by Tom Venuto
If I said that bodybuilding nutrition is the world’s most balanced and flexible way of eating, some people might think I was crazy. I mean, aren’t bodybuilders notorious for eating totally bland foods, following highly restrictive diets and even sacrificing all their social life (never eat at restaurants, etc)? Unfortunately, a lot of people believe those myths due to decades of stereotyping and more recently due to misinformation being spread on the internet.
Actually, with the possible exception of the final phases of the pre-contest bodybuilding diet (where a lot of discipline really is required – just like any competitive sport), nothing could be further from the truth!
Why should you care? Especially if you’re not a bodybuilder? Simple – the body building lifestyle, in my opinion and experience, is the most effective way of building muscle and burning fat on planet Earth. Want more muscle and less fat? If so, then this is for YOU.
I contend that bodybuilding nutrition has not only been unjustly criticized and misunderstood, but that INDEED bodybuilding nutrition it is the most balanced, flexible, healthy and fun way to eat. It has been for me.
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 recent 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 HEALTH? If so, YOU ARE 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 are online gurus (and hordes of their “sheeple” followers) who make it sound like 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.
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 diet 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 the current 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 – people just 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!
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. In bodybuilding nutrition, ALL the food groups are represented.
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 toxic to me, I reckon 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 is more balanced than any of the popular “diet” programs
In bodybuilding nutrition, what’s missing? Tell me, 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 Earth.
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? YESSS! 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, etc etc? 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, but come on – that’s not even real food – that’s, like Michael Pollan once said, “edible food like substances.” Processed foods and refined junk food shouldn’t even have to enter the conversation. We’re talking about REAL FOOD here.
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 damn 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 THAT possible? Easy. There’s a “compliance rule” built into a good bodybuilding nutrition program.
For example, If I have a list of “staple” foods that I eat every day, I stick to that about 90% of the time and then the other 10%, I eat whatever the heck I want. Absolutely NOTHING forbidden. Anything goes. AND – it’s easier for us because we train so hard. Couch potatoes can’t get away with it so much.
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 it on to you.
About Fitness Author and Fat Loss Coach, Tom Venuto
Tom Venuto is the author of the #1 best seller, Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle: Fat Burning Secrets of the World’s Best Bodybuilders and Fitness Models. Tom is a lifetime natural bodybuilder and fat loss expert who achieved an astonishing ripped 3.7% body fat level without drugs or supplements. Discover how to increase your metabolism, burn stubborn body fat and find out which foods burn fat and which foods turn to fat by visiting the home page at: BurnTheFat.com