Nutritional Recommendations for Physique Athletes

J Hum Kinet. 2020 Jan 31;71:79-108. doi: 10.2478/hukin-2019-0096. eCollection 2020 Jan.


The popularity of physique sports is increasing, yet there are currently few comprehensive nutritional guidelines for these athletes. Physique sport now encompasses more than just a short phase before competition and offseason guidelines have recently been published. Therefore, the goal of this review is to provide an extensive guide for male and female physique athletes in the contest preparation and recovery period. As optimal protein intake is largely related to one's skeletal muscle mass, current evidence supports a range of 1.8-2.7 g/kg. Furthermore, as a benefit from having adequate carbohydrate to fuel performance and activity, low-end fat intake during contest preparation of 10-25% of calories allows for what calories remain in the "energy budget" to come from carbohydrate to mitigate the negative impact of energy restriction and weight loss on training performance. For nutrient timing, we recommend consuming four or five protein boluses per day with one consumed near training and one prior to sleep. During competition periods, slower rates of weight loss (≤0.5% of body mass per week) are preferable for attenuating the loss of fat-free mass with the use of intermittent energy restriction strategies, such as diet breaks and refeeds, being possibly beneficial. Additionally, physiological and psychological factors are covered, and potential best-practice guidelines are provided for disordered eating and body image concerns since physique athletes present with higher incidences of these issues, which may be potentially exacerbated by certain traditional physique practices. We also review common peaking practices, and the critical transition to the post-competition period.

Keywords: bodybuilding; competition recovery; contest preparation; nutrition; physique.