The Beginner’s Shopping List

A basic shopping list is an important part of starting a fitness program as a beginner. Weight training is not the only part of a fitness journey. Although it’s important, choosing food for bodybuilding means paying attention to what foods are good for you and high quality. If you feel like you are struggling to make gains in your muscle mass or to lose weight, read on to make sure your shopping list makes sense for your fitness goals.

The Macronutrients

If you’ve ever followed a fitness influencer on social media or joined a fitness group on Facebook, you’ve probably heard the idea of macronutrients. They are the three major food nutrients: protein, carbohydrates, and fat.


The number one macronutrient that is used for building muscle tone is protein. Protein is made up of amino acids, which also help build muscle. Generally speaking, you want to eat about a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. Most foods for bodybuilders are based around high-protein meals.

The Good Sources

  • Eggs (and Egg Whites)
  • Skinless Chicken Breast or Cuts
    A staple. Cheap and high quality.
  • Lean Ground Turkey
    Still pretty cheap and high quality.
  • Top Round Steak
    Slightly more fat but great for the off-season.
  • Pork Tenderloin
    Inexpensive and lean.
  • Wild Sea Bass
    Lean but more expensive.
  • Wild Swordfish
    Lean but more expensive.
  • Flounder
    Inexpensive and lean.
  • Cod
    Inexpensive and lean.
  • Pollock
    Inexpensive and lean.
  • Wild Salmon
    Healthy fats and good protein.
  • Canned Tuna in Water
    Inexpensive and lean. Make sure to get it in water instead of oil and to watch the sodium.
  • Filet Mignon
    Lean, expensive, delicious for a treat.
  • Buffalo
    Lean, expensive, tasty on special occasions.
  • Turkey Bacon
    Leaner than pork bacon but still too fatty for cutting season.
  • Lean Ground Beef
    90-95% lean and inexpensive meat.
  • Cottage Cheese
    Slow digesting protein, great for snacks.

The Less-than-Good Sources

  • Skin-On Chicken
    Skin adds extra fat.
  • Breaded Chicken
    Bread crumbs are simple carbs you don’t need.
  • Deli/Processed Meat
    High in chemicals.
  • Fatty Ground Beef
    85% or less is just too much fat.
  • Fatty Red Meat
    High fat cuts of steak might be delicious, but they aren’t great for you.
  • Bacon
    Delicious but fatty.
  • Farmed Fish
    Studies show that farmed fish have less omega-3s than wild caught fish.


Carbohydrates are the other macronutrient your body needs. Like fats, there are good carbs and bad carbs. Simple carbs, like white bread and processed foods with higher sugar content, should be limited. Complex carbs, like oatmeal, green vegetables, and brown rice, can help you feel fuller longer and take longer to digest.

The Good Sources

  • Oatmeal/Steel Cut Oats
    Slow digesting carb.
  • Fruit
    Best used in the morning or pre and post workout to digest quickly.
  • Vegetables
    Green veggies are a great source of fiber and good carbs.
  • Sweet Potatoes
    Slow digesting carb.
  • Brown Rice
    Slow digesting carb.
  • White Rice
    Faster digesting than brown but good for muscle growth.
  • Whole Wheat Bread
    Slow digesting carb. The less processed the better.

The Less-than-Good Sources

  • Cereal
    Avoid the sugar loaded, processed sugars.
  • Candy
    Avoid the sugar.
  • Chips
    Avoid the fat and simple carbs.
  • Ice Cream
    Avoid the sugar.
  • Soda
    Avoid the sugar in regular pop.
  • Sugar Juice
    Avoid the sugar water versions of juice.


Your body needs fat to function. There are multiple forms of fats: essential fatty acids, saturated, unsaturated, and trans fats. Although the dietary industry has labelled fats as harmful, there are good fats, like essential omega fatty acids, that your body needs. Avoid trans fats and processed foods with hydrogenated oils but supplement your diet with natural and clean fat.

The Good Sources

  • Olive/Flaxseed/Fish Oil
    Source of healthy fats.
  • Almond/Peanut/Cashew Butter
    Good fats and some protein.
  • Almonds/Pecans/Walnuts/Cashews
    Good fats and some protein.
  • Avocados
    Healthy fat.

The Less-than-Good Sources

  • Fried Foods
    Just a lot of fat and often poor sources of trans and saturated fat.
  • Butter and Margarine
    Not healthy fat.
  • Palm Oil and Coconut Oil
    Not healthy fat.
  • Vegetable Shortening/Lard
    Not healthy fat.

Macronutrients and Body Types

The general split for macronutrients is 40% carbs, 30% fat, and 30% protein. However, that ratio can change depending on your body type and even your activity level. There are three body types: ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph. You can read more about the body types here, but we’ll summarize below and explain how each type affects your macronutrient ratio.

Note: most people are a combination of body types. You’ll most likely need to experiment with your ratio to see what works for you.

Example Shopping List


  • Eggs
  • Chicken Breast
  • Pork Tenderloin


  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Oatmeal
  • Brown Rice


  • Olive Oil
  • Pecans
  • Almond Butter

This list is meant to be an example of the staples that you should have in your fridge and pantry at all times. You can switch out good sources for other good sources or treat yourself every now and again. This is not a complete list – good recipes will need supplemental spices and staples. With hard work and a good nutrition plan, you can start to see the results you want!

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