There are many out there that are just getting started in the world of bodybuilding competitions. Many have no clue what all goes into it other than that they need to train hard and eat clean. Just how clean, is often the misconception, as people who begin a committed training routine often see results even without major changes to their diet. I’m going to walk you through a simple and generic contest prep with all the good, the bad, and the ugly of it.
Your diet throughout the competition prep phase brings about a mixed bag of emotions. You feel great about the diet when you’re seeing quick changes, but you quickly fall into a deep hate when it is time to cut out cheat meals. Here are your go to foods:
5 Proteins To Try – Fish, Chicken, Beef, Lean Turkey, Pork Loin
5 Carbs To Eat – Sweet Potatoes, Asparagus, Broccoli, Fruits, Beans
5 Fats to Have – Nuts, Avocado, Peanut Butter, Tofu, Eggs
Caloric Intake – 1400 (avg) for 8+ weeks out, decreasing between 25-50 calories for each week thereafter. Start off with a 40-40-20 (pro, carbs, fat) before moving to a much higher protein diet (50-30-20 or even 60-20-20 depending on your body). Sodium can stay the same until 2 weeks when you want to help your body from retaining any water.
Water Intake – At least 1 gallon a day, moving up to around 2 gallons.
12+ weeks out, you can still get away with a cheat meal or a carb load meal once a week. Depending on how committed you are to your regimen, you’ll quickly see changes in your body and you’ll start to lean out. You are still lifting heavy and have the fuel to do so. Your body is getting use to increased hydration (if you weren’t drinking a crap ton of water already) and you in general feel pretty great. For women, the diet and exercise consistency means that hormonally, you’ll be really consistent too.
4-8 weeks out, there are no more cheat meals but people tend to be in the swing of things at this point that they don’t really need them. A few cravings here and there, but nothing a solid casein cake can’t cover. You do, however, begin to realize that there are only so many ways of eating chicken. Your workouts might have changed slightly to more high reps low weight and more intense cardio sessions, so you are seeing changes still, but nothing dramatic. 2 gallons of water a day means that you’re peeing like a thing that pees a lot, and that gets old quick.
2 weeks on in, you have to have the eye of the tiger because this is when the committed are separated from the wavering. Some people say to stick to your usual diet while just bringing your calories down, others go with a hardcore Fish and Chicken with Veggies that are insoluble fibrous foods, meaning that they are easier for your body to digest and aid in metabolism. Every Single Thing starts to sound amazing when all you’re eating is tilapia and asparagus. You are eating every 2 hours (or less) and peeing every 15 minutes. Your workouts have begun to suffer because you don’t have the carb fuel you’re use to. You know those 45’s you were rowing? Go find yourself the 25’s instead. Your caloric intake is lower as well, meaning that you are more tired than usual. But at least when you look in the mirror, those abs look as yummy as lava cake sounds!
The intricacies of two days out are very person specific. You’ve just rid your body of practically all fat and your muscles are flat, so you’ll want to inject some healthy fat back in there. At this point, a rice cake with peanut butter on it has never tasted so good. Having some healthy carbs will push any lasting water into your muscles and fill them out. Speaking of water, a common misconception is that you need to completely dehydrate yourself. Is water depletion a thing you’ll have to do? Yes, but to a point. Completely dehydrating yourself isn’t healthy, period. One of the reasons you’ve been enduring the ongoing struggle of endless water is so that when you cut back, your body is still flushing out water. Dehydrating for 2 days or more? Bad. Cutting back the day before? Yes.
Ultimately, competition prep is something that isn’t glamorous by any means, but if you’re committed to getting on stage, you’ll plow your way through to make it happen. It can throw you off hormonally since you’ve dropped so much body fat. It can mess you up completely if done wrong. Most people aren’t aware of the time and mental commitment and only think of the physical aspect. It is true that abs are made in the kitchen, as the diet is the most important thing if you’ve been training well. Don’t underestimate what you’re getting yourself into! But…once you’ve gotten through it and stepped on stage, you won’t know a better pride than that. Supplements, Clean food, the bikini = expensive. Seeing your body a way you’ve never seen before = priceless 🙂