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An elite bodybuilder says he doesn't use protein shakes to build muscle. Here's what he eats instead.

Gabby Landsverk   

An elite bodybuilder says he doesn't use protein shakes to build muscle. Here's what he eats instead.
  • An elite bodybuilder said he focuses on eating whole foods instead of protein shakes to build muscle.
  • His diet includes lots of chicken and steak, carbs like rice and fruit, and healthy fats like avocado.

Pro bodybuilder Nick Walker doesn't rely on protein shakes to build muscle. Instead, he eats whole foods like chicken and steak to sculpt his award-winning physique for bodybuilding's biggest stage.

Walker recently qualified for Mr. Olympia, bodybuilding's most prestigious contest, after notching a win at the New York Pro in the Men's Open division, which features some of the sport's most massive and muscular athletes. Fueling up for success involves a rigorous nutrition and supplement routine, Walker told Business Insider in an interview through his partnership with energy drink brand Celsius.

For one thing, it involves a lot of protein. Experts say the optimal amount of protein to build and maintain muscle is at least 0.7 grams per pound of body weight daily. The push to get enough of the nutrient has helped make the sports nutrition market worth more than $43 million, a majority share of which is protein supplements that offer a convenient alternative to chowing down on chicken or gulping egg whites.

But you won't find powders, bars, or shakes in Walker's meal plan, although he needs a huge amount of protein for his more than 260-pound physique.

"I don't like anything that has artificial flavoring or all that preservatives and anything of that nature I don't think it's good for you. I don't think it's good for your gut," he said.

Instead, he opts for a meal of whole foods whenever possible (outside of an emergency post-workout snack attack), showing it's possible to get plenty of protein with ingredients you'd find in any kitchen or grocery store.

His go-to protein sources include steak and chicken

Walker said that his diet is boring, even stereotypical for a bodybuilder, with a lot of chicken or steak and rice.

"We're normal about it," he said. "I keep it very bland, very simple."

Walker previously shared on his YouTube channel that his typical day of eating also includes healthy fats like avocado and olive oil. He also gets plenty of carbs to fuel his training with fruits like blueberries, bananas, and pineapple, along with all that rice.

And when it's time to cut body fat leading up to competition, his strategy is even simpler.

"Just take food out. What I eat in prep is just less of what I eat in the off-season. I diet year round, I don't change," he said.

The only exception is cheat meals — his go-to spot for those is the Cheesecake Factory.

He supplements with pre-workout and vitamins

Walker said he does use supplements, including pre-workout (without caffeine, since he gets that through Celsius and coffee), vitamin D, vitamin K, digestive aids, and omega-3 fatty acids.

Many of the ingredients in his supplement stack help improve blood flow, reduce inflammation, and support a healthy heart, liver, and kidneys.

That's important because bodybuilders run the risk of long-term health issues. High-profile athletes have died young from heart attacks, in part because of the use of performance-enhancing substances, experts say. Other risk factors in the sport include weight cycling and having a high body mass, which can cause high blood pressure, cholesterol, and stress on the organs.

Walker said his nutrition and supplement routine helps support his overall health, along with regular medical check-ups.

"I'm just very careful. Health first. I always make that a top priority, and I always have," Walker said.

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