If I said that bodybuilding nutrition is the most balanced, flexible and fun way of eating, some people might think I was crazy. I mean, aren’t bodybuilders notorious for eating bland foods (aka “bro foods”), restricting calories to “castrate” levels and even sacrificing their social life (never eating at restaurants, and so on)? Nope… those are all myths. These things may have been partially true in the past, but the reality today is, the modern style of bodybuilding nutrition really is the most balanced type of eating plan, as well as the most effective. Anyone who wants more muscle and less fat, along with greater strength and better health, with fewer rules and restrictions should check this out…
First, Let’s Re-define Body Building!
Most people have a preconceived notion of what bodybuilding is. They envision some beefcake, like the dude in that Geico commercial (pretty damn funny actually, but comedy aside for a moment, it does portray the stereotypical bodybuilder).
When I say “body building” I’m not talking about looking like that guy. (Well, unless that’s what you want). That’s only competitive bodybuilding at the top of the pro level – a tiny corner of the “Body – Building” Universe.
Do you want to build your body? Build strength? Build muscle? Build Fitness? Build self-esteem? Build health? If so, YOU ARE A BODY-BUILDER!
I always believed that anyone who eats nutritiously and lifts weights could call themselves a body-builder.
Who doesn’t think building your body is a GOOD thing? So please, broaden your definition and allow your mind to open!
The incredible growth and expanding popularity of bodybuilding
When I started eating and training like a body builder decades ago, all we had was men’s bodybuilding and women’s bodybuilding.
Today, we have men’s bodybuilding, physique and fitness model. The women have even more options: bodybuilding, physique, fitness, figure, fitness model and bikini divisions.
Today, it’s no longer just “bodybuilding” – the competitive bodybuilding universe has spread to a whole group of new “physique sports” and each one has different levels of muscularity to match the judging criteria.
This is fantastic, because now the public appeal is much wider.
Millions of men and women would love to have the “Men’s Fitness” or “Figure Athlete” look rather than the much bulkier competitive bodybuilder look. But in all these physique contests, though they differ in size, you still see the leanest, most muscular bodies in the world.
How do all these bodybuilders and fitness models get so lean? How do they get such chiseled bodies?
What they have in common is that the vast majority of these physique athletes eat the same way – traditional bodybuilding nutrition.
Unfortunately, the greatest misconceptions and stereotypes of all are about how body-builders eat and what that means to how you live your lifestyle…
More than ever before – because of the way misinformation (and personal idealology) is spread on the internet – bodybuilding nutrition has been portrayed as some kind of jail sentence.
There’s a huge misconception that we bodybuilders are somehow “locked up” by our disciplined lifestyle and we need to be “liberated.”
I’m telling you, this is not only total nonsense, the exact opposite is true. I’m the most free and liberated eater I know. Everything I do is by choice, and I have no hang-ups about food whatsoever. Food is the solution, not the problem.
And when it comes to contest dieting (which IS a different animal), since when did discipline stop being a virtue? When did leaving no stone unturned stop being what every competitive athlete must do to win?
I believe that bodybuilding nutrition is the most balanced and flexible of all the nutrition programs. I could write for pages about this, but looking at what we eat alone makes the case as clear as crystal.
Allowed foods vs. forbidden foods
In a recent issue of Alan Aragon’s excellent monthly research review, Alan writes:
“Complete food avoidance – regardless of the food – often does more harm than good. People tend to place a taboo mystique upon foods that they are not on the “allowed” list. It’s as if people become young children again, and do what it takes to pry open or climb up to the cookie jar of forbidden goodies instead of learning how to moderate their intake.”
Right there, Alan has nailed the biggest problem in the diet industry today. Almost every diet program – and especially the fear-based advertising campaigns they rely on – are based on naming dietary scapegoats and banishing them from your life…. completely… forbidden.. as in “The 5 foods to NEVER eat” and so on.
Guess what? We don’t do that in bodybuilding nutrition – but some people erroneously believe we do.
On the year-round muscle-building and maintenance phase, I eat from every food group on a regular basis and – let me say it again – nothing is forbidden – on a bodybuilding nutrition program. It’s a simple matter, as Alan wrote, of learning how – and how much – to moderate your intake.
Compare it and see for yourself:
Cave man Diet? Let’s suppose you go on one of those popular “stone age” or “hunter-gatherer” diets. You want some milk or yogurt or cheese? No sir. Not allowed! Our cave man ancestors didn’t drink milk, they say, so YOU certainly can’t have any!
Low carb diets? What if you want some oatmeal for breakfast? Nope, can’t have it. How about some rice – a staple food of the longest living Asian cultures in the world? Nope, can’t have it! A banana? surely you can have THAT? … NOPE! BANNED!
Low glycemic index (GI) diets? What if you want a nice baked white potato with that chicken and vegetable? NO SIR! FORBIDDEN!
Sugar is toxic diet? No birthday cake once a year, no Valentine’s chocolate once a year, No grandma’s home-baked cookies – ever… no, no no. No moderation. It’s POISON. You don’t eat even a little poison…
Wheat makes you fat diet? “Put that sandwich down!” But you can keep the meat and wrap it in lettuce…
I could go on and on through a dozen more diet programs, but by now you should see what’s going on here.
Traditional diet programs are all about taking things away from you – stealing your freedom… demonizing entire food groups… ignoring dose and context. In modern bodybuilding nutrition, ALL the food groups are represented and any kind of “junky goodness” is allowed if the dose is small and the occasions infrequent.
Naturally of course, there are health and medical reasons why people need to eliminate certain foods. If you’re allergic or intolerant to a food, I’m not suggesting you eat those foods “in moderation.” I often tell my readers that it’s the dose that makes the poison. However, if a specific food is truly harmful to me, I figure that the best dose is zero.
I’m with you on that. But health and medical conditions are not what I’m talking about here. I’m not a doctor. I’m talking about transforming your physique, not treating medical problems.
Why bodybuilding nutrition programs are more balanced than any of the popular “diet” programs
In bodybuilding nutrition, what’s missing? Think about it, what food groups are you not allowed to eat?
With bodybuilding nutrition we get to (and love to) eat cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese and of course milk – one of the best high quality protein sources.
On the bodybuilding diet, we enjoy chicken, turkey, fish, shellfish, egg whites, whole eggs and of course our red meat. And if it suits your value system, you can certainly choose grass fed beef, sustainable seafood only and even organic. You can even pass on the meat completely if you want – It’s your choice.
Fruit? Absolutely! Sure, some low carbing competitors are known to remove fruit temporarily – but fruit is absolutely a part of the lifestyle.
Starchy carbs and natural whole grains? YES! Even on the pre-contest diet, I still take high carb “re-feed” days (and man is that bread and pasta good!) What if you don’t want grains or you don’t want dairy, and so on? no problem!
Don’t eat them! The flexibility works both ways. On a bodybuilding nutrition program, you don’t have to eat anything you don’t want, and you CAN eat just about any real food you do want!
Now, of course, we don’t recommend drinking soda or eating candy bars all day long but it should go without saying that high-calorie, low nutrient, processed food shouldn’t be daily staples in your meal plan. But even with “junk food” you have leeway.
At least a couple times a week, I go out to really nice restaurants and eat any thing I please. Wine? Check! Bread? check! Dessert? Not often, but if I want it, sure! Or, maybe I just go around the corner and grab a couple of big slices of cheesy pizza!
How is this possible? Easy. There’s a “compliance rule” built into any good bodybuilding nutrition program.
For example, If I have a list of “staple” foods that I eat every day – they’re nutrient-dense, unprocessed, mostly one-ingredient foods that don’t come out of a box – I stick to that about 90% of the time and then the other 10%, I eat whatever I want.
AND – it’s easier for us weight lifters because we train so hard. Couch potatoes can’t get away with it so much. If lifters eat just a little too much, part of the calories are directed into muscle. If couch potatoes eat too much, all the excess goes STRAIGHT to fat!
Welcome to bodybuilding nutrition – It’s actually not a diet at all – it’s a lifestyle!
I remember reading Joe Weider’s editorials in Muscle and Fitness magazine when I was just a teenager, and he always said it – “bodybuilding is a lifestyle.” He was right. Because now, 30 years later, I’m still living it. How about you? Have you kept up your eating style for as long? Will you? Or will whatever diet you’re on now end up being the latest passing fad and you’ll look back with embarrassment and regret?
What about that “contest prep” eating plan I mentioned before? Yes, I admit – that IS a “diet.” It’s a stricter version of the eating plan, but keep in mind, that is a not only for a tiny corner of the body-building universe, it’s also for a short period of time before the contest season.
Usually, pre contest diets DO involve cutting carbs and other restrictions. But guess what? When you understand the bodybuilding contest diet, you can not only lose weight or reach a normal or ideal body fat level – if you choose to, you can go all the way and get ripped – lean enough to see six pack abs. Any diet can take weight off. Not every diet can get you ripped while keeping all the lean body mass.
Body building nutrition is simple and it’s POWERFUL for this very reason – YOU pick the level of restriction required, depending on how intense your goal is… whether that’s a casual cut for the beach, or a shot at a national physique title. Either way, this style of eating gives you MORE flexibility and MORE choice, not less.
This bodybuilding nutrition system is exactly what I have been using myself and teaching to others for decades
I didn’t invent this type of eating program, so I can’t take all the credit. Champion bodybuilders were using these methods long before I was. I learned it from MY mentors, and simply fine-tuned it for my own body type. Now I’m here to pass that on to you.
My part was to organize the bodybuilding nutrition system into a set of principles and put it into book form. It’s called Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle. This book became the best selling fat loss ebook of it’s kind on the internet for over 10 years and it’s now on the best seller lists as a printed book, and an audiobook. Click the link below to learn more:
Get Burn the Fat:
Train hard and expect success,
Tom Venuto, author of
Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle,
The Bible of Fat Loss
About Tom Venuto
Tom Venuto is a lifetime natural (steroid-free) bodybuilder, fitness writer and author of Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle: Fat Burning Secrets of Bodybuilders and Fitness Models and the national bestseller, The Body Fat Solution, which was an Oprah Magazine and Men’s Fitness Magazine pick. Tom has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Oprah Magazine, Muscle and Fitness Magazine, Ironman Magazine and Men’s Fitness Magazine, as well as on dozens of radio shows including Sirius Satellite Radio, ESPN-1250 and WCBS. Tom is also the founder and CEO of Burn The Fat Inner Circle – a fitness support community for inspiration and transformation
Probably one of the best articles I have read in a while. Well done! I already own BFFM but have pre-ordered it in hardcover. Looking forward to new info that has happened over the last decade. Best wishes, Liam
Tom. Great article.All the diets I have tried and all the advice I have read and listened to over the years ( close to 30 years now) yours is the most sensible, practical and truthful.All these fad diets although do work to some degree are not sustainable for the rest of your life Its quite simple,eat with some discipline thrown in and exercise you can maintain and increase muscle and lose the fat and not kill yourself with guilt and depravation some of these other diets may cause you.Thanks Tom keep the truth and practicality coming. Steve
Steve, thank you!
Great information for healthy and fit living life. exercise is not much effective without a proper diet. so for that you have to follow a proper diet program to lose your excess fat.
Thanks for ALL of the most-excellent info!! I consider myself a “home-athlete” (female). In other words, I’m in the best shape of my life–and am as solid as a rock (virtually all muscle/very toned). I eat lean and clean a 100% of the time and IN ABUNDANCE!! I admit that I OVER-eat nuts and that’s my downfall. My problem is that I want to lose a few vanity pounds and eventually workout less. (I currently crosstrain to keep my body shocked by doing weight-lifting heavy and light with reps, cardio, boot camp, HIIT, Tabata, & Interval Training for at least an hour EVERY Day.) Will your BFFM book help me with these goals, or do you have another recommendation for me?
This was so very cool and fun to read. I have enjoyed this great and fun information. This was really and fun to read. I have enjoyed and I want to thank you۔
I like this article … it is very well said about the importance of proper nutrition
Haha, so true, thank you for sharing this information, maybe people will now change their minds on bodybuilders diets. :)
Just wanted to let you know that I really enjoyed your article and the way that you have explained the differences and variety in body building. It was a very interesting and enjoyable read.
Thanks Les, glad you enjoyed it and thanks for the feedback! Tom V.