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If we had to give one piece of nutrition advice to a beginner bodybuilder, it would be this: Don't overthink things. Maintain a straightforward approach. You can try to calculate every nutrient ratio at every meal, every day of the week, and yet come up with little to show for it. You're better off focusing on the basics, which is why we've broken down your introduction to bodybuilding nutrition into ten easy steps.

Stick to these guidelines until they become second nature. The rest will fall into place on its own. You'll surely learn more about nutrition in the months and years ahead, but these fundamentals will be more than enough to help you gain considerable muscle right away.

It's all about the numbers.

Beginners frequently make the mistake of following nutrition programs designed for advanced bodybuilders or bodybuilders preparing for a competition; these nutrition plans and practices will not work for you.

One thing to understand is that the body need more energy (calories) to build muscle than it burns each day. It would be a huge error to cut back on carbohydrates or even small amounts of dietary fat. However, you must realize that no one, not even Mr. Olympia, gains simply muscle and no fat. Maintain a realistic expectation of gaining some body fat.

However, as long as you grow more muscle than fat, you're on the correct track.

Make a Protein Mark

Protein molecules repair damaged muscle fibers in the body and sustain hormones in the body, therefore bodybuilders have higher protein requirements than the typical Joe.

You should ingest 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight per day if you want to gain major muscle mass. For a 180-pound person, it means 180 grams per day is the minimum, but it can go higher based on a variety of circumstances.

If you don't see results with 1 gram per pound, or if you're sore for more than a few days after training, go to 1.3 grams per pound—234 grams of protein a day for the 180-pounder.

The majority of this should come from whole foods (see No. 6), but two or three protein drinks per day are also a good option.

Protein Should Be Consumed in Moderate Amounts

It is mandatory to eat six meals every day (rather than two or three).

It's simpler to digest protein if you spread it out throughout the day. If you don't pay attention to how much protein gets into your muscles, you won't be able to meet the protein target (1-1.3 grams per pound of bodyweight per day) and build considerable mass.

A steady supply of protein by eating every 212-3 hours also helps to keep cortisol (a muscle-wasting hormone) in check, allowing testosterone, the potent hormone that influences muscle regeneration, to function properly.

Make a Carb Mark

Carbohydrates should not be disregarded, especially in a society where going low-carb is a cornerstone for losing body fat. If you want to increase muscle mass, you'll need carbs—and plenty of them—to get your body to grow. Carbs fuel your workout and allow you to push yourself harder and for longer periods of time. They trigger a hormonal response in the body that transports amino acids from protein to muscle tissue, assisting in repair and recovery.

If you stick to a low-carb diet, you won't be able to exercise as hard as you need to drive hypertrophy, your energy balance will suffer (see No. 1), and you won't be able to benefit from carbohydrates' power to force protein into muscles. Start with 2 grams of carbohydrates per pound of body weight per day (360 grams for a 180-pound man) and work your way up to 3-3.3 grams each pound (close to 600 grams for the 180-lb guy). Complex carbs, such as potatoes, whole-wheat breads and pastas, and oatmeal, should account for the majority of your carbs.

Maintain a “quick” post-workout meal.

Consume 20-30 grams of fast-digesting protein no later than 30 minutes after workout. Whey-based powders that can easily be blended with water in a shaker cup reign supreme in this category. Consume 50-60 grams of quick-digesting carbohydrates, such as fat-free cookies, muffins, fruit, Gatorade, or another carb-rich beverage.

The combination of whey and simple carbs digests quickly, virtually immediately reversing muscle breakdown caused by intensive training. It can also shift your body's hormonal state from one of muscular deterioration to one that promotes muscle regeneration.

Make Meat a Daily Routine

If you ask a dieting bodybuilder, he'll tell you how difficult it is to maintain muscle mass when red meat is off the table. White meat, such as chicken or turkey, does not build muscle as well as red meat, such as steak and lean ground beef.

Some claim it's because of the higher vitamin and mineral content, while others say it's because red meat is high in creatine (which helps you gain strength in the gym) and carnitine (which helps you lose weight) (which helps elevate testosterone levels). It's also possible that a diet high in red meat provides enough dietary fat to sustain testosterone production in the body.

Even if the diet is high in protein, carbohydrates, and total calories, eating a lower-fat diet for a long time may not sustain testosterone levels to the extent required for growth.

Before training, eat a lot of food.

It's common knowledge that you shouldn't exercise on an empty stomach. However, having a larger meal an hour or so before a workout helps you to exercise harder while also providing your body with enough pre-workout carbs and protein to minimize muscle breakdown.

A beginner may feel bloated after eating such a meal, but over time, your body will adjust by secreting the digestive juices needed to deal with the large amount of food.

To begin, two hours before going to the gym, eat a medium chicken breast and a medium baked potato. Your muscles will be protected against catabolism, and you'll have more energy, allowing you to workout harder and longer.

Pause for a moment.

Every bodybuilder has been in this situation at some point: your schedule is so hectic that you miss a few workouts in a row. You don't shrink, but rather appear to increase, much to your amazement. Why? Recovery.

The days off, combined with proper diet, allow the body to overcompensate and properly recover from recent workouts. The same is true when it comes to eating.

It's a good idea to have a "cheat day" every 10-14 days and eat a few foods that aren't on the typical bodybuilding menu: ice cream, cake, fatty cuts of steak, pizza, and fried food, in addition to what you normally consume.

Is it possible to go too far? Certainly not.

However, moving to a fattier cut of steak, a few rolls of white bread with dinner, and ice cream for dessert on a single day won't hurt. Having a cheat day can really help you gain muscle. Of course, the next day, you'll need to get back on track with your healthier eating habits.

Don't go overboard with supplements.

Supplements are beneficial to your diet. The basis is what you eat. Many newcomers make the mistake of thinking supplements are the foundation of their dietary plans.

They never achieve the results they want since they don't have the perfect diet plan to take them from point A to point B, from skinny to bulky.

Aside from protein powders, beginners should stick to the fundamentals to stay anabolic: a multivitamin/mineral, creatine (3-5g pre- and post-workout), and branched-chain amino acids (5-10g pre- and post-workout).

Putting the Pieces Together for Yourself

While the advice given by professional bodybuilders is useful, it should not be replicated word for word.

When it comes to mass-building, the best thing to do is create your own diet with the protein mark (1-1.3 grams of protein per pound of body weight) and the carb mark (2-3.3 grams of carbs per pound of body weight) in mind every day, split into six meals, with a larger meal before training and a whey shake with fast-acting carbs after your workout.

Adding mass is a time-consuming and consistent operation. Your best approach is to keep a tight eye on your nutrition, weigh yourself every day, and keep track of your weight to ensure you're gaining 1 pound every 5-10 days.