A bodybuilding diet aligns with all the general advice for a healthful diet: A balanced mix of macronutrients and plenty of micronutrients from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Even in the bulking phase, the idea is to bulk up by eating more, but sticking with mostly healthy choices. Similarly, in the cutting phase, the goal is to cut out less nutrient-dense foods, not slash calories extremely and give up nutritious foods.
The first option is bodyweight training. With bodyweight training you need minimal equipment (or none at all), and you can train from anywhere. It doesn’t matter if you’re at home, in a hotel, at a playground, in your office at work, or traveling around the world, as long as you have enough space to move around, you can get your workout done (and fit it into a busy schedule).
When trying to gain mass, eat two breakfasts. To restock liver glycogen and put the brakes on the catabolism that chips away at your muscle overnight, down two scoops of whey protein along with a fast-digesting carb such as Vitargo or white bread immediately upon waking. One of our favorite morning shakes is two cups of coffee, two scoops of whey, and two to three tablespoons of sugar. About 60 minutes later, follow up with a wholefoods breakfast that boasts quality protein—such as Canadian bacon or eggs—and slowerburning carbs, such as oatmeal.
You may have heard hardcore lifters talk about things like "leg day," but when it comes to a beginner strength workout that's only a few days a week, a full-body workout is often the way to go (rather than splitting your days up by body part). "Full-body workouts maximize your caloric burn and the muscles worked each session," says Davis. The best way to do this is to pair one upper body exercise with one lower body exercise. "This way, the lower body has time to recover while the upper body works and vice-versa," says Davis. You should also aim for a balance between movements that feel like pulling and ones that feel like pushing. For example, Davis suggests pairing these exercises together:
If you decide to join a gym, know that you're not expected to know how all of the equipment works right off the bat—or what to do with it. Be sure to take advantage of the free orientation so you can learn how to properly use everything that's offered and set up a basic strength-training program. At the gym, machines are preferred for beginners, because they're quite safe: Most require little coordination and offer more stability than free weights while performing the movements.
You can stick to natural supplementation with things like a protein powder and creatine if you're looking for faster gains. Now don't think I mean faster like 10x faster, I just mean slightly faster, but usually worth it for the cost. But don't go overboard on supplements either. A few basics should do. I recommend a protein, creatine, EFA's (essential fatty acids), a multivitamin, and amino acids. Once you become more experienced a pre-workout N.O. product could be a valuable addition as well.
Train each body part once per week. With the exception of abs, directly training a body part with high intensity more than once a week is usually overtraining. If you are striving for maximum strength gains, power, and muscular growth, high intensity translates to low reps and heavy weight. Three to four sets of three to four different exercises per body part is optimal. Large muscle groups like chest, quads, and glutes do well in a rep range as low as 6 or 7. With smaller groups like biceps and triceps, and difficult to isolate groups like shoulders and back, stay within a more conservative rep range of at least 8 to 10 per set. View exercises for all the muscle groups here.
Here's some simple math that many people still can’t seem to grasp. You’re in the gym for only an hour or so each day, leaving another 22–23 hours in which muscle growth depends solely on what goes in—or stays out of—your piehole. So why is the nutrition side of the mass-gaining equation often marginalized? It’s probably because a bench press is a lot sexier than a spinach salad.
I recommend a cyclical approach to bulking and cutting to optimize anabolic hormones and minimize unwanted fat accumulation. This could be 16 weeks of above-maintenance intake for lean mass gains, followed by 16 weeks below-maintenance intake for fat loss. Of course, feel free to experiment with what works best for you. When done correctly, this approach will yield considerable lean mass gains while you stay pretty darn lean.
Of course, cardio is an important part of fitness too, but the benefits of strength training are major. Strength training helps build muscle, and lean muscle is better at burning calories when the body is at rest, which is important whether you're trying to lose weight or maintain it. It also helps strengthens joints and bones, avoid injury, improve your muscular endurance, and will help you give it your all during your other workouts, whether that means setting a new PR if you're a runner or pushing (and pulling) a little harder with your legs during your favorite indoor cycling class.
Resistance training works by causing microscopic damage or tears to the muscle cells, which in turn are quickly repaired by the body to help the muscles regenerate and grow stronger. The breakdown of the muscle fiber is called "catabolism," and the repair and re-growth of the muscle tissue is called "anabolism." You're probably familiar with the term anabolic when used with steroids. Anabolic means to grow, and that's exactly what happens after you break down the muscle fibers with resistance exercise. In fact, many biological processes of growth in the body require some breakdown, or catabolism, prior to re-growth. For instance, bones must be broken down first before calcium and other growth factors repair the bone and make it stronger. With muscles, testosterone, insulin-like growth factor, growth hormone, protein, and other nutrients rush to the muscle after a resistance-exercise session to help repair the muscles to make them stronger. Importantly, your muscles heal and grow when you aren't working out, and so that's why it's necessary to leave time between workouts for recovery.
Arnold used single-joint movements to complement overhead presses and isolate each delt head individually. Here, too, he sought subtle differences that would, over time, build better overall size. For example, the cable lateral raise in front of the body has a slightly different feel than when the cable runs behind you. Knowing how to do a given movement pattern on different pieces of equipment is, according to Arnold, essential for a bodybuilder to take his physique to the next level.
In either phase, don’t exceed 1 gram per pound of body weight of protein (2.2 grams/kilogram). A little more probably won’t hurt a healthy person, but chances are, based on the science of protein requirements for athletes, it won’t help either. It will only cost you in expensive supplements or food. Any hint of kidney disease and you would need to be cautious about excessive protein intake. Consult your doctor for advice if this applies.