Bodybuilding involves performing a series of poses on stage where the competitor is judged on aesthetic muscular appearance. The purpose of this study was to describe training practices and ergogenic aids used by competitive bodybuilders and to determine whether training practices comply with current recommendations for muscular hypertrophy. A web-based survey was completed by 127 competitive male bodybuilders. The results showed that during the off-season phase of training (OFF), the majority of respondents performed 3-6 sets per exercise (95.3%), 7-12 repetition maximum (RM) per set (77.0%), and 61- to 120-seconds recovery between sets and exercises (68.6%). However, training practices changed 6 weeks before competition (PRE), where there was an increased number of respondents who reported undertaking 3-4 sets per exercise at the expense of 5-6 sets per exercise (p
Bodybuilding is an aesthetic sport whereby competitors aspire to achieve a combination of high levels of muscularity combined with low levels of body fat. Protein is an important macronutrient for promoting muscle growth, and meeting daily needs is necessary to optimize the accretion of lean mass. Current recommendations for muscle hypertrophy suggest a relative protein intake ranging from 1.4 g/kg/day up to 2.0 g/kg/day is required for those involved in resistance training. However, research indicates that the actual ingestion of protein in competitive bodybuilders is usually greater than advocated in guidelines. The purpose of this current opinion article is to critically evaluate the evidence on whether higher intakes of protein are warranted in competitive bodybuilders. We conclude that competitive bodybuilders may benefit from consuming a higher protein intake than what is generally prescribed for recreationally trained lifters; however, the paucity of direct research in this population makes it difficult to draw strong conclusions on the topic.
Competitive bodybuilders employ a combination of resistance training, cardiovascular exercise, calorie reduction, supplementation regimes and peaking strategies in order to lose fat mass and maintain fat free mass. Although recommendations exist for contest preparation, applied research is limited and data on the contest preparation regimes of bodybuilders are restricted to case studies or small cohorts. Moreover, the influence of different nutritional strategies on competitive outcome is unknown.
Greater carbohydrate intake in the placed competitors could theoretically have contributed towards greater maintenance of muscle mass during competition preparation compared to DNP competitors. These findings require corroboration, but will likely be of interest to bodybuilders and coaches.
Within the United Kingdom (UK), the British Natural Bodybuilding Federation (BNBF) runs nine regional qualifying competitions; the regional qualifiers culminate in a UK final championship, where the overall winner is awarded professional status. This cohort provides an excellent opportunity to study the nutritional practices of a high level group of natural bodybuilders. The strategies employed by the most successful natural bodybuilders can be compared to recommendations , which include protein intake of between 2.3 and 3.1 g/kg of LBM, fat intake of 15 to 30% of total calories, with the remaining calories from carbohydrate and a weekly weight loss of 0.5 to 1% of bodyweight (BW) . Here we report the results of a recent cross-sectional study investigating the nutritional strategies of natural bodybuilding competitors at the BNBF finals.
This study is novel in providing insight on the nutritional strategies of high-level competitive natural bodybuilders. Although other studies have claimed to recruit high-level or elite natural bodybuilders, their definition of elite has been less stringent than the present investigation [3, 5]. We found no significant difference in dietary intake between the placed and DNP competitors. In spite of this null effect, results of practical significance testing suggest carbohydrate consumption in the early stages of contest preparation may influence competitive outcome in the male bodybuilders. We also report that high level natural bodybuilders consume more energy, particularly from carbohydrate than previous accounts of natural bodybuilders [3,4,5,6,7,8]. As bodybuilders approached competition, energy intake is reduced primarily through a reduction in carbohydrate and fat intake, with protein intake remaining constant throughout contest preparation. Accounts of body composition measurement show that bodybuilders often employ subjective methods to estimate BF% . Finally, we report on supplement and caffeine intake and note high consumption compared to publicly prescribed safety recommendations for caffeine.
Skin callipers were the most commonly used methods for estimating BF% amongst competitors, while subjective methods based on appearance were also reported. Objective measurements of BF% from competitive bodybuilders have been reported previously; these data suggest ranges from 4.1 to 10.9% and 8.6 to 11.3% in males and females respectively [2, 6,7,8, 19,20,21]. Interestingly in a sport concerned with achieving a low body fat, the majority of competitors did not report BF%, with a proportion using visual methods to estimate BF%. It is possible that the lack of reporting of BF% may reflect a greater emphasis placed on the appearance of low body fat in bodybuilding rather than objectively obtained measures.
A FFMI above 25 kg/m2 is suggested as an upper limit for muscle accretion, without the use of AAS . This threshold, however, is based on photographic estimates of pre 1959 Mr. America bodybuilders and the objective measurement of 157 gymnasium users so should be interpreted with some caution . We provided an estimate of the mean FFMI based on competitors who reported BF% using callipers of 22.7 kg/m2, this is higher than the 21.8 kg/m2 reported in the study of gymnasium users . Interestingly, two male competitors in this study had a FFMI above the 25 kg/m2, (25.73 and 25.15 kg/m2) natural threshold based on the pre 1959 Mr. America winners. We did not measure FFM or BF% directly and we acknowledge the limitations of self-reported accounts of BF%; however, it is not inconceivable that there are high-level natural bodybuilders who exceed this theoretical FFMI 25.0 kg/m2 threshold. The mean FFMI of 18.1 kg/m2 reported in females was in agreement with previous estimates of 18.3 kg/m2 . but greater than that of a recent case report . No FFMI upper threshold has been proposed for females; however, a FFMI between 19.0 to 20.0 kg/m2 seems a reasonable objective starting point based on estimates of female populations .
As expected energy intake of male and female competitors was higher at the start of contest preparation compared to the end. Similar findings have been reported in previous observations [13, 23, 24]. Competitors reported reducing energy intake in stages over the course of their preparation with smaller differences from the start to the middle and middle to end of the diet. Similar strategies involving modest reductions in carbohydrate and fat consumption to facilitate weight loss has been reported elsewhere . In contrast, two case studies of bodybuilders [5, 7] reported a reduction in energy intake between 882 to 1300 kcal/d from the start to the end of the competition preparation, compared to smaller reductions (554 kcal/d) in our placed males. Smaller reductions are intended to counteract metabolic adaptations to dieting, changes in energy requirements and preservation of LBM . Both male and female competitors reported a high meal frequency. This may reflect the practical aspects of consuming large volumes of food combined with and belief that multiple meals may preserve more LBM, while contributing to greater appetite control [25,26,27].
Carbohydrate was the most abundant macronutrient consumed across all the phases of the diet, in both male and female competitors. The majority of carbohydrates came from cereals, tubers, fruit, and vegetables. Confectionary items, such as sweets and water-based desserts, legumes and bread were consumed sparingly during contest preparations in agreement with previous accounts of bodybuilding menus [5, 7, 29]. Carbohydrate intake was reduced from the start to the end of contest preparation reflecting the practice seen in bodybuilding case studies [3,4,5]. Carbohydrate intake amongst placed males (5.1 g/kg BW) was similar to a meta-analysis of contest preparation bodybuilders (4.9 g/kg BW) . However, intake was higher amongst placed male competitors in the weeks preceding the competition (end of the diet), 4.6 g/kg BW compared to previous reports (3.8 g/kg BW) . Intake was also higher for male competitors compared to three recent case studies, where mean intakes were between 2.5 to 3.0 g/kg bw over 26 and 28 weeks [3, 4], and 1.2 to 1.4 g/kg bw over 14 weeks .
Carbohydrate energy in the female cohort (placed and DNP Start of diet: 3.7 and 4.0 g/kg BW), was higher than two case studies (3.4 g/kg BW  and 1.5 to 1.9 g/kg BW ) and a meta-analysis conducted on studies reporting intake amongst female bodybuilders over 30 years ago (3.1 g/ kg BW) . Higher intakes have been reported in a recent case report of a dieting female physique competitor where intake was initially 5.0 g/kg BW  before decreasing to 1.8 g/kg BW by the end of the 6 month study period. Intakes of 5.0 g/kg BW have been reported in the final week of contest preparation,  which may reflect carbohydrate loading strategies in the final week of competition. 041b061a72