One of the most common issues facing bodybuilders, people going to the gym, and athletes is what, and how much, they should be eating. We all worry about it, and we are all right to: nutrition will make or break even the most efficient exercise regimes.
To show you a typical set of nutritional requirements, let’s look at an average day as a bodybuilder. Our hypothetical bodybuilder is trying to gain muscle and take in sufficient calories to keep up with their body’s heightened metabolic demand. This will take a fair few calories. How many? Well, a BMR calculator should tell them.
Our hypothetical bodybuilder weighs about 95kg and needs around 3,000-3,500 calories per day, based on a BMR calculator using the Benedict-Harris equation. This accounts for their basal needs and the fact that they are doing 4+ days of hard exercise every day. Their nutrition needs to reflect this, so their total intake needs to consistently be in this ballpark.
At 95 kg per day, they will need around, or little under, 200 grams (or 800 calories) of protein. Anybody looking at the good steak in their local butcher will tell you that that can be a very expensive lifestyle. Therefore, other forms of protein need to come into it. Around half can come from dietary animal sources like meat or dairy, a quarter perhaps from dietary veg, and the remainder from supplements like whey isolate.
In fact, we can keep protein needs quite low.
Everything listed below will give you at least 30g of protein for under a dollar ($5 of chicken leg will give you 300g, far more than your daily need, as will $5 of peanut butter.)
I’ve put them in price order, starting with the most expensive:
- Cottage cheese
- Whole milk
- Black beans
- Baked beans
- Peanut butter
These are all easy foods to incorporate into your daily nutrition regime. They will allow you to maintain a varied and relatively inexpensive diet with high protein intake.
However, protein isn’t the whole picture: you also need good quality carbs and fats for a healthy, balanced diet that will fuel will your workouts and keep your recovery in check.
This is where things get really cheap. Carbs should fill you up for very little, and this is what we’ll do with this list: everything on here will come in less than $0.10 per 100 calories of carbs.
Our hypothetical bodybuilder needs a carb intake of about 1,200 per day (you can be a bit less specific here during bulking or maintenance). Everything on this list should allow you to hit your targets for under $1 per day.
Again, these are ordered with the most expensive first:
- Egg pasta
- Ramen noodles
- Regular pasta
Our bodybuilder will need around 900 calories per day from fat, meaning about 100 grams. They will want a wide range of fats so that the nutrition advantages of each type (unsaturated, saturated, and so on) can be taken advantage of.
Some options for fat are quite cheap (butter and cheese). Others, like nuts and oils, can be a little pricey. All deserve a place in your daily nutrition. It should all come in at a little under a couple of dollars per day.
Our list for the best budget fats, starting with the most expensive, is:
- Mixed seeds
- Olive oil
- Buttery spread (margarine, buttermilk derivatives etc.)
A final few bits
If you’re still in doubt, try consulting a personal trainer in Dubai, or even a nutritionist or dietician. Most gyms in Dubai will also be able to give you plenty of information, though they will likely refer you to one of their personal trainers for a more in-depth plan that you can discuss along with your gym membership.
Other than the above, you will want to bear a couple of things in mind for your meal prep. For economy:
- It’s best to go with frozen veg if you’re on a budget, as you can bulk buy and none will go to waste.
- Other than this, buy seasonal produce, as it’s generally cheaper, and avoid expensive produce like avocadoes.
- For supplements, buy a generic, store-brand multi-vit pack. You should be able to get a month’s worth for a dollar or two.
For expediency, it may be worth writing out your nutrition plan for the week (or having any of the personal trainers in Dubai at GymNation do it for you). It may also be worth making all of your food, placing it in containers and freezing it. Simply heat it all up as you need it. Then you won’t have to think about nutrition for the rest of the week and your goals will be met easily and efficiently.