Have you ever wondered, “Why Don’t Bodybuilders Season Their Food?”
I’m sure you’ve seen many YouTube videos or TV programs where bodybuilders are chowing down on gargantuan portions of food.
However, just like me, I’m sure you’ve also noticed that they seem to consume some of the blandest meals ever.
Not a hint of seasoning or spice.
Is there some seasoning or nutrition secret that you’re not party to?
Allow me to reveal all.
Why Don’t Bodybuilders Season Their Food?
The main reason that many bodybuilders don’t season their food is due to the potential sodium content. So, obviously salt is usually off the menu. It is said that sodium makes you retain water, which won’t allow you to look as ripped. In fact, most professional bodybuilders drastically cut their salt and water intake leading up to competition. Additionally, not all seasonings are calorie-free. So when you’re looking to eat an exact amount of calories per day it can be a huge hassle having to check every single label.
1. Sodium & Water Retention
Many bodybuilders will avoid seasoning due to the perceived effects of sodium.
Firstly, it’s true that many seasonings have a high concentration of sodium.
Salt is the obvious example, which is made up of sodium and chlorine.
You’ll typically find that most bodybuilders will drastically cut down on their sodium intake in the lead up to a show.
The reason for this is to avoid water retention.
In fact, another practice is to cut down on water as well.
The aim here is to dehydrate themselves, which will produce that ripped-look all bodybuilders strive for.
Basically, dehydration will mean that there’s less water between the muscles, so in effect the skin wraps tighter around the muscles.
Many bodybuilders will even cut out protein staples from their diet, such as tuna and eggs, just before a show because of their sodium content.
Now, I will admit that it’s true that high levels of sodium over a short period will make you retain water.
Plus, a low sodium intake, again over a short period, will mean that you retain less water.
However, for us mere mortals things tend to even out over the long run.
That being said, bodybuilders are well-known for doing some crazy things in order to look in their best physical shape on stage.
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The fear of water retention is real for most bodybuilders, although it’s relationship to sodium intake has been proven as a myth.
If you increase your water intake in line with increased sodium intake this won’t actually lead to water retention.
But, cutting out salt and sodium is an established strategy for bodybuilders, even if it is slightly misguided.
The aim leading up to a show is simply to have as little water between the muscles as possible.
2. Watch Out For Those Hidden Calories
Many bodybuilders may actually try to liven up their meals with some form of seasoning.
But, they will typically look for seasonings which are sodium-free.
However, sodium-free doesn’t always mean calorie-free.
As an example, black pepper, which is a popular seasoning for most of us, does contain calories.
Okay, it’s not a huge amount at 6 calories per teaspoon.
However, in an attempt to make meals taste less bland you could end up using a lot of black pepper on a daily basis.
And this all adds up.
You also have to consider that a bodybuilder will be extremely strict with their exact daily calorie intake.
So, if they have set themselves a daily calorie goal of 3,500 calories they will typically measure every single morsel of food to hit this exact target.
Therefore, there’s also the hassle of having to work out exactly how much seasoning they’re adding to each meal.
Sometimes it’s just easier to go without.
Additionally, many seasonings will be marked as calorie-free on the label.
However, upon further investigation the label may also reveal that there is some carb, fat, or protein content.
Obviously, if a food (or seasoning) contains carbs, fats, and protein, then it must also contain calories.
From a bodybuilding perspective, if you don’t know how many calories are in something it’s best avoided.
Do Spices Have Calories?
3. Herd Mentality & “Eating Clean”
Something else to consider is that there is the mentality in bodybuilding of, “If they’re doing it, so will I”.
Call it herd mentality if you will.
We often look back to the Golden Era of Bodybuilding for an example of how guys trained and ate.
Back then eating was a far simpler task.
During the 1950s and 1960s most foods didn’t contain the sugars and fats that they do nowadays.
Plus, it was all about eating basic ingredients and eating as “clean” as possible.
In fact, many of the old-time bodybuilders stuck with a diet of just a few foods in order to keep things as simple as possible.
This may not have been particularly good for their health in the long run, but it certainly produced some amazing results when paired with their training.
Vince Gironda, who is viewed as one of the most influential and effective trainers to ever set foot in a gym, had his guys live on a diet of steak, raw eggs, and cream.
In fact, it is said that some of Vince’s bodybuilders were eating up to 36 raw eggs on a daily basis.
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So, as I say, for many modern day bodybuilders it is a case of simply following the Old School rules.
4. The Bodybuilding Martyr
Another reason for a lack of seasoning is pure and simple competitiveness.
Now, I’m not talking about actual bodybuilding shows here, but the competition most bodybuilders have amongst themselves.
Most bodybuilders literally try to outdo each other in various aspects of their training and nutrition.
And this often produces what I refer to as the bodybuilding martyr.
Basically, there’s almost a competition in who can be the most miserable.
“I trained 3 times today, and hit legs twice”
“I ate chicken, rice, and broccoli 5 times today, all without a hint of seasoning, spice, or sauce”.
These guys and gals take their sport extremely seriously, and it’s almost as though they’re never “off-duty”.
However, to produce the near-perfect physique they do have to make a great deal of sacrifice.
And obviously you can’t have someone else outdoing you even if this means eating the blandest and most boring meals numerous times a day.
Eating Like a Bodybuilder – Chicken, Rice & Broccoli Mindset
So, as you can see, the main reasons bodybuilders don’t season their food is due to the sodium content.
They are worried about retaining water, which will typically make the skin look looser and the muscles less ripped.
Furthermore, many seasonings will contain additional calories, so are best avoided if you’re trying to stick to an exact daily calorie count.
Bodybuilders also tend to follow the “old-school” rules and like to stick to the basics and eat as clean as possible.
Finally, there is a competitive streak between bodybuilders, and often this will boil over into who can eat the blandest and most boring food.
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.