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Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Secrets to a Champion Diet

Updated: May 28

Arnold Schwarzenegger drawing in the gym

So, you know Arnold Schwarzenegger, right? The Terminator himself! But long before he was battling Skynet or running California, Arnold was pretty much the king of bodybuilding.

Seriously, the guy was a legend. His physique set the standards in the '70s and '80s, and he won the Mr. Olympia title seven times.

What’s really fascinating, though, is how much his diet played a role in his success. It wasn’t just his dedication to lifting weights that got him those titles; his eating habits were super strategic.

He used his diet to maximize muscle growth and maintain low body fat—all crucial for stepping on stage looking as ripped as possible.

So when we talk about bodybuilding, we can’t just focus on the weights and workouts. Arnold’s approach to nutrition was as important as his time in the gym, maybe even more so. It was all about the right foods, at the right times, in the right amounts.

Arnold schwarzenegger Mr. Olympia 1975

Arnold Schwarzenegger Diet: The Meal Plan

Here’s Arnold Schwarzenegger’s detailed daily meal plan during his bodybuilding years:

  • Breakfast:

  • 3-4 whole eggs

  • Bacon or sausage

  • Ezekiel bread

  • Oats with honey

  • Full-fat milk

  • Mid-Morning Snack:

  • Cottage cheese with nuts

  • Protein shake

  • Lunch:

  • Grilled lean meats (chicken or steak)

  • Brown rice or whole grain pasta

  • Green vegetables (broccoli or spinach)

  • Afternoon Snack:

  • Greek yogurt with fresh berries

  • A handful of almonds

  • Dinner:

  • Fish (salmon or tuna) for omega-3 fatty acids

  • Sweet potato

  • Salad with avocado and olive oil dressing

  • Evening Snack:

  • Casein protein shake or scrambled eggs and avocado

This meal plan provided the nutrients necessary for muscle growth and recovery, aligning with his high protein, balanced carbs, and healthy fats dietary strategy.

Principles of Arnold’s Bodybuilding Diet

Arnold Schwarzenegger cartoon eating a steak

 Arnold Schwarzenegger’s diet was all about high calories and high protein to fuel muscle growth and recovery. He focused heavily on a macronutrient balance tailored to his intense training regimen:

  • Proteins: Arnold consumed a lot of protein, about 1 to 1.5 grams per pound of his body weight daily. This was key for building and repairing muscles.

  • Carbohydrates: Carbs were essential for energy. He included sources like oats, brown rice, and whole grains to sustain his energy through workouts.

  • Fats: Fats weren't overlooked; they were crucial for hormone balance and long-term energy.

He incorporated healthy fats from sources like avocados, nuts, and oils.

This structured approach to macronutrients helped Arnold maximize his muscle gains and maintain peak performance throughout his bodybuilding career.

Supplements for Performance and Recovery

  • Protein Powders:

  • Types Used: Whey for fast absorption post-workout; Casein for slow digestion, typically before bed.

  • Benefits: Supports muscle repair and growth.

  • Creatine:

  • Performance Enhancement: Boosts energy during intense workouts, improves strength and power.

  • Dosage and Timing: Generally 5 grams pre or post-workout.

  • BCAAs and Amino Acids:

  • Role: Aid in muscle recovery, reduce muscle fatigue, and support protein synthesis.

  • Usage: Often taken before and after workouts to enhance recovery.

  • Vitamins and Minerals:

  • Purpose: Ensure overall health, support metabolic processes and immune function.

  • Specific Supplements: Multivitamins, vitamin D, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids are common choices.

These supplements played a vital role in Arnold’s regimen, enhancing his performance in the gym and supporting his recovery and overall health.


Arnold’s diet was super effective because it was high in protein, balanced with good carbs and fats, and he nailed the timing of his meals. This wasn’t just about eating a lot, but eating right to build muscle and stay lean.

These principles haven’t aged a bit. Today's bodybuilders still follow similar diets because what Arnold did works. It’s all about fueling up properly to hit those gains and recover fast.

So, Arnold’s approach? It’s classic, and it’s still gold in the bodybuilding world today. Simple as that.

Frequently asked Questions

How many meals did Arnold eat in a day?

Arnold typically ate five to six smaller meals per day. This frequent eating strategy helped maintain his energy levels and supported constant muscle growth.

Did Arnold use supplements, and if so, which ones?

Yes, Arnold incorporated several supplements into his regimen, including whey and casein protein powders, creatine, BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids), and a variety of vitamins and minerals for overall health.

Can I follow Arnold Schwarzenegger’s diet to gain muscle?

Yes, you can draw inspiration from Arnold's diet principles. However, it’s essential to adjust the calorie and nutrient intake based on your body type, goals, and fitness level.

How important are supplements in a bodybuilding diet?

Supplements can be beneficial for meeting the high nutritional demands of bodybuilding, especially for protein intake, recovery, and filling nutritional gaps in your diet.

Was Arnold’s diet the same when he was cutting and bulking?

No, Arnold made adjustments depending on whether he was in a bulking or cutting phase. For bulking, he increased his calorie intake, and during cutting, he reduced his calorie intake while maintaining high protein levels to preserve muscle mass.

How did Arnold’s dietary approach change over the years?

Over the years, Arnold has shifted towards a more plant-based diet, advocating for reduced meat consumption and focusing more on environmental and health benefits while maintaining his nutritional needs.

What is the best takeaway from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s diet for amateur bodybuilders?

The best takeaway is the importance of consistency and discipline in dietary habits, focusing on high protein intake, and the strategic timing of nutrients around workouts to optimize performance and muscle growth.



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