Macronutrient Needs of Bodybuilders

A scientific review carried out at the University of Arkansas evaluated the "off season" and "pre-contest" goals of bodybuilders and formulated macronutrient recommendations to best help them meet their objectives.

The study authors defined the main goal of bodybuilders during the "off season" as an increase in muscle mass. To create a muscle-building state, the researchers suggested increasing overall energy intake by 15% through the consumption of the three macronutrients (fat, protein, and carbohydrates).

For the "pre-contest" period, which is defined as the 6-12 weeks leading up to a competition, bodybuilders aim to maintain their lean muscle mass while simultaneously reducing bodyfat. In order to achieve lower fat levels, the body needs to be in an energy deficit (approximately 15% decrease in overall intake), so that the existing fat can be used up as a source of energy. To prevent a loss in muscle while cutting calories, protein consumption needs to remain sufficient.

The researchers concluded that the percentage of macronutrients bodybuilders should include in their diets is 55-60% carbohydrates, 25-30% protein, and 15-20% fat for both the "off season" and "pre-contest."

During the course of both the "off season" and the "pre-contest" phases, bodybuilders continue to engage in demanding training regimens. Therefore, the researchers suggest that dietary carbohydrates should stay adequate throughout both periods to support their training. Also, the presence of fat helps to keep testosterone levels high; in effect a low-fat diet isn't suggested for bodybuilders even during the "pre-contest" stage.

The importance of post-workout recovery was also recognized. To encourage proper recovery, a carbohydrate ingestion rate of 1.2 grams per kilogram of body weight at 30-minute intervals for 4 hours was calculated.

The Bigger Picture: When attempting to hit specific macronutrient percentages, it takes precision measuring and adamant planning of your daily meals. Fortunately, you can forego at least some of the tedious work by including dietary supplements into your plan. Protein supplements, meal replacements, weight gainers, and post-workout recovery beverages, all contain exact amounts of calories, fat, protein, and carbohydrates and the numbers are listed right there on the packaging. Being a dedicated bodybuilder is enough work on its own; don't make things any more difficult than they need to be.
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Jul 13, 2007
Good article, really enjoyed it, makes a whole lot of sense.
thanks doug