How To Start Bodybuilding The Ultimate Guide

Let’s face it, nothing changes if nothing changes, and you are ready for a change. Bodybuilding, hitting the gym, and getting in shape can feel overwhelming as a newb, especially when you have no clue where to start. Like most things in life, you can’t look at the entire picture all at once, otherwise you’ll get discouraged, overwhelmed, and you’ll end up getting in your own way and convincing yourself to quit before you even start. We’re going to lay out how to start bodybuilding, in phases, so you can meet the milestones you need to reach and get to your goals.

How To Start Bodybuilding

When you want to bodybuilding there are a few key components to being successful

  • Diet And Nutrition Protocol
  • Training Program
  • Training Expectations

Along with expectations, it is vitally important to know, that building muscle mass and optimizing body composition takes time and consistency. This transformation is not going to happen overnight. And when I say consistency, I mean it. You need to be in the gym and training 5-6 days per week, without missing days and making excuses. If you want it, then commit to it. Otherwise, you will never get the results you want. You think Chris Bumstead has a six pack, because he takes days off, is too tired, and makes excuses? No, if you want results, then you sacrifice for it. 

Diet And Nutrition 

Believe it or not, your diet and nutrition is more important than the gym and your training program. Of course, you’ll never be able to build more muscle mass, strength, and actually create the physique you want without actually bodybuilding, but you can work out and train for years, and eat the way you’re eating now and you’ll never reach your goals. You’ll end up discouraged, angry, and frustrated about your results or lack thereof. You cannot out train a bad diet. So, let’s get some basics out of the way to start. 

Before you do anything, you need to know what your basal metabolic rate or BMR and total daily energy expenditure TDEE is. And if the goal is to build more muscle, you need to eat for those goals.

You Have To Be In A Caloric Surplus  

To gain and build muscle, you need to be in what’s called a caloric surplus. This means, that you need to be eating more than your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). Your TDEE is the total amount of energy (calories) you expend in a day. TDEE is comprised of three key components: resting metabolic rate (RMR), the thermic effect of food (TEF), and the thermic effect of physical activity (TEPA). TEF is the energy expended when chewing, swallowing, digesting, and absorbing food. TEPA is the energy of activity, during and not during exercise.

RELATED ARTICLE What Is Basal Metabolic Rate

Great, so you have to eat more than your TDEE. But what if you don’t know what your TDEE is? The calculation is pretty simple, and I’ve got it all laid out so you can quickly calculate how many calories you burn per day, so you can plan on eating more and put yourself in a caloric surplus.

You can calculate your RMR using the Harris and Benedict (H&B) equation, with the formula below.  

MEN: 88.362 + (13.397 × weight in kg) + (4.799 × height in cm) – (5.677 × age in years)

WOMEN: 447.593 + (9.247 × weight in kg) + (3.098 × height in cm) – (4.330 × age in years)

The next step is to include your daily activities based upon your lifestyle, multiplied by your resting metabolic rate. Use the table below 




very minimal or no exercise


Slightly Active

exercise lightly one to three days per week


Moderately Active

Exercise three to five days per week


Very Active

train six to seven days per week


Overly Active

if you train six to seven days a week



Once you calculate your BMR and multiply it by your activity level, you will have your Total Daily energy expenditure.

Now, on the flip side, if you’re overweight, then eating quality proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats, will help you lose weight, especially when you pair that with a training program. So don’t get caught up in the calories right now, you should be more concerned with the type of foods you’re eating.

You Need To Track Your Macros

To get the best results, you need to measure and keep track of what you’re eating. Otherwise, you may think you are hitting your caloric intake goals, and you could be missing them without even knowing it.

My suggestion is to get a macro tracking app such as myfitnesspal or hiring a nutrition coach to help you calculate your daily macros and get you the guidance you need to start hitting your intake goals and gaining more weight and muscle mass like The Swole Kitchen.

What And How Much To Eat

After you dial in BMR and TDEE, you need to know what and how much you should be eating. A quick way to get on the right path, is to calculate your macros. Your macros are a calculation of how many macronutrients you should be including in your daily diet. Macronutrients are (protein, carbohydrates, and fat). You can calculate your macros by using a macro calculator like the one below


Once you know how many grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fat you should be eating, you’re ready to hit the grocery store and start loading up with some solid food choices to help you stack on gains.

Now, it is important to know that macro calculators will never be exactly right. There are many outside variables that go into a diet and nutrition program, other than your age, height, weight, and activity level. Dietary restrictions, metabolic disease, hereditary predispositions, injuries all need to be taken into consideration. Macro calculators are a great place to start and to learn consistency with tracking, but once you hit a plateau, you will need to hire a nutrition coach. 

Some simple things to keep in mind

Include at least 25-30g of protein per meal and pair the protein with a complex carbohydrate.  Protein choices could be turkey, chicken, beef, fish, or really any lean protein or animal protein choice that comes to mind. Complex carbohydrates, think vegetables, like broccoli, zucchini, eggplant, asparagus, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, etc. 

To make it even easier, I’ve laid it all out for you in the Ultimate Bodybuilding Grocery List You’ll find everything you need with a complete foods list to help you get started.

6-8oz of protein is what you want to aim for per meal. Make sure you are logging your food in your macro tracker and try and be within 80% of your daily macro goals. If you are having a hard time hitting your goals and need to eat more try adding a weight gain shake to your diet.

Ever wonder why bodybuilders carry around gallon jugs of water. It's because you need water to hydrate, get things moving, and keep the nutrients flowing. You don't need to carry around a jug of water, that is not what I'm suggesting. But, you do need to aim for at least 80-120oz of water per day.

Training Program

Now let’s talk about your training program. 

Consistently stacking on gains in the gym, requires one thing – progression. To achieve consistent success, you must design a training program with intent, purpose, and that progressively challenges the neuromuscular system for better muscle growth and recovery. The goal is implementing a training program that consistently and effectively challenges you, with a planned systematic progression over time, and that requires training periodization and specificity.

Progressive Overload and Periodization

Although relatively simply in theory, progressive overload is essentially the application of consistent heavier loads/adding more weight or physical recurring stress over time, as the body systematically adapts to neuromuscular changes. To stimulate muscle growth and achieve consistent progression your body needs added physical stress (resistance training) to increase muscle mass and strength, by way of adaptation.

The human body will not change unless it’s forced to do so. With greater demands placed on your body, it’s essentially forced to adapt to those changes, to add muscle gain and growth.

Periodization is characterized by dividing training into specific cycles or segments, inducing progression and adaptation and different stages, to progressively build more muscle mass, strength, power, and stabilization accumulating to improved overall athletic performance. Periodization provides structure, a plan to get to your goals, while progressive overload is a component of that plan.

To get a better idea of how progressive overload works, I would definitely encourage you to read this guide, on how to apply progressive overload to your training program.

To make this a little less stressful and easier for you, I’m going to give you access to our 8-Week Muscle Building Program for free, so you can get started right away in the gym and learn as you go.

When you’re ready to start, follow this template program. And if you don’t know what or how to do the exercises, check out OPEX training library. They have a complete movement library of any exercise you can think of to help you train with perfect form. and remember to look up exercises you do not know how to do, before you go to the gym. Timing and getting your heart rate up to burn body fat and build muscle, is never going to happen when you're sitting on the bench for 5 minutes at a time looking up how to Zottman Curl.

How To Start Bodybuilding: Takeaway

Progress is a gradual thing. It’s not about how much you can lift but working up your physique over time. Don’t worry about anyone else, besides yourself. Your journey is your own. Remember to stick with the basics, diet, exercise, and supplementation. No one person is the same and just because Keto works for someone you know, does not mean it works for you. Basics always work best. Eat lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Hit your macro goals, drink your water, train hard 5-6 days per week, and when you’re ready grab some supplements to help you get over your plateaus, and assist your training. And remember to learn along the way. You’re new to this so don’t expect to know everything all at once. If you have questions, I guarantee we have an answer. Search the blog, it’s a resource for you to become better educated, well informed, and to help you crush your goals for whatever questions you may have along the way.

Need Help With Optimizing Your Nutrition And Training Plan To Finally Get The Results You've Been Waiting For?

The Swole Kitchen is an exclusive membership opportunity for those who are looking to pursue a performance-driven lifestyle. By combining wellness consulting, nutritional lifestyle improvement, and 1:1 customized nutrition plans to our members, our programs aim to optimize human potential. In each of our programs, you’ll receive guidance to reclaim your health, fuel your lifestyle, and pursue performance ambitions, all while learning how to make nutritional decisions from a place of self-trust and intuition. All of our coaches are committed to providing the highest level of results-driven wellness to our members.

We believe that everyone can optimize not only their athletic performance but their human potential. The way we believe we can optimize performance is through transparency, clinically effective doses, and clinically proven ingredients with evidence-based outcomes. We provide the nutrients you need to power your active lifestyle.


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