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. A sub-maintenance level of food energy is combined with cardiovascular exercise to lose body fat in preparation for a contest. The ratios of calories from carbohydrates, proteins, and fats vary depending on the goals of the bodybuilder.

When Terry Conrad is dieting for a show, every calorie counts, but otherwise he takes a far more relaxed approach. Constantly monitoring calories and macros can burn you out – once you’ve figured out your own individual needs, view them as a reference rather than religion.

In recent years, the related areas of fitness and figure competition have increased in popularity, surpassing that of female bodybuilding, and have provided an alternative for women who choose not to develop the level of muscularity necessary for bodybuilding. McLish would closely resemble what is thought of today as a fitness and figure competitor, instead of what is now considered a female bodybuilder. Fitness competitions also have a gymnastic element to them. A study by the Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine found that female bodybuilders who are taking anabolic steroids are more likely to have qualified for substance dependence disorder and have been diagnosed with a psychiatric illness and have a history of sexual abuse.[14]

Terry eats six (big) meals per day, supplemented with two protein shakes. Avocado, eggs, salmon, mackerel, and steak all feature heavily, along with “a good amount of vegetables for the micronutrients”.

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. Insulin has steroid-like effects in terms of muscle gains. 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. 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) after a workout. This may help to replenish glycogen stored within the muscle, and to stimulate muscle protein synthesis.[28]

Amelia Tank, 26, balances a busy life working at a major U.K. bank with a gruelling fitness routine. The 5-foot-7-inch communications manager trains twice a day, three times a week, lifting weights every morning.

The important role of nutrition in building muscle and losing fat means bodybuilders may consume a wide variety of dietary supplements.[40] Various products are used in an attempt to augment muscle size, increase the rate of fat loss, improve joint health, increase natural testosterone production, enhance training performance and prevent potential nutrient deficiencies. There are three major macronutrients that the human body needs in order for muscle building. The major nutrients – protein, carbohydrate, and fat – provide the body with energy.[41]

During the 1950s, the most famous competing bodybuilders[according to whom?] were Bill Pearl, Reg Park, Leroy Colbert, and Clarence Ross. Certain bodybuilders rose to fame thanks to the relatively new medium of television, as well as movies. The most notable[according to whom?] were Jack LaLanne, Steve Reeves, Reg Park, and Mickey Hargitay. While there were well-known gyms throughout the country during the 1950s (such as Vince’s Gym in North Hollywood, California and Vic Tanny’s chain gyms), there were still segments of the United States that had no “hardcore” bodybuilding gyms until the advent of Gold’s Gym in the mid-1960s. Finally, the famed Muscle Beach in Santa Monica, California continued its popularity as the place to be for witnessing acrobatic acts, feats of strength, and the like. The 1960s grew more in TV and movie exposure, as bodybuilders were typecast in popular shows and movies.