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Bodybuilding Grocery List: A Must-Have for Muscle Building

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By: Erin Coleman, B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.,

Writer at The Fit Father Project

bodybuilding grocery list
Whether you’re a seasoned bodybuilder or are training for your first competition, having a bodybuilding grocery list and sample meal plan on hand is a must. Choosing the right foods in the proper proportions is the key to success.

Use the bodybuilding grocery list below and get started shopping today!

What Makes an Effective Bodybuilding Food?

Bodybuilding foods have a few things in common. They are whole foods that are rich in one or more of the following essential nutrients:

  • Protein
  • Carbohydrates
  • Fiber
  • Heart-Healthy fats

While the foods you should eat remains constant, the number of calories you should consume varies based on the phase of bodybuilding you’re in.

For example, you require more total calories and carbohydrates during the muscle-building phase vs. the fat-loss/dieting phase of bodybuilding.

A 2018 study examining the nutritional strategies of high-level natural bodybuilders found that:

  • The average preparation time for a competition is 22 weeks
  • Bodybuilders generally eat high-protein, high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets
  • Total carbohydrate, protein, and fat intakes decrease over time during competition preparation
  • Successful male bodybuilders eat more carbohydrates during the early stage of contest preparation

Closer to competition time, bodybuilders often consume fewer total calories and carbohydrates in an effort to burn excess body fat.

The same 2018 study found that male bodybuilding competitors eat, on average, 3292 calories daily during contest preparation with the following macronutrient breakdown:

  • 52% of calories from carbohydrates, or 4.6 to 5.1 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight daily (2.1-2.3 grams per pound of body weight)
  • 28% of calories from protein, or 2.7 to 3.3 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight daily (1.2-1.5 grams per pound of body weight)
  • 22% of calories from dietary fat, or 0.8 grams of fat per kilogram of body weight daily (0.36 grams per pound of body weight)

No two bodybuilders are alike and your diet changes base on the stage of competition prep you’re in (muscle building vs. fat-burning), but your bodybuilding grocery list remains the same.

Bodybuilding Grocery List

Take the bodybuilding grocery list below with you the next time you shop, and achieve muscle-building or fat-burning results you never thought possible.

Dairy Foods

Aim for at least 3 servings of dairy foods (or protein-rich, plant-based equivalents) daily.

    • Low-Fat Cottage Cheese

Cottage cheese is loaded with protein, and it's a good source of calcium and phosphorous.

The nutrition breakdown of 1 cup of 1% low-fat cottage cheese is as follows:

  • Calories: 163
  • Protein: 28 grams
  • Fat: 2 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 6 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams

Pair low-fat cottage cheese with berries and nuts or seeds for a nutritious, pre- or post-workout muscle building snack.

    • Plain Greek Yogurt

weight loss breakfastLike cottage cheese, plain Greek yogurt is packed with protein, calcium, phosphorous, and vitamin D. The nutritional information for 1 container of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt is:

  • Calories: 100
  • Protein: 17 grams
  • Fat: 1 gram
  • Carbohydrates: 6 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams

Top Greek yogurt with granola (without added sugar), fruit, or nuts to give you a boost of sustainable energy for muscle building.

    • Low-Fat Milk

Low-fat milk (or plant milk if you prefer) is another excellent source of dietary protein, calcium, and vitamin D. Studies show that whey protein found in milk enhances muscle building and recovery after resistance training.

The nutritional content of low-fat 1% milk is as follows:

  • Calories: 105
  • Protein: 9 grams
  • Fat: 2 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 12 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams

Consume milk with whole-grain cereal, by itself, or with a protein shake made with whey or casein protein powder plus fruit and nut butter.

Protein Foods

Choose a protein-rich food at each meal when following a bodybuilding diet.

    • Whey Protein Powder

Bodybuilders require more protein than moderately active adults for muscle building and lean mass maintenance during periods of energy restriction for fat loss.

Whey is one of the best, most efficient forms of protein for bodybuilders. Choose a protein powder that’s free from fillers, such as added sugar.

The nutritional breakdown of 1 scoop of whey protein powder is:bodybuilding grocery list - whey protein

  • Calories: 110
  • Protein: 25 grams
  • Fat: 0-1 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 2 grams
  • Fiber: 1 gram

Numerous protein powders are available to choose from with varying ingredients. Check the supplement facts label before buying a protein powder.

Casein, a blend of casein plus whey, and plant protein powders are other good options for your bodybuilding grocery list.

    • Protein Bars

Protein bars help you meet daily protein requirements for bodybuilding, especially when you're on the go.

bodybuilding grocery list - protein barsThe nutritional profile of protein bars varies by the brand you choose, but an example of the nutrition facts for a real food protein bar is as follows:

  • Calories: 280
  • Protein: 15 grams
  • Fat: 12 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 26 grams
  • Fiber: 4 grams

Eat a protein bar before or after strenuous sweat sessions to enhance muscle recovery.

    • Eggs/Egg Whites

Eggs are loaded with quality protein and make an excellent addition to any bodybuilding meal plan.

The nutritional profile of 1 large egg is as follows:

  • Calories: 72
  • Protein: 6 grams
  • Fat: 5 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams

To reduce the calorie and fat content of eggs, eat the egg whites only or combine whole eggs with egg whites.

The nutritional content of 1 large egg white is:

  • Calories: 17
  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams

Scramble your eggs, hard-boil them, or prepare eggs as an omelet with veggies or lean meats.

    • Skinless Chicken Breasts

Skinless chicken breasts are one of the most effective bodybuilding foods you’ll find. They are carb-free but loaded with quality, muscle-building protein.

bodybuilding grocery list - chicken breastsThe nutrition breakdown of a 3-ounce portion of a cooked chicken breast is:

  • Calories: 126
  • Protein: 25 grams
  • Fat: 3 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams

Grill or bake chicken breasts and serve them with non-starchy vegetables and fiber-rich starch, such as sweet potatoes, brown rice, or quinoa.

Choose turkey instead of chicken if you’d like! It has just about the same nutritional profile.

    • Salmon

Salmon is another bodybuilding food that’s packed with protein. This super food is also loaded with vitamin D, niacin, and heart-healthy fats.

The nutrition facts for a 3-ounce portion of cooked salmon is:

  • Calories: 155
  • Protein: 22 grams
  • Fat: 7 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams

As with chicken and turkey, you can pair salmon with a nutritious, fiber-rich starch and non-starchy vegetables to create the perfect plate for effective bodybuilding.

    • Shrimp

While lower in calories than numerous other protein foods, shrimp is still an excellent source of protein (plus zinc and iodine).

The nutrition breakdown of a 3-ounce portion of cooked shrimp is as follows:

  • Calories: 84
  • Protein: 20 grams
  • Fat: 0 gram
  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams

Grill shrimp with veggies on kabobs, or sauté it with brown rice or quinoa.

    • Lean Grass-Fed Beef

If you choose beef as part of your bodybuilding grocery list, look for lean cuts of grass-feed beef with very little fat marbling.

bodybuilding grocery listIt’s an excellent source of protein, iron, vitamin B12, and zinc. The nutrition profile of a 3-ounce portion of lean beef (shoulder steak) is:

  • Calories: 151
  • Protein: 24 grams
  • Fat: 5 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams

Eat grilled steak with sweet potatoes and vegetables, or as part of a stir fry with veggies over brown rice.

Fruits and Vegetables

Aim for about 4 cups of vegetables and 2.5 cups of fruits daily when following the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 3,200-calorie meal plan for bodybuilding.

    • Non-Starchy Vegetables

Non-starchy vegetables are loaded with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, but are lower in carbohydrates than starchy vegetables.

bodybuilding grocery listAim to eat non-starchy veggies at each meal. The nutrient breakdown for one serving is as follows:

  • Calories: 10-40
  • Protein: 2 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 5 grams
  • Fiber: 1-4 grams

Examples of non-starchy vegetables include celery, cumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, spinach, lettuce, asparagus, zucchini, mushrooms, broccoli, and cauliflower.

    • Fruits

Like vegetables, fruits are loaded with vitamins and fiber.

The nutritional profile of fruit varies based on the type of fruit you buy, but each serving often contains:

  • Calories: 50-90 calories
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 12-23 grams
  • Fiber: 1-8 grams

Pair fruit with a protein, such as dairy foods, eggs, nuts, seeds, or a protein shake or bar.

Fiber-Rich Starches

Aim to eat a starch at each meal for sustainable energy.

    • Legumes

Legumes are an excellent source of protein, fiber, iron, and zinc. They keep you full for long time periods, enhance muscle building, and can improve your overall health.

The nutrition information for 1 cup of cooked black beans is:

  • Calories: 227 calories
  • Protein: 15 grams
  • Fat: 1 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 41 grams
  • Fiber: 15 grams

Examples of other legumes include pinto beans, chick peas, green peas, lentils, and navy beans.

    • Quinoa

Quinoa is the perfect starch for bodybuilders because it’s loaded with fiber, protein, vitamins, minerals, and even heart-healthy fats.

bodybuilding grocery list - quinoaThe nutrition breakdown for 1 cup of cooked quinoa is:

  • Calories: 222 calories
  • Protein: 8 grams
  • Fat: 4 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 39 grams
  • Fiber: 5 grams

Serve quinoa with a protein food and non-starchy vegetables.

    • Brown Rice

Brown rice is like quinoa nutritionally, as it’s packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It gives you the boost of sustainable energy needed to get through intense workouts.

The nutrition facts for 1 cup of cooked brown rice include:

  • Calories: 218 calories
  • Protein: 5 grams
  • Fat: 2 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 46 grams
  • Fiber: 4 grams

Serve brown rice with shrimp, chicken, or beef plus non-starchy vegetables.

    • Sweet Potatoes

Choose sweet potatoes as your starch (with the skin) for a boost of fiber, vitamin A, and energy.

The nutritional profile of 1 cup of cooked sweet potatoes is:

  • Calories: 176 calories
  • Protein: 3 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 41 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams

Try roasting sweet potatoes with olive oil, sea salt, and your favorite seasonings.

    • Whole-Grain Bread

Having whole-grain bread on hand helps you create a quick breakfast, lunch, or dinner when you're tight on time.

Whole-grain bread has the following nutritional breakdown for one slice:

  • Calories: 69 calories
  • Protein: 3 grams
  • Fat: 1 gram
  • Carbohydrates: 11 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams

Prepare sandwiches by topping whole-grain bread with eggs, chicken, turkey, or tuna plus avocados and sliced veggies.

    • Oatmeal

Oatmeal is loaded with fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It gives you sustainable energy before, during, and after strength-training sweat sessions.

bodybuilding grocery list - oatmealThe nutritional facts for 1 cup of cooked oatmeal are as follows:

  • Calories: 145 calories
  • Protein: 6 grams
  • Fat: 2 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 25 grams
  • Fiber: 4 grams

Eat oatmeal for breakfast with eggs, fruit, dairy foods, or nuts – or add oatmeal to protein shakes!

Healthy Fats

Nutritious fat are important to boost satiety and maintain optimal health.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming 11 1-teaspoon portions of healthy fats when eating 3,200 calories per day for bodybuilding.

    • Olive Oil

Olive oil is heart-healthy and makes the perfect addition to any bodybuilding meal plan.

The nutritional breakdown of 1 teaspoon of olive oil (or another plant-based oil) is:

  • Calories: 40 calories
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 4.5 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams
  • Fiber: 0 grams

Use olive oil when preparing healthy meals whenever possible.

    • Avocados

Loaded with heart-healthy fats, satiety-boosting avocados work well with bodybuilding meal plans.

bodybuilding grocery list - avocadoThe nutritional profile of 1/6th of an avocado is:

  • Calories: 55 calories
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Fat: 5 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 3 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams

Top salads, sandwiches, soups, rice, or even meats with avocado slices.

    • Nuts or Seeds

Nuts and seeds are loaded with protein, fiber, and healthy fats.

The nutrition content of 1 ounce of nuts or seeds is:

  • Calories: 165-170 calories
  • Protein: 5-6 grams
  • Fat: 14-15 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 6-7 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams

Snack on nuts or seeds between meals or top oatmeal, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or salads with them.

    • Nut Butter

When muscle building is your goal, add nut butter to your menu.

The nutritional breakdown of 2 tablespoons of peanut butter is:

  • Calories: 190 calories
  • Protein: 7 grams
  • Fat: 16 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 7 grams
  • Fiber: 2 grams

Eat nut butters with celery, fruit, whole-grain bread, or in protein shakes.

Sample Meal Plan for Bodybuilders

After you've shopped using a your bodybuilding grocery list, create a muscle-building or fat-burning meal plan.

Use the following bodybuilding meal plan as a reference:

    • Pre-Workout Snack (if you work out early in the morning)

  • A protein shake made with low-fat milk or water, whey protein powder, fruit, and almond butter
    • Breakfast

  • An omelet (or scrambled eggs) with veggies
  • Oatmeal
  • Greek yogurt
  • Sliced almonds
    • Morning Snack

  • A protein bar (or two bars, depending on your appetite)
    • Lunch

  • Whole-grain bread topped with tuna, chicken or turkey, plus avocados and sliced tomatoes
  • A greens salad with lettuce, cucumbers, bell peppers, sunflower seeds, and an oil-based dressing
    • Afternoon Snack

  • Low-fat cottage cheese with fruit and nuts
    • Dinner

  • Grilled chicken, fish, grass-fed beef, or shrimp
  • Brown rice, sweet potatoes, quinoa, or legumes
  • Non-starchy vegetables sauteed in olive oil
    • Evening Snack

  • A protein shake made with low-fat milk or water, protein powder, fruit, and cashew butter

Track your calories using MyFitnessPal or another calorie-counting app.

To complement your bodybuilding grocery list and muscle-building meal plan, try the Fit Father Project's free muscle-building workout to get started on your journey toward the muscular physique you desire.

If you need to drop body fat before a competition or you simply have excess weight to lose, sign up for the Fit Father Project's free 1-day meal plan or FF30X weight loss program for busy fathers today!

Your new friend & nutrition coach,

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Erin Coleman B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.

Writer at The Fit Father Project

Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian with over 15 years of freelance writing experience.

She graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in nutritional science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and completed her dietetic internship at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Prior to beginning her career in medical content writing, Erin worked as Health Educator for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Internal Medicine.

Her published work appears on hundreds of health and fitness websites, and she’s currently working on publishing her first book! Erin is a wife, and a Mom to two beautiful children.

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