This past semester I had the pleasure of meeting a girl that was determined to become the next great female bodybuilder. Faith Powell, a rising sophomore at American University, was kind enough to show me what she does to keep in shape.

Here’s what I learned if you want to eat like a bodybuilder:

1. Eat more often


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If you really want to be a bodybuilder, you have to be ready to make some tremendous changes to your diet. It may not be easy to stay away from that slice of cheesecake, but you can eat more healthy meals than you normally would. “Staying on a schedule holds yourself accountable,” says Faith.

Your body will need the energy since the intensive workouts will burn many calories. Eating every two and a half hours, or eight meals a day, replenishes what you will continue to lose.

2. Never skip a meal


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Consistency is key. When bodybuilders need to cut weight, they tailor their intake of protein, fats and carbs to help maximize the amount of body fat they want to burn. When they want to gain muscle, they change their intake of protein, fats and carbs to get that extra boost when lifting.

If you skip a meal, your body is losing that extra step. You are training your body to go without the nutrients it needs, which can end with disastrous results.

3. Do not get carried away with protein


Photo by Mithila Samak

Protein sources such as red meat may be useful when trying to gain muscle, but everyone needs some color on their plate. “The most important advice I would give someone looking to begin a bodybuilder’s diet is to not get carried away with only eating protein, carbs and fats and neglecting fruits and vegetables. A lot of bodybuilders do this and the body isn’t built to keep a person healthy and strong without fruits and vegetables,” according to Powell. To stay healthy inside and outside of the gym, you have to eat balanced meals.

4. Bodybuilders like Chipotle too

Photo by Alexandra Jubault

Photo by Alexandra Jubault

Spicing things up with a cheat day is the best thing to keep your sanity. While eating greek yogurt and rice cakes lathered in peanut butter and honey may seem like the only foods you are allowed to chow down on while on a strict routine and diet, bodybuilders allow themselves to have a day where they can eat whatever they want. Chipotle, hot wings, you name it.

Bodybuilders once ate the same things that us foodies eat today. But, with enough discipline and willpower, they were able to transform their bodies into works of art. So when you begin your journey to become the next great bodybuilder, don’t forget these 4 simple rules.