Power of Proper Dietary Habits for Natural Lifters

dietary habits for natural lifters

If you’re a natural bodybuilder or recreational lifter, you can’t follow the same dietary habits as those who use steroids or other drugs to enhance their performance. These substances alter the body’s physiology and mask the effects of poor nutrition. If you’re not careful, trying to gain muscle while eating like a drug user will only lead to unwanted weight gain. Conversely, attempting to get lean while eating like a druggie will result in muscle loss. Therefore, you should obey to dietary habits for natural lifters.

One reason why “enhanced” lifters can get away with eating minimal calories and not lose muscle is because the drugs they use protect their muscle mass. Moreover, certain drugs like growth hormone, T3, or clenbuterol allow people to eat a surplus of food and still get leaner.

Although some enhanced bodybuilders possess a solid understanding of nutrition, they often make the mistake of recommending the same diet to natural lifters that works for them and their drug-using clients. This approach is not suitable for natural lifters who have different dietary requirements, both in the gym and the kitchen.

Therefore, if you’re a natural lifter, you need to set up your diet in a way that meets your specific needs for both leanness and muscle gains. But before diving into the specifics, let’s first explore the science behind it.

Understanding the Distinction between Dietary Habits for Natural and Non-Natural Lifters

In order to differentiate between natural and non-natural eating habits, it is essential to be aware of a few key concepts.


A caloric deficit is necessary for weight loss to occur with any diet. Simply removing a macronutrient from your diet (such as carbs or fat) will not lead to fat loss if you are still consuming too many calories.

Calorie consumption is the most crucial factor when it comes to losing fat. Some people follow a keto diet or intermittent fasting and yet do not lose weight as they are consuming too many calories. This is not because keto or intermittent fasting does not work, but rather because a caloric surplus causes weight gain with any diet.

That said, calories are not the only essential factor, especially if you want to improve body composition by increasing muscle and decreasing fat.


Some people believe that calorie expenditure is the only important factor and that insulin sensitivity and thyroid hormone levels are unimportant. Some even claim that insulin will not cause weight gain.

Technically, they are correct. Insulin aids the transport of ingested nutrients to their respective storage sites, such as muscle, liver, and fat cells. Insulin itself does not cause you to store more nutrients than you consume, meaning that a caloric surplus is what causes weight gain, not insulin.

However, if your insulin levels are excessively high, your body’s ability to burn fat will decrease. After consuming a high-carb meal, your body can produce too much insulin, which can remain elevated for a longer time, making it difficult to burn fat. Therefore, overproduction of insulin can hinder efficient fat loss.

Insulin also affects muscle growth. Muscle cells that are more insulin-sensitive benefit more from insulin production than fat cells. In fact, insulin is anabolic and anti-catabolic, aiding muscle growth by increasing mTOR activation and the nutrient uptake of your muscles. This indicates that maintaining low insulin levels is not ideal if you want to build muscle.


The role of cortisol in fat loss can be confusing. On one hand, cortisol helps break down stored energy (glycogen, fat, protein) for fuel, making it a hormone that should promote weight loss. On the other hand, chronically elevated cortisol levels can reduce fat loss by decreasing the conversion of the T4 thyroid hormone to the T3 thyroid hormone, which is critical in setting metabolic rate.

Natural lifters using a form of dieting and training that leads to excessively high cortisol levels run the risk of slowing down their fat loss efforts in the long run. This is because excessive caloric deficits and complete deprivation of carbs can lead to chronic cortisol elevation. Cortisol’s primary function is to maintain stable blood sugar levels, so when blood sugar drops due to low carbs or calories, cortisol and glucagon are released to bring it back up. The greater the caloric deficit and the lower the carbs, the higher the risk of increasing cortisol.

For steroid users, this is not a significant problem since anabolics can counterbalance the increase in catabolism from cortisol. Additionally, if they take fat-loss drugs, the impact of cortisol on metabolic rate is not a significant issue, especially if they take synthetic T3 like Cytomel. However, for natural lifters, chronic cortisol elevation can make fat loss more challenging.

Tips and Strategies for Adjusting Dietary Habits for Natural Lifters

Caloric Intake

When it comes to caloric intake, it’s important to adjust according to your specific goals and activity level. For instance, if you’re looking to lose fat, start at around 11 calories per pound of body weight. Conversely, if you’re trying to build muscle, aim for 16 calories per pound of body weight. To calculate your daily caloric intake, multiply your body weight by the corresponding number, then make adjustments based on your activity level.

It’s important to note that these numbers are not set in stone and may need to be adjusted depending on various factors. For example, someone who is very active may require a higher caloric intake, even when trying to lose fat. On the other hand, someone with a high body fat percentage may need a lower number.

To achieve optimal changes in body composition, it’s also crucial to measure your food intake accurately. This helps you to make necessary adjustments to your caloric intake, which is the key to reaching your goals.

If you’re trying to lose fat, it’s important to adjust your caloric intake weekly, to ensure you’re losing fat at the optimal rate. Losing too little fat can lead to a loss of motivation, while losing too much can increase the risk of muscle loss and affect your workouts negatively. Aim for a weekly loss of around 2-3 pounds, and keep in mind that losing 1 to 1.5 pounds per week may be more appropriate for lean individuals or small people.

It’s also possible that your weight loss may stall at some point, which can happen for various reasons. For instance, if you’re carrying less weight around, your daily energy expenditure may decrease. Additionally, if you’re losing fat, you may become lazier and decrease your non-exercise activity thermogenesis. Furthermore, a lowered metabolic rate, caused by factors such as excess cortisol, can also halt your progress. In such cases, it’s important to make necessary adjustments to your caloric intake in order to continue progressing towards your goals.

Protein Intake

To positively change your physique, it’s important to consume high amounts of protein during both muscle-building and fat loss phases. Consuming more protein will help you gain more muscle and lose more fat. However, there is a limit to how much protein your body can handle and ingesting too much could have negative effects.

Natural lifters should aim to consume 1-1.25g of protein per pound of body weight during a mass-gaining phase and can go up to 1.25-1.5g per pound of body weight during a fat loss phase. When dieting, consuming more protein can help decrease muscle breakdown and maintain stable blood sugar levels while reducing cortisol production. Enhanced lifters who use steroids can consume higher amounts of protein due to increased protein synthesis.

Carb Intake

Carbohydrates play a crucial role in muscle growth and can be especially beneficial when consumed around workout periods. Consuming carbohydrates before or during exercise can activate the mTOR protein and increase protein synthesis from the workout, which is important for natural lifters.

In addition, carbs can help decrease cortisol release, which decreases stress levels and increases muscle growth. The amount of carbs a person needs to consume depends on their insulin sensitivity and caloric intake, and timing is important, with the most important time being around the workout and in the evening.

Fat Intake

To determine the amount of fat you should consume, you need to calculate your total caloric intake, protein intake, and carb intake. Let’s say you consume 2200 calories, 1000 calories from protein (or 250 grams of protein), and 600 calories from carbs (or 150 grams of carbs).

Once you have these numbers, you can easily calculate your fat intake. Subtract your protein and carb calories from your total caloric intake to get your remaining calories from fat. In this case, you would have 600 calories left from fat. Since each gram of fat is approximately 9 calories, you can divide 600 calories by 9 to get the total number of grams of fat, which would be 67 grams.

Daily Meal Schedule

Providing a pre-made diet plan may not be helpful as caloric intake varies based on an individual’s size and fitness goal. However, once you have calculated your required caloric intake, setting up your meals is a simple process. Depending on the time of day you train, you can structure your meals as follows:

  • Early morning training with no time for breakfast: Consume carbs during the workout, then have a meal consisting of protein and carbs for breakfast, followed by meals of protein and fats for lunch and snacks, and protein and carbs for dinner and snack.
  • Morning training with time for breakfast: Begin with a meal of protein and fats, then consume carbs during your workout, followed by meals of protein and fats for lunch and snacks, and protein and carbs for dinner and snack.
  • Mid-afternoon training: Start with a meal of protein and fats, followed by a meal of protein and fats for lunch, consume carbs during your workout, then have snacks of protein and fats and protein and carbs, respectively, and a dinner of protein and carbs.
  • Late-afternoon training: Begin with a meal of protein and fats, followed by a meal of protein and fats for lunch, snacks of protein and fats, consume carbs during your workout, and finish with a dinner of protein and carbs and a snack of protein and carbs.

It is worth noting that there is no recommendation for an evening training time as it is considered the least optimal time for natural training.

Bottom Line under Dietary Habits for Natural Lifters

Crafting an optimal diet plan that follows dietary habits for natural lifters requires significant effort. For natural bodybuilders, precision plays a more critical role than those who use performance-enhancing drugs. It’s crucial to calculate the daily intake of calories, protein, carbohydrates, and fats accurately. Additionally, measuring your food intake by weighing it is essential. You should adjust your diet weekly to optimize your physique.

However, if you are genuinely committed to achieving your bodybuilding goals, putting in this effort is necessary. On the other hand, if you are satisfied with average results, you can opt to wing it. Still, it’s important to keep in mind that inconsistent outcomes may result from a lack of a precise and calculated approach.

Source: The Best Diet Plan for a Natural Bodybuilder

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