Phil heath

Time was, if you were a professional bodybuilder, you were expected to eat and eat and eat, until you could eat no more. You’’d stuff your piehole morning, noon, night -— especially at night – in an attempt to pack on the pounds any way you could. Burgers were fine. Pizza was better. And don’’t forget the ice cream. You gotta have the ice cream. As a result of such gluttonous behavior, off-season bodybuilders were often mistaken for sideshow attractions rather than the athletes they aspired to be. Somewhere along the way during its first century of existence, competitive bodybuilding transmogrified from a quest to achieve the ideal male physique to an all-out race to out-roly-poly the next guy.

But that was then, and this is now. Enter bodybuilding champ Phil Heath’s mass-building diet, which will help you gain quality mass – a muscle with minimal fat, the type you’re probably looking for. It’’s an approach that, while somewhat unusual in today’’s hardcore gyms, makes perfect sense to Phil for several good reasons:

>> Looking Good: “My job title is Professional Bodybuilder, so I feel I should look like one not just for a couple of weeks out of the year but for the whole year,”” says Phil.

>> Feeling Good: “When I’’m too heavy, I just feel slow and lethargic. A little bodyfat is a good thing for the extra energy it gives you in the gym, but too much of it and I feel like a slob.”

>> Good for Business: ““Now that I’’m a pro, I can get called to do a guest-posing appearance at any time. The better I look at the guest-posing, the more likely I’ll be asked to do another.””

>> Good Times: ““It’’s so much easier to get ready for a contest when you have only 20 pounds to drop instead of 50. I was ready for Colorado so far out that I was really relaxed the last weeks leading up to the show instead of suffering to lose those last few pounds.”


Heath’s Eats

Despite the fact that Phil has the whole diet thing down to a science, it’’s more of the metaphysical sort rather than hard science. He isn’’t one of those retentive types who needs to count and recount every gram of protein, carbohydrate and fat that enters his body -— he eats more instinctively. He does, however, weigh his foods, but mostly just the meats to better estimate his protein intake. ““I’’ll probably take in something like 400 grams of protein a day in the off season,”” says Phil.

As for the source of his protein, Phil favors red meat, especially steak. ““I eat a lot more red meat in the off-season than I do precontest,”” he says. ““I love red meat because it helps me put on weight. I don’’t know if it’’s the creatine, B vitamins or zinc, but red meat helps me grow. My body responds really well to it.””

While his favorite cut is a flank steak (a lean cut that he favors in precontest mode), he’’ll indulge in sirloin (often leaner than filet) during the off-season. Still, he tries to stick with the leanest cuts available. ““I had a barbeque in my backyard the other day, and a bunch of bodybuilders were there,”” he says. ““I was cooking up hamburgers and they were asking me, ‘How much fat is in these?’’ And I was like, ‘This is 90% lean!’’ Just because it’s a hamburger doesn’’t mean it has to ruin your diet.””

Phil relies primarily on home-cooked meals year round. ““If Jen [Laxson, his girlfriend] and I are cooking, I know exactly what’’s going into my food,”” he explains. Outside of red meat, he’s a fan of fish, especially when it’s wrapped in rice and dried seaweed. ““I’’m a sushi nut,” he admits. ““I could eat salmon rolls pretty much every day.”

He also consumes salmon in steak form. He likes that this cold-water fish is high in omega-3s, one of the essential fatty acids. EFAs have been used to treat everything from arthritis to heart disease and allergies to asthma. They also help decrease muscle breakdown and enhance fat loss. As he’’s ramping up for a competition, Phil will swap out the salmon for a drier fish, be it tilapia or orange roughy. But, being as health-conscious as he is size-conscious, he’’ll make sure to take his EFAs in capsule form.

Cream of wheat

Chicken breast makes it onto the menu, but not as often as you might think. It’’s not one of Phil’’s favorite things to eat, although he likes the variety it adds to his six-meal day. Egg whites, usually for breakfast, comprise his other main protein source, and he prefers to pair them with a nice, steaming bowl of Cream of Wheat.

““I don’’t know why more bodybuilders don’’t eat this stuff,”“ he says. ““I love my Cream of Wheat!”

While porridge is the first hit of carbohydrates Phil consumes during a typical off-season day, it’’s far from the last. Typically he’’ll take in 600 grams or so of carbs daily. “I know a lot of people hate hearing this, but I’’m one of those guys who can stay pretty defined while eating a lot of carbs,”” he says. ““My body thrives on them. They keep my muscles full and round, so in the off-season I can eat as many as I want. But I’’m talking about complex carbs, not simple sugars, which can ruin a physique.”

Phil doesn’’t measure his fat intake during off-season mode. Most of it comes from the beef and salmon steaks and the occasional cheat meal. He does estimate, however, that he rarely, if ever, consumes more than 100 grams of fat in a day. Being that a gram of fat contains 9 calories, that works out to a maximum of 900 calories per day from fat. Added to his intake of 600 grams of carbs and 400 grams of protein, Phil’’s total calorie consumption will sometimes border on 5,000. Throw a gallon or two of water into the mix and you’’ve got the 24-hour cocktail that fuels a 5’9″, 240-pound off-season physique that seems to have been hardwired at birth to build award-winning muscles.

Tilapia broccoli

Garbage Removal

““I could eat garbage during the off-season and probably get away with it,”” Phil says. “But bodybuilding is my job, and I take it seriously. It’’s not that difficult for me to eat clean year-round, and I feel better when I eat well and look better, too. So there’s no reason for me not to stick to a healthful diet, even when I’m trying to add muscle mass.””

An off-season bulking-up diet absent of stomach distension, gastric cramps and the urge to lie on the kitchen floor, semiconscious and curled into a fetal position? It just might be the next wave in bodybuilding nutrition. With good health, a high energy level and bodybuilding trophies lining his mantel, Phil Heath is the poster child for a sensible system of off-season mass-gaining that will leave you big, hard and with all of your senses intact. 

A Day in the Life

Phil Heath’’s off-season diet is all about adding tons of muscle while staying lean. Here’’s what Phil’s typical day of eating might include:


Meal            Time                      Contents
1 8:00 a.m. 6 egg whites, 1 cup Cream of Wheat, 8 oz. water
2 11:00 a.m. 8 oz. top round steak, 2 cups white rice, broccoli
3 1:00 p.m. 8 oz. chicken breast, 2 cups brown rice, asparagus
4 4:00 p.m. 60 g protein/150 g carbohydrate shake
5 7:00 p.m. 8 oz. top round steak, 11⁄2 cups white rice, spinach
6 10:00 p.m. 8 oz. tilapia fish, broccoli

Phil’s Top 10 Off-Season Foods

  1. Top sirloin steak
  2. Salmon steak
  3.  Chicken breast
  4.  Egg whites
  5.  Cream of Wheat
  6.  Oatmeal
  7.  White rice
  8.  Brown rice
  9.  Broccoli
  10.  Sushi hand rolls (salmon, preferably)

DID YOU KNOW? There are 50 grams of protein in an 8-oz. top round steak