Bodybuilding Diets (How You Can Eat Like a Pro) | Learn: Your Fitness Business Resource

Bodybuilding Diets (How You Can Eat Like a Pro)

Tyler Spraul is the director of UX and the head trainer for He has his Bachelor of Science degree in pre-medicine and is an NSCA-certified strength and conditioning specialist. He is a former All-American soccer player and still coaches soccer today. In his free time, he enjoys reading, learning, and living the dad life. He has been featured in Shape, Healthline, HuffPost, Women's...

Full Bio →

Written by

UPDATED: Aug 25, 2020

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about your brand. Let us do the heavy lifting.

Advertiser Disclosure: We strive to help you make confident fitness software decisions. Comparison shopping should be easy. Our partners do not influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

Editorial Guidelines: The Editorial Team at is dedicated to providing fair, unbiased information about the fitness industry. We update our site regularly and all content is reviewed by credentialed fitness experts.

Get the Basics...
  • Professional bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jay Cutler can give aspiring bodybuilders a great idea of how to fashion successful diets.
  • The goal of a bodybuilding diet is usually to either bulk up or go for a deep cut.
  • Bodybuilders can eat some strange things, and there’s not necessarily a single formula that works for every person.

Think you know bodybuilding food?

In order to increase muscle mass, food is essential. Bodybuilders have specific diets depending on whether they are in a cut or bulk phase. Even with ample knowledge, sometimes it’s nice to mimic the pros.

Check out the eating habits of some professional bodybuilders and see if your bodybuilding diet plan stacks up!

Foot and fitness go hand-in-hand. For access to certified personal trainers, bodybuilding routines, and more, sign up for a PRO Plan today!

Eating Habits of Pro Bodybuilders

Bodybuilders eat some weird things to get big, beautiful muscles. Weightlifting and eating to gain size and definition is the name of the game and the pros will do almost anything to make it happen.

With the way that pro bodybuilders burn calories, they need a lot of high-quality food to halt catabolism and keep their muscles in an anabolic state.

From classic champs like Arnold Schwarzenegger (the “Mighty Oak”) to modern marvels like Jay Cutler, the way these famous bodybuilders eat can give us some insight into how they achieved their amazing results.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Admittedly, if you take a look at the Arnold Schwarzenegger workout plan, you will see that after that kind of brutal workout, you need a ton of food to fuel muscle growth:

  • 5-6 smaller meals every day
  • Carbs within half an hour after exercising
  • 30 – 50 grams of protein with each meal (every 3 hours, approx)
  • Don’t avoid saturated fat
  • No more than three eggs daily
  • Replace beef with pork, chicken, and fish
  • Avoid sugar

*Early in his career, one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s favorite post-workout meals was an entire roasted chicken and a pitcher of beer!

Jay Cutler

  • 10 meals a day!
  • Eat carbs close to workout times
  • Breakfast: Oatmeal and egg whites
  • Last meal no later than 8 p.m.
  • Lean protein and rice: round steak, chicken, fish
  • Three gallons of water per day (that’s a lot!)

Jay has recorded a lot of videos about his bodybuilding diet and routine. Watch one here:

Lee Haney

  • Six meals per day
  • Most calories consumed between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • No complex carbs
  • Breakfast omelet: eight eggs
  • Last meal of the day: mixed fruit salad or 1 cup of oatmeal with strawberries

Ronnie Coleman

  • First meal: 10:30 a.m.
  • Last meal: 1:30 a.m.
  • Six meals per day
  • Only eat carbs, meals 1 through 4
  • Favorite meal: steak and rice

Get More Out of Your Exercises. Go PRO!

Sign Up

Bodybuilding Option: “Cut” vs. “Bulk”

There are many different schools of thought in the world of iron and muscle. Some guys go for maximum muscle size, others want to burn off all of their body fat so their physiques look as chiseled and toned as possible. Some bodybuilders go for both. But most people will agree: you can’t do both at the same time.

Going for a deep cut means restricting calories — that much sought-after “caloric deficit.”

A caloric deficit is when you burn up more than you bring in. In this case, that means calories. When you burn more calories than you use, your body turns to your fat stores to get energy. This leads to a more ripped, shredded appearance, which many bodybuilders want/need before a competition.

A bulk works the opposite way. Your body needs a caloric surplus (extra calories) in order to devote the proper nutrients and resources to the construction of new muscle. It’s important to get a lot of protein, to give your body the raw materials it needs to make new muscle.

Carbs directly after a workout can also help add bulk by taking advantage of the anabolic window, during which time insulin drives sugar to the muscles. The protein goes along for the ride and bigger, stronger muscles are the result.

The downside? Carbs contribute to bloat, adding water weight, which robs muscles of that lean, rock-hard appearance that wins bodybuilding shows.

Calculating Your Calorie Intake

Figuring out how many calories you need to reach your goals is simpler than you think. Just use this handy system:

1. Determine your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate):

  • For men – 66 + (6.23 x your weight in lbs.) + (12.7 x your height in inches) – (6.8 x your age in years)
  • For women  655 + (4.35 x your weight in lbs.) + (4.7 x your height in inches) – (4.7 x your age in years)

2. Determine your daily activity level:

  • 1.2  slightly active
  • 1.375  slightly active with some sports or light exercise 1-3 days per week
  • 1.55  moderate activity who performs sports or exercise 3 to 5 days per week
  • 1.725  hard training person who carries out intense exercise or sports 6 to 7 days per week
  • 1.9  very active, hard training person who performs exercise or sports and works a physically demanding job or trains twice per day

3. Multiply BMR by daily activity level.

Strange Foods of the Strong

  • Bruce Lee Diet – Shakes made of cow’s blood and steak
  • Dwight Freeney Diet – Pinto beans and steak to prep for the AFC Championship
  • Ronnie Coleman Diet – Grits with cheese and two eggs for breakfast (also, check out the Ronnie Coleman workout plan)
  • Lee Priest Diet – KFC big bucket of 21 chicken drumsticks
  • Roelly Winklaar Diet Burger, Oreo shake, cheesecake
  • Evan Centopani Diet Ate two steaks, a tall stack of pancakes, and a glass of orange juice then went off to a photo shoot where he had two double cheeseburgers and a side of fries
  • Phil Heath Diet – 12 donuts
  • Jim Walter DietSushi
  • Kai Greene Diet $90-worth of IHOP and 15 hamburgers in one sitting

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How much protein should I eat?

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends consuming 0.5 to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily.

Can bodybuilders be vegetarians?

Absolutely! They can be vegans as well.

Do bodybuilders drink alcohol?

Some do. When prepping for a show, most will cut out alcohol consumption. However, in the offseason, some bodybuilders enjoy the occasional happy hour.

Paired with proper training, using food as fuel will give you great results. Get started with our Pro Annual Plan to find a bodybuilding routine that will work for you!

Learn more about Fitness Business Management Software.

Schedule your demo today.