The 10 Commandments of Bodybuilding Nutrition — Fact or Fiction?
What’s the truth behind 10 commonly held beliefs about muscle- and strength-building nutrition? MMI separates the bodybuilding facts from the fallacies.
Commandment #7: “Thou shalt consume a greater percentage of calories from protein when dieting”
When considering nutrition as a bodybuilder, the first thing that probably goes through your mind is: protein. Gnawing on protein sources helps lay the foundation for building strength. But there are few times where eating copious amounts of protein is more important than when trying to get cut after a period of bulking up.
First, when trimming calories and carbohydrates from your diet you’ll need to bump up protein intake to prevent negative nitrogen balance, which will lead to the catabolism of all that hard-earned muscle. Also, excess protein isn’t as easily converted to fat and its thermic effect is greater than carbohydrates or fat. That means protein causes more calories to be expended during digestion and absorption. Protein also increases satiety, which can help prevent late-night ice cream binges.
The optimal macronutrient ratios for cutting can vary from person-to-person, but generally you should aim for 35-40-20 (carbs-protein-fat) and at least 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight.
Commandment #8: “Thy shalt follow the glycemic index as an immutable law”
Many bodybuilders follow the glycemic index (GI) religiously, but they shouldn’t! The GI ranks foods and drinks based on the impact they have on blood sugar compared to pure glucose (glucose is assigned a top GI value of 100). A white baguette produces a rise in blood sugar that is 95% as high as the increase glucose causes — hence, white baguettes have a GI value of 95.
So it seems logical to steer clear of such “fast-acting” items to fend off belly fat. But the GI has several shortcomings. First, baked potatoes, watermelon, pineapple and parsnips are among the nutritious, low-calorie fare that ranks fairly high on the glycemic index. On the flipside, supreme pizza, chocolate cake and fried potato chips are examples of lower GI foods that contain plenty of carbs but are far from nutritional bell-ringers.
The truth is, a low GI score is no guarantee of healthfullness. Also, the villified baked potato may have a high GI, but few people eat a spud on its lonesome. Fat, protein and fiber slow the release of blood glucose into the bloodstream. This is why a slice of doughy pizza loaded down with fat can have a low GI. What’s more, the GI of a food is determined by ingesting an amount that provides 50 grams of digestible carbohydrates, which includes starch and sugar minus fiber. For a number of items this is not a real-world portion. For instance, you’d have to consume 5 cups of watermelon to reach 50 grams of non-fiber carbs.
The GI is beneficial in that it brings awareness to the importance of making more wholesome carbohydrate choices. But don’t be a slave to a table of numbers! Nutrient density should be the driving force in one’s nutrition plan, not the GI. And there are times when it defiantly pays to seek out high GI foods. Post-workout and breakfast are two of the best examples as a quick rise in blood sugar is beneficial to help replace spent energy stores and put a halt to muscle catabolism.