When starting a
, the tendency is to put everything you've got into the workouts, hitting the gym with a full-on enthusiasm and intensity. That's the fun part. The not-so-exciting part? Overhauling your diet, which likely means restricting some foods you love, and if you're battling a metabolism on hyperdrive, stuffing yourself with calories like Joey Chestnut at a plate full of hot dogs.
The tough-love message is simple: Get over it. The nutritional advice we have isn't overly complicated either, and allows for a smooth transition into a muscle-building menu plan. Here are five essential tips to get you started.
Cut out the most obvious sources of sugar and fat in your current diet
If it comes from a drive through, pizza delivery man or the candy aisle of the grocery store, chances are it's going to do nothing but offset the hard work you're doing in the weight room. Do yourself a favor and drop the most obvious bad-food choices you make. In general, at the very least you're better off making meals at home, where you control the preparation. But it's smart to wean yourself off of soda, French fries and other fried foods, ice cream, and candy bars. As a beginner, you don't necessarily need to worry about being super-strict with your diet, but replacing the worst offenders will by process of elimination increase the quality nutrients you're getting.
Divide your daily eating into 5 to 6 meals
When you eat your calories is almost as important as what you're noshing on. Some of America's obesity epidemic is arguably driven by meal timing - the typical pattern of skipping breakfast, choosing fast food for lunch, then starving until dinner, causing people to eat huge portions at night before going to bed. Instead, you want to give your body a more steady stream of nutrients, so it can methodically process them, starting with a healthy breakfast when you wake up and continuing all day in 2- to 3-hour intervals. These more frequent meals should be smaller than the typical gorge fest - something as simple as a protein shake and a banana is a "meal" in this strategy.
Balance your meals
. As a beginner, you would be well-served aiming for a diet that breaks along these lines: 40 percent high quality protein (chicken and turkey breast, lean beef, fish, skim milk, eggs, and protein supplements), 40 percent carbohydrates (mostly complex, such as whole grains, vegetables and fruit), and 20 percent fat (including healthy
monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids, avoiding saturated and trans fats as much as possible).
With that in mind, good meal choices often reflect that balance - grilled salmon, brown rice and a green salad, or chicken breast, yam and broccoli, or an egg-white omelet with mixed vegetables and a whole-wheat bagel, as examples. As a note, good fat sources include olive oil, vegetable oil, avocadoes, nuts and seeds, flaxseeds, and coldwater fish like mackerel or salmon.
Cheat just enough to keep yourself honest
. No one can eat super-clean forever. In fact, eat too clean and your body starts to adjust to your diet - not good when your goal is making full-scale changes in your physique by prompting major muscle growth. So, to keep your system off-balance enough to continue your transformation, once or twice a week you'll want to include a cheat meal. This is where you responsibly quash your nagging cravings, and dive into that banana split or double-decker cheeseburger.
Not only does the calorie shock kick your body out of complacency, it also props you up mentally - feeding your cravings every once in a while will help you avoid the total crash-and-burn of a feeding frenzy, which could happen if you try to ignore the yearning for too long.
Use supplements to augment your endeavors.
Can you build an impressive physique over time without the help of supplements? The honest answer is, yes. But on the other hand, why not make use of all the amazing breakthroughs science has offered in the sports nutrition category the past few decades, and try to fast track your results?
There are supplements that can help all aspects of your bodybuilding efforts, and as millions of people would attest, they can make a big difference. Protein powders, bars and ready-to-drink formulas provide a quick dose of this all-important muscle-building nutrient any time of day, and can stand in for a whole-food meal when
you're on the go. Preworkout products such as creatine and nitric-oxide boosters can help increase your strength and energy for a better training session. Vitamins, minerals and various amino acids can help fill in any nutritional gaps, so the building blocks are there when your body needs them for growth and recovery. As a beginner, you'll want to research all the options at your disposal, so you can decide for yourself what products are right for your goals.
With all that said, there's one last piece of advice we can give you: Start now. If you want to make positive changes and live the fitness lifestyle, waiting for some random date in the future - next week, the first of next month, or worst of all, New Year's Day - is nothing more than procrastination. If you want it, do it immediately, starting this very moment. Putting it off any longer is only a recipe for regret. It's a decision that will resonate through all aspects of your life, and immediately move you closer to your ultimate bodybuilding goals.