Living the life of a bodybuilder is all-encompassing. Everything you do during the run of a day will either get you closer to your goals or keep you further away from achieving them. When you decide to become a bodybuilder, you can't step away from the lifestyle for a single minute because all that's doing is creating lost time which could have been put to use in building muscle. Most times when people do step outside the realms of the lifestyle it almost always has to do with nutrition. You see, unlike most sports, you can't get away with eating a less than stellar diet, you can' t miss meals and then make up for it later and you can't just eat for pleasure or convenience; you have to eat for a purpose. Once you have decided on what your purpose is going to be, then the nutrition factor gets easier to attain in that at the very least, you know what you should be eating. The question then becomes, well how often do I have to eat? If this is something you are struggling with, here are a few suggestions to help you figure that question out for yourself.
Base Caloric Needs
We all have what's known as a base caloric need. What that means is we need a certain amount of calories daily to maintain our current status. These calories go towards fuelling not just our muscles, but also all of the many other functions that take place within our body. Once you figure out what that number is (take a look online for some great calorie needs calculators to help you establish this) then you can go about figuring out how much food that equates to. Once you know this, then you have to look at your daily schedule to figure out how often you are able to eat which will tell you how many meals you can split your caloric needs into. It might be three meals a day or it could be six, depending on how much and how often you can eat, but essentially this is your starting point.
Bulking or Cutting
After you have identified the very basis of your nutritional needs, it's now time to establish your goals. If you want to put on lots of size and mass, then you're going to have to eat a lot. That means either more meals during the day to reach that heightened caloric need, or more food at each meal. On the other hand, if you're cutting and reducing calories in the hopes of losing as much body fat as possible, then you'll have to space out the few calories that you are eating evenly throughout the day so that you ensure you don't shut down your metabolism by starving yourself. In either case, it really depends on your schedule but I would say for bulking, eat four to six very large meals daily and if you're cutting, six to eight small meals a day would do the trick.
Some of us have very good appetites and can eat all day long while others really have no desire to eat food until they absolutely have to. If you have a great appetite and pounding back food isn't an issue, then be careful you don't overeat and cause a lot of unwanted fat gain. If you have trouble getting your meals in, do whatever you have to do so that you don't skip a meal even if it means force feeding yourself. So in these cases, for my overeaters out there, stick with 6 medium sized meals a day and for those struggling with consuming the amount of food necessary to build massive amounts of muscle, eat until your stuffed as many times a day as you can and then hopefully your appetite will improve so that you can establish a more standard meal protocol.
Food is by and large the most difficult aspect of the bodybuilding lifestyle. You have to be so strict and rigid with your food choices, the timing of your meals, the measuring of everything you eat and so on and so forth that one can easily see how you could get off track with nutrition just out of pure frustration with how much emphasis you have to put upon food. If it were just as easy as picking out a fresh new pair of Super Freaks from the Heyday Footwear website because they all look so good and will all help your training, then eating would be super easy for us to maintain. Unfortunately, that's not the case but despite that, you have to stick with your regimented dieting strategies, get all of those meals in daily that you need and keep growing until your satisfied with what you've accomplished.
Author: Dana Bushell
AST Sports Science sponsored athlete/writer, sponsored by Schiek Sports Inc.