Sports Nutrition Experts since 1993

Nutrition for bodybuilding: the basics

  • Carbohydrate
  • Lipid
  • protein
  • Sports nutrition
Interested in learning more about the nutrition associated with bodybuilding? Here is all the information you could need regarding proteins, amino acids, carbohydrates... in association with bodybuilding.

Nutrition for bodybuilding: the basics

After stimulating your muscles during training, you need to feed them so that they recover and develop as quickly as possible.

Nutrition for bodybuilding is based on the synergy between three types of macronutrients.

1. Proteins and amino acids

Proteins and their basic building block, amino acids, are the major constituents of muscle fibers. They serve as raw material for muscles and are powerful stimulators of anabolism (1).

Thanks to their BCAA content, they make it possible to delay fatigue and therefore to be able to support intense effort for longer.

Regular weight training greatly increases protein requirements.

This not only to accelerate muscle development and strength gain, but also to compensate for losses due to muscle catabolism induced by training. For example, a one hour effort causes the irreversible elimination of 30 g of protein. A more intense effort catabolizes 50 g of protein.

What are the protein requirements for bodybuilding?

The protein requirements for bodybuilding or for athletes are:

  • 1.5 g of protein per kilogram of body weight for athletes training less than 3 hours per week. Thus, an 80 kg athlete should eat 120 g of protein per day.
  • 2 g per kilo with 3 to 5 hours of weekly training.
  • 2.5g per kilo with more than 6 hours of weekly training.

This intake must of course be divided into 4 or even 6 meals each providing 25 to 30 g of protein. Protein powder is a simple, economical and effective way to boost your diet with quality protein.

2. Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates work in synergy with proteins.

It is the carbohydrates which provide the hormonal support (by stimulating the secretions of insulin and IGF) and energy which will allow to obtain the maximum anabolism of the proteins (1).

During exercise, it is also carbohydrates that provide muscles with the strength and endurance necessary for a successful training.

What are the carbohydrate requirements for bodybuilding?

The daily carbohydrate requirement is:

  • 4 to 6 g per kilo of body weight for athletes training less than 3 hours per week.
  • 7 to 9 g per kilo with 3 to 5 hours of weekly training.
  • 10 to 12 g per kilo with more than 6 hours of weekly training.

3. Lipids

Fat (lipids) are essentially a source of calories: 9 calories / g.

As a diet rich in fat mainly develops adipose tissue, it is prudent to minimize or modulate your fat intake compared to carbohydrates according to your diet.

The properties of omega 3 for athletes are multiple

1. Anti-catabolic actions

Regular use of omega 3 helps limit the damage caused by cytokines (immune factors produced by muscles during intense contractions).

These cytokines are the cause of muscle stiffness, which explains why omega 3s reduce the incidence of muscle stiffness and promote recovery.

2. Protective actions of the joints

Part of dietary fatty acids is incorporated into the membrane of joint cells. When the diet is rich in bad fats, the latter exacerbate the inflammatory phenomena which degrades the cartilages.

On the contrary, through a phenomenon of competition, omega 3 supplementation dislodges pro-inflammatory fats, replacing them with naturally anti-inflammatory fatty acids, which reduces pain and joint degeneration.

3. Anabolic action

The anabolic action of omega 3 has long been known in animals (2 - 3).

Marine fatty acids are widely used in the food industry in order to gain muscle as quickly as possible in animals such as cattle or pigs.

New research confirms this anabolic action in humans. For 8 weeks, senior men and women received 1.86 g of EPA + 1.5 g of DHA daily. The level of muscle protein synthesis was measured before and then after the 8 weeks (4).

Omega 3 has no effect on the rate of basal muscle anabolism. On the other hand, they double the anabolic reaction when amino acids and insulin are present in the blood.

The anabolic stimulation of omega 3 takes place at the level of the most limiting factor in protein synthesis, that is to say by activating an enzyme called mTOR (mammalian target of Rapamycin, or target of rapamycin in mammals). It is mTOR that regulates cell proliferation and therefore indirectly the size of our muscles: the greater the activity of mTOR, the faster the hypertrophy.

This stimulating effect of omega 3 better explains the muscle gain that is noticed after supplementation.

In novice bodybuilders, taking 4 g of omega 3 (4 capsules) daily allowed them to gain 1.4 kg of lean muscle in 28 days (5).

As for the gain in strength, it is twice as important with omega 3 than with a placebo (5).

Omega 3s are particularly interesting for beginners, since their use allows to accelerate the disappearance of muscle aches, that is to say to activate recovery and regeneration.

Before thigh strength training, young men received daily either a placebo or 324 mg of EPA + 216 mg of DHA (6).

Twenty-four hours after training, the level of muscle soreness is the same in both groups. Forty-eight hours after training, the level of muscle stiffness almost returned to normal in the omega 3 group while it hardly decreased in the placebo group.

Scientific references

(1) Hayes A. Effect of whey protein isolate on strength, body composition and muscle hypertrophy during resistance training. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2008 Jan;11(1):40-4.

(2) Jackson MJ. Effects of dietary-fish-oil feeding on muscle growth and damage in the rat. Br J Nutr. 1988 Sep;60(2):217-24.

(3) Gingras AA. Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids regulate bovine whole-body protein metabolism by promoting muscle insulin signalling to the Akt-mTOR-S6K1 pathway and insulin sensitivity. J Physiol. 2007 Feb 15;579(Pt 1):269-84.

(4) Gordon SI. Dietary omega-3 fatty acid supplementation increases the rate of muscle protein synthesis in older adults: a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr 2011 vol. 93 no. 2 402-412

(5) Fett CA. Suplementação de Ácidos Graxos Ômega-3 ou Triglicerídios de Cadeia Média para Indivíduos em Treinamento de Força. Motriz Jul-Dez 2001, Vol. 7, n.2, pp. 83-91

(6) The Effects of Ingestion of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Perceived Pain and External Tartibian B. Symptoms of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness in Untrained Men Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine 2009 - Volume 19 - Issue 2 - pp 115-119.

Written on 12/27/2021 by Nutrimuscle Conseil
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