Student Bodybuilders Guide to Surviving University


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You’re a bodybuilder.

And you’re now going to university, and with that brings challenges.

You no longer have your mum buying your food let alone cooking you dinner or packing your lunch. There are responsibilities beyond going to lectures, you have to pay rent, buy food, cook food, oh and go on nights out.

When I was at university I wish I had the following 8 guidelines as they would have helped me a bunch. There were times bodybuilding took away from my enjoyment and times when my studies and social life took away from my weight training. However, there is a way for the student bodybuilder to survive university, see below.

1. Buy things in bulk

This should really go without saying, I mean you’re a student and so you have a brain.

Use economies of scale and buy in bulk, rather than opting for 1kg of oats go for 4kg, the limit being how much space you have to store it. This is especially true for sports supplements, the larger size you buy the cheaper it will be per serving, plus keep an eye out for multi-buy deals.

2. Don’t be a snob

Dude you’re a student, not a millionaire.

You can save a tonne of coin by opting for essential/basic lines over branded or ‘higher quality’ produce. However, don’t go cheap all the time, there’s a time and a place. For example oats, they’re pretty much the same regardless of brand or type, you can afford to go dead cheap with these and save a bunch of money, whereas you don’t want to get too cheap with your meat, the cheaper you go the more likely fillers have been added to the product, so keep an eye out for that.

But hell drop the Heinz and go own brand, swap your branded protein powder for a bulk producer, these small swaps will add up over time and give you more money to spend at the bar…I mean the gym’s bar of course.

Ah (16)

3. Keep cans in the house & not just beer

Of course you know you need to have some cans of beer in, that isn’t even something you need to think about. However, canned food is also something you should also have in:

  • cheap
  • convenient
  • locked in nutrition

When you really think about it canned foods are a students jackpot, and I don’t mean just baked beans, you can get canned vegetables, canned meats (yes and they’re actually not bad!) and even canned potatoes etc. You can actually make a very well-balanced meal that will help you hit your macros from just cans, for example; canned tuna, sweetcorn, potato — mashed up with some mayo that no doubt is in the cupboard and bobs your uncle you have a fantastic bodybuilding meal.

3. Go crystal clear

OK so we’ve just talked about beer, but you know what you should probably be drinking on a night out if you don’t want to risk putting on pounds of fat? Clear spirits; gin, white rum, vodka etc. If you have these with a diet drink you’ll save yourself hundreds of calories.

  • Double vodka & diet coke = 110kcal
  • Standard pint = 208kcal

Furthermore, hangovers suck right, they make you want to stray from your diet and skip training. Well clear spirits also have an advantage here because they contain fewer few congeners which are associated with a lower incidence of hangovers. Learn more about incorporating alcohol into your lifestyle here.

See also  Full Guide: Building Muscle for the Teenage Bodybuilder

4. Bargain hunt

It goes without saying that when you’re at uni you don’t have a lot of spare dosh. You’ve got nights out, textbooks and bills to pay, and a lot of students don’t want to put much towards food. Well an easy way to keep your costs down is to buy things when they’re on offer.

An example is myprotein, they literally have a sale every single day, eventually what you want will come on sale and that’s when you pounce.

Never buy things full price, all you need is some patience.

The same goes in supermarkets, you don’t even have to go to the store you can visit their websites and see which has the best offers on. I know if tuna was on sale I’d be stocking up, you can do this with oats, rice, pasta, peanut butter, baked beans, anything that doesn’t perish.

Screen Shot 2016-07-21 at 19.02.09

5. Keep things simple stupid

“I haven’t got time to diet, use myfitnesspal and hit my macros”

I’m sorry, but I don’t think that’s a good enough excuse. All you need to do is simplify, just like on The Cube (a British game show for all you foreigners) you can make things easier for yourself by removing obstacles. OK so you haven’t got time to plug in and track your macros everyday, that’s cool, you can still hit your macros, all you need to do is create a meal plan you know hits them.

This meal plan hits your macros, provides you exactly what you need for your goals, you like it and it’s easy to stick to. It can be there when you haven’t got time, you can fall back on it when you’ve not got time to be more flexible and free ball your nutrition.

Lucky for you I have an article explaining just how you can create a custom meal plan here.

6. Flex more than Schwarzenegger himself

No I’m not talking your muscles, well maybe a little, because remember going to the gym is just as important as your diet to achieving your goals, one augments the other. However, here I am talking about nutritional flexibility, in that you don’t want to be anymore restrictive than you need to be.

From most to least flexible:

  1. You screw up your diet one day, just get back to it the next
  2. You just hit your calories
  3. You hit your protein and calories

priority scale

You don’t have to be 100% on point all the time to see results, you just need to be consistently smashing your diet on a regular basis. I couldn’t care less if 2 days of the week you hit your macros on the head, it’s no good if the other 5 days you’re completely off.

Better is to be as flexible as you need to be to consistent in the long-term.

Another great way to be flexible is to aim to hit weekly averages, allowing your days to fluctuate, exchanging up to 20% of your calories from one day to another e.g. weekly average aim is 2000kcal, one day you go 2400kcal, the next you go 1600kcal or even the day before you go 1800kcal and day after 1800kcal, the key is you hit the weekly average.

See also  The Ultimate Guide: Using the scale for body composition management

Try not to move more than 20%, only because this can lead to issues like poor energy levels on the low days and it tends to breed a bit of a binge eating mentality.

7. Caffeine naps are your best friend

You like coffee right? Hell I don’t care, you can drink monster if you want to, what you wanna do is get in a decent hit of caffeine and then take a nap. No I’ve not lost my nut, this honestly works like a dream and yeah there is science to prove it too.

  1. Consume your caffeinated beverage of choice
  2. Hit the hay for 15 to 20 minutes
  3. Awaken with a renewed focus & drive for life

A bunch of studies [1,2,3] have shown that drinking about 150 to 200 mg (a decently sized coffee, or a can of monster) of caffeine immediately before taking a 15 to 20 minute nap is the most effective way to take a power nap.

Take one of these before the gym when you’re feeling a bit rubbish.

Ah (18)

8. Freeze, don’t take another step

Remember how handy those cans were, well another great way to ensure you have some great grub available is to have it in the freezer. Now granted I know you probably don’t have a lot of freezer space, but somehow just convince your housemates that you’re an athlete and have more reason than them for the room.

  • Frozen vegetables
  • Frozen meats
  • Frozen berries

You can have protein and micronutrition on tap with a freezer, well not on tap because you have to defrost it, but still you’re well prepared. Now you can also take things a step further and freeze cooked foods too, and this is something I used to do regularly at uni and it worked really well:

Whenever you cook an evening meal, cook enough for two people, split it and freeze the second portion

That way you have a ready meal ready and waiting on hand, just put it into a resealable freezer bag and write on it with a permanent marker the macros, what’s inside and the date. That way when you’re in need of a meal and you’ve got nothing in you can dig into the freezer and find a suitable substitute.

Final Note

You’re only a student once (well normally).

I spent far too much of my time at university caring about missing workouts, drinking booze and not getting in enough protein and not enough time going out enjoying myself. Now there is a balance to be struck, and I am not a major party man myself, but don’t let bodybuilding get in the way of your full enjoyment at University.

Before, during and after uni bodybuilding should be something that compliments your life, not something that controls it.


Join my free facebook group or add me on snapchat (revivestronger) and ask your question there, I will respond asap. Or if you’re after a fresh training programme I have a free 4 week plan using DUP that you can download for free here.

One more thing…

Do you have a friend who would love the above? Share this article with them and let me know what they think.

[bctt tweet=”Student Bodybuilders Guide to Surviving University” username=”revivestronger”]


  1. Horne JA1, Reyner LA. Counteracting driver sleepiness: effects of napping, caffeine, and placebo.Psychophysiology. 1996 May;33(3):306-9.

  2. Horne JA1, Reyner LA. Suppression of sleepiness in drivers: Combination of caffeine with a short nap. Psychophysiology. 1997 Nov;34(6):721-5.

  3. Mitsuo Hayashi, Akiko Masuda, Tadao Hori, The alerting effects of caffeine, bright light and face washing after a short daytime nap. December 2003Volume 114, Issue 12, Pages 2268–2278
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