What to eat for training on a bodyweight strength or callisthenics program?

This will be the ideal guideline for our customers who are on the Elemental Strength program. It is an 8 week bodyweight strength program that you can easily do at home or gym with minimal equipment. Check it out HERE

Macronutrients and calories are the key factors supporting your training stimulus to meet the goals you want to achieve. You will not achieve optimal results by compromising on either of the equations. These two factors determine everything from what happens to the brain all the way to your cells of the muscle tissue. 

Here is an example of how your body gets affected with suboptimal consumption of macronutrients.

Neurotransmitters and hormones -> Systems -> Organs -> Tissues -> Cells

Neurotransmitters are needed upon intense contractions. When the body senses stress from these contractions, it signals fuel release to be transported to the muscular system to utilise. These neurotransmitters must be recycled for further contractions but this requires ATP. ATP is derived from macronutrients, and without the right and adequate macronutrients, your body cannot do this efficiently.

Hormones are the messenger to the body on what needs to happen in the body and it affects everything as androgens, insulin and cortisol and the likes are what is responsible in telling the body to store or burn more energy, thereby affecting not only performance but body composition.

The above feedback works both ways. The cells’ metabolic by-products from contractions is a signaling cascade that works its way all the way back up to the nervous system. The nervous system will then continue to communicate responses that will affect the cellular level in terms of energy manipulation.

Macros and calories are not the same and are stimuli dependent.

Calories on 2 different programs may be the same but the macros, especially the carbohydrates, may differ. The amount of volume, complexity and difficulty level of an exercise especially on bodyweight skills and exercises all have a part to play in the utilization of glucose.

Take, for example, someone who is just starting out on a callisthenics program such as level 1 on our Elemental Strength program will differ from someone who is doing a level 5 on the same program. A modified push up versus a 1 arm push up utilizes different amounts of glucose being utilised per set, what more the entire program.

How much should I eat:

As this article talks about bodyweight strength and not hypertrophy or metabolic type work, the stimuli thus fall under the neuro intensity stimulus.

In neuro intensity type of programs, the amount of carbohydrates and calories needed are not as high as a full hypertrophy program simply because the volume of work done is way lesser than that of hypertrophy and the damage sustained on the muscle fibres are not as significant if at all compared to a hypertrophy program.

In order to optimize recovery & maintain body composition during a neuro program, here are some recommendations which you can utilise, depending on your level of strength and complexity of your bodyweight program:

Estimated calories:

-15-20 calories/lb of lean body mass (Beginners lie on the lower spectrum, advanced on the higher)

– Carbohydrates- 0.9-2g/lb lean mass (Beginners lie on the lower spectrum, advanced on the higher)

-Protein- 1-2g/lb lean mass (Beginners lie on the lower spectrum, advanced on the higher)

-Remaining calories come from good fats


For a guy with a lean body mass of 142lbs, and intermediate in strength embarking on Elemental Strength level 4 (intermediate strength program) he requires,

18 x 142lbs = 2556 cals

Of which

142lbs x 1g of carb = 142g of carbs

142lbs x 1.2g of protein = 170g of protein

2256- (142×4) + ( 170×4) = 2256 – 1248 = 1008 / 9 = 112g of fat

If you are not sure how we got these numbers, do check out our knowledge series in which we spoke about how to calculate your macros and some crucial things to consider especially when on fat loss. 

Further reading: 

Learn about eating for performance: 

Click the image above to check out our 8 weeks Elemental Strength Training Program.

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