Bodybuilding Coaching Strategies Meet Evidence-Based Recommendations: A Qualitative Approach

J Funct Morphol Kinesiol. 2023 Jun 16;8(2):84. doi: 10.3390/jfmk8020084.


Bodybuilding is a sport where coaches commonly recommend a variety of nutrition and exercise protocols, supplements, and, sometimes, performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). The present study sought to gain an understanding of the common decisions and rationales employed by bodybuilding coaches. Focusing on coaches of the more muscular divisions in the National Physique Committee/IFBB Professional League federations (men's classic physique, men's bodybuilding, women's physique, women's bodybuilding) for both natural and enhanced athletes, coaches were recruited via word of mouth and social media, and 33 responded to an anonymous online survey. Survey responses indicated that participant coaches recommend three-to-seven meals per day and no less than 2 g/kg/day of protein regardless of sex, division, or PED usage. During contest preparation, participant coaches alter a natural competitor's protein intake by -25% to +10% and an enhanced competitor's protein intake by 0% to +25%. Regarding cardiovascular exercise protocols, approximately two-thirds of participant coaches recommend fasted cardiovascular exercise, with the common rationale of combining the exercise with thermogenic supplements while considering the athlete's preference. Low- and moderate-intensity steady state were the most commonly recommended types of cardiovascular exercise among participant coaches; high-intensity interval training was the least popular. Creatine was ranked in the top two supplements for all surveyed categories. Regarding PEDs, testosterone, growth hormone, and methenolone were consistently ranked in the top five recommended PEDs by participant coaches. The results of this study provide insight into common themes in the decisions made by bodybuilding coaches, and highlight areas in which more research is needed to empirically support those decisions.

Keywords: cardiovascular exercise; fat loss; performance-enhancing drugs; programming; supplements.

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding.