Bodybuilders, trainers and diet gurus alike (at least those worth their salt) will tell you that bodybuilding is more than 50% nutrition. We tend to agree, especially where the novice is concerned. Beginners or those heading back into the gym after a layoff can expect to make some serious gains in strength and mass from a regular training program, but not without a solid nutrition program.

Bottom line: The more serious you are about your nutrition, the more serious your gains will be. In fact, if you combed the literature on weightlifting, you’d quickly learn that relatively little research has been done on training techniques for boosting muscle mass and strength compared to the tons of studies on the effects of nutrition and dietary supplements. Said research shows that paying attention to macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fat), calories, meal timing and certain supplements will have a huge impact on your results.

But because you don’t have time to do all the combing yourself, we’ve boiled it down to 10 basic nutrition and supplement rules that every beginner should learn now and maintain indefinitely. Follow these rules and stick to your lifting program, and soon that “beginner” label will no longer apply to you.