Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Nutritional strategies of British professional and amateur natural bodybuilders during competition preparation.

Chappell, A.J.; Simper, T.; Helms, E.


A.J. Chappell

T. Simper

E. Helms


Background: To prepare for competition, bodybuilders employ strategies based around: energy restriction, resistance training, cardiovascular exercise, isometric “posing”, and supplementation. Cohorts of professional (PRO) natural bodybuilders offer insights into how these strategies are implemented by elite competitors, and are undocumented in the scientific literature. Methods: Forty-seven competitors (33 male (8 PRO, 25 amateur (AMA), 14 female (5 PRO, 9 AMA) participated in the study. All PROs were eligible to compete with the Drug Free Athletes Coalition (DFAC), and all AMAs were recruited from the British Natural Bodybuilding Federation (BNBF). Competitors in these organisations are subject to a polygraph and are drug tested in accordance with the World Anti-Doping Agency. We report the results of a cross-sectional study of drug free bodybuilders competing at BNBF qualifying events, and the DFAC and World Natural Bodybuilding Federation finals. Participants completed a 34-item questionnaire assessing dietary intake at three time points (start, middle and end) of competition preparation. Participants recorded their food intake over a 24-h period in grams and/or portions. Dietary intakes of PRO and AMA competitors were then compared. Repeated measures ANOVA was used to test if nutrient intake changed over time, and for associations with division. Results: Male PROs reported significantly (p[less than]0.05) more bodybuilding experience than AMAs (PRO: 12.3 +/− 9.2, AMA: 2.4 +/− 1.4 yrs). Male PROs lost less body mass per week (PRO: 0.5 +/− 0.1, AMA: 0.7 +/− 0.2%, p[less than]0.05), and reported more weeks dieting (PRO: 28.1 +/− 8.1, AMA: 21.0 +/− 9.4 wks, P = 0.06). Significant differences (p[less than]0.05) of carbohydrate and energy were also recorded, as well as a difference (p = 0.03) in the estimated energy deficit (EED), between male PRO (2.0 +/− 5.5 kcal) and AMA (− 3.4 +/− 5.5 kcal) competitors. Conclusions: Longer diets and slower weight loss utilized by PROs likely contributed towards a lower EED compared to the AMAs. Slower weight loss may constitute an effective strategy for maintaining energy availability and muscle mass during an energy deficit. These findings require corroboration, but will interest bodybuilders and coaches.


CHAPPELL, A.J., SIMPER, T. and HELMS, E. 2019. Nutritional strategies of British professional and amateur natural bodybuilders during competition preparation. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition [online], 16(1), article ID 35. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 14, 2019
Online Publication Date Aug 22, 2019
Publication Date Dec 31, 2019
Deposit Date Sep 5, 2019
Publicly Available Date Sep 6, 2019
Journal Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition
Electronic ISSN 1550-2783
Publisher Springer
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 16
Issue 1
Article Number 35
Keywords Natural; Bodybuilding; Drug free; Competition preparation; Dietary strategies; Nutrition; Physique contest; Supplementation; Dieting; Professional
Public URL


You might also like

Downloadable Citations