Bodybuilders who get very lean – we're talking "competition lean" here – eat a very narrow diet: not a lot of different foods. Why? Because it's simple and easy to track, it teaches them about how they respond to certain macronutrient ratios, and – most importantly – it works.
But why would narrowing down food selection matter? Isn't variety important for health? That's what health professionals have told us, but it's not the entire story because you can still get a variety of nutrients even when your diet is pretty boring.
The benefit of having predictable go-to foods and go-to meals is that it makes figuring out your macro count really easy. One of the best things you can do if you want to nail down your calories and macros is to choose foods that are mostly single-macro dominant.
For example, chicken breasts are a staple in bodybuilding because they're mostly just protein with very little fat. You're really only dealing with one macronutrient to figure out.
Same for rice and potatoes. They've got a little bit of protein but not much, and no fat. They're a carb-dominant food source. So you're only having to deal with the quantity of carb source to figure out near exact macros.
You'll also see things like olive oil or coconut butter as a preferred fat source. Once again, you're only dealing with fats as the macro to count.
Using macro-dominant food choices makes it incredibly easy to account for both calories and macro targets. This is a big reason why most bodybuilders use "bro-diets" with narrow food choices. They know how their body responds to certain foods, and they know how much of those foods they'll need to eat to keep from having to break out a quantum physics book to justify having 3.1 ounces of an Oreo Blizzard.
And as for nutrition, you can still eat a variety of vegetables that fit within your planned meals. It won't be any harder to swap or combine your steamed broccoli for asparagus, spinach, or any other high-nutrient food. And if you think your diet is healthy because you keep a variety of shit food in it, then you're missing the point.
Foods for Each Macro
Pick four protein-dominant sources. I recommend skinless chicken breast, tuna, egg whites, and a high-quality protein powder like Metabolic Drive® Protein.
What about beef? I don't really advise red meat because the fat content varies so greatly from cut to cut, and it's one food many bodybuilders cut out when really trying to get lean. Again, another area where science can't always explain what's going on, but there's a lot of anecdotal evidence to support it.
Pick four carb-dominant sources. Potatoes (white, red, or sweet), rice (brown, white, or jasmine), cream of rice, and oatmeal. Oatmeal being the one carb here that tends to have a higher mix of protein and fat in it, but it's still a solid carb staple.
What about veggies? Fibrous veggies are unlimited. I'd never count them against your calories because they're so low in calories anyway, and the fiber content often makes the carb intake negligible.
Pick two sources. Olive oil and coconut butter are probably two of the better choices here, but real butter isn't a bad choice. Lots of people like to use avocado as a fat source, but it has a pretty high carb count for a fat source, so if you choose to use it just be aware of that and make sure to factor the carbs in.