If you’ve determined that 1600 calories is the number of calories that you need to reach your bodybuilding goals then it’s important to know how to put this into practice.
Reaching your goals isn’t as simple as just eating 1600 calories. If your goal is to look your absolute best and perform your best in the gym, you also need to prioritize certain nutrients.
After reading this article you’ll learn:
- What a 1600 calories bodybuilding meal plan is
- Who would benefit from a 1600 calorie bodybuilding meal plan
- Which foods to eat on a 1600 calorie bodybuilding diet
- Which foods to avoid on a 1600 calorie bodybuilding diet
What Is the 1600 Calorie Bodybuilding Meal Plan?
The 1600 bodybuilding meal plan is a template that provides meal and snack examples that add up to 1600 calories per day.
1600 calories isn’t appropriate for everyone because it’s a relatively low caloric intake for most people. Most people who eat 1600 calories will lose weight, but this doesn’t mean that you need 1600 calories if you want to lose weight.
This could be counterproductive because if you lower your calories more than you need to, you will slow down your metabolism and burn fewer calories, making it more difficult to lose weight over time.
For this reason, it’s important to keep calories as high as you can when you’re losing weight, instead of reducing them more than necessary.
Related Article: Eating 1600 Calories A Day & Not Losing Weight (Why)
Those who may need 1600 calories per day are:
- Women who weigh less than 140lbs and are in a cutting phase
- Women who weigh less than 120lbs and are trying to maintain their weight
The 1600 calorie meal plan is more appropriate for these individuals because they’re smaller individuals to begin with and therefore have lower caloric requirements or they’re trying to reach an extreme level of leanness.
I don’t recommend eating 1600 calories per day for male bodybuilders.
If you’re struggling to determine whether a 1600 calorie plan is right for you or not, click here to set up a free 20 minute call with one of our nutrition coaches who will make a recommendation based on your goals and dieting history.
What Foods to Eat on a 1600 Calorie Bodybuilding Diet?
The primary goal is to hit 1600 calories a day because calories will determine whether you lose weight, maintain weight, or gain weight, but where these calories come from will play an important role in how your body looks.
The calories you eat will come from the 3 main nutrients (aka macronutrients): carbs, fats, protein.
The ratio of these nutrients is what helps to determine how energized you feel, how you perform in the gym, and how your physique looks.
Protein is a key nutrient for bodybuilding because eating enough protein will allow you to repair muscle damage that occurs from training and encourage additional muscle gain. For this reason, protein should make up at least 30% of your calories.
When your caloric intake is 1600 calories a day and you’re allocating 30% of these calories to protein, then this would mean that 480 calories towards protein.
To convert this to grams per day, you can divide the protein calories by 4 because protein has 4 calories per gram.
If you’re eating 1600 calories to lose fat and you don’t eat enough protein, then you will lose muscle.
This is because maintaining muscle mass costs your body a lot of energy, and when energy is restricted because you’re trying to diet, your body doesn’t have enough energy to go around.
Therefore, without adequate protein, your body may choose to get rid of muscle to use it as energy.
This is detrimental for bodybuilding because you’ll burn fewer calories, making it harder to lose fat; and you won’t look as good because you’ll have less muscle tone.
If you’re eating 1600 calories just to maintain your weight, then there is a lower risk of losing muscle mass when not eating enough protein; however, you won’t be in a position to gain muscle either.
Adequate protein when you’re eating at maintenance calories (or above) is important for encouraging muscle growth, so if your protein intake isn’t high enough then your potential to build muscle is much lower.
Some examples of quality protein sources are:
- Greek Yogurt
- Protein Powder
- Cottage Cheese
Carbs are an important nutrient for bodybuilding because carbs are your body’s preferred energy source so they provide you with the energy that you need for your training session. For this reason, carbs should be at least 40% of your total calories.
When you’re eating 1600 calories a day and 40% of these calories is allocated to carbs, then your carb calories will be 640 calories.
To convert this to grams per day, you can divide your carb calories by 4 because carbs have 4 calories per gram.
If you’re cutting, then these carbs become more important because when energy is restricted you’re much more likely to feel fatigued. It’s hard to train efficiently when you feel like you don’t have enough energy to do so.
For this reason, it’s recommended that you consume most of your carbs before and after your workouts.
If you’re maintaining your weight at 1600 calories per day then you probably won’t feel as fatigued, but you may still want to keep most of your carbs around your workout because your body will use them more effectively at these times.
Some examples of high-quality carbohydrates sources are:
Dietary fats serve an important role for your general health because they play a role in hormonal health, and help you absorb certain vitamins and minerals, so you should allocate 30% of your calories to fats.
When calories are at 1600 per day and you’re allocating 30% of your calories to fats, this equals out to 480 calories towards fat.
To convert this to grams per day, you can divide your fat calories by 9 because fats have 9 calories per gram.
If you’re cutting on 1600 calories then keeping your fats to 30% or more is going to be more important because when calories are reduced your hormones are more likely to be negatively affected.
For example: women who are under-eating and not consuming enough dietary fat are more likely to lose their period because there isn’t enough energy available for reproduction. If you lose your cycle then this is a sign that you’ve gone too far.
If you’re maintaining your weight at 1600 calories, then your lower limit for fats is more flexible because you’ll have more energy available than someone who is losing weight by eating 1600 calories.
Some examples of high-quality fat sources are:
- Nut Butters
- Olive Oil
What Foods to Avoid On A 1600 Calorie Bodybuilding Diet?
All foods can be included in moderation on a 1600 calorie bodybuilding diet; however, foods that are high in carbs and fats will severely limit how much food you can eat before you reach your 1600 calories target.
If you consume foods that are higher in calories, then you might reach 1600 calories at noon and be starving for the rest of the day.
So it’s important to be mindful about making your calories last so that you’re satisfied at the end of the day instead of starving, which will greatly improve your adherence to your diet.
For this reason, it’s important to have higher calories, higher carb, and higher fat foods in moderation. High-fat foods will always be the highest calorie foods because fats have the highest calories per gram (9 cals/gram).
Additionally, foods that have fats and carbs will also add up quickly because they’re generally more palatable and therefore easy to overconsume.
Examples of foods that are high in carbs and fats are:
1600 Calorie Bodybuilding Meal Plan
The following meal plan is set up to help you eat 1600 calories a day by mixing and matching the following meals as you like.
Any combination of the meals and snacks below will result in approximately 1600 calories, 120 grams of protein, 160 grams of carbs, and 53 grams of fats.
|MEAL||NUTRITION||OPTION 1||OPTION 2|
|BREAKFAST||Calories - 392|
Protein - 32
Carbs - 39
Fat - 12
|PB & J Smoothie|
- 2 cups strawberries
- 1 scoop protein powder
- 1 tbsp peanut butter
- 1 cup almond milk
|Breakfast Banana Split |
- 1 medium banana
- ¾ cup cottage cheese
- ½ oz peanuts
|LUNCH||Calories - 445|
Protein - 32
Carbs - 32
Fat - 21
- 2 boiled eggs
- 4 slices deli meat
- ½ cup carrots
- ½ cup cucumber
- 2 tbsp hummus
- 30g pita chips
|Steak Fajita Bowl |
- 5 oz steak
- ½ cup rice
- ½ cup bell peppers
- 1 oz guacamole
|DINNER||Calories - 452|
Protein - 35
Carbs - 33
Fat - 20
|Greek Chicken Plate|
- 5 oz chicken
- 150g roasted potatoes
- 1 cup lettuce
- 2 tbsp red onion
- 15g feta
- 2 tbsp greek feta dressing
|Salmon Dinner |
- 5 oz salmon
- 133g sweet potato
- ½ cup asparagus
- ½ tbsp olive oil
|SNACK 1||Calories - 140|
Protein - 1
Carbs - 34
Fat - 0
- 1 large banana
- 1 large apple
|SNACK 2||Calories - 160 |
Protein - 20
Carbs - 20
Fat - 0
- 180g 0% greek yogurt
- ¾ cup mixed berries
|Protein Shake + Fruit |
- 1 scoop protein mixed with water
- ½ cup grapes
How To Customize The 1600 Calorie Meal Plan
To make this meal plan your own, you can customize it by:
Adjusting Your Pre & Post-Workout Meals
One way to make this meal plan your own is to adjust your pre and post workout meals so that they have adequate carbs and protein and lower fats because this will help improve your performance in the gym.
Your pre-workout meal should have at least 30 grams of carbs, if you prefer a higher carb pre-workout meal then go with the highest carb option like the smoothie or the breakfast banana split.
Another consideration for your pre-workout meal is how soon you plan on working out after eating. If you’re eating your pre-workout meal an hour before you workout, then it’s best to have a snack that has fast-digesting carbs like fruit.
In this situation, I suggest having “Snack 1”, which is a fruit option (banana or apple) because you’ll get the carbs without any protein or fat, which would slow your digestion and cause you to feel uncomfortable while working out.
If you have more time between your pre-workout meal and your workout (1.5+ hours), then a balanced meal is the way to go because it will provide you with energy for your workout and there will be plenty of time to digest the protein and fats that are paired with the carbs.
Your post-workout meal should also have around 30 grams of carbs and at least 20 grams of protein, but the size of your meal will come down to personal preference based on how you feel after your workout.
I prefer to have a higher-calorie meal after my workout because it feels more satisfying and I know my body will put these calories to better use for recovery. So I would choose the Charcuterie Plate or the Steak Fajita Bowl as my post-workout meal.
However, if you’re someone who can’t stomach much after a workout, then you may prefer the smoothie or the protein shake and grapes because liquids are easier to digest.
Adding Sauces & Seasonings
Another great way to make this meal plan more suitable for your preferences is to add your favorite sauces and seasonings to the meals.
Putting your own spin on the meals without drastically changing the calories and macros can help make this meal plan more enjoyable for you without compromising your results.
My favorite seasonings are the Flavor God seasonings, particularly the Taco Tuesday seasoning and the Everything seasoning because they enhance the flavor of my meals without adding a ton of sodium and they’re relatively low calorie if you’re having less than a tablespoon per serving.
I believe that it’s really important to enjoy the food that you’re eating so that you aren’t feeling deprived and you’re better able to adhere to the plan for as long as you need to.
A 1600 calorie meal plan can help you to tailor your nutrition to your goals so that you’re hitting your calorie targets, but also optimizing your nutrition with the right distributions of carbs, fats, and proteins to help you feel, look, and perform your best.
Other Similar Meal Plans
Check out all our meal plans or view similar calorie specific meal plans.
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About The Author
Amanda Parker is an author, nutrition coach, and Certified Naturopath. She works with bodybuilders, Olympic weightlifters, and powerlifters to increase performance through nutrition and lifestyle coaching.