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You rigidly adhere to the basic tenets of bodybuilding nutrition and train like a beast, laughing through the barrage of guru-authored diets that now flood the American mainstream. But maybe you shouldn’t write them all off just yet. Some of them can actually prove to be quite beneficial.

That’s why we evaluated five of the most popular diets around and rated each for its ability to help you build mass and get lean. Surprisingly, some are worth their weight in chicken breasts.

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VOLUMETRICS

  • Eat lessvolumetrics-soup-is-on calorically dense foods to satiate hunger
  • Focus on watery, non-starchy foods, such as celery, squash, melons, nonfat milk and broth-based soups
  • Greater volume of food leaves you feeling fuller longer with zero-calorie guilt

FLEX Rating: 7/20

Getting Lean = 5

This rating may be generous, since adding muscle has the most positive and lasting effect on overall body composition, but the fact remains that fewer calories does, for the most part, equal less fat. The best part of this plan is the advocacy of smaller, more frequent meals.

Gaining Mass = 2

Adding appreciable muscle to your frame requires a lot more than veggies. Your muscles need ample protein – not to mention total calories – to recover and grow from intense workouts. The Volumetrics approach simply doesn’t provide that.

volumetrics-meal-plan

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MEDITERRANEAN

  • Emphasizesmediterranean-being-a-wino plenty of fruits, vegetables and wine
  • Protein comes mostly from fish and poultry
  • Relatively low amounts of red meat and meat products
  • High consumption of olive oil, which can help control blood sugar and lower cholesterol

FLEX Rating: 13/20

Getting Lean = 8

Emphasis on olive oil and other healthy fats, such as nuts, and limited carb intake – with the exception of vegetables and fruit – make it a strong choice for those looking to lean out.

Gaining Mass = 5

Not enough emphasis on protein in general, downplays key protein sources, such as red meat, eggs and milk – traditional bodybuilding staples – making it difficult to add significant amounts of muscle without making a hefty hike in protein powders.

mediterranean-meal-plan

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SOUTH BEACH

  • Focusessouth-beach-nut-case on carbohydrate selection; teaches which carbs – such as beans, whole grains and vegetables have a lower impact on bodyfat
  • Stays away from trans fats and most saturated fats
  • Favors healthy fat sources, such as lean meats, nuts and fish
  • Heavy emphasis on diet education may have a longer-lasting impact than other quick-fix options

FLEX Rating: 14/20

Getting Lean = 7

Learning how to manipulate your carbohydrate consumption is key for bodybuilders, which is why this scores high in the get-lean department. Slower-digesting carbs should be a staple in your diet anyway, with the exceptions being postworkout and first thing in the morning.

Gaining Mass = 7

Places a high emphasis on proteins, such as lean meats, poultry and fish. But some saturated fat – which this diet discourages – can actually help you to keep testosterone levels high and is OK for bodybuilders in moderation.

south-beach-meal-plan

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ATKINS

  • A low-carb,atkins-how-low-can-you-go high-protein diet that forces the body to burn fat preferentially
  • A four-phase program, the first of which – called induction – involves restricting carb intake to a maddening, contest-prep level of 20 g or less per day
  • Not uncommon to drop five to 10 pounds in the über-restrictive induction phase
  • Liberal amounts of beef, fish, poultry, fowl, eggs, cheese, olive oil, vegetable oil and veggies

FLEX rating: 15/20

Getting Lean = 9

Reliance on protein, healthy fats and veggies – combined with the absence of high-glycemic carbs – help you to drop fat and water weight crazy fast.

Gaining Mass = 6

Meat, meat, meat. It’s the stuff your quads are made of. The only drawback is the lack of carbohydrates to power you through your training and fill your muscles to their fullest, leaving you looking a bit flat and depleted.

atkins-meal-plan

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PALEOLITHIC (Caveman Diet)

  • Lots of leanpaleolithic-skinny-on-fat meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, roots and nuts
  • No grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar or processed oils
  • A high-protein (35%), lower-carb (20%-400/0), moderate-fat (25%-450/0) diet, a ratio that has been shown to have positive effects on cardiovascular health, as well as body composition

FLEX Rating: 16/20

Getting Lean = 8

It’s a familiar bodybuilding practice: limiting carbohydrates while increasing protein consumption can help you quickly drop bodyfat. As such, this diet wouldn’t be much of a stretch for most FLEX readers.

Gaining Mass = 8

A relatively high focus on meats of all types helps you keep up your mass quest. Plus, the ample fat intake will keep testosterone levels peaked, essential for building muscle.

paleolithic-meal-plan

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FLEX DIET(S)

  • 1.5 g of protein per day to build muscle
  • 2 g (or more) of carbs per pound of bodyweight for normal function
  • Sufficient healthy fats and saturated fats to keep testosterone levels up
  • Small, frequent meals to keep metabolism high, appetite low and provide energy
  • Majority of carbs consumed before and after training to optimize use for fuel and recovery

flex-breakfast

FLEX Rating: 20/20

Getting Lean = 10

Getting lean isn’t rocket science. A little education and a lot of discipline in the kitchen – combined with intense training and the right supps – will help you get as lean as you want to get.

Gaining Mass = 10

Big protein. Good carbs. Healthy fats. Simply eating more won’t really cut it, unless you’re looking for sloppy mass. Adding muscle can be as easy as 1-2-3, if you’re observing FLEX-advocated meal plans and supplement recommendations.

flex-sample-meal-plan