Natural Bodybuilding and the Male Competitor

Eating for Fitness Goals on and off the Stage

 Once you have reached your fitness goals, many contemplate showing off their hard work on the competitive stage. 

Taking Fitness to the Next Level

Natural Bodybuilding
Bodybuilding is a Sport and Lifestyle. vuk8691/Getty Images

 I want to provide specific articles on this subject for men and women, and although being a past female competitor, I obviously am unable to provide the male perspective even though the philosophies are similar. I have enlisted the expert advice from natural bodybuilder Frank Gigante to break it down for the men. Both men and women looking to take their fitness to the next level will benefit from this valuable information.

Meet Frank Gigante

Frank Gigante
Frank Gigante, Lifetime Natural Bodybuilder and Competitor. Frank Gigante

Frank Gigante is a lifetime natural bodybuilder with over 25 years’ experience. He holds a Master’s degree in Education, is a certified life coach and personal trainer. He has competed in natural bodybuilding since in his late teens and after a long hiatus from the stage, returned to competition 6 years ago. In 2011, he earned his pro card and has since competed in several organizations and in two World Finals. He has co-written The Everyday Warrior, an e-book which promotes a healthy lifestyle for busy people, and is currently working on a second book detailing competitive fitness contest preparation. Frank was Trainer of the Month in the July/August 2015 issue of Fitness Edge Magazine. He uses his knowledge and experience to help others achieve their fitness and health goals through Natural Pro Fitness Coaching and motivates daily on his Natural Pro Facebook Page. Frank is a contributing writer for Natural Muscle Magazine, and conducts articles and interviews regularly online for Muscle and Strength and Live Relentless, Live Loyal.

Healthy Foods
Create a Nutrition Plan for Success. Maas, Rita StockFood Creative/Getty Images

In any fitness plan, nutrition is among the most important. The best training program will not yield maximum results without a strategic healthy nutrition plan in place. For a natural competitive bodybuilder, this means implementing and following a carefully calculated nutrition program that balances and manipulates calories and macronutrients to achieve a desired goal. Competitive bodybuilding requires a participant to build and maintain maximal amounts of muscle mass with minimal levels of body fat. This type of extreme balance is achieved through weight training, cardio workouts, and a carefully crafted nutritional program. Nutrition is perhaps the toughest part of the equation because it is a 24/7 challenge whereas weight training or cardio workouts last approximately an hour several days per week.


Eat for Goals
Bodybuilding Requires Eating for Goals. Arthur Kwiatkowski/Getty Images

Eating for goals is the focus of the male bodybuilder. Whether preparing for competition or striving to improve and gain lean muscle mass, nutrition is the key element to make that happen. Lots of time and attention are placed on designing and manipulating a healthy food program to meet the specific demands of natural bodybuilding. This occurs year round and then is further managed to meet certain goals throughout the year.


Bodybuilders Eat Carbs, Proteins and Fats for Optimal Fitness. David Malan Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

At the core of any nutritional program are the three basic macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats. Each macronutrient has an important role and function within the body.  Carbohydrates primary job is to supply energy. Carbs are turned into glucose, stored in the muscles as glycogen and provide a readily available supply of energy for a working body. Protein is comprised of important amino acids responsible for tissue repair and muscle recovery. Healthy fats help the body to function more efficiently and are a constant source of energy reserve when other fuel sources like glycogen are depleted.


The Importance of Micronutrients

Vitamins and Minerals from Food
Micronutrients Come from Food and are Essential. Maarten Wouters Stone/Getty Images

 A natural body builder understands the importance of macronutrients but also consumes a variety of healthy foods to meet the requirements of micronutrients.  Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals found in foods to help the body function efficiently. Being deficient in certain micronutrients can lead to other health issues or illnesses over time.  In order to maintain lean muscle mass at the competitive level or off season, macro and micronutrients are essential for optimum fitness and overall body maintenance.

The Right Food is Critical to Success

Healthy Food Selection
Eat Whole Unrefined Foods for Bodybuilding Success. redmal/Getty Images

Choosing the right source of macronutrients is critical to overall success and development. All food provides calories and energy and quality nutrients are important to maintaining a natural bodybuilding physique. Primary food selections will come from whole, unrefined and unprocessed food sources. Fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains over processed counterparts, eggs, grass-fed lean meats, and healthy fat foods like avocados, nuts, and seeds will make up most of the competitor’s nutrition program. Overly processed foods have been stripped of their nutrient value and often contain more refined sugars and fillers. The natural bodybuilder will focus on foods that are nutrient dense and provide both macro and micro-nutrients.

Bodybuilding and Meals
Several Small Meals Provide a Steady Supply of Energy. Peopleimages/Getty Images

Numerous male bodybuilders divide their nutritional needs into several meals over the course of a day, eating 4-6 smaller meals spaced a few hours apart rather than having 2-3 large meals in a day. This provides a steady supply of energy and nutrients to meet the heavy demands of weight training, cardio sessions, and recovery occurring on any given day. Nutrients need to be replenished so the body can adapt, heal, and continue to function at an optimal level and eating smaller meals throughout the day accomplishes this goal. Preparing for competition may include a gradual reduction in caloric intake but the primary goal of the natural bodybuilder is to still consume enough calories and nutrients to supply the body with what it needs to function at optimum levels.


Water for Bodybuilding
Proper Hydration is Important During Workouts. N_design Digital Vision Vectors/Getty Images

Hydration is an important element in maintaining proper body functioning and training at peak performance levels. Sustaining proper hydration can be an issue for male bodybuilders losing water through sweat during extreme training sessions. For this reason, they will drink plenty of water throughout the day to ensure a well-hydrated body during their workouts.


Closing Thoughts

Frank Gigante
Frank Gigante Natural Bodybuilder DFAC World Finals. Frank Gigante

In closing, as a natural bodybuilder and competitor, I compete on stage with very little body fat and maximal amounts of muscle mass. I have been able to achieve this through dedicated weight training and nutrition which I now share and educate others. This is often a year-round pursuit that does not involve restricting my food choices and dieting through starvation or depriving myself of certain foods. This type of physical conditioning is accomplished by eating a variety of healthy foods and carefully manipulating macronutrients such as carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats to reach specific goals. This is a lifestyle which is both healthy and sustainable and not a short term fix for anything. Rise and conquer!

Sources, Position of the American Dietetic Association, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and athletic performance, Rodriguez NR, 12/13

National Institute of Health,Joint Position Statement: nutrition and athletic performance. American College of Sports Medicine, American Dietetic Association, and Dietitians of Canada, Med Sci Sports Exerc 2001 Jan

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