A Calisthenics Diet: Need to Know Info to Fuel your Calisthenics Workout

Last update:

So you’ve “drunk the Kool-aid”, “bitten the bullet” or done…something to enter into the world of workouts where bodyweight exercises reign supreme. 

I don’t blame you, good calisthenics workouts are great for those who want to build muscle mass and engage in strength training without having to hit the weights.

…but what if your calisthenics goals are a bit more…ambitious? Performing perfect calisthenics movements and workouts will not only seriously increase muscle mass, but will impress just about…well…anyone you might want to impress.

calisthenics diet

If this happens to be you…well…I have some good news and bad news for you:

The bad news? Your body needs certain macronutrients to optimize performance. It doesn’t matter how much you train, like the old adage goes, “you can’t outwork a bad diet.”

The good news? If you do get your nutrition on lock, you can experience almost immediate gainz in your body composition and performance.

Today, we’re not going to identify the best diet for calisthenics (if such a thing even exists), but we will cover key areas of consideration so that you can develop a proper diet to fuel you bodyweight mastery.

Why Is Diet Important for Calisthenics Athletes?

For calisthenics athletes, diet is the fuel that powers performance. Athletes rely on the right balance of nutrients to ensure that they have sufficient energy to maximize training sessions, to build muscle, and to recover from workouts.

Energy and Endurance: All athletes require a diet comprised of a mix of protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Protein is the rebuilding block, crucial for muscle repair and growth. Carbs are the primary energy source, keeping athletes charged throughout our training, while fats support overall healthssss

  • Protein: For muscle repair and growth
  • Complex Carbs: To maintain energy levels
  • Healthy Fats: For overall healthssss

Muscle Strength: When performing intense exercises, the demand for protein increases.  Muscles undergo constant repair and growth, and a protein-rich diet ensures these needs can be effectively met.

Meal Timing: As important as what athletes eat is, when meals are consumed also plays a big part in overall diet structuring (however, please don’t live and die on meal timing; a lot of people get really carried away by it!)

Caloric Needs: Understanding daily caloric needs is really important (arguably as important as the entirety of the macronutrient profile itself…more on those below!) If gaining muscle mass is the goal, athletes need to consume enough to create a surplus. If fat loss is the goal (or more general weight loss), a calculated deficit is necessary.

Whole Foods Over Processed: Prioritizing whole, unprocessed foods is best for ensuring an efficient intake of high-quality foods. Fresh vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains are highly preferred in relation to packaged foods (remember the old adage to “stick to the exterior aisles of the supermarket”? It holds true here!)

What Are Macronutrients and How Do They Impact an Athlete’s Calisthenics Diet Plan?

Macronutrients are the cornerstone of any diet, and for calisthenics athletes, they play a crucial role in both performance and body composition. There are three primary macronutrients: proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Each provides energy to fuel workouts and support the body’s overall recovery and muscle synthesis processes.

Protein is essential for muscle repair and growth. In an athlete’s calisthenics journey, protein should be the prioritized macronutrient (really, for just about any athlete who isn’t specialized in, like, yoga or something, protein should be the priority macro) A guideline for protein intake is:

  • Promote Muscle Gain: Aim for an intake that supports muscle building, usually at or around a gram of protein per pound of bodyweight ex. 175-pound man should aim for 175 grams of protein each day.

Carbohydrates the body’s main energy source. Despite more recent “dietary trends” proclaiming otherwise they are vital for high-intensity training like calisthenics:

  • Keep things complex: Opt for complex carbohydrates (ex.) that provide a steady release of energy, rather than simple sugars (ex.) that cause energy spikes and crashes.

Fats shouldn’t be neglected as they’re key for hormone production and sustaining energy. Healthy fats from sources such as avocados, nuts, and fish are an integral part an athlete’s diet (keep a close eye on quantities, though; most fats are extremely calorie dense, meaning even small portions pack a lot of calories).

What Are the Best Foods of Each Macronutrient Type for Calisthenic Athletes?

Now that we have a better understanding of each of the macronutrients, let’s take a look at some of the best food sources associated with each of them:


  • Lean meats like chicken or turkey breasts (staples of gym bros everywhere)
  • Fish such as salmon or tuna (be mindful of the high fat content, though!)
  • Plant-based options like lentils, chickpeas, and tofu (mainly for vegetarians)


  • Complex carbs like sweet potatoes and brown rice (provide a consistent flow of energy as opposed to spikes)
  • Fruits such as bananas and apples (don’t be afraid of fructose!)
  • Vegetables like broccoli and spinach (“spice” these up if you have to!)


  • Avocado and nuts for monounsaturated fats (as mentioned before, be mindful of portion sizes)
  • Seeds (chia, flaxseed) for their beneficial omega-3 content (great for heart health)
  • Olive oil as a healthy cooking option (like all other fats, don’t overdo this…measure out your portions!)

Do Calisthenics Meal Plans Differ Based on Whether Weight Gain or Loss Is the Goal?

When we’re talking about good calisthenic athletes, their “best diet plan” alters significantly depending on whether they’re aiming to gain weight or shed some pounds (as well as in relation to their overall fitness goals). To gain, they need to eat, and for losing weight, they create a caloric deficit. 

Everyone’s daily meal plan is going to look different; there are different food preferences, food availability, as well as time to prepare and maximum effort we want to put into preparing meals. That being said, here is what a typical day of eating could look like for a couple of different athletes:

Sample Day of Eating for a Weight Gain Plan for a Calisthenics Athlete


  • 4 whole eggs (scrambled or omelet)
  • 1 cup of oatmeal with banana and a tablespoon of peanut butter
  • 1 glass of whole milk


  • Protein shake with 1 scoop of protein powder, 1 cup of milk, and a handful of mixed nuts


  • Grilled chicken breast (200g)
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • Steamed vegetables such as broccoli and carrots


  • Greek yogurt (1 cup) with honey and mixed berries


  • Baked salmon fillet (200g)
  • Quinoa (1 cup)
  • Green salad with olive oil dressing


  • Protein shake with 1 scoop of protein powder and water


  • Cottage cheese (1 cup) with sliced almonds and a teaspoon of flaxseeds

Sample Day of Eating for a Weight Loss Plan for a Calisthenics Athlete


  • 2 boiled eggs
  • 1 slice of whole grain toast
  • 1 apple


  • A small bowl of mixed berries


  • Grilled chicken salad with mixed greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, and a vinaigrette


  • Celery sticks with hummus


  • Stir-fried tofu (200g) with assorted vegetables
  • 1/2 cup brown rice


  • Protein shake with 1 scoop of protein powder and water

Each meal is optimized with the goal to either create a calorie surplus or deficit. Regardless of which of these goals is the priority, always aim to maintain a high protein intake for muscle repair and growth, which is ever crucial.

What are the Best Supplements for Calisthenics Athletes?

Sometimes, despite very valiant efforts focused on a balanced diet, athletes may need to include supplements to support athletic performance and recovery. Here are some of the best supplement options for this task:

  • Creatine: The most effective supplement of them all (seriously, if you’re not taking creatine, get some today)! Creatine helps improve strength and increase lean muscle mass, but prepare to drink a lot water to maximize benefits.
  • Protein Powders: Staples in shaker cups around the world. While we can (obviously) get protein from food, protein powders offer a convenient boost, particularly post-workout.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: With their anti-inflammatory properties, Omega-3 supplements can enhance recovery and heart health. This is one of the very few supplements CrossFit pushes in their Level 1 seminars.
  • Multivitamins: A good multivitamin fills all of the gaps that a diet might fall short on, supporting overall health.

Remember, supplements are not intended as replacements for, a nutrient-rich diet. Add supplements thoughtfully to fill dietary gaps (particularly in regard to protein intake) and to promote muscle growth, heart health, and anti-inflammation.

What Are Other Tips for General Calisthenics Nutrition?

Other items to keep in mind regarding calisthenics nutrition are:

Staying hydrated is crucial. Water supports every metabolic function and nutrient transfer in the body so constant water consumption is necessary. Shoot for roughly one liter of water for every 60 pounds of body weight (per day).

Tracking Macros
Knowing how much we’re eating is key. Knowing how much of each macro we’re consuming is taking things to the next level. We’re not here to prescribe macros but at a base, base level, athletes can start with a 40-30-30 carb-fat-protein split.

Frequently Asked Questions

Calisthenics dudes want to get ripped and strong. As such, we understand that there are likely some outstanding dietary questions still out there to be answered!

Choosing a vegetarian diet can align well with calisthenics training goals, as long as you're mindful of getting enough protein. Plant-based proteins like lentils, tofu, and legumes are fantastic options. These foods provide not only the needed protein for muscle repair and growth but also come packed with other essential nutrients. However, be mindful that vegan protein doesn't normally include as many amino acids as sources like whey or meat protein do.

Protein supplements can be a convenient way to ensure we're getting enough protein, especially if our dietary choices or busy lifestyles make it challenging to consume adequate protein through food alone. They play a supportive role in a diet for calisthenics, helping to promote muscle recovery and growth after workouts. However, remember that whole food sources of protein are generally preferred for their additional vitamins and minerals.

Calisthenics Nutrition … The Same As a Calisthenics Diet Plan?

I can see it now…you’ve calculated the amount of calories to eat each day, filled your shopping cart with fruits and vegetables, and thrown out all(!) of your processed foods.

…but if you haven’t, like, don’t feel bad. If you were paying attention, this isn’t totally necessary.


That being said, I hope you’re starting to view nutrition for calisthenics as more of an all-encompassing “entity” as opposed to being a mindless “follow this diet exactly if you want to get ripped or else!!!” Ultimately, just understanding what macronutrients are, being able to measure them, and allocate them in the meals you eat puts you ahead of, probably, 95 percent of other fitness enthusiasts.

Between understanding macros, the role of supplementation, and the importance of hydration, you now possess the base-level knowledge to take your overall calisthenics venture to the next level. At this point, it’s up to you to incorporate it!

If you want to learn more about nutrition, macros, and developing really effective nutrition plans, check out our review of the Precision Nutrition coaching certification. You’ll learn everything you’ve ever wanted to know about food, nutrition, and meal planning!

Photo of author


Tom, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer, ISSA-CPT, PN1-NC, DPA, CAPM has been CrossFitting for over 10 years. He has participated in a number of team and individual CrossFit competitions across Europe and the United States. He was the 2012 Chick-fil-A Race Series champion (North Georgia Circuit) and has put together a few gnarly garage and basement gyms in his time!

Leave a Comment