It's no secret that competitive bodybuilders are among the most successful dieters in the world at losing pure bodyfat and getting “ripped". Bodybuilders do things differently than the 95% of dieters who fail. And in this article I will outline the basics of a good bodybuilding pre-contest diet plan. This information will really help you if you are planning on competing in the future. And even if you are not really interested in getting on stage as competitive bodybuilder, but you would like to look like one, then the info covered here will help you get that lean “beach body" look.
I've been competing in bodybuilding competitions since 1995 so I've picked up a few tricks over the years and I'm going to share them with you here. . .
I personally start dieting for a contest at least 6 months in advance. I want to have plenty of time to prepare myself. For the first month I simply cut out all junk foods and eat nothing but clean foods. Such as beef, chicken, turkey, fish, eggs, milk, protein shakes, rice, potatoes, pasta, fruit, vegetables, etc. I eat about 5-6 small meals each day. I drink plenty of water at least 1 gallon a day. I will also do about 30 minutes of cardio exercise 4-6 times each week, before breakfast. I will continue my regular weight training workout.
The second month of preparation is very similar to the first. I will still eat the same as mentioned above. But I will increase my cardio exercise to at least 45 minutes, 5-7 times per week, before breakfast. The whole idea of doing cardio before breakfast is to help burn up more stored bodyfat. At this time there is no food in your system to be used as fuel so you'll burn more bodyfat from your cardio. It also helps to jump start your metabolism for the day. After exercise your metabolism is elevated and remains so for
The third month I get stricter with my diet. I will begin to cut back on my portions of starchy carbohydrates while keeping my protein intake high (between 250-300 grams of protein per day). I also eat more vegetables. My diet is now mainly foods such as very lean meat, poultry, fish, protein supplements, vegetables, rice, potatoes, oatmeal, etc. I will increase my cardio to about 60 minutes each morning before breakfast.
I'll also start taking a fat burner. For my last show I used “Palo Alto Labs Leviathan". I found that it worked great, I would take 2 caps twice per day on an empty stomach. Once before cardio and again before my weight training workouts because it helps give me an energy boost, curb my appetite, and raise my metabolism enabling me to burn more bodyfat.
The fourth month is pretty much like the third month with dieting and doing cardio each morning before breakfast. I will also start practicing my mandatory poses 3-4 days per week. At this stage I am getting lean and can start to see the definition showing in my abs, legs, back, chest, etc. . .
The fifth month before the contest I get stricter with my diet. I will eat approx. 1 gram of carbohydrate and 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight each day. I don't normally count fat grams, but they are kept as low as possible. But I will include essential fats through flaxseeds, fish oil, etc.
A typical day will go like this:
- take fat burner and black coffee
- 1 hour of cardio
- bowl of oatmeal mixed with protein powder
- egg whites
- chicken breast
- garden salad
- can of tuna
- garden salad
- take fat burner and black coffee
- weight training workout
- practice posing
- protein drink
- steamed veggies
- sweet potatoes
- protein drink
I also salt my food and even add a couple shakes of salt to my protein drinks. This may seem off the wall to most people. But I find that if I don't add salt to my diet I get bad muscle cramps when training. Don't worry you will not retain water, your body will adjust to a higher salt intake within a few days and as long as you are drinking lots of fluids your body will flush out any excess water. I'll keep doing this until 2 days out from the show.
I strive to be in shape one month out before the contest and then just keep with the diet, cardio, training, etc. to let my conditioning just harden up. I won't lose a whole lot more bodyweight, but my skin will get tighter and thinner.
I don't try and lift too heavy in the gym at this stage because I know that I will not gain any new muscle during the last month before a contest, I am just trying to maintain my muscle mass and get leaner. I basically have my posing routine down pat. I just want keep plugging away consistently. The temptation to cheat on my diet is very strong now. It is very important not too cheat. I keep my eye on the finish line and know that the dieting will be all over soon.
Carb Loading & Water Intake. . .
I do not carb deplete or carb load during the last week. I have tried all kinds of crazy stuff like this in the past and I found that it is best to just diet right up to the day of the show. Carb depleting and carb loading is too “hit and miss" you risk screwing up your conditioning, it may make you look a little better, or it could make you look a lot worse. You are better off playing it safe by sticking to your diet and then just slightly increase your carb intake slightly for a couple days before the show (i. e.instead of eating 1 potatoe at a meal, eat 2 potatoes, etc. ).
During the last week I will increase my water intake to about 2 gallons per day. I will stop all weight training and cardio a couple days before the contest to let my body rest and recover.
Friday night before the contest I will cut back on my water intake and just have a small glass of water with each meal. I also take herbal diuretic capsules on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday to help get rid of the excess water under my skin. I do not cut my water intake entirely, just cut back. Cutting out water entirely can leave you flat and smooth. You need some water in your system in order to pump up and pose properly.
Tanning. . .
I'll go to the tanning salon about 4 times per week during the last 6 weeks prior to the contest. This will give me a base tan. Then on Friday before the show I'll put on about 3-4 coats of ProTan. This is a spray tan that you paint on with a sponge brush. Saturday morning before the show I'll also put on a coat of Dream Tan. This is a dark tanning cream that you rub on your skin. I'll put a coat of this on Saturday morning, another coat before pre-judging, and again before the evening show. Dream Tan works great and it has oil in the tan so you do not need to use much if any additional posing oils.
Back Stage. . .
When I go to the contest I take a MP3 player with my posing music. I try to find a place by myself back stage so I can practice my posing routine. By doing this, my routine is fresh in my mind before going on stage in front of the audience and judges.
When pumping up before going on stage I will do some light, high rep, upper body exercises such as push ups, bent over rows, bicep curls, etc. with a rubber fitness band. Never pump up the legs or the abs, these muscles always look and flex better when they are not pumped. Do not pump up too much because it will make you shake when you pose. Just warm up and get the blood flowing to the muscles.
And the last thing that I recommend is to go out there and have a good time. Be confident and proud of your accomplishments and put on a good show for the crowd. At this point you have done all you can do, now it is up to the judges to decide the rest.
Lee Hayward is a Muscle Building Coach who is committed to helping aspiring bodybuilders and fitness enthusiasts gain muscle, burn bodyfat, and develop the lean muscular body that they desire. Visit http://www.LeeHayward.com and sign up for Lee's FREE 10-Part Muscle Building Crash Course.