Essential Bodybuilding Shopping List: Everything You Need

best bodybuilding food list

Hitting the gym and starting your training plan will no doubt be your first priority when taking up bodybuilding, but have you spared any thought to what you’re eating and what should be on your bodybuilding shopping list?

Just ‘eating better’ won’t cut it. You need to know which proteins to eat, which carbohydrates to avoid, and where you can get the right sources of fats to build muscle effectively. By doing so you’ll see results much quicker!

However, we get that understanding everything you need to know to craft the best bodybuilding diet shopping list can be an overwhelming task in itself, so OriGym has compiled this guide to cover everything you’ll need.

We’ve covered:

Before you jump in, the next step in your fitness journey could be becoming a certified personal trainer! OriGym’s level 3 personal training course is both REPS and CIMSPA accredited and we provide a lot of post-course support to ensure your entry into the industry is as smooth as possible.

Download our FREE course prospectus for a handy guide on all of our courses and services.

Basics Of Bodybuilding

bodybuilding shopping list food

Before we head on to the nutritional aspects of bodybuilding we’re going to cover some of the fundamental principles of bodybuilding to fully understand why what you eat has such an impact on your progression.

Bodybuilding is an internationally recognized activity with a focus on developing musculature for aesthetic intentions, with participants engaging in this sport for either recreational or competitive purposes. They do this through resistance training and aerobic conditioning.

Bodybuilding typically consists of 2 phases: bulking and cutting, or off-season and in-season. Bulking involves eating a higher calorie diet rich in protein and a lot of weightlifting workouts to build as much muscle as they can within this phase. Cutting then involves working on losing as much body fat with drastic nutrition and meal changes whilst still retaining muscle mass.

It takes months and years to prepare for bodybuilding competitions through a number of nutrition and exercise routines, which include the omission of body fat and progressive resistance workouts. While some aim to compete professionally, others participate in the lifestyle change.

Professional bodybuilding features lineups of bodybuilders performing in specific poses that exhibit their muscles, and then individual routines to further demonstrate their size. Before the event many will further enhance their appearance through carb loading, tanning, and shaving, to fully emphasise their muscles. Competitors are ranked on their symmetry, size, muscularity, poses, and overall stage presentation, by a panel of judges. 

Not sure whether your workout needs weights to make it effective? Read OriGym’s guide on resistance bands vs weights to find out if you’re missing out!

Don't forget your FREE food diary:

What Is The Difference Between Bodybuilding And Powerlifting?

shopping list for bodybuilding

Many people will believe that bodybuilding and powerlifting are the same activity but in fact, there are some notable differences. Bodybuilding has a primary focus on the aesthetic appearance of muscle mass rather than physical strength.

Powerlifting, on the other hand, is a competitive sport with a number of rules and specific lifting techniques. Participants are challenged to lift as much weight as they can through 1 rep of a squat, bench press, and deadlift. Powerlifters are separated into bodyweight and age categories and they have 3 attempts to lift their maximum weight. Whoever has the highest powerlifting total is the winner! 

The bottom line is that bodybuilding is predominantly about the physical appearance of muscles while powerlifting focuses on physical strength and lifting. 

Health Benefits Of Following A Bodybuilding Shopping List

bodybuilding diet food list

As you can imagine, an intense exercise regime with tight nutritional guidelines can lead to some substantial benefits for the body.

Firstly, the exercise regime will offer a lot of advantages to the body. Bodybuilding through resistance training is one of the most effective forms of exercise to improve endurance and strength; these workouts refer to exercises that require the body to lift or pull against resistance, whether that’s lifting dumbbells or training with medicine balls.

Not only does resistance training build muscle strength but it also promotes weight loss, improves bone density, boosts cognitive function, reduces the risk of injuries and can help prevent some chronic diseases!

In addition to the exercise side of this lifestyle, a bodybuilding food list will also provide significant nutritional value that can also contribute to weight loss as well as boost general health.

A very basic bodybuilding shopping list will typically contain healthy fats, a lot of protein, and healthier carbohydrates, all of which work towards building muscle mass and reducing nonessential body fats. 

The exercise and nutrition involved in bodybuilding as a whole can both contribute to a longer and healthier life in general. A study in Biogerontology investigated the effects of maintaining sufficient muscle mass throughout life to promote healthy ageing. This research found that:

“Increasing muscle protein synthesis via exercise or protein-based nutrition maintains a strong, healthy muscle mass, which in turn leads to improved health, independence and functionality.” (McLeod et al., 2016)

While it may be difficult to continue bodybuilding at the same intensity throughout elderly life, maintaining muscle and continuing the diet can have a significant impact on the longevity and quality of your later years.

In fact, age shouldn’t become a barrier to your aspirations and goals! Are you too old to become a personal trainer? Read here to find out...

Calorie Needs And Macronutrients

uk bodybuilding shopping list.

So, we now know what the basics of bodybuilding are and what the associated health benefits are as well, so now we’re going to go into more detail about what you’ll actually need to fuel your bulking phase and to sustain your cutting phase. This requires a little more knowledge about how many calories and what sorts of macronutrients you’ll need to include on your bodybuilding diet food list.

Each phase will need a different number of calories and a slightly different focus on nutrients. You’ll also need to weigh yourself regularly to check that your calorie intake is working effectively for each phase. 

Plus, you’ll need to regularly adjust your calorie intake to continue progressing, so continue to increase calories during your bulking and continuously reduce calories throughout the cutting phase. 

That being said, it is also recommended that you don’t lose or gain too much weight during either phase as this can have some negative effects on your health. As a general rule, don’t lose/gain more than 1% of your body weight each week - another reason why regularly weighing yourself is an important part of bodybuilding.

Learning everything about nutrition and food to construct the best bodybuilding food list can be challenging - this is where taking sports nutrition course would come in handy!

Calories Needed During The Bulking Phase

As this is the phase where mass is being built, you’ll need to increase your daily calorie intake to see progression in your training and adjust your bulking bodybuilding shopping list accordingly.

We recommend that you increase your calories by 15% during this phase. This means that if you’re currently eating 2500 calories each day, you’d need to up this to 2875 calories each day for the bulking phase.

Calories Needed During The Cutting Phase

Similarly, this is the phase where weight needs to be lost so reducing daily calorie intake is a necessary step. 

This time you should decrease your calories by 15%, so if you’re eating 2875 calories each day then you’d need to reduce this down to 2444 calories per day. Remember to keep weighing yourself to judge the effectiveness of your training and diet plans. 


bodybuilding shopping list image

Once you’ve calculated and adjusted your calories to fit your phase, you’ll be able to determine the right ratios of macronutrients that you’ll need to support your training regime and construct the best bodybuilding grocery shopping list. 

Macronutrients are a vital part of any diet as these are the nutrients that are needed in higher quantities in order to provide the human body with energy. The 3 most important types of macronutrients (and the ones we’re covering today to ensure you have the most effective shopping list for bodybuilding) are carbohydrates, protein, and fats.

Important to note for bodybuilding is that the ratios of your macronutrients don’t change, regardless of whether you’re bulking or cutting. 

The right ratio for bodybuilding can be altered slightly but for the most part, should follow these guidelines:

  • Protein: should be 30 to 35% of your total calories 
  • Carbohydrates: should be 55 to 60% of your total calories 
  • Fats: should be 15 to 20% of your total calories

Again, these are general guidelines so if you have any questions consult a qualified nutritionist or dietician for further advice. If you’re interested in becoming a nutritionist then read more about it from OriGym’s article!

Protein To Eat

bodybuilding shopping list on a budget

Protein is one of the main macronutrients needed for effective bodybuilding and now you know how to figure out your calories and ratios you’ll also need to know which are the best sources of proteins for your goals.

The following foods are a quick and easy guide for sources of protein that should be on your protein food list for bodybuilding:

  • Skinless Chicken Breast
  • Lean Turkey
  • Pork Tenderloin
  • Lean Beef Mince (Ground Mince)
  • Cod
  • Salmon
  • Canned Tuna (find out more about the nutrition of fresh and tinned tuna
  • Sea Bass
  • Eggs
  • Liquid Egg Whites
  • Cottage Cheese
  • Greek yoghurt
  • Nuts
  • Tofu

If you’re following a non-meat diet then you can find more information about vegan and vegetarian protein sources here.

OriGym have some other useful guides for bodybuilding and nutrition:

Protein To Avoid

bodybuilding food shopping list

Unfortunately, there are also a number of protein sources that will hinder your progress more than help it, and these foods shouldn’t be on your bodybuilding protein food list:

  • Fatty Red Meat - inspect cuts of meat, such as steak, for white fat and avoid any with too much.
  • Fatty Minced Meat (Ground Meat)
  • Bacon
  • Breaded or Skinned Chicken
  • Deli meats

Carbohydrates To Eat

bodybuilding shopping list uk

Another of the key macronutrients is carbohydrates, and again there are some that should be featured on every bodybuilding food shopping list. 

These include:

  • White Rice (better for building size)
  • Brown Rice (this is digested slower in the body)
  • Brown Pasta
  • Quinoa 
  • Oatmeal
  • Steeled Oats
  • Fruit (bananas, apples, oranges, and pears are recommended)
  • Sweet Potatoes

Carbohydrates To Avoid

bodybuilding protein food list

These are just empty calories that won’t contribute to either your cutting or bulking phases so it’s best not to buy these at all and remove temptation. These include:

  • Cereals (often these contain a lot of added sugars, check the nutritional information as ones with little to no sugar would be acceptable)
  • Chips
  • Sweets
  • Sugary drinks
  • Fruit juice (these contain a lot of sugar)
  • Ice cream (OriGym’s list of healthy ice creams could offer a sweet treat if you need one!)

Good Sources Of Fats

protein rich food list for bodybuilding

Many people assume that fats are always the enemy when it comes to diets and focussing on nutrition, but the fact is that fats are a necessary part of the human diet. 

For your bodybuilding food shopping list, the following foods are good sources of healthy fats:

  • Nuts (almonds, pecans, walnuts, cashews - check out our nutrition guide on the healthiest nuts for a breakdown of their nutritional values)
  • Nut butter (almond butter, natural peanut butter, cashew butter)
  • Avocados 
  • Olive oil
  • Flaxseed oil
  • Fish oil

Fats To Avoid

best bodybuilding food list

Although we need fats in our diets, there are those that are unhealthy and can lead to health problems down the line. The following foods should not be on your bulking or cutting shopping list for bodybuilding:

  • Fried foods
  • Palm oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Butter and margarine 

One of the key takeaways from our list of fats sources is that not all fats are bad. You can read more about this in our blog post on the benefits and risks of different fats.

Supplements To Add To Your Bodybuilding Shopping List

bulking bodybuilding shopping list

Along with all the right food sources of your macronutrients, it is also important to add the right supplements to your bodybuilding diet shopping list. 

The number of supplements on the market at the minute can make it confusing and hard to figure out which ones will work best with your diet and training programme, so read on to learn a little more about the ones you should be taking for bodybuilding!

Whey Protein

Whey protein is another popular supplement among gym-goers due to its fantastic nutritional value and high protein content. Whey protein contains all the essential amino acids which all have numerous benefits to the human body, as well as a substantial amount of BCAAs which are also regularly consumed as exercise supplements.

This is one of the best supplements you should have on your bodybuilding shopping list (UK). Not only is chock full of proteins that are needed for building muscle, but it also increases the release of anabolic hormones which are also required for muscle growth, and its fast absorption means you’ll experience its effects quickly.

For more information on the benefits of whey protein take a look at OriGym’s health guide!

The recommended daily amount of whey protein is around 20g to 50g. Be sure to follow packaging instructions however as too much protein can cause digestive problems. 

This supplement is often taken after workouts for increased effectiveness.


Creatine is one of the most popular workout supplements due to the number of scientific studies proving its benefits to the body before and after exercise.

In terms of its effectiveness for bodybuilding, creatine is hugely beneficial. In a study presented in the journal Biomedical Human Kinetics, a 6-week investigation into the effects of creatine supplementation on a group of male bodybuilders compared with a group with no creatine was conducted. Both groups performed the same exercise routines. 

The study found that the group that supplemented with creatine showed increased body mass and body circumference compared to the control group.

If you’re just starting your bulking phase then it is recommended that you take around 20g of creatine every day for up to 7 days, with this split into 4 doses per day. For maintaining muscle mass you should reduce this amount and take around 3-5g each day.

Creatine is effective as both a pre-workout and post-workout supplement and whilst academics have tried to find the best time to take this supplement the results have been inconclusive. That being said, it is advised that you take your creatine supplement either just before or just after a workout to maximise its effectiveness.

Don’t worry about water retention though - this is a common myth about creatine that isn’t true!


cutting shopping list bodybuilding

Caffeine has long been taken for its mental and physical benefits to the human body, but it is actually another supplement that can boost exercise performance as well. Even its ability to reduce tiredness can help as this will allow you to push yourself harder and work out for longer.

Not only will caffeine increase your focus, but it also increases the body’s ability to burn fat, and will also use carbohydrate stores due to the increased fat burning which will also boost athletic performance.

Obviously, caffeine is found in a number of food and drinks, like coffee and green tea, and it also comes in supplement form if you’d rather use your calories for protein or healthy fats.

However, your body can become intolerant to these sources of caffeine so it might not be as effective as supplements. Some bodybuilders will use caffeine more sparingly, perhaps even saving it for bigger events to retain as much efficacy as possible. 

It is generally recommended that you take caffeine around an hour before an event. It’s best to try this out and see how your body reacts before an event though so you can ensure better performance.

Whilst this might not be an essential supplement for a beginner’s UK bodybuilding shopping list, it is worthwhile considering to assess your body’s sensitivity.  

Basic Bodybuilding Shopping List: Everything You Need

student bodybuilding shopping list

Finally, the most essential part of your training program - your weekly bodybuilding shopping list of food and supplements.

It is important to note that this is not an exhaustive list of foods but merely a guideline for some weekly staples you should have for your meals; if you’re vegetarian, lactose intolerant, have any other sort of food intolerance or preference, or even just want to spice things up then switch it up accordingly. 

For the week:

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Blueberries
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Onions
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Carrots 
  • Brown rice for cutting, white rice for bulking
  • Whole grain pasta
  • Whole grain bread
  • Eggs
  • Chicken breast or tofu (or both!)
  • Cottage cheese
  • Lean minced meat (beef, turkey)
  • Lean fish (cod, salmon, tilapia)
  • Oatmeal
  • Natural peanut or almond butter
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Olive oil


  • Creatine - OriGym recommends the MyProtein Creatine Monohydrate Powder which comes in a few different flavours and different sizes so you can easily bulk buy to save some money.
  • Whey Protein - we recommend the Bulk Pure Whey Protein as it has a huge number of different flavours as well as sizes ranging from 500g to 2kg. It’s also vegetarian and gluten-free! If you want more recommendations check out our reviews on some of the cheapest whey protein here.
  • Caffeine -  try the Bulk Caffeine 200mg tablets which are vegan and gluten-free. The tablet form makes them easy to carry with you and simple to take. 

Fortunately, if you’re trying to construct a student bodybuilding shopping list or on a budget, a lot of these items can be found in cheaper supermarkets for lower prices, and these types of supplements are often reduced or on offer from health retailers.


Starting out in a new sport such as bodybuilding is already a daunting and exhilarating experience as it is, without the extra stress of having to prepare a protein-rich food list for bodybuilding or staples shopping list.

Fortunately, we’ve now equipped you with sufficient knowledge to ensure your nutrition and diet can match the effectiveness of your training plan. Stay off the sugary drinks and fried foods and take some supplements to boost your athletic performance.

Before you head out to the shops, why not switch up your exercise routine and become a personal trainer? This is a rewarding and diverse career: get started with OriGym today with our level 3 personal training course

Download our course prospectus for more information on our range of REPS and CIMSPA accredited courses and packages.


  1. Jagiełło, W., Kruszewski, M. and Banach, J. (2010). Effects of Creatine Supplementation on Body Mass and Muscle Girths in Bodybuilders. Biomedical Human Kinetics, 2, pp.47–50.
  2. McLeod, M., Breen, L., Hamilton, D.L. and Philp, A. (2016). Live Strong and prosper: the Importance of Skeletal Muscle Strength for Healthy Ageing. Biogerontology, [online] 17(3), pp.497–510.

Written by Dee Hammond-Blackburn

Fitness Content Executive, OriGym

Join Dee on Facebook at the OriGym Facebook Group

Dee holds a BA (Hons) in English Literature, and is currently finishing her MA in Marketing Communications and Branding from Edge Hill University. Her passion for fitness and content writing brought her to OriGym, and she has since become a qualified Personal Trainer and a Sports Nutrition Specialist. Combining her skills in fitness and writing, Dee has a professional interest in fitness blogging, content creation, and social media. Outside of her writing role Dee enjoys reading, healthy cooking, and playing football with her dalmation.

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