Workout Meal Plan: 7-day Custom Diet to Boost Gains

Looking for meal plan ideas that support your workouts? Use these tips and a 7-day plan to fuel your fitness goals!

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by
Sarah Zimmer, PT, DPT
— Signos
PT, DPT
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Updated by

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Science-based and reviewed

Published:
April 23, 2024
March 8, 2024
— Updated:

Table of Contents

Bodybuilding isn't just about lifting weights; it's a holistic approach involving meticulous attention to exercise and nutrition. The right diet complements your exercise routine by providing the necessary nutrients to build muscle and aid in energy and recovery. Neglecting nutrition can sabotage gym goals, as an inadequate diet may impede progress and hinder the body's ability to reach its full potential.

What is the right diet strategy? In the world of intense workouts and bodybuilding, "bulking" and "cutting" phases are fundamental components of strategic nutrition. During the bulking phase, individuals aim to consume a surplus of calories to support muscle growth. In contrast, cutting involves a caloric deficit to shed excess fat while preserving muscle mass. 

In this article, we'll explore the essentials of meal planning for bodybuilding, including the foods to include and avoid, a sample 7-day meal plan for intense workouts, and the key considerations for optimizing performance, supporting muscle growth, and achieving fitness goals.

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Bodybuilding Meal Plan Essentials

Crafting an effective meal plan is the cornerstone of success for any aspiring bodybuilder. Beyond the weight room, nutrition is pivotal in sculpting a physique that reflects hard work and dedication. It also can aid in recovery, which allows any individual to continue to push their limits every time they’re in the gym. A meal plan must encompass a precise balance of proteins, carbs, and fats (a.k.a macros) tailored to individual needs and training demands. Athletes can optimize energy levels, enhance muscle recovery, and ultimately achieve their desired results by strategically structuring meals and snacks to coincide with the timing of their workouts.

Let's look at the specific entities of a highly effective meal plan for bodybuilding.

  • High-Quality Protein: Protein is essential for muscle repair and growth. Incorporating lean, high-protein sources such as chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, tofu, and dairy ensures an adequate intake of essential amino acids.
  • Complex Carbohydrates: Carbohydrates provide energy for intense workouts and replenish glycogen stores. Opt for whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, oats, and starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and legumes.1
  • Healthy Fats: Fats play a role in hormone regulation and overall health. Include sources like avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and fatty fish to support metabolic function and joint health.
  • Hydration: Adequate hydration is crucial for optimal performance and muscle function. Water is essential for nutrient transport, temperature regulation, and overall health. Aim to drink plenty of water throughout the day, especially before, during, and after workouts.2

9 Foods to Include in Your Meal Plan for Workouts

avocado egg toast

Selecting the right foods for your body-sculpting, muscle-building meal plan is paramount to fueling workouts, supporting muscle growth, and optimizing overall performance. The foods included in the meal plan should be nutrient-dense, providing essential macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals necessary for achieving fitness goals. From lean proteins to complex carbohydrates and healthy fats, incorporating various high-quality foods ensures the necessary fueling and building blocks to maximize training efforts. 

Check out this list of nutrient-dense, high-quality food items.

  • Eggs: Rich in high-quality protein and essential nutrients, eggs support muscle growth, repair, and recovery, making them an ideal post-workout option.
  • Meats: Lean meats such as turkey, lean beef, and pork loin are rich sources of high-quality protein, essential for muscle repair and growth after strenuous exercise. Including lean meats in your meal plan provides the necessary amino acids to support muscle recovery.
  • Poultry: A staple protein source, chicken breast is low in fat and rich in lean protein, essential for muscle repair and growth after intense workouts.
  • Fish: Options like salmon that are high in omega-3 fatty acids and protein can support joint health, reduce inflammation, and aid in muscle recovery.
  • Greek Yogurt: High in protein and probiotics, Greek yogurt aids in muscle repair, digestion, and immune function, making it a versatile and nutritious addition to any meal plan.
  • Nuts: Rich in healthy fats, protein, and antioxidants, nuts such as almonds or walnuts provide sustained energy, support muscle repair, and aid post-exercise recovery.
  • Fruits and Vegetables: Colorful fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support overall health, aid in recovery, and help reduce inflammation after intense workouts. Incorporating a variety of fruits and vegetables into the meal plan ensures a diverse array of nutrients to support optimal performance and recovery.
  • Quinoa: A complex carbohydrate packed with fiber and protein, quinoa provides sustained energy levels during workouts and promotes muscle repair post-exercise.
  • Healthy Oils: Healthy oils such as olive oil, avocado oil, and coconut oil provide essential fatty acids that support hormone production, joint health, and overall well-being. Incorporating these oils into cooking or salad dressings adds flavor and nutrients to meals while supporting the body's nutritional needs for intense workouts.

Workout Meal Plan: Foods to Avoid

After working incredibly hard in the gym day after day, week after week, the last thing anyone wants is to sabotage all that progress. Focusing on a healthy nutrition approach includes sticking to a meal plan while avoiding any foods hindering progress. Below is a list of key foods to steer clear of in a workout meal plan, such as those high in processed sugars, unhealthy fats, and lacking in essential nutrients needed to support muscle growth and performance.

  • Fried Foods: While they may be tempting, fried foods such as french fries, fried chicken, and onion rings are typically high in unhealthy fats and calories. These foods can lead to sluggishness, digestive discomfort, and inflammation, making them less than ideal choices for fueling your workouts.3
  • Added Sugar: Foods and beverages high in processed sugar, such as candy, soda, pastries, and sugary cereals, can cause energy crashes and interfere with insulin sensitivity. Consuming excessive sugar can hinder your ability to maintain stable energy levels during workouts and may contribute to unwanted weight gain over time.
  • Alcohol: While enjoying the occasional drink is fine in moderation, excessive alcohol consumption can negatively impact your workout performance and recovery. Alcohol can dehydrate the body, impair muscle protein synthesis, and disrupt sleep patterns, all of which are essential for maximizing gains and achieving fitness goals.4

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Also Read: </strong><a href="lhow-to-make-a-meal-plan">How to Make a Meal Plan? Meal Planning 101</a>.</p>

7-Day Meal Plan for Intense Workouts

Woman eating salad with a wooden fork

Considering the lists of foods to include and avoid, it may seem daunting to put it all together into a holistic meal plan. However, look no further, as this section includes a comprehensive 7-day meal plan tailored specifically for individuals engaging in high-intensity workouts. Each day's diet plan is designed to provide the necessary nutrients and energy levels to sustain rigorous training sessions while promoting recovery and overall well-being.

1. Monday

  • Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with spinach and whole grain toast.
  • Lunch: Grilled chicken salad with mixed greens, avocado, and quinoa.
  • Dinner: Baked salmon with roasted sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli.
  • Snacks: Greek yogurt with berries, apple slices with almond butter.

2. Tuesday

  • Breakfast: Protein smoothie with banana, spinach, protein powder, and almond milk.
  • Lunch: Turkey and avocado wrap with whole grain tortilla and mixed greens.
  • Dinner: Lean beef or chicken stir-fry with brown rice and mixed veggies. Try tofu or tempeh for a vegetarian option!
  • Snacks: Cottage cheese with pineapple chunks, carrot sticks with hummus.

3. Wednesday

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal topped with sliced almonds and mixed berries.
  • Lunch: Grilled shrimp Caesar salad with whole grain croutons.
  • Dinner: Baked chicken breast with quinoa and roasted Brussels sprouts.
  • Snacks: Protein bar, celery sticks with peanut butter.

4. Thursday

  • Breakfast: Whole grain pancakes with Greek yogurt and sliced strawberries.
  • Lunch: Tuna salad with mixed greens, bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, and whole grain crackers.
  • Dinner: Vegetable and tofu stir-fry with brown rice.
  • Snacks: Protein shake, banana with almond butter.

5. Friday

  • Breakfast: Egg white omelet with spinach, mushrooms, and feta cheese.
  • Lunch: Whole wheat pasta with grilled chicken and marinara sauce.
  • Dinner: Baked cod with quinoa and steamed asparagus.
  • Snacks: Hard-boiled eggs, mixed nuts.

6. Saturday

  • Breakfast: Protein oatmeal with sliced almonds and blueberries.
  • Lunch: Beef and vegetable kebabs with quinoa salad.
  • Dinner: Turkey chili with kidney beans or black beans and mixed vegetables.
  • Snacks: Protein pudding made with Greek yogurt and protein powder, cottage cheese with sliced peaches.

7. Sunday

  • Breakfast: Whole grain toast with avocado and poached eggs.
  • Lunch: Grilled salmon with sweet potato fries and steamed broccoli.
  • Dinner: Lean beef burger with whole wheat bun, lettuce, tomato, and grilled vegetables.
  • Snacks: Protein shake, mixed nuts.

Remember to adjust portion sizes according to individual needs and preferences, and stay hydrated throughout the day by drinking plenty of water. Enjoy your meals and workouts!

What to Consider When Following a Meal Plan for Workouts

When following a meal plan for workouts, you should consider several key aspects to optimize performance, support muscle growth, and achieve fitness goals. First and foremost, timing is crucial. Tailoring meals and snacks to coincide with your workout schedule can significantly impact energy levels, recovery, and overall performance. Consuming a balanced meal containing carbohydrates and protein before a workout provides the necessary fuel to power through intense training sessions, while a post-workout meal or snack replenishes glycogen stores and facilitates muscle repair and growth. Additionally, spacing out meals and snacks evenly throughout the day helps maintain stable blood sugar levels and ensures a steady supply of nutrients to fuel workouts and support recovery.5

Variety is another essential aspect of a successful workout meal plan. Including a diverse array of nutrient-dense foods not only ensures that your body receives all the essential vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients it needs but also prevents boredom in your diet. Experimenting with different protein sources, carbohydrates, fats, fruits, vegetables, and spices can keep meals exciting and enjoyable while providing a wide range of nutrients to support overall health and fitness.

Lastly, measuring progress and making adjustments as needed is essential for maximizing results and achieving fitness goals. Tracking key metrics such as body composition, strength gains, energy levels, and non-scale victories can provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of your meal plan. Monitoring progress allows you to identify what's working well and where adjustments may be necessary, whether it's increasing or decreasing calorie intake, adjusting macronutrient ratios, or modifying meal timing. Over time, you will get better at fine-tuning your meal plan to better align with your individual needs, preferences, and goals, ultimately optimizing results and maximizing success in your fitness and weight-loss journey.

Learn More About How to Improve Blood Sugar Health With Signos’ Expert Advice

Choosing the proper medication is crucial for improving health, managing diabetes, and controlling weight loss, as it can significantly impact treatment outcomes and overall well-being. Medications prescribed for these purposes should be carefully selected based on individual health status, medical history, and specific needs. The experts at Signos can help you navigate choosing the right medications that support your health and wellness goals while enhancing your quality of life and promoting long-term health.

If you have more questions on improving your health, fitness, and nutrition, seek the expert advice of the Signos continuous glucose monitor and Signos team. A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) can give you the insights to make smarter nutrition and exercise choices. The Signos app provides a unique, personalized program to help you lose weight and reach your health goals. Take this quiz to see if Signos is a good fit for you and reach your goals faster than ever before.

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn More: </strong><a href="intermittent-fasting-meal-plan">The Ultimate Guide To a Healthy Intermittent Fasting Meal Plan</a>.</p>

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References

  1. Coyle, E. F. (2013). Timing and method of increased carbohydrate intake to cope with heavy training, competition and recovery. Foods, nutrition and sports performance, 35-63.
  2. Harris, P. R., Keen, D. A., Constantopoulos, E., Weninger, S. N., Hines, E., Koppinger, M. P., ... & Konhilas, J. P. (2019). Fluid type influences acute hydration and muscle performance recovery in human subjects. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 16(1), 15.
  3. Qi L. (2021). Fried Foods, Gut Microbiota, and Glucose Metabolism. Diabetes care, 44(9), 1907–1909. https://doi.org/10.2337/dci21-0033
  4. Vargas, R., & Lang, C. H. (2008). Alcohol accelerates loss of muscle and impairs recovery of muscle mass resulting from disuse atrophy. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 32(1), 128-137.
  5. Beck, K. L., Thomson, J. S., Swift, R. J., & Von Hurst, P. R. (2015). Role of nutrition in performance enhancement and postexercise recovery. Open access journal of sports medicine, 259-267.

About the author

Sarah is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, graduating from the University of Wisconsin Madison in 2017.

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