How many calories do bodybuilders eat?

There is no denying it, nutrition is everything. We are what we eat, right? How many times have we all heard that the abs are made in the kitchen, and not in the gym? Nutrition is paramount for the way you look, but it doesn’t necessarily have to as complicated as people would have you believe. Stay tuned and find out just how much, what and when you should eat, in order to achieve your goals.

Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all kind of answer here, and it is ultimately going to revolve around what you want to accomplish, and where you are right now. It makes a world of difference whether you are a hardgainer struggling to add some bulk to the frame, or you are broad-shouldered hunk trying to get rid of the love handles without losing too much muscle. Either case, I’ve got you covered.

The constitution confusion

Dwayne Johnson's diet planPeople love to talk about different diets, eating fads, and the groundbreaking regimes that helped (insert name of celebrity here) get in the shape of their life for the role in the latest action movie. Don’t get me wrong, I look up to those people as well, I live by the words of some of them, but I would never follow Dwayne Johnson’s diet plan. Why? Well, I am not Dwayne Johnson! I admire the guy, certainly, but I don’t have the same energy needs that he does.

And that’s where we reach the sciency stuff. No, no, no! Don’t go! I was just kidding. What I wanted to say is that the question of putting on weight (or losing it, for that matter) is one that’s the easiest to answer. The laws of thermodynamics are clear and absolute: Food is energy. You spend energy during your day. If you spend more than you take in, you will lose weight, and vice versa – If you want to put on weight, you have to be in a caloric surplus.

The more – the better! Think again.

That means I just have to eat more food, right? Well, yes and no. For the Average Joe, the maintenance energy needs would come up to about 2000/2500kcal, but we are not striving to be just average now, are we? We want to thrive, and get from our bodies what they are not ready to give us voluntarily. You can find an abundance of online calorie calculators nowadays, but you can also do it old-school and use a simple formula that says – Kcal per day = your weight in pounds x 16.

But, there is a caveat here as well. It takes time. And more is not always better, trust me. It doesn’t really matter if you are trying to size up or get lean, the rule still applies – 300-400Kcal over or under your maintenance level is the sweet spot.

diet for bodybuildersAny nutrition plan that advises you to go over that limit (or under it, if you are cutting) is doing you a disfavor. Imagine that your muscle is a wall, and amino acids and protein are bricks. Well, those poor little workers can only build as fast. In other words, it is possible to gain up to 23 pounds of muscle in a year (and that research was done on professional athletes). Everything else is getting you fat. Bigger, yes, but fat nonetheless.

The same goes for losing weight. If you try to deprive your body of too many calories at once, it will go into survival mode. Yes, your weight will plummet rapidly, but your metabolism will slow down to a crawl, and you will hit a wall pretty quickly. To add insult to injury, when you start eating normally again, there is a good chance for you to gain more weight from what you’ve started with, as your metabolism is now trying to hold on to as much fat (energy) as possible, as you got it thinking you were in Sahara with no food in sight. In the words of Tony Stark: “Not a great plan.”

4 commandments

So, what’s the plan then? Basically, like I’ve told you, there is no universal truth. There is no “42” type of answer when it comes to building muscle, but there are some general guidelines that can benefit every lifter in the world:

  • Quality over quantity. Choose nutrient-dense foods instead of the obvious junk. Whenever possible, opt for a high quality protein and complex carbohydrates (except after workouts, then anything goes). Also, never listen to anyone that tells you to avoid fats (but again, go for the healthy kind – nuts, olive oil and fish).
  • Carbs are your friends! I can already hear Keto-enthusiasts sharpening their knives in the distance, but I am a firm believer that there is no need to deprive your body of their natural source of energy. Yes, protein makes the muscle bigger, and you should get enough of it, but you can freely double that number in carbs. You can’t get bigger without lifting, and you can’t really lift without energy, right?
  • Water and rest are everything! Your muscles are mostly water, but so is your brain! So, grab a bottle, and drink up, and you will be on the right track to getting bigger (and healthier) in the long run. Also, you can’t overlook the fact that our body is producing the growth hormone optimally only when we are sleeping enough, so you’d better get your 7-8 hours every day.
  • Consistency above all! Rome wasn’t built in a day. And if there were bodybuilders in ancient Rome, be sure that they were built in a day, either. Give yourself time, and you will get bigger, but most importantly, you will do it the right way.

Where does this leave us?

There are two kinds of people you should steer clear of. One will say that they have some sort of a magic pill (be it an actual pill, or a special diet or a workout plan) that will get you huge in no time. The other one will say that all of this is terribly complicated, and you can’t do it alone. I have nothing but respect for personal trainers, but if you can’t afford one, don’t let that be an excuse. Give it a go on your own, and you will surely see progress. It’s not easy, but it is simple. And worth it.

About the Author Dumbbellsgeek

Hey! My name is Paul Sheldon. I live in Nashville, TN and I love all things related to sports. Naturally I love workking out and I do it every day. If you want to talk feel freee to hit me a message or if you happen to be in Nashville we can get a coffee, I know a great place. Peace!