Bodybuilding Nutrition Simplified

Eating for fat loss & muscle gain doesn’t have to be so hard.

You know nutrition is important for getting in shape. But knowing what to eat is confusing because the internet is overloaded with conflicting opinions. So how are you supposed to make sense of it all?

The solution is to get back to the basics. Bodybuilding nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated! And you don’t have to go to extremes to get the amazing body you want.

In this straight forward guide, I’m going to teach you the fundamentals of nutrition in easy to understand language. And give you a practical framework that you can start using today.

Bodybuilding Nutrition Basics:

  • The Simple 4 Part Bodybuilding Nutrition Framework

  • How to Prioritize Different Aspects of Your Diet

  • Applying the Framework to Your Daily Routine

The Simple Bodybuilding Nutrition Framework

Dieting for fat loss and muscle gain boils down to 4 fundamental concepts:

1. Calorie Balance
2. Food Choices
3. Macronuritient Ratio
4. Meal Timing

Before we go into more detail, let me explain the order of importance of each aspect of nutrition.

How to Prioritize Different Aspects of Your Diet

Each piece of the framework plays a role in your health and fitness, but they’re not equal. In order to understand their relative importance, I created this simple chart.

bodybuilding nutrition simplified

When you assign a relative weight to each of the 4 pieces it makes them easier to prioritize.

Another visual aid is called a priority matrix. This helps you compare the relative “return on investment” so you can figure out what to work on.

bodybuilding nutrition simplified

Proper calorie balance is easy to implement and has a big payoff. That means it’s low hanging fruit and it should be a top priority.

Similarly, making good food choices is easy to implement with a medium payoff. Another good thing to prioritize.

Whereas macros and meal timing are harder to implement and have a smaller payoff. So they’re a lower priority.

Now on those days where you can’t be on point with your diet, you can focus on the important things first.

If You Only Do 1 Thing For Your Diet…

Energy balance is the difference between the amount of calories you burn and the amount of calories you consume. And it’s the most important factor in reaching your fitness goals.

If you’re having a hectic day and can only do one thing to stick to your diet, hit your calorie target.

When you consistently eat more calories than you burn, you gain weight. And when you consistently eat less calories than you burn, you lose weight.

The idea of calories in vs calories out is easy to understand. But if it’s so simple, why don’t more people succeed?

The reason is that most people don’t know how many calories they should eat each day. And if they do, they’re not tracking calories and actually eating too much or too little.

Furthermore, figuring out how much you should eat can be tricky because it depends on several factors. Including your current body composition and eating habits. As well as your activity level and fitness goals.

Find Your Ideal Calorie Target

Once you know your daily calorie balance, half the battle of reaching your goal is consistently hitting your target.

How to Get 80% of the Results With 20% of the Effort

The 80:20 rule is about focusing on the few things that get the most results. In your diet this is calories and food choices.

When it comes to food, quality is nearly as important as quantity. The saying “garbage in – garbage out” applies to diet like anything else.

But why are food choices so important? The short answer is that healthy foods contain more nutrients and fewer harmful substances.

For example, grass-fed beef has more healthy antioxidants with fewer inflammatory fats than grain-fed beef1.

In addition, certain plant foods contain antinutrients that block the absorption of other nutrients. And can lead to health and digestive issues.

The solution is to eat a balanced diet of primarily whole foods with as few artificial substances as possible.

After all, you are what you eat… and what you ate – eats. But eating healthy foods is too expensive, right?

Well, not in terms of nutrients per dollar. Or the amount of toxins you avoid. Instead, think of it as an investment in your health and fitness.

Making healthy food choices is the easiest thing you can do to improve your diet. But it can still be hard to navigate the thousands of products at the grocery store. So click the link below to get more tips on what to look for.

16 Foods to Add to Your Healthy Grocery List

Macros Matter, But They Don’t Get Results On Their Own

Like a hybrid car, your body runs on multiple energy sources. Macros are like the ratio of gas to electric.

Carbs are the gasoline that give you immediate power for muscle building. While fat is the electricity that reduces waste and promotes a lean body.

Clearly the source of energy can change your performance and results. But ultimately, the total amount of energy matters more than the source of energy.

Obviously, you can’t expect to lose weight on a low carb diet if you consistently overshoot your calorie target! It’s also important to realize there is no magic macronutrient ratio that’s right for everyone all the time.

Macros should change with your body composition, energy expenditure, and fitness goals.

So what should your macros be?

First, protein intake needs to be higher on a bodybuilding nutrition plan. Protein is less like a fuel source and more like the oil. It’s vital for peak performance.

Second, fat intake fluctuates depending on your energy needs and your goal. For weight loss or on non-training days fat is proportionately higher than carbs.

Lastly, carb intake depends on your energy demand, your goal, and your current body composition. In general, carbs are higher for those fueling intense training with the goal of gaining muscle.

Find Your Personal Macro Targets

Meal Timing is a Sliding Scale, Not a Fixed Schedule

Resistance training is a vital part of a bodybuilding nutrition plan. And integrating your nutrition with your training schedule is the final piece of the nutrition framework.

As with macros, there are many schools of thought on when you should eat in relation to your workout. In the grand scheme, it really doesn’t matter that much. And your solution can change based on your needs.

What matters is that your meals are distributed around your workout in alignment with your current fitness level and your goals.

When muscle gain is the primary goal, more carbs and calories around the workout are beneficial. For fat loss, fewer carbs and a shorter feeding window work best.

bodybuilding nutrition am workoutbodybuilding nutrition pm workout

Chart for illustration purposes only. Your calories and meal times will vary.

When it comes to bodybuilding nutrition, simple is often better. Make sure you eat the right amount of good foods. And adjust your macros and meal times to fit your goals. It doesn’t need to be more complicated than that!

Bodybuilding Nutrition Bottom Line

  • Prioritize calorie balance and food choices

  • Eat whole foods with minimal artificial substances

  • Slide macros and meal times with your fitness goals

  • Keep it simple!

About the Author

Jeremy Fox  –  Founder of Nutritioneering, Engineer, CPT, Bodybuilder, Coach

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