When it comes to professional bodybuilding and fitness in general, few figures are as recognizable as Arnold Schwarzenegger. Schwarzenegger excelled at the top level of bodybuilding competition and then went on to become the world’s biggest action star (both literally and figuratively). Schwarzenegger’s many successes culminated with his election as Governor of the state of California. Even at 70 years old, Arnold cuts an imposing figure. Here’s how he’s maintained peek physical and mental health all these years.
What Arnold Was Eating in the 1970s
When Arnold was training for the first of his seven Mr. Olympia titles, his bodybuilding nutrition plan was pretty straightforward. He ate a ton of protein. Back then, few people worried about specifics like clean carbs or aminos, and bodybuilders weren’t limiting fat intake. That’s probably why it’s easy to find pictures of Arnold cutting into a giant steak.
It’s widely accepted that Arnold has a genetic propensity for bulk, but he’s also repeatedly noted that he has trouble gaining weight. A ruthless workout regime and fast metabolism combined to give Arnold his huge mass without the paunch that other bodybuilders of the time struggled to control. As Arnold started to dominate the sport, other bodybuilders had to tighten up their regimens to remain competitive. Ever the perfectionist, Arnold also started learning more about nutrition and improving his diet accordingly. The end result was an industry-wide change in the way bodybuilders ate.
What Arnold Was Eating in the 1990s.
In a 1991 interview with Muscle Mag Arnold gives a simple diet plan. This plan reflected several small but notable changes from his earlier diet. The focus was still on protein, with Arnold consuming 30-50 grams every three hours. At this point, Arnold was limiting his carb intake and was only consuming them within 30 minutes of a workout.
Arnold was consuming five or six small meals of lean protein and vegetables (versus the carb-heavy fruits he preferred in the 1970s) every day. He also advocated for drinking protein shakes whenever necessary to meet minimum protein intake without adding unnecessary carbs or fats. It’s worth reminding readers that Arnold’s 1990s diet plan still reflected his difficulty with gaining and maintaining weight.
In 1998, Arnold published The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding, a fully rewritten revision of The Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding that he published in the 1980s. The Encyclopedia is an 800-page behemoth which many in the industry have come to consider the go-to reference for aspiring bodybuilders. The book offers a comprehensive breakdown on ideal bodybuilding nutrition practices.
What Arnold Recommends Eating Now
In 2013, Arnold published The Protein Bible on his official website. While he didn’t author these diet guidelines, it’s clear that they summarize his current outlook on proper protein intake. The Protein Bible covers everything from the importance of amino acids to protein sources to “cutting.” (Cutting is the process of reducing body fat while maintaining muscle mass.) While cutting was not a necessity in the 1970s, it’s become an obsession for most of today’s competitive bodybuilders.
Apart from just protein, Arnold talks about nutrition in-depth in his Blueprint to Cut training program. Unlike his earlier diet plans, Arnold’s Blueprint makes a point of limiting calorie and carb intake. The Blueprint offers a condensed and updated version of the Encyclopedia‘s diet plan with an emphasis on cutting fat. The gist of that meal plan is this:
- Eat 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.
- Limit fat intake to 20% of your daily calories. Try to get those fat calories from healthy sources like fish oil, nuts and eggs.
- Eat as few carbohydrates as possible without initiating ketosis, and limit them to clean carbs from vegetables.
- Eat several small meals a day and include one serving of protein in each.
- Use vitamins and supplements to improve your diet whenever necessary.
Arnold’s focus on protein has remained consistent his entire life. He continues to eat several small meals a day for maximum metabolic and digestive efficiency. He now advocates for clean carbs and low fat calories. Like most modern bodybuilders, his commitment to a lean and clean diet necessitates the use of supplements.
Quick Arnold-Approved Tips
Recently, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s most popular diet advice was summarized in 13 nutrition tips. The first of those tips advises fitness buffs to learn more about nutrition, with Arnold saying that the “basic principles of nutrition are as valuable to a bodybuilder as the basic concepts of training.” Not surprisingly, the next three tips cover protein intake and sources. In the fifth tip, Arnold modifies his earlier advice on fat calories, advising readers to, “get about 10-15 percent of your daily calories from saturated fat sources.”
The sixth and seventh tips encourage the use of protein supplements and multivitamins. With the eighth tip, Arnold acknowledged the American obesity epidemic in saying, “If I could encourage individuals to make just one dietary change, it would be to eliminate sugary foods.” The ninth tip echoed that sentiment by encouraging readers to make healthy food choices. The tenth tip encourages bodybuilders to have a post-workout protein and carb shake in a throwback to Arnold’s 1990s diet advice.
In the eleventh tip, Arnold advocates for adding another shake whenever a caloric deficit makes it hard to build mass. In his twelfth tip, Arnold again gives a nod to his old eating habits by encouraging readers to enjoy a big steak if it will prevent them from eating dessert later. Arnold finishes the list by advising bodybuilders to learn how to properly gauge portions of common proteins.