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Grocery Shopping For The Bodybuilder!

After reading this article you should be able to determine with precision and accuracy the exact foods you ought to purchase and consume, and know the reason(s) you are purchasing and consuming them. Read on to learn more....

By: Clayton South

One element of the bodybuilding lifestyle that is vital to master is the science of food selection or grocery shopping. I use the term science when referring to food selection because if you have decided that bodybuilding is for you, the employment of precision in your shopping endeavors is a must.

In this publication I aim to discuss exactly how to construct a precise, effective, goal oriented grocery list. To achieve this goal it is necessary to discuss the relevant factors that will shape your shopping behavior. These factors are: Supply and Demand, the mathematics of eating, basal metabolic rate, body type, body mass, current training phase, food labels and the purpose of food. Also, to illustrate the principles presented here, you will see at the end of this article a sample shopping list.

After reading this article you should be able to determine with precision and accuracy the exact foods you ought to purchase and consume, and know the reason(s) you are purchasing and consuming them.

The Law Of Supply And Demand

A fundamental law of the bodybuilding lifestyle is the law of supply-and-demand. In the article Survival Strategies For The Traveling Bodybuilder! I wrote:

    "I want to stress here the importance of precise shopping for the bodybuilder. Everything in the world operates according to the principles of supply and demand. It is important to determine what demand your body places upon you. Put another way, if demand is nutritional requirements brought about by…training, the supply or grocery shopping must be tailored to match it….when shopping you should have a very specific idea of what you are buying and what you are not going to buy…."

When applied to bodybuilding endeavors, supply and demand is a law. Why? Put simply, the name reflects the causational relationship that exists between the two variables of TRAINING INTENSITY and NUTRITIONAL REQUIREMENT. The relationship appears mathematically as follows:


    X = Training intensity
    Y = Nutritional requirement


    X > Y

When training occurs, the body attempts to initiate the repair and restoration process. In order to repair micro-muscular tears in muscle tissue and replenish depleted glycogen stores, the body must look for the raw materials to begin the repair process.

Vitamins For Recovery And Repair!
Recovery and repair of tissues require a host of vitamins and minerals that participate in synthesis of new cells... Here is a list of those that have been shown to help. Read on to learn more...
[ Click here to learn more. ]

As illustrated above, by increasing or decreasing the work you put forth in the gym, you can increase the demand or decrease it, and thereby increase or decrease the quantity of food you require Thus, your grocery list will depend upon your training phase and style.

The Mathematics Of Eating

Make no mistake: Eating, like all things, operates according within the framework provided by mathematics. At least it does if you wish your body to appear as you desire, instead of it looking like some overweight, derelict physical accident. When constructing a grocery list you must consider the following:

  • Basal Metabolic Rate [BMR]
  • Body Type
  • Body Mass
  • Current training Phase

I will discuss each.

Basal Metabolic Rate - [BMR]

The rate of your metabolism is correlated to your age. With every passing decade the metabolism slows by 10%. This translates into a 1% decrease in metabolic rate per year. Therefore, as people age and fail to change eating habits, they often gain unwanted body fat. Somehow it never occurs to people that as their metabolism slows so too should their eating slow by a proportionate amount.

Calculating your basal metabolic rate [BMR] will allow you to determine with precision the amount of calories your body needs to maintain its current mass. Determining this will allow to you determine with certainty the food you require to compliment your training phase.

For example, are you trying to add mass? If so and if at rest you burn 2500 calories daily, then you will need to consume more than 2500 calories daily to facilitate the addition of mass to your frame. What if you are trying to lose bodyfat? Then you would eat less than 2500 calories per day to facilitate the fat-loss process.

Think of the BMR as a baseline that you must either eat below, at, or above depending on your phase of training.

Body Type

When constructing a grocery list you must first determine your body type. Three possible body types exist and they are presented in the chart below:

Endomorphic Slow metabolism
Easily adds mass
Easily adds bodyfat
Potential of catabolism due to metabolic rate, increased fat storage and higher estrogen levels.
Relatively lower testosterone levels
Increased potential of estrogenic symptoms resulting from ability to store fat easily
MesoMorphic Ideal metabolism
Easily adds mass
Low potential of estrogenic symptoms
Increased potential of androgenic symptoms
Relatively higher levels of testosterone and growth hormone
      EctoMorphic Fast metabolism
Has difficulty adding mass
High potential of catabolism due to metabolic rate

What Is Your Body Type?


It should be noted that most people are combination of two of the categories above. Put another way, not everyone will appear heavily-muscled nor will they appear emaciated and thin.

t-boneBody type is very important to consider when constructing an effective shopping list because when you understand how your body reacts to certain macronutrients you can select certain foods and avoid others. For example, If you were a mesomorphic individual and could add muscle very easily while staying relatively lean, it would be wise to select foods high in protein while also allowing for a slightly higher fat content. Foods like less lean cuts of red meat, for example, would do nicely.

"Body type is very important to consider when constructing an effective shopping list because when you understand how your body reacts to certain macronutrients you can select certain foods and avoid others."

If, on the other hand, you were an ectomorph and had difficulty adding any mass, it would be wise to focus on consuming foods that have high good fat contents as well as protein contents. All natural peanut butter, for example, would be an excellent choice in that particular situation, while chicken breasts or tuna alone may not be best for adding mass.

If you are endomorphic then you definitely want to focus on consuming lean cuts of meat such as chicken breasts, tuna, lean beef and turkey, and avoid a lot of dairy products.

It is also important to distinguish between the body-type you are born with, and the one currently facing you in the mirror. For example, genetically you may be mesomorphic, but because of terrible eating habits you may now be fat. It may be that you have overloaded your body with processed junk foods at such a quick rate that your body simply cannot rid itself of them. Reforming your eating habits will reveal to you your true body-type.

The point to understand is that while this is not an exhaustive analysis of the effects of food on body composition, one must consider ones body-type while constructing an intelligent goal-oriented grocery list.

Body Mass

Your body mass will directly determine how much you need to eat, and in what ratio. When aiming to intelligently construct an effective, goal-oriented grocery list understanding the macronutrients is crucial. The macronutrients are protein, fat and carbohydrates. Below is a brief description of each macronutrient and its respective function within the body.

Muscular Repair
Boosting Immune System Functioning
Prevent Catabolism
4.5 calories p/gm
Fat Burning
Soy [Plant]
FAT Energy Source
Boosting Immune System Functioning
9 calories p/gm
Good [Mono]
Bad [Poly]
Preventing Catabolism
Insulin Regulation
4.5 calories p/gm
Simple Sugars
Complex Starches

* For more information refer to my article Adding Mass in the Offseason.

As may be seen from the chart, each macronutrient performs different functions within the body. Understanding the different functions of each macronutrient will allow for the construction of a sensible, goal-oriented shopping list that will compliment your training phase and body type.

GENERALLY [as opposed to specifically which we will address shortly] it is wise to aim for 1-1.5 gm of protein per pound of bodyweight, .25gm of fat per pound of bodyweight, and .5-1.5gm of carbohydrates per pound of bodyweight.

    Click here to determine how much protein you should consume daily!

Current Training Phase

Many new to the bodybuilding lifestyle do not understand exactly how to eat for training phase. To eat for bodyfat reduction refer to the article A Step-By-Step Plan For BodyFat Reduction! To eat for mass gains refer to the article Adding Mass in the Offseason. These publications will provide you with the basic mathematical outline of how to eat for training phase.

Food Labels

Understanding HOW to read food labels is essential for your success as a bodybuilder. If there is one element of the grocery shopping experience that is so frequently misunderstood by so many, food labels are it. How many times have you seen on packaging statements to the effect of "fat free" "half fat" or "sodium free"? We see these claims and statements all of the time. But how well can they be trusted?

Click To Enlarge!

Despite the food market being flooded by "half fat" and "fat free" products there are more obese persons today than ever before. When I see statements on labels like "half fat" and "fat free" I think they would more appropriately be named "half-truth" and "truth-free."

One example that best stands out is the infamous "fat free" brownie. Often people with carnivorous eating habits will charge to the store that sells them and will eat five or six reasoning that they are "fat free." "They are fat free" they reason "so they are not harming me at all!" It is also interesting that they are LOADED with refined sugars. And what do refined sugars do in the body? They turn to FAT.

And what about the claims of "half of the fat"? Or "half of the calories"? Did you know that if a product has 10grams of fat for one serving, simply by cutting the serving size in half, the manufacturer can claim that its "half of the fat" and "half the calories"? It makes sense because if you eat HALF of the product you get half of the calories and half of the fat. In other words, simply by changing the labeling on the package but leaving the product as it is, they can legally make these claims. Not fair is it?

Let us consider 2 percent milk. The term "2 percent" is supposed to be the MILK FAT percentage. Let us take a look at what the mathematics REALLY say.

Should You Drink Milk!
If you're like most people, you've been raised on cow's milk and probably continue to think that it's a healthy food that's a staple of the bodybuilding diet.
[ Click here to learn more. ]

In a typical 8oz serving of 2% milk there will be 119 calories, 8.5 grams of protein, 2.5 grams of fat and 13 grams of carbohydrates. So, to determine the percentage of calories coming from fat we must perform the following mathematical calculation:


    F = Grams of Fat
    X = Calories per gram of fat


    F (X)
    = 22.5

Therefore, 22.5 of the overall 119 calories are derived from fat.

To determine the percentage that this constitutes toward the overall mass of the milk we must perform the following equation.

    22.5/119 = 18.7%

Therefore the fat constitutes 18.7% of the milk.

From the math we can see that the claim that milk is only "2 percent" does not pass muster. The point to understand here is that it is important to your health as a bodybuilder to learn how to intelligently read food labels, and to understand that many of them are misleading. Knowing this will greatly aid you in your quest to be healthy. Remember this saying well: There is no free lunch when it comes to food. You are how you eat, and if you eat poorly you will reap the results of your dietary transgressions.

A valuable tool that I highly recommend is The Complete Book of Food Counts by Corrine T. Netzer. I recommend using this book in conjunction with a food weighing scale, so that you can know how much of a substance you are eating, and the contents of that substance.

Purpose Of Food

As bodybuilders we eat food for one thing: results. We do not eat for taste. We eat because eating is required by our chosen lifestyle. Food, like supplements, is a tool that is the means to an end. We eat because we want muscle gains and fat loss. That being the case, it is important to select foods for what they do in the body. For example, if you require protein and it is a choice between cottage cheese in the dairy isle or junk food, which will you buy? As a goal-oriented bodybuilder it should be obvious that the cottage cheese will win out over the processed chips and candy bars.

Remembering that food is one tool among many in your bodybuilding arsenal will help keep you on track, and will also help you to save time. If you know what to buy and in what quantity, your shopping should take no longer than twenty minutes. If the potato chip and candy isles are not on your list, then why go down them? Instead head to seafood for salmon steaks, or to dairy for cottage cheese, milk and eggs. Or go to meat for chicken or beef. This is how I do my shopping because I don't go to the grocery store to socialize; I go to get the basic tools that I use to build muscle: Quality whole foods.

When shopping it is important to shop very specifically and in a way that is goal oriented.


Now that we have discussed in detail the factors affecting your shopping experience, let us now consider a practical example, for purposes of illustration.

Our subject, Joe, has the goal of adding muscle. He knows that to maintain a positive nitrogen balance he must eat six times daily. He is a mesomorph. Therefore, he concludes, he must have a high protein percentage, and a moderate fat and carbohydrate percentage per each of his six daily meals.

His current bodyweight is 220lbs. His BMR is 2500 calories daily. From this information he is able to determine the following [using the GENERAL mathematics provided above]:

Daily Macronutrient Requirements:

Calories: 3000
Protein: 220
Fat: 55
Carbohydrates: 330

From having to eat 6 times per day, each meal would appear as follows:

Calories: 500
Protein: 37
Fat: 9
Carbohydrates: 55

Joe can see that his requirements for each meal are relatively high in carbohydrates for energy, protein for muscle growth, and fat for the healthy functioning of his hormone system.

When going to the grocery store this would mean that Joe would focus on obtaining his carbohydrate sources from starchy sources like pasta, potatoes, yams and rice, and simple sources like fruits and vegetables. He would include a lot of vegetables to ensure that he was getting plenty of antioxidants.

For protein he would focus on red meats, eggs, chicken breasts, turkey, fish, and lean dairy products. His fat sources would come from healthy sources like fish and nuts and seeds.

Notice from the above list that ice cream, chips, pizza and other foods falling into the "processed" category are not being purchased. When shopping, the selection of whole foods is essential. Whole foods greatly assist one in the realization of ones bodybuilding goals.

Shopping List

"This is fine and great" you say, "but I am just starting out. I have NO IDEA of what my first shopping list should look like." Well, now that you know what things you need to consider when going shopping, you will understand the underlying principles behind this sample grocery list. For a one-week period, eating six times daily, you would purchase the following:

Omnivore Shopping List

Eggs Protein Sources - Meat and Dairy

  • 3 steaks
  • 2 pkgs Alaskan Pollock fish (VERY high protein!)
  • 6 chicken breasts
  • 5 containers 1% low-fat cottage cheese
  • 1 gallon 1% or 0% low-fat milk (skim)
  • 2 dozen large white eggs

Pasta Carbohydrate Sources - Fruits, Vegetables and Pasta

  • 1 Sweet potato (Yam)
  • 7 pkgs pasta
  • 1 small box minute rice
  • 3 heads of broccoli
  • 6 apples
  • 1 green pepper
  • 2 small bags of baby carrots

Mixed Nuts Fat Sources

  • 1 jar olive oil
  • 500gms mixed nuts or almonds
  • 1 jar all natural old-fashioned peanut butter

Click here for a printable version of the shopping list!

If, by chance, you are a vegetarian bodybuilder, or if your religion prevents the consumption of meat, but you are allowed to eat dairy products, you can incorporate tofu into your diet, and supplement with Branch Chained Amino Acids. Also you will need to mix-and-match incomplete protein sources [legumes, etc] in order to ensure that you consume enough complete proteins daily. It may also, in this situation, be advantageous to buy a protein powder [egg, whey, or soy].

Summary / Conclusion

Regardless of training phase, age, BMR, or body-type, food selection will always be determined by ones goals and ones training intensity. It is necessary to select whole foods over processed. Whole foods go a long way toward the realization of ones bodybuilding goals.

The most difficult task facing a bodybuilder is knowing how to precisely select food items that will assist in the realization of ones goals. In order to select food effectively it is necessary to consider all elements discussed here and to utilize the mathematics presented.


The information provided in this publication is for educational and informational purposes only and does not serve as a replacement to care provided by your own personal health care team or physician. The author does not render or provide medical advice, and no individual should make any medical decisions or change their health behavior based on information provided here. Readers are encouraged to confirm the information contained herein with other sources. Readers and consumers should review the information in this publication carefully with their professional health care provider. The information in this or other publications authored by the writer is not intended to replace medical advice offered by physicians. Reliance on any information provided by the author is solely at your own risk. The author does not recommend or endorse any specific tests, products, medication, procedures, opinions, or other information that may be presented in the publication. The author does not control information, advertisements, content, and articles provided by discussed third-party information suppliers. Further, the author does not warrant or guarantee that the information contained in written publications, from him or any source is accurate or error-free. The author accepts no responsibility for materials contained in the publication that you may find offensive. You are solely responsible for viewing and/or using the material contained in the authored publications in compliance with the laws of your country of residence, and your personal conscience. The author will not be liable for any direct, indirect, consequential, special, exemplary, or other damages arising from the use of information contained in this or other publications.

Copyright © Clayton South, 2003 All rights reserved.

Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form, or by any means (electronic mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the copyright holder and author of this publication.

Grocery Shopping For The Bodybuilder!

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