The general strategy adopted by most present-day competitive bodybuilders is to make muscle gains for most of the year (known as the "off-season") and, approximately 12–14 weeks from competition, lose a maximum of body fat (referred to as "cutting") while preserving as much muscular mass as possible. The bulking phase entails remaining in a net positive energy balance (calorie surplus). The amount of a surplus in which a person remains is based on the person's goals, as a bigger surplus and longer bulking phase will create more fat tissue. The surplus of calories relative to one's energy balance will ensure that muscles remain in a state of anabolism.

Comer has an athletic build that comes from years of martial arts and marathon training, not to mention amateur competitive bodybuilding, activities that have taken a toll on her now bandaged 40-something-year-old knees. — Quanta Magazine, "The Art of Teaching Math and Science," 16 June 2019 Teresa Giudice, who's best known as a personality on Bravo's Real Housewives of New Jersey, competed in her first bodybuilding contest Saturday. — Carly Mallenbaum, USA TODAY, "'Real Housewives' star Teresa Giudice shows off new muscles at bodybuilding competition," 10 June 2018 His first wife, Sitora Yusufiy, suggested in an interview with Time magazine, with little evidence other than his penchant for bodybuilding and mirror-gazing, that Omar Mateen could have been gay. — Tim Fitzsimons /, NBC News, "What really happened that night at Pulse," 12 June 2018 The physique competition will be held at McGlohon Theater and includes the following categories: bodybuilding, fitness, men’s physique, figure, bikini, classic physique and women’s physique. — Courtney Devores, charlotteobserver, "Your 5-minute guide to the best things to do in Charlotte | June 22-28," 21 June 2018 Fans who have been following Giudice closely on social media have watched the reality star workout in videos, but Giudice hasn't posted publicly about her first bodybuilding competition. — Carly Mallenbaum, USA TODAY, "'Real Housewives' star Teresa Giudice shows off new muscles at bodybuilding competition," 10 June 2018 Carolyn Marvin, who served as the graduate adviser for both Prosper and Nirenberg, pointed to his thesis, an autoethnography about the subculture of bodybuilding. — Josh Baugh, San Antonio Express-News, "Nirenberg knew immediately that he’d eventually marry Erika Prosper," 17 Mar. 2018 The bodybuilding competition is one of two hosted produced each year in Louisville by Kentucky Muscle promoter Brent L. Jones. — Matt Stone, The Courier-Journal, "Bodybuilders, fitness athletes go flex at 2018 KDF Derby Championships," 29 Apr. 2018 Father John Brown is basically a bodybuilding legend, having won two Mr. Universe titles and three Mr. World crowns. — Jr Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Facts you may have missed about each Packers draft choice in 2018," 4 May 2018


Due to the growing concerns of the high cost, health consequences, and illegal nature of some steroids, many organizations have formed in response and have deemed themselves "natural" bodybuilding competitions. In addition to the concerns noted, many promoters of bodybuilding have sought to shed the "freakish" perception that the general public has of bodybuilding and have successfully introduced a more mainstream audience to the sport of bodybuilding by including competitors whose physiques appear much more attainable and realistic.
Carbohydrates play an important role for bodybuilders. They give the body energy to deal with the rigors of training and recovery. Carbohydrates also promote secretion of insulin, a hormone enabling cells to get the glucose they need. Insulin also carries amino acids into cells and promotes protein synthesis.[26] Insulin has steroid-like effects in terms of muscle gains.[27] It is impossible to promote protein synthesis without the existence of insulin, which means that without ingesting carbohydrates or protein—which also induces the release of insulin—it is impossible to add muscle mass.[28] Bodybuilders seek out low-glycemic polysaccharides and other slowly digesting carbohydrates, which release energy in a more stable fashion than high-glycemic sugars and starches. This is important as high-glycemic carbohydrates cause a sharp insulin response, which places the body in a state where it is likely to store additional food energy as fat. However, bodybuilders frequently do ingest some quickly digesting sugars (often in form of pure dextrose or maltodextrin) just before, during, and/or just after a workout. This may help to replenish glycogen stored within the muscle, and to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.[29]
Comer has an athletic build that comes from years of martial arts and marathon training, not to mention amateur competitive bodybuilding, activities that have taken a toll on her now bandaged 40-something-year-old knees. — Quanta Magazine, "The Art of Teaching Math and Science," 16 June 2019 Teresa Giudice, who's best known as a personality on Bravo's Real Housewives of New Jersey, competed in her first bodybuilding contest Saturday. — Carly Mallenbaum, USA TODAY, "'Real Housewives' star Teresa Giudice shows off new muscles at bodybuilding competition," 10 June 2018 His first wife, Sitora Yusufiy, suggested in an interview with Time magazine, with little evidence other than his penchant for bodybuilding and mirror-gazing, that Omar Mateen could have been gay. — Tim Fitzsimons /, NBC News, "What really happened that night at Pulse," 12 June 2018 The physique competition will be held at McGlohon Theater and includes the following categories: bodybuilding, fitness, men’s physique, figure, bikini, classic physique and women’s physique. — Courtney Devores, charlotteobserver, "Your 5-minute guide to the best things to do in Charlotte | June 22-28," 21 June 2018 Fans who have been following Giudice closely on social media have watched the reality star workout in videos, but Giudice hasn't posted publicly about her first bodybuilding competition. — Carly Mallenbaum, USA TODAY, "'Real Housewives' star Teresa Giudice shows off new muscles at bodybuilding competition," 10 June 2018 Carolyn Marvin, who served as the graduate adviser for both Prosper and Nirenberg, pointed to his thesis, an autoethnography about the subculture of bodybuilding. — Josh Baugh, San Antonio Express-News, "Nirenberg knew immediately that he’d eventually marry Erika Prosper," 17 Mar. 2018 The bodybuilding competition is one of two hosted produced each year in Louisville by Kentucky Muscle promoter Brent L. Jones. — Matt Stone, The Courier-Journal, "Bodybuilders, fitness athletes go flex at 2018 KDF Derby Championships," 29 Apr. 2018 Father John Brown is basically a bodybuilding legend, having won two Mr. Universe titles and three Mr. World crowns. — Jr Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Facts you may have missed about each Packers draft choice in 2018," 4 May 2018

Carbohydrates play an important role for bodybuilders. They give the body energy to deal with the rigors of training and recovery. Carbohydrates also promote secretion of insulin, a hormone enabling cells to get the glucose they need. Insulin also carries amino acids into cells and promotes protein synthesis.[26] Insulin has steroid-like effects in terms of muscle gains.[27] It is impossible to promote protein synthesis without the existence of insulin, which means that without ingesting carbohydrates or protein—which also induces the release of insulin—it is impossible to add muscle mass.[28] Bodybuilders seek out low-glycemic polysaccharides and other slowly digesting carbohydrates, which release energy in a more stable fashion than high-glycemic sugars and starches. This is important as high-glycemic carbohydrates cause a sharp insulin response, which places the body in a state where it is likely to store additional food energy as fat. However, bodybuilders frequently do ingest some quickly digesting sugars (often in form of pure dextrose or maltodextrin) just before, during, and/or just after a workout. This may help to replenish glycogen stored within the muscle, and to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.[29]


In the last week leading up to a contest, bodybuilders usually decrease their consumption of water, sodium, and carbohydrates, the former two to alter how water is retained by the body and the latter to reduce glycogen in the muscle. The day before the show, water is removed from the diet, and diuretics may be introduced, while carbohydrate loading is undertaken to increase the size of the muscles through replenishment of their glycogen. The goal is to maximize leanness and increase the visibility of veins, or "vascularity". The muscular definition and vascularity are further enhanced immediately before appearing on stage by darkening the skin through tanning products and applying oils to the skin to increase shine. Some competitors will eat sugar-rich foods to increase the visibility of their veins. A final step, called "pumping", consists in performing exercises with light weights or other kinds of low resistance (for instance two athletes can "pump" each other by holding a towel and pulling in turn), just before the contest, to fill the muscles with blood and further increase their size and density.
Some Bodybuilders often split their food intake into 5 to 7 meals of equal nutritional content and eat at regular intervals (e.g. every 2 to 3 hours). This approach serves two purposes: to limit overindulging in the cutting phase, and to allow for the consumption of large volumes of food during the bulking phase. Eating more frequently does not increase basal metabolic rate when compared to 3 meals a day.[38] While food does have a metabolic cost to digest, absorb, and store, called the thermic effect of food, it depends on the quantity and type of food, not how the food is spread across the meals of the day. Well-controlled studies using whole-body calorimetry and doubly labeled water have demonstrated that there is no metabolic advantage to eating more frequently.[39][40][41]

The high levels of muscle growth and repair achieved by bodybuilders require a specialized diet. Generally speaking, bodybuilders require more calories than the average person of the same weight to provide the protein and energy requirements needed to support their training and increase muscle mass. In preparation of a contest, a sub-maintenance level of food energy is combined with cardiovascular exercise to lose body fat. Proteins, carbohydrates and fats are the three major macronutrients that the human body needs in order to build muscle.[24] The ratios of calories from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats vary depending on the goals of the bodybuilder.[25]
Contrary to certain rumors that animal-based protein is more suitable to trigger muscle growth than plant-based protein, a study by Mangano et al. (2017) could not provide any evidence for this. In contrast, if combined properly, plant-based protein can even have a higher biological quality. A combination of one part wheat protein (e.g. seitan) and two parts soy protein (e.g. tofu) has thus been favored by many bodybuilders. Some bodybuilders, such as Patrik Baboumian and Robert Cheeke, follow a strict vegan diet.[37]
Weight training aims to build muscle by prompting two different types of hypertrophy: sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy leads to larger muscles and so is favored by bodybuilders more than myofibrillar hypertrophy, which builds athletic strength. Sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is triggered by increasing repetitions, whereas myofibrillar hypertrophy is triggered by lifting heavier weight.[23] In either case, there is an increase in both size and strength of the muscles (compared to what happens if that same individual does not lift weights at all), however, the emphasis is different.

The motor proteins actin and myosin generate the forces exerted by contracting muscles. Current recommendations suggest that bodybuilders should consume 25–30% of protein per total calorie intake to further their goal of maintaining and improving their body composition.[30] This is a widely debated topic, with many arguing that 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight per day is ideal, some suggesting that less is sufficient, while others recommending 1.5, 2, or more.[31] It is believed that protein needs to be consumed frequently throughout the day, especially during/after a workout, and before sleep.[32] There is also some debate concerning the best type of protein to take. Chicken, turkey, beef, pork, fish, eggs and dairy foods are high in protein, as are some nuts, seeds, beans, and lentils. Casein or whey are often used to supplement the diet with additional protein. Whey protein is the type of protein contained in many popular brands of protein supplements and is preferred by many bodybuilders because of its high Biological Value (BV) and quick absorption rates. Whey protein also has a bigger effect than casein on insulin levels, triggering about double the amount of insulin release.[33] That effect is somewhat overcome by combining casein and whey. Bodybuilders are usually thought to require protein with a higher BV than that of soy, which is additionally avoided due to its claimed estrogenic properties. Still, some nutrition experts believe that soy, flax seeds and many other plants that contain the weak estrogen-like compounds or phytoestrogens, can be used beneficially, as phytoestrogens compete with estrogens for receptor sites in the male body and can block its actions. This can also include some inhibition of pituitary functions while stimulating the P450 system (the system that eliminates hormones, drugs and metabolic waste product from the body) in the liver to more actively process and excrete excess estrogen.[34][35] Cortisol decreases amino acid uptake by muscle, and inhibits protein synthesis.[36]
In the last week leading up to a contest, bodybuilders usually decrease their consumption of water, sodium, and carbohydrates, the former two to alter how water is retained by the body and the latter to reduce glycogen in the muscle. The day before the show, water is removed from the diet, and diuretics may be introduced, while carbohydrate loading is undertaken to increase the size of the muscles through replenishment of their glycogen. The goal is to maximize leanness and increase the visibility of veins, or "vascularity". The muscular definition and vascularity are further enhanced immediately before appearing on stage by darkening the skin through tanning products and applying oils to the skin to increase shine. Some competitors will eat sugar-rich foods to increase the visibility of their veins. A final step, called "pumping", consists in performing exercises with light weights or other kinds of low resistance (for instance two athletes can "pump" each other by holding a towel and pulling in turn), just before the contest, to fill the muscles with blood and further increase their size and density.
Many trainees like to cycle between the two methods in order to prevent the body from adapting (maintaining a progressive overload), possibly emphasizing whichever method more suits their goals; typically, a bodybuilder will aim at sarcoplasmic hypertrophy most of the time but may change to a myofibrillar hypertrophy kind of training temporarily in order to move past a plateau. However, no real evidence has been provided to show that trainees ever reach this plateau, and rather was more of a hype created from "muscular confusion".[clarification needed][citation needed]
Overtraining occurs when a bodybuilder has trained to the point where his workload exceeds his recovery capacity. There are many reasons why overtraining occurs, including lack of adequate nutrition, lack of recovery time between workouts, insufficient sleep, and training at a high intensity for too long (a lack of splitting apart workouts). Training at a high intensity too frequently also stimulates the central nervous system (CNS) and can result in a hyperadrenergic state that interferes with sleep patterns.[52] To avoid overtraining, intense frequent training must be met with at least an equal amount of purposeful recovery. Timely provision of carbohydrates, proteins, and various micronutrients such as vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, even nutritional supplements are acutely critical. A mental disorder, informally called “bigorexia” (by analogy with anorexia), may account for overtraining in some individuals. Sufferers feel as if they are never big enough or muscular enough, which forces them to overtrain in order to try and reach their goal physique.[53]

Comer has an athletic build that comes from years of martial arts and marathon training, not to mention amateur competitive bodybuilding, activities that have taken a toll on her now bandaged 40-something-year-old knees. — Quanta Magazine, "The Art of Teaching Math and Science," 16 June 2019 Teresa Giudice, who's best known as a personality on Bravo's Real Housewives of New Jersey, competed in her first bodybuilding contest Saturday. — Carly Mallenbaum, USA TODAY, "'Real Housewives' star Teresa Giudice shows off new muscles at bodybuilding competition," 10 June 2018 His first wife, Sitora Yusufiy, suggested in an interview with Time magazine, with little evidence other than his penchant for bodybuilding and mirror-gazing, that Omar Mateen could have been gay. — Tim Fitzsimons /, NBC News, "What really happened that night at Pulse," 12 June 2018 The physique competition will be held at McGlohon Theater and includes the following categories: bodybuilding, fitness, men’s physique, figure, bikini, classic physique and women’s physique. — Courtney Devores, charlotteobserver, "Your 5-minute guide to the best things to do in Charlotte | June 22-28," 21 June 2018 Fans who have been following Giudice closely on social media have watched the reality star workout in videos, but Giudice hasn't posted publicly about her first bodybuilding competition. — Carly Mallenbaum, USA TODAY, "'Real Housewives' star Teresa Giudice shows off new muscles at bodybuilding competition," 10 June 2018 Carolyn Marvin, who served as the graduate adviser for both Prosper and Nirenberg, pointed to his thesis, an autoethnography about the subculture of bodybuilding. — Josh Baugh, San Antonio Express-News, "Nirenberg knew immediately that he’d eventually marry Erika Prosper," 17 Mar. 2018 The bodybuilding competition is one of two hosted produced each year in Louisville by Kentucky Muscle promoter Brent L. Jones. — Matt Stone, The Courier-Journal, "Bodybuilders, fitness athletes go flex at 2018 KDF Derby Championships," 29 Apr. 2018 Father John Brown is basically a bodybuilding legend, having won two Mr. Universe titles and three Mr. World crowns. — Jr Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Facts you may have missed about each Packers draft choice in 2018," 4 May 2018

In the 1970s, bodybuilding had major publicity thanks to the appearance of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbu, Lou Ferrigno, and others in the 1977 docudrama Pumping Iron. By this time, the IFBB dominated the competitive bodybuilding landscape and the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) took a back seat. The National Physique Committee (NPC) was formed in 1981 by Jim Manion,[7] who had just stepped down as chairman of the AAU Physique Committee. The NPC has gone on to become the most successful bodybuilding organization in America and is the amateur division of the IFBB. The late 1980s and early 1990s saw the decline of AAU-sponsored bodybuilding contests. In 1999, the AAU voted to discontinue its bodybuilding events.
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