fats so as not to increase body fat. The fact is, even the most experienced bodybuilders would be hard-pressed not to add some fat alongside the proteins.

Besides, fats are necessary to lubricate joints which helps to ease the workout process.

They're also required in the production of steroid hormones such as testosterone relevant for muscle growth.

Aim to get about 30% of your total daily energy requirements from fats.

Just like proteins and carbs, natural sources of fats are best. Avoid saturated fats as much as possible.

Water is Life

Over 60% of the total body weight is water. Increased water intake is required to add to the increasing muscle mass.

It is an important player in a lot of metabolic reactions in the body. It’s also necessary to increase intake to replace excessive losses, through sweating and other processes that accompany workouts.

It's recommended that bodybuilders drink around 400-800ml of water per hour during training. [5]

Foods that help you stay hydrated should also have a firm spot on your diet. A high percentage of these are fruits such as watermelons, strawberries, and cantaloupes which have a water content of 92%, 91%, and 90% respectively. [6]

Don't Rely Solely On Supplements

Supplements are the talk of the day amongst bodybuilders and a lot of diets are built on them.

Unfortunately, the best supplements can do is, as suggested by their name, to supplement the main nutrients that build the body.

Whenever possible, get your requirements from natural sources. Supplements should be reduced to the most important, such as multivitamins, minerals, protein powder, and some essential amino acids.

When You Eat Matters as Much as What You Eat

Appropriately timing when you eat helps optimise digestion and absorption of nutrients, ensuring they are available when needed the most.

It’s better to spread the daily requirements over many meals, with few major meals including the pre-workout meal.

Fast absorbing proteins and carbs are best taken immediately post-workout to quickly replenish energy stores, initiate the repair process, and release hormones that signal and support growth.

What You Don't Eat Matters Too

Part of proper nutrition involves reducing to the barest minimum diets that can impart negative outcomes on the bodybuilding process. These include but are not limited to excessive alcohol, refined sugars, salts, and trans fats.

There’s no perfect diet for the bodybuilder. The beginner must understand these fundamentals and work out a personalised plan using the recommendations given. Even as one advances, dietary modification continues to be necessary.


  1. Protein Intake – How Much Protein Should You Eat Per Day? Kris Gunnars, BSc. Healthline.,for%20the%20average%20sedentary%20man. Accessed: 22-01-2021.
  2. Recent Perspectives Regarding the Role of Dietary Protein for the Promotion of Muscle Hypertrophy with Resistance Exercise Training. Tanner Stokes, et al. NCBI. Accessed: 22-01-2021.
  3. What are My Calorie, Protein, Fat, & Carbohydrate Needs? Accessed: 22-01-2021.
  4. Nutrition for endurance sports: marathon, triathlon, and road cycling. Asker E. Jeukendrup. T and F Online. Accessed: 22-01-2021.
  5. How Much Water Should You Drink a Day In Bodybuilding? Drake T. Medium. Accessed: 22-01-2021.
  6. 19 Water-Rich Foods That Help You Stay Hydrated. Brianna Elliott, Rd. Healthline. Accessed: 22-01-2021.

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