Bodybuilders and physique athletes sometimes get laughed at for obsessing over their diets—planning things out to the gram, measuring food on scales, and being able to break down a meal into macros by sight.
But in my experience, they're a really advanced group when it comes to nutrition. They understand a lot of things that people in general society don't.
I want people to be more educated about what they eat. It's a major part of why I became a professor and researcher: to share the latest insights that science has to offer about how to eat to build muscle, get shredded, and built your best physique.
Don't rely on the latest fad or macronutrient witch hunt for guidance on something as crucial as nutrition.
Learn the fundamentals of eating for success in Mass Class!
First off: As a rule, I think bodybuilders—and everybody else, too—should focus on really nutrient-dense foods that have a lot of vitamins and minerals and are high in fiber. These things are good not just for muscle growth, but also for health. It's far too easy to think that if you've got your macros down, you've got a good diet. But you also need—yes, need—leafy green vegetables as often as possible. Make sure you get them.
My recommendation is to only eat 4-5 times per day, making sure that you get enough protein in each of those meals.
You've been told that before, though. The question is about protein, and I'm eager to answer it; protein and amino acids have been the focus of a lot of my research. I know a lot of people approach protein by asking the question, "How much do I need in a single day?" But that's going about it the wrong way.
Instead, consider asking, "How much protein should I have at each individual meal, and how frequently can I consume my meals?"
For a 180-pound guy, 30-40 grams of protein per meal has been shown to be the amount that will optimize the muscle-building response. That amount obviously will go up or down depending on if you're, say, a 250-pound guy or 130-pound woman.
When it comes to meal timing, everybody looks for the "sweet spot, " but it's different for everybody based on their needs, their lifestyle, and how much they can comfortably eat. I know guys who chow down as many as eight times every day, but that's way too much for most of us. My recommendation is to only eat 4-5 times per day, making sure that you get enough protein in each of those meals.
Then, between those meals, we found that branched-chain amino acids are effective at keeping protein synthesis spiked. That's not just some bodybuilding mumbo jumbo—it works! If you're really into bodybuilding nutrition, you know that leucine is the king of branched-chain amino acids.