Over my past ten years of bodybuilding I have always enjoyed working out. I could never understand people when they said they didn't enjoy training. I love the psyching up pre-workout to reach new heights in strength and intensity, followed by the satisfaction of achieving training goals. However, I can understand it when people say that they don't enjoy eating healthy all the time.
In today's quick fix society everybody wants things done fast and people don't like wasting their limited time. This combined with the overwhelming amount of fast-food restaurants is causing a massive dent in the general public's level of health. People grab a fast bite to eat on the way home from work to save time purchasing and cooking a healthy alternative. Luckily, we as health enthusiasts are more informed with regards to the consequences of following such an unhealthy lifestyle. But, this does not mean we are totally immune to the urges of eating junk food. This article is not just based at bodybuilder pre-contest, as the off-season diet can be just as challenging.
Eating a good quality, high protein meals and resisting junk food when you are 'bulking up' can be incredibly hard. However, it is necessary if you want to look like a bodybuilder year round rather than just when competing. With this in mind I have written a ten-step guide to eating clean consistently in order to get the most out of your bodybuilding endeavors.
Eating For Performance Over Pleasure
Taking your physique to the next level means eating for optimal performance, recovery and growth. I always notice a huge difference to my training capabilities and ability to increase strength if I have been eating a good, clean bodybuilding diet. After supplying my body with the fuel it needs to run at it's optimum level I feel fully charged, focused and bursting with energy to make that workout really count.
However, I have also felt the reverse (especially while at college) feeling lethargic and no strength as a result of following a poor diet. This experience motivates me to stay on track with my diet plan as I hate not performing my best in the gym. Especially when it has been a result of eating for pleasure i.e. useless junk food. Sure, it is ok to have one cheat meal a week, the problems occur when this becomes a frequent habit. Eating shit all day and then going to the gym only results in a shit workout!
Develop An Effective Eating Plan And Know What You Need To Eat Every Day
After you have established what your training and physique goals are, whether it be increase muscle size or lose body fat, it is then important to develop a nutritional plan that is going to make your goals a reality. There are many great articles on bodybuilding.com as to what you should eat in terms of the amount of protein, carbs and quality fats and also the total amount of calories you should be taking in depending on your needs (building or cutting up).
When you've determined your nutritional needs its then important to create an effective eating plan based around your lifestyle and how you intend on fitting your healthy eating around your work or college schedule. Plan it out of paper with the various meal timings and what you intend to eat throughout the day. Carry this plan around with you so you can constantly refer to it to keeping yourself on track. After a while the meal timing will become second nature. Also, it is important to plan for any obstacles that might occur and mess up your plan. Always having a protein bar, meal replacements or even fruit available will help you compensate for any shortcomings that might challenge your eating plan.
Recording Your Diet Daily And Calculating Your Nutrient Intakes
Every day record your diet and the timing of your meals. At the end of the day calculate you nutrient intake for the day. This will allow you to know if you are accomplishing you targeted meal plans or not. It can also be invaluable in analyzing your current progression. If you're not getting progressively stronger or bigger changing your routine shouldn't be the first steps taken, rather you should look at your food intake and see if there are areas in which you can improve. Often, what people plan on eating daily and what they actually do consume can be completely different. Even though this practice of calculating your daily intake can be time consuming it is well worth when you start progressing towards your goals.
Keep A Daily Diet Checklist
I have found keeping a daily diet checklist invaluable. In this checklist I write down my nutritional requirements such as; eating at least 300g of protein a day, drinking at least 1 gallon of water a day, taking in two tablespoons of flax seed oil per day, perfectly following the post-workout supplement and meal plans every training day, not eating any cheat food all day, consistently recording my diet every day.
I have devised a chart which I use it allows my to tick or cross a box related to one of these tasks above. I strive to get a complete day worth of ticks meaning that I have achieved my diet goals. However, I'm also honest and will cross them when I have not lived up to my plans. This daily reminder keeps me on track and motivated to eat like a bodybuilder consistently.
Look For New Exciting Meal Plans For Diversity
Eating healthy doesn't have to be boring. Many people like to just keep it simple and stay to just chicken breasts and rice. That's fine if you can do that, but another alternative is too seek out tasty and healthy bodybuilding meals. You can be inventive. Use spices when you cook to give your food a added kick, use a wide variety of vegetables and create different salads. In a great book called 'Sliced' author Negrita Jayde has pages packed with enticing meals.
With a bit of imagination, trial and error you can develop a whole range of great tasting meals which not only help you achieve you goals but also assists in preventing the temptation for junk food. I have different meal plans for every day of the week, so that I'm not eating the same dish more than twice a week. This really helps in preventing boredom and keeping me consistent.
Never Go Longer Than 3 Hours Without A Healthy Meal
It is important to keep your body in an anabolic state and if you're not feeding your body regularly it will go into a catabolic state and begin eating muscle for fuel. This is the last thing that any bodybuilder wants so always have food at hand. I try to eat at least every 2 hours. This doesn't always have to be solid food, but could be a meal replacement or a protein drink with some fruit. As long as you're giving your body fuel to work with you'll be fine. Also, by eating frequently you help prevent cravings for junk food, as when you get too hungry you can end-up desiring fast food to satisfy your hunger.
Devising Alternatives To 'Cheat' Meals
When it comes to your cheat meal, or even cheat day it can be very easy after a long week of healthy eating to go overboard and eat everything you desire and consume loads of useless calories. A good way to avoid this type of excessive bingeing is to devise some good alternatives to cheat meals. For example, a Pizza Hut pizza with loads of toppings can quickly add up to well over 1000 - 1500 calories and about 100grams of fat.
Now that's a lot for the body to deal with and although it might taste good at the time you generally feel sluggish and lethargic afterwards, especially as most people will eat this meal at night and let it sit on their stomachs as they sleep. A good alternative is to make your own pizza. In the supermarkets you can buy the base, then add fat free pasta sauce to it along with chicken, fat free ham and fat free cheese. It can end up tasting pretty good with less then half the calories and fat than the fast food choice.
When it comes to good old' cheeseburgers and fries, again, rather than just heading for the golden arches get some lean beef patties from the supermarket, some whole wheat buns, fat free cheese and steak fries (which have much less fat in them compared to the shoestring variety). You'll still feel like you're having a cheat meal just without the same uncomfortable feelings of being bloated after. You can experiment with your different preferences of cheat meals to create a better choice than the quick-fix fast food offering.
Keep Your Physique And Diet Goals Visible
Always have your goals in sight. Put them on the fridge, on your desk at work or in your car. Just so that you are constantly reminded what you really want to achieve. This will help keep yourself focused and help curtail any urges that might creep in to spoil your healthy eating day. Whenever you feel weak mentally and just want to pig-out on junk food visualize how you want to look and you'll soon come back in line with your diet plans. The thought of having a great physique that you're proud of sure outweighs the short-lived enjoyment of junk food.
Get A Strong Support Team Who Keeps An Eye On You
Although bodybuilding is a individual sport we all need a good strong support team who will help us through the mentally and physically tough times. By including your family and friends with your journey they will soon become apart of it. They will be there to stop you when you feel like eating un-planned junk meals, and if they're really great they might even make some nutritious bodybuilding meals for you! Moms in particular can be good at that. So make you quest for physique improvement a team situation and you'll feel much better for it.
Become A Mentor To Someone Else Wanting To Eat Clean
Another great way to keep yourself on track is to become a mentor to someone else close to you who wants help improving his or her body. Firstly, they will turn to you as they will view you as a trusted source of information and advice on how to achieve their goals. Then furthermore you will become a role model to them. They see you being strict with your diet and training and achieving great results and they want to do the same. In this situation, being a role model makes you more accountable for your actions as you want to set an example to them that through hard work and discipline they can attain their physique dreams. It is always harder to let someone else down who is counting on you for guidance and motivation, than it is just to let yourself down. Furthermore, you'll feel great by actually making a difference in someone else's quality of life.
I hope that these 10 strategies will help you with maintaining your healthy bodybuilding diet.