Shari Duncan

Tag: Leaning out

The Competition Diet… A Little Art, A Little Science = A Lot of Lean.
Shari

by on Dec.06, 2010, under Fitness, Natural Bodybuilding, Weight Loss

GETTING LEAN:

Getting really lean is an art form…and a science. It is NOT about starving yourself. In fact starving yourself would be the worst thing you could do.

The months before entering a physique competition are extremely difficult and require plenty of discipline and perseverance.  Eating the correct foods in the proper proportions and at the appropriate time is vital to getting your physique  primed for the stage.

The information presented here assumes the reader has a certain level of nutritional knowledge.

HOW MANY CALORIES EVERY DAY?

Sculpting the physique for competition takes weeks of disciplined dieting

Sculpting the physique for competition takes weeks of disciplined dieting

Calories: A VERY general rule of thumb is 16 x your bodyweight. So if your goal is to weigh 125 pounds that would be 2000 calories a day intake to maintain a bodyweight of 125. To lose weight eat clean and eat with a slight calorie deficit, about 200 to 300 calories below your maintenance level.  Over time you will figure out the correct balance and will make adjustments accordingly.

PROTEIN: Eating the correct amount of protein is PARAMOUNT to helping you build and maintain a muscular physique, since proteins are the building blocks of muscle in your body. You should eat at least 1 gram of protein for every pound of body weight EVERY day. Protein should be consumed at every meal.

CARBS: Fifty to sixty percent of your daily caloric intake should come from carbohydrates until about three months before your competition. At this point, carbohydrate intake begins to be cut  to 20 to 40 percent. Eating the right types of carbs will make all the difference in your physique. Whole-grain carbohydrates such as brown rice, whole grains and quinoa digest slowly in your body. As weeks progress and the number of allowable carbohydrate grams is reduced, you will be getting more of your carbohydrate calories from veggies and limiting fruits to 2-3servings daily.

FATS: Fat intake will be reduced when preparing for a physique competition.  Most people can consume up to 30 percent of calories from healthy fats until about the three-month mark, then as weeks progress, gradually reduce fat intake to 10 to 20 percent.

You need to keep an eating log and record your food intake so you can make accurate adjustments. If you are very active you may have to eat more. If you are naturally obese and hold onto body fat easily you may have to eat less. The only way to really know (how a certain level of food intake will affect you) is keep an eating log and discover what effect eating a certain amount of calories for a month has on you. Ask yourself: Did I get leaner? Did I lose muscle? Did I gain fat? Then make adjustments.

** Remember metabolisms vary significantly from person to person – I am able to keep my healthy fats at ~25% during the leaning phase.  I focus more on gradually cutting carbohydrate calories, and increasing cardio sessions as the weeks progress.  I am also not as “carb sensitive” as some.

This basic template for macronutrient ratio’s works for me:   Protein: 35-40%, Carbs 35-40%, Fats 25%. As I begin to cut carbohydrate calories, I may gradually increase protein, (to keep calories up) depending on the progress I am making.

 Programs like Fitday.com provide online support for macronutrient tracking

Programs like Fitday.com provide online support for macronutrient tracking

Basic rules to lose body fat:

Eat every 3 hours. Six small meals a day. Avoid foods that spike your insulin levels (like bread, sugar, and pasta) or foods high in fat (bacon, cakes, butters, fatty meats). Focus on high fiber foods (vegetables, whole wheat, fruits) and protein foods (whey protein, egg whites, fish, lean chicken, low fat cottage cheese, and meal replacements).  This increases your metabolic rate. Remember to consume 200-300 calories a day below maintenance level. Also eating every 3 hours tricks your body into thinking YOU ARE NOT DIETING (constant blood sugar level) so it does not store fat (go into famine mode).

As weeks progress, gradually decrease carbs without cutting calories. Eat more vegetables and more protein. Low carb intake lowers insulin levels, you store very little fat, and activate fat burning mechanisms in the body. Keep the calories up though. As you begin to decrease carbs,  you will also increase cardio.

When your metabolism slows (from dieting), eat more for 1 to 3 days. Usually one day will do it. Exercise more (increase intensity) as well. Get your metabolism moving again. Usually 300 to 400 calories above maintenance will do it. Carb cycling works well for me when dieting.  I incorporate 1 – 2 “re-feed” days per week; with the 2 higher carb days falling on the most strenuous training days (eg squat, leg days). Having these 2 days also helps to restore depleted energy stores (physically and mentally!)

Water and Supplements

Water is one of the most important components of a competition diet and should not be overlooked.  Aim to drink at least a gallon of water every day leading up to the competition.  Avoid alcohol consumption. Certain supplements can aide you in the preparation phase as well.  Consider taking supplements such as a multivitamin and mineral; antioxidants, including green tea; branched chain amino acids (BCAA’s); glutamine and glucosamine.

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