It just seems plain weird to ask, “Why Do Bodybuilders Eat Cheesecake?”
You would think that physique competitors would have to be extremely strict with their diet and nutrition.
Now, while this in the main is true, there are actually plenty of occasions that bodybuilders can chow down on cheesecake.
And many, many other sweet treats for that matter.
So, allow me to explain these in more detail.
Why Do Bodybuilders Eat Cheesecake?
Cheesecake isn’t a staple in a bodybuilder’s diet, but there can be certain advantages to consuming it. Prior to going on stage most bodybuilders will almost binge on carbs and sugar. Carbs will give the muscles a fuller look, whereas sugar will cause the veins to pop out. In fact, most bodybuilders will use linear progressive loading of carbs and fats in the week leading up to competition (peak week). Furthermore, carb backloading when in full training can increase lean muscle and reduce body fat.
1. Carbs & Sugar a Few Hours Before You Go on Stage
I should emphasise that there isn’t anything particularly special about cheesecake itself.
It just happens to be one of those guilty pleasures that most of us (including bodybuilders) happen to like.
So, don’t think there is some type of secret muscle-building formula contained in cheesecake.
With that being said, you could easily get over 10g of protein in a slice of delicious, lip-smacking cheesecake.
But, I’m guessing no-one actually ever eats cheesecake for the protein content.
A competitive bodybuilder will go through certain stages when it comes to their diet in the lead up to competition.
The two most obvious of these will be the bulking and cutting stages of nutrition.
However, in the vast majority of cases, even the bulking phase where most competitors are trying to consume as many calories as possible, will involve “clean eating”.
And when it comes to cutting you’re looking at an extremely strict and controlled phase of eating.
However, you’ll typically find that most bodybuilding competitors almost binge eat in the hours leading up to going on stage.
This is especially true when it comes to consuming carbs and sugar.
An excess of carbs the night before and in the hours preceding competition will actually help the muscles look fuller.
Whereas, consuming a lot of sugar at this stage will increase vascularity.
So, consuming a huge amount of carbs and sugar just before going on stage will make the muscles look more pumped and the veins will literally pop out.
Perfect, when you’re going for that ripped and chiselled look.
You’d be surprised at some of the things that bodybuilders consume just prior to competition.
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2. Have You Heard of Linear Progressive Loading?
The week prior to a bodybuilding competition is known as “peak week”.
This is basically a week that bodybuilders employ certain strategies to ensure that they look their best on competition day.
In effect, they will do whatever it takes to maximise their aesthetics for that one day.
This will typically involve manipulating their macronutrients, exercise, water, etc.
When it comes to nutrition a bodybuilder will employ linear progressive loading.
This means that over the week they will gradually increase their intake of carbs and fats.
The aim here is to fill out the muscles to achieve a bigger and leaner look.
So, as I’ve mentioned above, by the time you get to the day before competition you have hit your “peak” for carb and fat consumption.
Therefore, literally anything goes, and this includes a huge amount of cheesecake.
Brian DeCosta discusses this in the video below.
Brian actually discovered the principle post-competition one year.
Following a contest Brian went for his usual “go all out” meal.
This included a main meal and 4 slices of cheesecake.
He also happened to wake up in the middle of night, sneaked down to the fridge, and gorged on another two slices of cheesecake in the middle of the night.
When he woke up the next morning from his cheesecake coma he discovered that his body looked better than it had ever before.
Why I’m Eating Cheesecake to Look Leaner
3. Bodybuilders Will Use Carb Backloading
Carb backloading has been around for a few years now, although many old-time bodybuilders used the process without actually realizing it.
The actual phrase, “carb backloading” was coined by John Kiefer, a nutrition consultant for various athletes.
In fact, John has helped many bodybuilders, powerlifters, and figure competitors with their diet and nutrition.
Carb backloading involves saving the bulk of your carb consumption till the end of the day.
Plus, it is best done straight after you have trained.
Therefore, this does involve working out later in the day.
That being said, this does work better with very intense strength training.
So, you shouldn’t really be using carb backloading after a conditioning session.
As you’ve saved your carbs for the end of the day (and after training) it is pretty much “anything goes”.
So, you can actually get away with consuming cheesecake, pizza, fries, ice cream, etc. and you don’t have to worry about getting fat.
Basically, your consumption of carbs will cause a spike in blood sugar levels.
This is actually ideal if you have just trained because the muscles are in a more absorbent state.
In essence, this spike in blood sugar levels will cause the carbohydrates you’ve consumed to work in conjunction with protein to repair and regrow the muscles.
However, if you were to consume the same number and types of carbs during the day it wouldn’t have the same effect.
Your muscles are in a less absorbent state when you’re going about your daily activities, especially if you’re sitting at a desk, and these carbs will then get stored as fat.
So, carb backloading only works after intense strength training and if you’ve avoided carbs as much as possible for the day.
Even Arnie Used Carb Backloading
As I say, even the old-time bodybuilders used this principle without truly understanding it.
Arnold Schwarzenegger stated that he and his training partner regularly went to the House of Pies after training and “ate pies all night”.
Arnie said that he didn’t really know why but, “Instinctively, we just felt like we needed pie”.
To get the best out of carb backloading you will need to drop your carb intake to as little as 30g a day for an initial 10 days.
On the days that you train pretty much anything goes.
On the days you aren’t training you should adhere to the extremely low carb principles of your first 10 days.
Sean Hyson has written a great article about Carb Backloading.
4. The Ultimate Bodybuilder Protein Cheesecake
Eating cheesecake isn’t always about pigging out on the “real” variety.
Let’s face facts, most cheesecakes provide absolutely terrible macros, and this is not something that a bodybuilder wants to do regularly.
In fact, a typical slice of Cheesecake Factory cheesecake has the following macros:
- Calories – 870
- Fat – 56g
- Carbs – 78g
- Protein – 14g
So, in effect, a bodybuilder will consume more fat and carbs in one slice than they usually would during an entire day on a cut.
However, I’m sure you, me, and many pro bodybuilders will have a sweet tooth.
Here’s a fantastic recipe from Michael Kory for chocolate peanut butter cheesecake with contains the following macros per serving:
- Calories – 290
- Fat – 12g
- Carbs – 14g
- Protein – 27g
Bodybuilding Protein Cheesecake
So, as you can see, bodybuilders don’t eat cheesecake on a regular basis for any muscle-building benefits.
This is usually consumed during “peak week”, and especially a few hours before competition.
The aim is to make the muscles look fuller and to achieve that vein-popping appearance from an excess of carbs and sugar.
Many bodybuilders also use carb backloading when in full training as a way to literally gorge on cheesecake and various other carb treats.
The Workout & Nutrition Program of Natural Bodybuilder, Dean Hartwig
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.