The 8 Biggest Dieting Offenses and How to Fix Them

These cardinal rules of bodybuilding nutrition are broken every day.


Illustrations by Dale Stephanos

If only we could hire referees to sit with you at your breakfast nook, your dinner table and your favorite lunch spot. If only someone with a discerning nutritional eye could look over your shoulder as you fix your pre- and postworkout shakes and cry “foul” when your protein-to-carb ratios didn’t add up or you used only one scoop of protein rather than two. Because here’s the deal: too many bodybuilders make too many dieting mistakes. Whether it’s a lack of protein, an overabundance of simple carbs, or a faulty bedtime snack, such shortcomings are holding back loads of people from achieving their bodybuilding goals. So here, we break down a handful of the most egregious diet fouls we come across. If you can just fix these, you’ll be in good shape — literally.



You may think that if you’re trying to lean out, eating less at each meal is a good idea. But when it comes to breakfast, regardless of your goal, eating too little can put your body in a catabolic (muscle wasting) state, which breaks down muscle tissue, slows metabolism and prevents fat burning. “When blood sugar (the amount of digested carbohydrates floating around in the bloodstream) is lower, coupled with a lack of recently consumed protein, the body is more likely to fall into a catabolic state, where muscle is burned rather than built,” says Chris Aceto, author of Championship Bodybuilding and Everything You Need to Know about Fat Loss.


Eat a disproportionate amount of carbohydrates at breakfast, says Aceto, to cushion blood sugar levels, which alleviates the burden to use up protein and muscle mass. Remember, when you sleep, you are essentially fasting and your body turns to your muscles for fuel. Begin your day with 80-100 grams of carbs (a mix of both fast- and slow-digesting carbs, such as oatmeal with sugar, is ideal, as the fast carbs will quickly get to your liver and stop muscle breakdown, while the slow carbs will give you ample energy for the day) and 30-50 g of protein.



The real offense here is following the recommendations of your local dietitian, who would have you believe that consuming 200 g of protein (or more) every day is, to say the least, excessive. But is he taking into account the volume of training you undergo week after week, month after month, year after year? “Protein equals damage control,” Aceto says. “When you hit the gym, even if you’re a rank beginner, you create muscle fiber damage in those muscles, and the primary ingredient that repairs that is protein. ‘Clinical’ recommendations are good, but look no further than your local contest winner and his protein intake will be higher than what most recommend.”


We harp on it over and over, but it bears repeating: your protein intake needs to be at a minimum of one gram per pound of bodyweight every day. For hardgainers, this may need to be as high as 1.5 g per pound. Getting all that protein through whole foods is tough, which is why most (if not all) competitive bodybuilders ingest a couple of protein shakes daily, if not more.


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