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Pre-Contest Dieting: Obviously the most pertinent issue regarding pre-contest preparation is the diet aspect of preparation. It is not enough to just clean up what you eat, it must be far more drastic than that. When you see the winner of a bodybuilding competition onstage, rest assured they tracked their calories, carbs, proteins, fats, and never missed meals. If you want to do well in a bodybuilding competition, you should expect to do nothing less. Before I begin talking about a proper pre-contest diet, we need to examine exactly how long a person should diet for a contest. The first thing that should be done is an “assessment” of your body. Look yourself over and be honest about your faults, strengths, and about how long you think it will take for you to get into stage shape.
Importance Of Slow Dieting
Keep in mind that if you think you have around 25 lbs of fat to lose, you are not going to be able to lose it all in 10 weeks and keep all of your lean body mass. Aim to diet as slowly as possible. The severity of your calorie deficit will, to a large extent, determine how much muscle you retain/lose. Short periods of high severity dieting (more than 1000 kcals per day below maintenance level) are not too muscle wasting, but prolonging them for more than a few days will certainly cause one to lose a good deal of muscle. As a general rule of thumb, losing 1 lb of bodyweight per week will allow one to retain most of their muscle mass. One can probably lose up to 1.5 lbs per week and retain most, if not all of their muscle mass (provided their training and nutrition are optimized).
Dieting Too Fast?
If one tries to push their body to lose more than 2 lbs per week for any length of time, then they will begin to experience quite a bit of muscle loss. It is for this reason that I usually try to give myself enough time so that I only need to lose 1-1.5 lbs per week at most. If one is naturally ectomorphic (has an easy time losing weight) however, they may want to diet for a shorter period of time, and I would recommend a time period of 11-15 weeks. If one is naturally endomorphic (has a hard time losing weight), then they may want to lengthen their dieting time to 16-22 weeks. If this is the first time that you have ever done a contest then you would want to also give yourself an extra week as you will probably experience a hitch at some point along the way.
The diet that one follows for their contest will be the single most important determining factor of how well they will place in the competition. A person can have all the mass in the
The body would much rather store amino acids than oxidize them as protein oxidation yields less net ATP produced per amino acid when compared to fat or carbohydrates. there are small adjustments and little tricks to aid in the accomplishment of the positives. is not as muscle sparing as are carbohydrates when used as a substrate for glucose synthesis. muscle loss can occur although a calorie deficit is required to lose fat. With little glucose for the brain . while simultaneously raising fat and protein intake. Protein is also a very “expensive” molecule for your body to use as energy. it is important to discuss the three macronutrients and their roles. Spare as much muscle mass as possible. These amino acids are released into the bloodstream where they may then be taken up by cells (usually muscle cells). This calorie deficit will also cause one to feel less energetic. what kind of diet is optimal for a person to follow? Well The Diet Should Have Three Main Goals: 1. Judges almost always go for conditioning over size. Therefore. it can be stated that dietary protein has a thermogenic effect on the body. When the body is in a starved (calorie deficit) state. This means that protein synthesis increases in a linear fashion (directly proportional to plasma amino acid concentrations) until the plasma amino concentrations are approximately twice that of normal plasma concentrations. To generalize for the less scientifically inclined. Carbohydrates Carbohydrates have probably gotten the worst reputation of the macronutrients due to the ketogenic dieting rave. 2. Protein Protein is probably the single most important macronutrient for the purposes of maintaining muscle on a diet. Dietary protein however. Dietary protein spares muscle by helping increase protein synthesis (and thus induce net muscle gain) and by acting as a muscle sparing substrate as it can be used for glucogensis (synthesis of glucose). Dietary protein is also very important as amino acid availability is the single most important variable for protein synthesis to occur. these goals all seem to contradict each other. Being said. To design a proper diet one should give themselves adequate time to lose the necessary body fat to achieve that aforementioned shredded look. Ketogenic dieting refers to reducing carbohydrate intake to practically nothing. or maintain it while dieting. Not cause the person to lose intensity in the weight room. Dietary protein is hydrolyzed (broken down) into it‟s constitutive amino acids during digestion. 3.world but if they do not come in razor sharp on contest day. ingesting enough dietary protein is very important for someone who is looking to gain muscle. To get around the negatives. Unfortunately. then the mass will mean little. Before discussing the diet. Lose as much fat as possible.
which can be obtained from dietary carbohydrates or by breaking down glycogen (the cell‟s stored form of glucose). as insulin levels will be severely reduced due to lack of carbohydrate intake. amino acids from the cellular amino acid pool. Indeed. but keeping them high enough to possess the muscle sparing benefits of carbohydrates while still losing body fat. then using a ketogenic diet may be their only choice in order to become contest-ready in time. Importance Of Carbs While Cutting There are several main reasons that I recommend retaining carbohydrates. “but Layne. Carbohydrates then spare dietary protein from oxidation and these proteins can be stored rather than oxidized. Instead. The first reason being that carbohydrates are much more muscle sparing than fats during times of stress when glucose becomes a primary source of fuel (i. if you will quickly refer to our goals during a pre contest diet you will notice that maintaining muscle is number one on our list. If one has not properly scheduled enough time to lose body fat and they are in need of drastic measures. Low insulin levels correlate with high rates of fat oxidation. For those who have given themselves ample time to prepare. The muscle sparing effects of carbohydrates occur via several different mechanisms. with fat loss second. Carbohydrates prevent this since they can be easily broken down (and converted if need be) to glucose molecules. I recommend reducing carbohydrates. they will not maintain an optimum amount of muscle mass. Muscle Sparing Carbohydrates Carbohydrates are also muscle sparing because they are a cause of insulin release. The latter situation is where one would experience muscle loss.e. the body will begin producing ketones. the ketogenic diet may be the single best way to lose the maximum amount of body fat in the shortest amount of time. injury. When the body is in a low energy state. Ketones are by-products of fat oxidation and the brain can use ketones for energy. and from muscle tissue. When one lifts heavy weights. the body will need to utilize another source to synthesize glucose from. anaerobic exercise. The only substrate for this pathway is glucose. Unfortunately. Since glycogen levels are low on a ketogenic diet. it may try to produce energy by converting amino acids to glucose. These amino acids will come from dietary protein. infection. the body will actually convert amino acids to glucose and this glucose will be used in the anaerobic pathway to produce ATP. However. If one is on a ketogenic or extreme “low carb” diet however. Now I know your thinking. Dietary protein would be sacrificed for ATP production and the depleted amino acid pool would not bode well for protein synthesis rates. etc). I do not suggest using a ketogenic diet.to utilize for energy.Carbohydrates are also very muscle sparing during exercise. you just said in your intro that low insulin levels were great for fat burning!?” . the primary pathway that is used to produce ATP (cellular energy currency) is the anaerobic or glycolytic pathway (as the name implies this pathway operates in the absence of oxygen). This does indeed have a potent fat burning effect. thus causing a net loss in muscle mass.
It is easy to infer we would like to maintain cell volume. If cell volume drops. Insulin binding to the cell membrane causes all sorts of reactions in your body that are beneficial to maintaining and gaining muscle tissue. This is important for several reasons. it is important that performance be kept at an optimal level. as insulin happens to be one of the most anabolic/anti-catabolic hormones in the body. Cortisol is the primary catabolic hormone that is released when one lifts or does any kind of activity. Therefore. including muscle tissue.Yes. Carbohydrates act to maintain muscle mass while dieting by maintaining cellular osmotic pressure and cell volume.7 g of water. thus promoting muscle maintenance or gain. strength. Low glycogen levels have been associated with increased fatigue and decreased performance in athletes (endurance. Therefore. Insulin inhibits protein breakdown and amino acid oxidation. The Research . One can see then how low carbohydrate diets severely decrease cell size due to severe glycogen depletion. If performance begins to suffer. The problem with extreme low carbohydrate diets is they cause severe reduction in cell size. When cell volume is high. Insulin also has an antagonist (inhibitory) affect with regards to several catabolic hormones. the body stores around 2.e. including cortisol. For every gram of glycogen stored. I did indeed say that low insulin levels are good for fat burning. Cell size is an indicator of the “state” that the body is in. When cells are of large volume. If you refer to the goals of a pre-contest diet. The Glycogen Factor The body stores carbohydrates inside cells as glycogen. When cell volume is low it signals that the body is in a starved state. especially when dieting. This could lead to a subsequent loss of muscle mass due to decreased stimulation from a decreased training overload. trust me when I say that you would like your body to think it is in a fed state as this will increase the levels of fat burning hormones and anabolic hormones. injury. However. thus sparing muscle tissue from cortisol‟s catabolic effects.. cells that have greater glycogen levels will also have more volume. it is interesting to note that long-term exposure of cells to ketones (i. Insulin inhibits lipolytic (fat burning) activity and must be kept low if one wishes to burn a maximal amount of fat. then a person will undoubtedly lose strength. ketogenic diet) retard insulin-induced activation of the insulin surface receptor. it signals that the body is in a fed state. lifting. carbohydrates help maintain muscle by increasing cell volume. Furthermore. then protein synthesis levels drop. Without delving too far into the science behind this. you will see that number three maintains that you must keep a high level of intensity in the gym. Concluding. etc. etc). Cortisol produces glucose by breaking down proteins. Insulin release inhibits the activity of cortisol by preventing its release from the pancreas. power output. protein synthesis rates increase. One more issue to consider is performance. you are correct. the pesky re-occurring theme of maintaining muscle prevents us from totally excluding insulin from our pre-contest diet arsenal. Cell size also indicates the anabolic state of the cell. This causes one to become extremely sensitive to carbohydrates when they begin ingesting them again after they finish dieting and could lead to an undesired post diet fat gain. Cortisol is a hormone that is released during times of stress such as dieting.
It is worth noting that one such study concluded that “the rate of recovery is coupled with the rate of muscle glycogen replenishment and suggests that recovery supplements should be consumed to optimize muscle glycogen synthesis as well as fluid replacement. Rather than continuing with this discussion I will provide a link to an article which covers the subject quite nicely. As with most things in life. There has been some research done on the effects of dietary fat on testosterone. . it is important to remember that testosterone is only a small piece of the larger puzzle. Fats are very important molecules and are considered essential to ones survival. (in terms of energy yield per gram. To simplify everything that I have said. Likewise. When calories are restricted. both of which are very important for aforementioned reasons. They are the body‟s preferred source of stored energy and the most efficient molecule for the body to burn. one should not increase fat to say 40% in order to increase testosterone.” It can therefore be concluded that an adequate supply of carbohydrates is crucial for maintaining performance and for proper muscle recovery. fats are also easily stored as adipose tissue (body fat) So there must be some type of compromise between ingesting enough fat for hormone maintenance (and subsequent muscle maintenance) and reducing fat intake enough to decrease body fat. during. The main hormone that fats impact which we are concerned with is testosterone. Several studies concluded that diets low in fat (under 15% of total calories) significantly decreased testosterone levels while diets higher in fat (above 30% of total calories) increased serum testosterone levels. Indeed. By increasing fat to extremely high levels. as the body will suppress its release of anabolic hormones in order to spare nutrients for oxidation (energy production). Drastically lowering your fat intake is another hit against testosterone production since fatty acids are the substrates for cholesterol synthesis and therefore are also the substrates for testosterone synthesis (cholesterol is converted to testosterone. This makes it difficult to compare them to each other and come up with a “standard” answer. This makes perfect sense: the body senses it is “starving” and thus it represses it‟s anabolic hormones to prevent nutrients from being used to increase tissue mass and spares them for energy production. among other things). it seems that one should not lower fat below 15% of daily calories unless they would like to face extreme testosterone deficiencies. as there are major differences in the designs of the performed studies. moderation is key. “how much dietary fat is optimal” is difficult to decipher. Fat Intake & Testosterone That‟s the first hit against testosterone production. and after exercise may attenuate the increased fatigue and increase performance. The answer to. There are many other hormones and factors involved in building muscle other than just testosterone. testosterone levels will drop. Although fat increases testosterone to a degree. fats are involved in many of the body‟s processes which are required for survival.Several studies have shown that consuming adequate amounts of carbohydrates before. Several key functions of fats in the human body are for energy storage and hormone synthesis. there will be less “space” for carbohydrates and protein. 9kcals/gram). Unfortunately.
Protein is a thermogenic macronutrient key in sparing muscle tissue when in a caloric deficit (see aforementioned section on protein). To recapitulate.5 lbs per week. For example. 3000 – 600 = 2400 kcals per day. I do not recommend dropping weight any faster than 1-1. For those who do not exercise this method. In order to come up with macronutrient totals for a diet. Here are some example calculations so that you may have an understanding of how to go about doing this. Utilize The Subsequent Equations To Find Your Caloric Baseline: Mesomorphs – bodyweight x 15. 200 X 15 = 3000 kcals per day. that means the subject will need to drop roughly 10% body fat which equates to about 20 lbs. a rough estimate can be made using the following strategy. Since 20 weeks is a long time to diet. Since 3-4% is considered “stage condition”. we have a subject who is a mesomorph weighing 200 lbs and has 13% bodyfat. Ectomorphs – bodyweight x 16-17. Endomorphs – eat every 3. So for our subject. which burn 350 kcals per session.5 – 3. So if he wishes to lose 1. This is the subject‟s caloric baseline (roughly).2 lbs per week from dieting (caloric restriction of 600 kcals per day). The best way to determine one‟s caloric intake required to lose fat at a certain rate is to chart calorie intake for a period of a few weeks and try to determine at what level the subject does not gain weight (this is the caloric baseline). This is not an exact science. I recommend that one lose approximately 80% of their weight due to calorie restriction and 20% of their weight due to cardio (someone who is ectomorphic should do less cardio.In order to keep hormone production regular and fat burning in high gear. Protein Intake The “golden standard” protein intake for a bodybuilder is around 1 g/lb of bodyweight.5 hours.5 lbs per week.2 lbs (80%) per week from diet. while someone with an endomorphic build should do more cardio). To lose 1. Meal Frequency Is As Follows: Mesomorphs – eat every 2.5 – 5 hours. To lose the other . Endomorphs – bodyweight x 13-14. however we can still get a reasonable experience-based estimate. .3 lbs (20%) per week from cardio. This will need to be increased while dieting. one should perform 3 cardio sessions per week. Ectomorphs – eat every 2 – 3 hours. there must be a 600 kcal per day deficit from diet. it is necessary to assess how many lbs per week one will need to lose to be in contest shape. while allowing enough “space” to supply adequate carbohydrates and protein for muscle sparing purposes I do not recommend increasing fat above 30% of daily calories. let‟s have the subject lose about 1.
Obviously as one loses body fat they will need to re-feed more often. this equates to a protein intake of around 240-260 g protein per day. I prefer the „middle of the road‟ approach and would set his fat intake at around 55g fat per day (495 kcals/day from fat) . proper re-feeding can raise leptin levels and help one continue to burn fat an optimum rate.5g/lb. for those who are above 15%. For those people who are in the 10-15% range. leaving us with 1400 kcals for fat and carbohydrate intake. Ectomorphs – 1. This equates to 225g of carbohydrates per day.4g/lb – 1.4g/lb – 1. as endomorphs may have a difficult time losing fat with higher carbohydrate intakes). Ectomophs – 24%-28% of total calories. not because they need more protein to maintain muscle mass. For our subject. re-feeding every 6-12 days will probably be adequate.2g/lb – 1. leptin levels drop in an attempt by the body to spare body fat. A person who is lean will need to re-feed more frequently than someone who has a higher body fat percentage. this leaves 2400 (1000 + 495) = 905 kcals per day for carbohydrate intake. This means 1000 kcals have been devoted to protein intake. this equates to about 400 – 550 kcal from fat per day (45g – 60g fat per day) Once again.6g/lb. For those who are below 10%. Periodic. it is probably a wise idea to incorporate re-feeds two times per week.3g/lb. Re-feeds help boost a hormone called leptin. As one diets. re-feeding will probably not need to be done more than once every week to two weeks. Re-Feeding One should also incorporate re-feeds into their diet plan. Endomorphs – 1.* For our subject.I recommend the following protein intakes for different body types: Mesomorphs – 1. Let‟s go „middle of the road‟ and set the subjects protein intake at 250 g protein per day. Re-Feed Days Should Be Planned As Follows: . Fat Intake Fat intakes are as follows: Mesomorphs – 17% – 23% of total calories. For our subject in question. Carbohydrate Intake Whatever calories that have not been allotted to protein and fat intake will make up total daily carbohydrate intake. which is the mother of all fat burning hormones. Endomorphs – 23%-28% of total calories (fat intake is increased in order to reduce carbohydrate intake. I recommend a higher protein intake for endomorph‟s while dieting because of the thermogenic effect of a higher protein intake and increased protein turnover.
but be quite anabolic. the catabolic effect of working out is enhanced. Re-feed on the day you work your worst body part(s) as re-feeding will not only raise leptin. I suggest one consume 35% of their total daily carbohydrates in a meal 1. Cortisol One of the main hormones that control this action is cortisol. Dietary carbohydrates will provide fuel for the anaerobic pathway. carbohydrates cause insulin release. while ecto‟s should stay on the high end) over normal diet levels. In addition dietary fat has little to no impact on leptin levels. coupled with short periods of high insulin levels to protect muscle when it is at the greatest risk of catabolism. Unfortunately this is quite catabolic as some of these amino acids may come from muscle tissue (See carbohydrates section). I also suggest consuming a shake composed of 30-40g of whey protein along with dextrose or maltodextrin during their workout. Consume as little fructose as possible as fructose does not have an impact on leptin levels. which blocks the release of cortisol from the pancreas.5 to 2 hours before their workout as this will allow the carbohydrates adequate time to be digested and enter the bloodstream. Dietary carbohydrates will cause the release of insulin. There are essentially two crucial times during the day when muscle tissue is at the greatest risk of catabolism. When one is in a calorie deficit. The carbohydrates in the shake should account for about 20% of one‟s total daily carbohydrate intake. as the body will attempt to raise low glucose levels by de-aminating amino acids and converting them to glucose. The most crucial time is during your workout. It is therefore important that we construct a diet so that we intersperse long periods of low insulin levels in order to maximize lipolysis. It is crucial that one consumes carbohydrates before exercise for several reasons. . and spare muscle tissue from being converted to glucose for fuel. which is very muscle sparing. Dietary carbohydrates will increase muscle glycogen levels which will improve performance and decrease fatigue. Nutrient Timing Nutrient Timing As previously discussed before. working out is actually catabolic. As many of you already know. Keep fat as low as possible during re-feed days as high insulin levels will increase dietary fat transport into adipose tissue. Reduce protein intake to 1 g/lb bodyweight. Increase calories to maintenance level (or above if you are an ectomorph) and increase carbs by at least 50-100% (endo‟s stay on the low end. but also very anti-lipolytic.
The other time of day when one should consume a meal containing carbohydrates is upon rising. dextrose causes a very large insulin spike. The Following Is A List Of Acceptable Protein. Protein intake should be spread fairly evenly over all of your meals. so it is a good idea to keep your fat low during times of high insulin. Eggs (especially the whites). Carbohydrate. The continuous ingestion of carbohydrates will ensure that adequate substrate is available for the glycolytic pathway. Maintain a constant release of insulin. Thus 35% + 15% = 50% of daily carbohydrate intake should be in pre workout/breakfast meal. The main two hormones released are cortisol and glucogen both of which can be catabolic to muscle tissue. Consuming a carbohydrate meal will retard the release of these catabolic hormones and spare muscle tissue. Waking up is actually a stressful time on the body and in an effort to “ready itself” the body releases several catabolic hormones in order to produce energy for the fasted person. etc. low GI carbohydrate sources (although one may consume another protein shake if they feel so inclined) about 30 minutes after finishing the in workout shake. therefore inhibiting cortisol release. broccoli. The remaining 5% of your total daily carbohydrates should come from veggies throughout the day such as salad. This low GI carbohydrate should contain about 25% of your total daily carbohydrates and will help stabilize blood sugar levels. & Fat Sources While Dieting: Protein: Tuna or most any fish. . Low blood sugar may lead one to experience an increase in hunger. A lower GI carbohydrate and protein meal post workout will help counteract this negative effect by stabilizing blood sugar levels. when insulin is over secreted.This Shake Will Have Several Benefits: Spare muscle glycogen and increase performance. I suggest consuming 15% of your daily carbohydrate intake at this meal in the form of low GI carbohydrates. blood sugar levels will drop rapidly as insulin disposes of the glucose into the tissues and one may even begin to experience hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). and actually can cause insulin to be over secreted. Chicken breast (boneless skinless). High insulin levels increases fatty acid transport into adipose tissue. You see. Spare muscle tissue. Cottage cheese. peas. There is some anecdotal evidence that suggests consuming a meal containing carbohydrates may also help suppress hunger later in the day. It will also make you feel better by providing fuel for your brain to run on. During these high carbohydrate meals one should aim to keep fat as low as possible. merely combine breakfast and your pre workout meal. If you happen to workout after breakfast. Turkey breast (boneless skinless). It is also a wise idea to consume a post workout meal composed of whole food. You should spread your remaining fat intake evenly over the rest of your low carbohydrate meals.
All other fat should come as a by-product of your carbohydrate and protein intake. Oat meal. Soy protein. Lean beef. Egg yolks. Essentially most any other source of protein so long as it is low in saturated fat and carbohydrates. Low fat pork. Malto dextrin (during workout). Olive oil. Fruits (limit to 2-3 servings per day). Brown rice. Low fat or no fat cheese. Whey protein. peanut butter (as long as it does not contain hydrogenated oils). Borage oil. oat bran cereal (i. oat bran. Beans. Primrose oil. Milk protein isolate. cheerios). Flax seed oil.e. . Nuts (limit to 1 serving per day). Dextrose (during workout) Vegetables. Fish (salmon especially). Carbohydrates: Sweet potatoes. fish oil capsules).e. Wheat bread (try to limit to 2 slices per day). Stay away from refined grains and anything that says “enriched” or “high fructose corn syrup” on the label! Fat: Omega 3 capsules (i. Bran cereal. Low fat popcorn (low fat butter spray makes this a delicacy).