Would you like to know more about 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
Nutrition is a fundamental pillar of bodybuilding, just as much as the training itself. Whether you're a beginner or not, it's crucial to fuel your muscles after training. After being stimulated by physical activity, your muscles are damaged and need nutrients to repair fibers and grow.
It is essential to understand the importance of nutrition for muscle recovery and growth. In bodybuilding, a balanced diet is essential, from breakfast to the last meal of the day. It should be based on the balance of macronutrients: proteins for muscle repair and building, carbohydrates to replenish energy stores and support protein synthesis, and lipids for hormonal functions and overall health. Each of these macronutrients has a specific role and must be consumed in adequate quantities to support physical efforts and promote optimal recovery.
Foods to favor for bodybuilding
Bodybuilding nutrition is based on the synergy between three types of macronutrients.
1. Proteins and amino acids
Proteins and their basic component, essential 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 help delay fatigue and therefore be able to sustain intense effort for longer. Often forgotten, dairy products have a high protein content.
Regular weight training significantly increases protein needs.
This not only accelerates muscle development and strength gain, but also compensates for losses due to muscle catabolism induced by training. For example, an hour's effort causes the irreversible elimination of 30 g of protein. A more intense effort catabolizes 50 g of protein. It is therefore essential to provide sources of protein to your body throughout the day, the quantity varying depending on each person's goal and weight.
What are the protein requirements for bodybuilding?
The protein requirements for bodybuilding or for athletes are:
- 1.5 g of protein per kilo of body weight for athletes training less than 3 hours per week. So, an 80 kg athlete must 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 protein intake must of course be divided into 4 or even 6 meals, each providing 25 to 30 g of protein. So choose foods rich in protein. Protein powder food supplements are a simple, economical and effective way to reinforce your diet with quality proteins.
Carbohydrates (or 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 maximum anabolism from proteins (1). A source of carbohydrates at each meal helps provide the energy your body and muscles need.
During exercise, it is also carbohydrates that provide muscles with the strength and endurance necessary for successful training.
What are the carbohydrate requirements for bodybuilding?
The daily needs for a meal for beginners or experienced bodybuilders are different depending on each person's weight:
- 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.
Fats (lipids) are essentially a source of calories: 9 calories/g.
As a diet rich in lipids 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
Omega 3 has many benefits including improving sports performance. Although they are present in the diet, not everyone has a sufficient intake of omega 3 and even less a daily intake. Food supplements therefore allow omega 3 supplementation to compensate for these deficiencies.
1. Anti-catabolizing 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 aches, which explains why omega 3 reduces the incidence of aches and promotes recovery .
2. Protective actions of the joints
A portion of dietary fatty acids is incorporated into the membrane of joint cells. When the diet is rich in bad fats, the latter exacerbate inflammatory phenomena which degrades cartilage.
On the contrary, through a competitive phenomenon, 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 to help animals such as cattle or pigs gain muscle as quickly as possible.
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 after 8 weeks (4) .
Omega 3 has no effect on the rate of basic muscle anabolism. On the other hand, they double the anabolic reaction when amino acids and insulin are present in the blood.
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 which 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.
Among beginner bodybuilders, taking 4 g of omega 3 daily ( i.e. 4 capsules) allowed them to gain 1.4 kg of lean muscle in 28 days (5) .
Strength gain is twice as great with omega 3 as with a placebo (5) .
Omega 3s are particularly interesting for beginners, since their use accelerates the disappearance of aches, that is to say, activates recovery and regeneration.
Before a thigh strength workout, 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 soreness was the same in both groups. Forty-eight hours after training, the level of soreness almost returned to normal in the omega 3 group while it hardly decreased in the placebo group.
Food supplements for bodybuilding
In the world of bodybuilding, food supplements play a strategic role by supplementing the diet and optimizing performance and recovery. Supplements are designed to meet specific needs, whether it's a pre-workout booster, creatine , BCAA, or protein powders such as whey , casein , or plant-based alternatives.
They can help increase muscle mass, reduce fatigue and improve endurance. However, it is crucial to choose quality supplements adapted to your personal objectives, always in accordance with the recommendations of a health professional or sports coach. To find out more about the specificities and benefits of food supplements for bodybuilding, explore our detailed article .
(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 signaling 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. Supplementation of Graxos Omega-3 Acids or Triglycerides from Cadeia Média for Individuals in Force Treatment. 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.