It’s probably one of the strangest sights you’ll see, but “Why Do Bodybuilders Eat Junk Food?”
Well, I say strange, but it’s not actually that unusual to see a bodybuilder chowing down on a cheeseburger, pizza, fried chicken, or a massive portion of fries.
And yet they still maintain some of the greatest physiques you’ve ever laid eyes on.
So, what exactly is going on here?
Is there a junk food secret that we all need to know?
Allow me to explain.
Why Do Bodybuilders Eat Junk Food?
The main reason that bodybuilders eat junk food is because they need to consume a lot of calories in order to grow muscle. Unfortunately, by eating clean they may not take on enough calories, but will still feel full. Bodybuilders also burn a huge amount of calories through their workouts and elevated metabolic rates. However, junk food is typically limited to only 10-15% of what they eat, as an excess will produce negative results.
1, Bodybuilders Need to Consume a LOT Of Calories
In order to grow muscle you need to be in a caloric surplus.
So, in effect, you need to be consuming more calories than you’re burning (more on burning calories in a moment).
This is a basic rule of building muscle.
A professional bodybuilder will easily need to consume 3,000-4,000 calories a day.
And in some cases, depending on the size of the competitor, even more.
Unfortunately, if you’re not eating at caloric surplus, you can do all the training you want, but it will be extremely difficult to gain lean muscle mass.
And of course, bodybuilders are all about gaining as much lean muscle mass as possible.
So, it is perfectly feasible that a bodybuilder will consume junk food in order to get their additional calorie requirement.
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Most bodybuilders will go through both a bulking and cutting phase.
In the bulking phase it’s all about taking on as many calories as possible, while simultaneously doing some of your most intense training sessions.
Therefore, you will require a huge amount of calories in order to fuel your workouts.
Okay, there is always the fact that you’re probably going to gain some fat when you’re bulking.
However, it’s important to realise that an excess of calories, whether from junk food or clean, “healthy” eating can cause you to put on fat.
Extra calories are just that, “extra” whether they’re clean or “dirty”.
2. Lean Protein May Not Provide Enough Calories
One of the main building blocks for muscle is protein.
So, all bodybuilders will consume vast amounts of protein.
However, when it comes to lean protein, it is extremely filling, but fairly low in calories.
As an example, you could eat two very large chicken breasts, which will provide approximately 600 calories and 107 grams of protein.
Then again you could consume 20oz of steak and hit 1,000 calories and 97 grams of protein.
So, both meals provide a huge hit of protein, but only a fraction of the daily calories a bodybuilder will need to build muscle.
The main problem here is that after consuming either of these meals you are going to feel full for many hours afterwards.
The great thing about junk food from a bodybuilder’s perspective is that it is easy to eat and is high in calories.
You could literally eat junk food that is half the size (or even less) than the chicken breasts or steaks, and still consume the same amount of calories.
When you’re need to consume a huge amount of calories on a daily basis, sometimes easier is better.
3. BodyBuilders Burn a HUGE Amount of Calories
For most of us mere mortals we will typically only need to consume an additional 200-300 calories a day and we’ll start putting on weight.
However, it’s a completely different story for a professional bodybuilder.
Due to the number of calories a bodybuilder typically burns a day they may need to be consuming in excess of 1,000 additional calories a day just to build muscle.
Can you imagine having to force down another 2 large steaks or 3 huge chicken breasts on top of what you’re currently eating?
You just wouldn’t be able to face it.
Your average bodybuilder could easily burn 600-800 calories a day from their workouts.
This could be even more if they’re performing any type of cardio.
Plus, with the type of training they perform you can guarantee that their metabolism is going into overdrive.
Most bodybuilders are probably burning 3-4 times the number of calories a “normal” person does even while they’re sitting around doing nothing.
Unfortunately, this constant state of burning more calories means that they have to find some way to take on even more calories.
In effect, it’s almost like a vicious circle.
A bodybuilder is required to be at a caloric surplus to build muscle.
However, due to the type of training they perform, and what this does to their metabolism, they are constantly burning calories.
4. Your Body Only Recognizes Calories & Macronutrients
Something else to consider is that the body only recognizes the calories and macronutrients you’re feeding it.
In other words, the body doesn’t recognize what is healthy food and what is junk food.
I bet that surprises you.
So, in effect, you could actually live on junk food and have a fantastic looking body.
However, remember just because you “look” great doesn’t mean that you’re not doing incredibly harmful things to yourself on the inside.
This is why I would never recommend living off junk food and trying to count your calories and macronutrients.
With that being said, bodybuilders aren’t particularly known for overly worrying about the “health” side of things.
In fact, most bodybuilders will do some extremely unhealthy, and even dangerous, things in the name of looking good.
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Check out this great video from YouTube, Merijn, about eating junk food and getting into shape.
Merijn actually cooks two healthy meals, then takes them on the road with him and visits both McDonald’s and KFC.
You get to see a comparison of calories, protein, carbohydrates, and fat.
Merijn orders junk food to exactly the same stats as his healthy food, and then eats them.
Eating Junk Food and Getting in Shape – This is How
5. BodyBuilders Will Limit Their Junk Food
Now, it’s’s all well-and-good consuming as many calories as possible in order to build muscle.
Plus, there is also the fact that you can “match” your calorie and macronutrient intake through either healthy or junk food.
There is even the benefit of “easy” calories through junk food without having to feel full the entire day.
However, as much as most pro bodybuilders will do literally anything to pack on muscle, they do have their limits.
As I’ve mentioned, and I’m sure you know, living off a diet of junk food will have adverse effects on your health.
So, even a bodybuilder, who may not particularly care that much, will limit their intake of junk food.
In the main, most competitors will rarely consume more than 10-15% of their overall diet by way of junk food.
Once you start overdoing it on junk food, the negative consequences will soon follow.
I hope you have a better idea of why bodybuilders eat junk food.
This is mainly due to their need to consume so many calories on a daily basis.
Unfortunately, trying to “eat clean” all the time can leave you feeling extremely full when you’re aiming for 3,000-4,000 calories per day.
Plus, you have to take into consideration that most pro bodybuilders are also burning a huge number of calories on a daily basis.
That said, they will also try to stick to the correct number of calories and macronutrients when eating junk food.
And of course, their consumption of these “bad foods” is limited to a fraction of their daily food intake.
IFBB Bodybuilder Ben Pakulski’s Workout Program & Nutrition Plan
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.