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Meal Prep for Bodybuilders: A Guide for Beginners

Last Updated on May 7, 2022

You may have already begun your exercise regimen for a healthy body. However, there comes a time in every fitness enthusiast’s life when they want to enhance their form and physique. The desire to start bodybuilding develops, and you find yourself wanting to learn more about how to achieve a perfectly toned and muscular body.

More than progressive weight training, you also have to make some dietary changes to help your body become the best version of itself. With this in mind, you have to gain an understanding of bodybuilding nutrition to make the most of each meal for your fitness goals.

Bodybuilding Nutrition: What Is It?

If you’ve already developed the habit of exercising, you’ll know that your appetite increases as your regimen’s intensity and frequency increase. This is particularly true for bodybuilding because your body will need the additional nutrition to reach the muscle growth and toning you want.

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to bodybuilding nutrition, though. There are plenty of factors to consider for each individual, such as age, weight, current health condition, and their target physique. These factors will indicate how many calories, macronutrients, and the number of meals they should have per day.

Calories you consume affect your weight, whether you’ll lose, gain, or maintain those pounds. If you want to bulk up, you should consume more calories since you’re exercising rigorously. Conversely, you have to reduce your usual caloric count if you’re preparing for a competition. This way, you lose fat while preserving muscle mass.

Macronutrients, more commonly referred to as macros, encompass the proteins, carbohydrates, and fats you take in each day. Your bodybuilding nutrition diet should strike a balance on these three macro groups. However, the exact percentage you should consume will depend largely on your goals and the other factors mentioned above.

Generally, you should consume 55% to 60% of calories from carbohydrates, 25% to 30% from protein, and 15% to 20% from fats. On the other hand, a 2014 study recommended consuming 2.3 to 3.1 grams’ worth of protein per kilogram of lean body mass per day and 15% to 30% of calories from fat, with carbohydrates making up the remaining calorie count. The study found that this caloric intake leads to bodyweight losses of about 0.5% to 1% per week to maximize muscle retention.

How To’s of Determining Calorie and Macro Goals for Bodybuilding Meal Prep

Calculating the ideal calories and macros you should consume each day can be complicated, which may be why many bodybuilders hire a nutritionist to do it for them. However, it’s not impossible to do. Whether you opt for meal delivery services or make your meals yourself, you should understand the basics and know how to determine calorie and macro goals for your bodybuilding meal prep.

Here are the steps to do so:

Know the Best Foods To Eat

Whole foods are the best type of food you should be eating. Eliminate processed food and other junk as much as you can. You may have noticed how a lot of bodybuilders use chicken as their meat of choice. This is because it’s a valuable source of lean protein, with approximately 26 grams of protein per three ounces.

Seafood, especially fish like salmon, is low in fat and provides additional nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids. Lean beef is also another great alternative since it’s full of vitamin B12, zinc, and iron. If you’re looking for plant-based protein, beans are your best bet. They also provide dietary fiber for better digestion. 

Additionally, you can use milk, cheese, and yogurt for healthy snacking. You can also supplement your protein consumption through protein powders, like whey and casein proteins.

For carbs, you can opt for good ol’ oatmeal, sweet potatoes, rice, and whole-grain bread. Of course, vegetables and fruits are great sources of carbs as well. 

Knowing the best foods to eat for bodybuilding gives you an idea of what to stock in your pantry. It also makes calculating your macros easier since you’ll be revolving your dietary plan mostly around these food items.

Identify Your Total Daily Energy Expenditure

Your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) is the number of calories you burn in a day. This figure accounts for the amount of activity you do each day, whether sedentary, moderate, or strenuous. 

Your TDEE encompasses four other calculations. There’s the calculation for your base metabolic rate (BMR), which is the number of calories your body needs to operate in a resting state. You can calculate it by multiplying your body weight in kilograms by 20. For instance, if you weigh 65 kilograms, your BMR should be 1,300. 

Then, there’s the thermic effect of feeding (TEF), which refers to the amount of energy your body uses to digest food. To calculate TEF, you take the BMR and multiply it by 0.1. Using the example above, the TEF is 130, which is the number of calories burned as the thermic effect of feeding.

The third calculation is for exercise energy expenditure (EEE), which is the amount of energy you use up during exercise. EEE is unique to your situation and exercise regimen, so there isn’t a set formula for it. However, the general rule is that approximately 250 calories are burned in an hour of light exercise, while 500 calories are burned through intense exercise in the same amount of time.

Lastly, you’ll need to calculate the non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), which pertains to the number of calories you burn daily outside of exercise. This includes activities like walking your dog, sitting at your office desk for hours, or doing some manual labor. Just like with EEE, there’s no set formula to calculate NEAT, but the number of calories burned still depends on the intensity of the activity. A sedentary employee may only get 250 NEAT, while a blue-collared worker may get 500 NEAT.

Afterward, you just have to add all four calculations to come up with your TDEE. This can give you an idea of how many calories you should be consuming each day. You can also use tools like this TDEE calculator or this one from IIFYM.

Learn How To Calculate Your Macros

Now that you have an idea of how many calories your body needs to function optimally each day, you also have to identify how many calories are in your macronutrients. Generally, one gram of carbohydrates and one gram of protein contain four calories each, while a gram of fat has about nine calories.

You can then use this formula to calculate your daily calories per macro, which is the total calories per day multiplied by the percent of calories from a specific macronutrient per day. Afterward, you can calculate the daily grams per macro, which is the number of calories of the macro per day divided by the calories per gram of the macronutrient.

So, if you have 1,300 TDEE, you can calculate your carbohydrates like this: 1,300 calories x .55 (55% of calories from carbohydrates) = 715 calories from carbohydrates. Then, if you divide the 715 calories from carbohydrates by 4 calories per 1 gram of carbs, you can consume 178.75 grams of carbohydrates per day.

For fats, multiply the same TDEE by 15% (0.15), and you’ll get 195 calories. Divide the latter with 9 calories per 1 gram of fats, and you’ll get about 22 grams of allowable fat consumption per day.

Lastly, multiply the TDEE by 30% (0.3) to get 390 calories. Divide it by 4 calories per 1 gram of protein, and you can consume about 97.5 grams of protein.

Modify Caloric Intake Accordingly

Take note, though, that your caloric intake should be adjusted depending on your current goals. If you’re in your bulking period, you want to consume more calories. Conversely, you want to eat fewer calories if you’re in your cutting season.

Helpful Tools for Bodybuilding Meal Prep

Meal planning is essential for anyone with a weight or health target, more so for bodybuilders who require a specific combination of foods. Preparing meals for your bodybuilding nutrition is made a little less complicated with these digital and kitchen tools.

Food Tracking Apps

Download a few food tracking apps and find the best one that works for you. Look for a program that lets you record each food item that you consume for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner. It should also help you tally the calories and macros for each ingredient in your meal prep.

Kitchen Scale

A kitchen scale is also a helpful tool to have because it allows you to have accurate measurements of each ingredient in your meals. Often, people eyeball the portion sizes, which might lead you to consume the incorrect amount of calories.

Meal Prep Containers

You’ll want to invest in meal prep containers as well to make the process a breeze. Glass containers are ideal since they won’t crack in the freezer and you can see what food is inside. They’re also great for reheating food in the microwave. One major downside, though, is that they break easily when dropped.

How To Plan, Prep, and Purchase Bodybuilding Meals

There are two ways to go about your bodybuilding nutrition. You can either make the meals yourself or order from a food delivery service. Here are some tips to help you:

Planning and Prepping Your Own Bodybuilding Meals

Cooking your own meals gives you full control over the quality of ingredients you’ll use and the taste of your food. Plus, you’ll know that the calorie count is accurate because you did it yourself.

If you’re planning to make your own meals, the first thing you should do is find healthy recipes online. Look for inspiration on what you can cook each day. If you eat four meals a day (including snacks), you can search for two to three recipes each for breakfast, lunch, snacks, and dinner. Just prepare two to three servings of the same dish and schedule them for different days in the week.

Be sure to schedule a day for meal prep. Meal prep is valuable for your bodybuilding journey because it helps you save time and ensure you stick to your ideal calorie intake per day. However, since you’re preparing meals all at once, you will need to set aside a huge chunk of time for cooking and cleaning up. Typically, you can do it over the weekend when you don’t have to think about work and focus on counting your calories and macros.

Another thing to remember is to measure and label everything Bodybuilding nutrition can involve a lot of math. From preparing the ingredients to placing the portions in the containers, make sure you measure them using your kitchen scale or measuring cups. Label each container as well with the total calories and macronutrient breakdown, even if they’re all similar. This way, you can easily track your daily calorie count when you reheat them later on.

Purchasing Bodybuilding Meals

There are also meal delivery services that can specifically cater to your needs. If you feel overwhelmed with the preparation and planning involved in bodybuilding nutrition, you can start by subscribing to these programs so that you can get an idea of how the food should be and how many calories you should be consuming.

Read Meal Matchmaker’s Reviews & Buyer’s Guide for the Best Bodybuilding Meal Delivery Services.

When choosing a bodybuilding meal delivery program, you should look for the calorie and macronutrient breakdown of each meal. Most providers show these details on their websites so that you know what to expect for each day. 

Some also have package options for bulking, fat trimming, or muscle toning. You should be aware of the package that you choose and make sure that it aligns with your fitness goals. The budget is another factor to consider. You don’t have to order the full three or four meals from the shop if it doesn’t work for your budget. You can order meals for lunch and dinner only.

Ready To Get Started?

Understanding bodybuilding nutrition is crucial if you want to enhance and tone your physique. You should learn the importance of counting your macros and calories to supplement your progressive weight training efforts. With the above information, you’ll be well on your way to success!

References for Bodybuilding Meal Prep Guide for Beginners:


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Hi, I'm Paul. Welcome to my website! I, along with my cronies, are leveraging our years of working in the food industry to review meal and drink delivery services. We review. You eat happily ever after.

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