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Pre Contest Dieting



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Pre Contest Dieting for Bodybuilding

By Peter Marino

You've probably read numerous articles on dieting for a bodybuilding competition. Too many of these articles use unconventional techniques with no scientific basis. This is a solid explanation of basic fundamentals for effectively dieting your body fat down in preparation for a contest. It's scientifically based and it's specific for contest preparation.

Assessing Body Composition

You need an accurate assessment of your body composition. Have your body fat percentage measured at a health club, a local university (by the exercise physiology department), or a local hospital. You should aim for a body fat percentage between 2-4% by contest time; so you must determine how much fat you have to lose. For example, a bodybuilder weighs 200 pounds with 10% body fat, so he has 20 pounds of fat (200 x .10). To get down to 2% body fat, he would need to lose 16 pounds of fat.

Basic Nutrition

You must have a basic understanding of nutrition. Here is a quick run down of the most important things you need to know in order to make a pre contest diet. A pre contest diet is very restrictive and potentially unhealthy. Therefore, the diet should be done in the shortest time possible. In fact, your off season body fat should not exceed 8-10%. If your body fat is within this range it should take 12-16 weeks to get it down to 2-4% body fat, which is usually the body fat of a bodybuilder on the day of the contest.

  • There are 9 calories per gram of fat, 4 calories per gram of protein and 4 calories per gram of carbohydrate;
  • Complex carbohydrates should be the only carbohydrates eaten; except after a work-out when simple sugars can be eaten (a list below will show the best carbohydrate sources);
  • Only extra lean sources of protein are to be eaten (a list below will show the best protein sources);
  • A moderate consumption of fiber should be eaten at each meal;
  • All grams should be counted for each meal to keep you on the right rack.
Calories Needed For Your Weight

Number of Calories Per Day


In order to find out how many calories you need in a day you must use a precise measurement. This is done by using the same method registered dietitians use, the Harris Benedict Equation. To make this equation easier:

  • Convert your weight from pounds to kilograms. Take your weight in pounds and divide it by 2.2. For example: 190 lb / 2.2 = 86.3 kg;
  • Convert your height from inches to centimeters. Take your height in inches and multiply it by 2.54. For example: 67 in. x 2.54 = 170.1 cm.
Listed below are the equations, for both men and women, in order to calculate your Basal Energy Expenditure (BEE). Your BEE is the amount of energy you need in order to maintain your weight with no activity level. Therefore, your BEE is also equal to your total calories needed when you are active and trying to lose weight.

  • Males:
    66 + [13.7 x (weight in kg)] + [5.0 x (height in cm)] - [6.8 x (age in yrs)] = BEE (in calories);
  • Females:
    655 + [9.6 x (weight in kg)] + [1.8 x (height in cm)] - [4.7 x (age in yrs)] = BEE (in calories);
Number of Calories Per Meal

After calculating your BEE (Basal Energy Expenditure, or target daily caloric intake for fat loss), you have to break up your calories into at least 6 meals a day. This is simple enough. For example, if your BEE is 1300, then 1300 calories divided by 6 meals = 216 calories per meal.

Converting Calories Into
Grams of Protein, Carbohydrate, and Fat

We now have to figure out how many grams of protein, carbohydrate, and fat to eat in each meal by dividing the calories among the macro nutrients, i.e. protein, carbohydrates, and fats. The following distribution is for pre contest dieting only. These percentages should not be followed for more than 16 weeks at a time:
 

Protein 40-45%
Carbohydrates 45-50%
Fat* 10-15%

(*A minimum of 10% is required or a serious essential fatty acid deficiency can develop. Note: These percentages happen to work well for me but everybody is different and you may have to modify these percentages slightly.)

Let us assume that the person dieting needs 216 calories per meal, 40% protein, 50% carbohydrate, and 10% fat. The following formulas would be used:
 

MACRO
NUTRIENT
 TOTAL CALORIES 
PER MEAL
 x   %   =   CALORIES* 
Protein 216  x  .40   = 86
Carbohydrate  216  x .50  = 108
Fat 216  x .10  = 22

(*Convert these calories into grams by dividing each one by its caloric content as stated earlier:)
 

MACRO
NUTRIENT
CALORIES
 PER GRAM 
Protein 4
Carbohydrate  4
Fat 9

The final step:
 
MACRO
NUTRIENT
 CALORIES 
 PER MEAL 
 DIVIDED 
BY
 CALORIES 
 PER GRAM 
 =   GRAMS 
Protein
86
/
4
=
21
Carbohydrate 
108
/
4  =  27
Fat
22
/
9
 = 
2

Now you know the exact number of grams of protein, carbohydrates, and fat that should be eaten at each meal.

Preparing the Right Meal

Okay, now you know the grams for each macronutrient for each meal, but you need to know what the best foods are for losing body fat.  Listed below are the best sources of each macronutrient excluding fat because it is in lean meats and protein powders you are eating.

Combine any three, one from each column, and you have a pre-contest meal.  Portion size will depend on the amount of grams you are permitted at each meal.

PROTEIN CARBOHYDRATE FIBER
Turkey Breast Oatmeal Broccoli
Designer Protein Powder  Rice Kale
Chicken Breast Whole Wheat Bread  Spinach
Tuna Baked Potato Bell Peppers
Sole or Flounder Rice Cake Cauliflower
Red Snapper Grits Brocco-flower
Perch Cream of Wheat Green Leafy Lettuce 
Halibut Farina Romaine Lettuce
Egg Whites Pasta Collard Greens
 
Fiber

Fiber has various benefits for bodybuilders:

  • Fiber aids to slow down the digestion of carbohydrates which has a direct effect on insulin.  A bodybuilder wants stable insulin levels as insulin spiking can cause the deposition of fat into adipose (fatty) tissue;
  • Fiber from vegetables releases medium chain triglycerides in the intestines which act as a good source of fuel without the worry of fat deposition.  This is especially good when carbohydrate and fat levels are extremely low;
  • The kind of fiber I recommend is from cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, kale, spinach, cauliflower, bell peppers, and green leafy vegetables) which are nutrient dense with little to no calories;
  • Last but not least, fiber prevents constipation.
Monitoring Your Progress

It is very important to monitor your progress accurately. Track your weight with a scale, your measurements with a tape measure, and your body fat percentage with skinfold calipers or another accurate body-fat measure.  Of course the most accurate measure is the mirror.  If you are looking defined you will know it. However, always get another critical opinion that will tell you the truth regardless of how cruel it is… for me it is my brother.

Even if you are doing everything right, your body doesn't always respond like you want it to.  This is the purpose for continually monitoring your progress.  If you are not losing body-fat as quickly as you'd like add aerobic exercise to your routine doing 20 minutes per workout separate from your weight training.  Initially do the aerobic exercise 2-3 times per week; if your body-fat still has not decreased increase the aerobics to 4-5 times per week.  As a natural bodybuilder your body is prone to catabolism which can result from extended aerobic work-outs and lead to loss of hard earned muscle.

On the other hand, you may lose weight too rapidly which can accompany muscle loss.  In this case you would slightly increase your protein and carbohydrate intake.  Any alterations should be done in small increments and recorded carefully.

Every pre-contest diet is a learning experience.  In order to learn from each experience you must accurately record every detail; what you eat, how you train, your body weight, your body composition, your measurements, and how you feel.

If this process seems a little complex, it is!  Dieting is a science and each body has slightly different laws by which they function.  However, we are all alike in how we gain and lose body-fat.  It is merely a question of how much or how little we need to obtain the desired result.


Peter Marino is certified as a nutrition specialist, a fitness educator, and a personal trainer. He is also a competitive natural bodybuilder in New York. He has been published in Men's Exercise Magazine, Natural Bodybuilding, and Gym Magazine. He is also the president of Precision Fitness & Nutrition. Peter is available for nutritional and diet consultations, personal training, fitness and nutritional seminars, and professional modeling.

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