Nutrition Recommendations for Bodybuilders in the Off-Season: A Narrative Review

Sports (Basel). 2019 Jun 26;7(7):154. doi: 10.3390/sports7070154.


Many nutrition practices often used by bodybuilders lack scientific support and can be detrimental to health. Recommendations during the dieting phase are provided in the scientific literature, but little attention has been devoted to bodybuilders during the off-season phase. During the off-season phase, the goal is to increase muscle mass without adding unnecessary body fat. This review evaluated the scientific literature and provides nutrition and dietary supplement recommendations for natural bodybuilders during the off-season phase. A hyper-energetic diet (~10-20%) should be consumed with a target weight gain of ~0.25-0.5% of bodyweight/week for novice/intermediate bodybuilders. Advanced bodybuilders should be more conservative with the caloric surplus and weekly weight gain. Sufficient protein (1.6-2.2 g/kg/day) should be consumed with optimal amounts 0.40-0.55 g/kg per meal and distributed evenly throughout the day (3-6 meals) including within 1-2 hours pre- and post-training. Fat should be consumed in moderate amounts (0.5-1.5 g/kg/day). Remaining calories should come from carbohydrates with focus on consuming sufficient amounts (≥3-5 g/kg/day) to support energy demands from resistance exercise. Creatine monohydrate (3-5 g/day), caffeine (5-6 mg/kg), beta-alanine (3-5 g/day) and citrulline malate (8 g/day) might yield ergogenic effects that can be beneficial for bodybuilders.

Keywords: Bodybuilding; muscle hypertrophy; nutrition.

Publication types

  • Review