1. Bodybuilding basics

Making the decision to change your body in a radical way, like aggressively building up muscle, is a big deal; we’ve found some information and recipes that will fill a bodybuilding lunch box nicely.

Central to a bodybuilding diet is eating enough protein to support your changing, growing muscles. To handle muscle and weight gain in a healthy way, it’s wise to closely monitor your progress, either with a bathroom scale or with body fat calipers (many gyms have these on hand, or they can be purchased inexpensively online). If you’re losing weight or maintaining the same weight, muscle mass is not increasing—and in some cases, if you’re gaining weight but not exercising enough, your stomach may get bigger, not your muscles—and you can change your diet accordingly. Calipers measure fat; using them every two weeks gives a working measurement of your body fat. Multiplying body fat percentage by body weight determines total body fat, and subtracting this number from overall body weight provides the figure for fat free mass (muscles are a part of this, as are internal organs).

The goal of bodybuilding is to raise the level of fat free mass and lower the level of body fat. When you work out a lot but don’t eat right, muscle mass goes down and body fat goes up, as the body tries to conserve calories.


2. Bodybuilding diet

On to what to eat to build muscle strength: in essence, choose simple foods that offer lots of energy—carbohydrates, meats, dairy. Egg whites are a strong source of protein, and they also make a great firming mask for a facial. Remember to keep eggs in the refrigerator, as they lose a grade a day when left unrefrigerated. The easiest way to separate the yolk from the white is with clean hands: after cracking the egg in a bowl, lightly grasp the yolk and pull it out. Unlike most kitchen scraps, eggs should not go into the compost pile (but you can use the shells as seedling cups). A six-egg white omelet can be made the night before and kept in the refrigerator for a central feature in a bodybuilding lunch box.

Chicken breasts are another good choice, as they are the most nourishing part of the chicken. Lay the chicken breast in a sandwich with whole-wheat bread and a dark leafy green (spinach, kale, chard) and low fat mayonnaise for a healthy midday meal. One six-ounce chicken breast (measured raw) contains 38 grams of protein and 205 calories.

Lean cuts of red meat offer a complete protein, and lots of energy for lifting weights. Look for cuts that are bright red in color—any signs of brown means the meat has begun to spoil. Select steaks or roasts that are at minimum one inch thick, with the least amount of visible fat. When you cook the meat, cut away all the fat; not only will it hamper your weight loss, eating too much animal fat leaves you feeling sluggish (it’s hard to digest). A four-ounce lean round steak has 24 grams of protein, and around 138 calories. When packing a steak in your bodybuilding lunch box, pair it with a high fiber fruit, like an apple or a pear. Not only will the fruit’s fiber help digest the meat, it freshens the breath too.


3. More bodybuilding foods (not meat)

If eating a chicken breast or a London broil steak is too much for you, or you’re a vegetarian trying to bulk up, try the following easy recipe. Toast a whole-wheat bagel, then spread a quarter cup of cottage cheese across both halves. (Cottage cheese is a whole food protein, and, though rather bland, easily absorbs other flavors). Add a third cup of blackberries, blueberries, or strawberries on top of the cheese, then drizzle a teaspoon of honey and a dash of cinnamon, if you like. This lunch offers 201 calories, 13 grams of protein, and around 60 grams of carbohydrates–all good for the bodybuilding lunch box.