This past week I received a lot of questions regarding competition diet planning from a very panicked first-time fitness model competitor all related to her competition diet plan. The competition diet plan is the most critical time period of a contest diet. I understand the panic, especially as a new competitor! The competition diet can be considered an exact science!
Weeks of dieting and training can go to waste if you do not know how to dial in your body, particularly for the specific show you are competing in. And with so many different looks and different show regulations, it can be difficult to determine the exact physique that you need to attain to get the results you want.
The best solution is just to jump in and keep trying and in time you will begin to see what works and what doesn’t! This is the way I learned how to do things. I had no idea what to do for my last week of prep! Show after show, I learned what works and what doesn’t work. Unfortunately, not every one will respond the same way, but in general the principles are the same.
Competition dieting for me has been an interesting experience to say the least! Working with my trainer, I soon learned how important it was to keep track of everything – especially your weight! Traveling to a show, I once forgot my body weight scale, thinking I could get away without it was not going to happen for one minute. My trainer hounded me on text until I went to the closest CVS to buy one. So, my first piece of advice is this – be prepared. Make sure you have everything you need, make a list and double check it. Competition prep in the last few days can be overwhelming – being depleted, lacking energy will effect your cognitive ability, so be sure you are on top of your game. Do not wait till the last minute to pack your contest bag! Now as for what you need to do during your last week, here are my suggestions:
Last Week Workouts
If you have done the work, your last week of workouts should be focused on losing water weight. During your prep, your workouts will should be designed for your specific goals. Muscle building means high volume workouts, focused on muscle hypertrophy of 8 to 12 reps. But if you are a bikini competitor your workouts will need to be designed for endurance, and long and lean muscles, which means workouts of 15 to 20 reps. In your last week, it should really be simple, at this point there is no magic workout that will add muscle or lose fat, this should have been done long ago.
Last week workouts need to be focused on dialling in your physique. Which means, getting rid of excess water. This can be performed a few ways, popular methods include circuit workouts or push-pulll workouts performed 2 to 3 times prior to a show. Workouts should be cut off about 2 days out from a show, for one very good reason – working out causes water retention. After a workout inflammation rushes to the muscles to begin the recovery process including water. Since it takes 24 to 48 hours for recovery to occur, it is best to be sure you cut off your workouts with ample time to allow for recovery. As for leg workouts, since the muscles are so large, water retention and inflammation can last for much longer, so perform your last leg workout about a week out from your contest.
Cardio Burn and the Sweat Out!
Just like weight workouts, cardio workouts can also cause inflammation, but they can also result in water loss through sweat, so it is important to continue on with your cardio, but cut back on the intensity. Instead of hitting the step mill, try using the bike. And remember, cardio workouts for competition prep are designed to burn calories, assisting in overall weight loss, so if you have made your weight loss goals, you may want to slow down the cardio, or cut it out completely! At the very least, cut back to light cardio, once per day of 30 minutes, either at the end of your workout or first thing in the morning.
Pre-contest many competitors use the no carb diet approach, followed by a carb loading phase in the last week. Competitors use this technique in the final week before a contest to bring a leaner, firmer and more defined physique to the stage. Depriving the body of carbs and then putting the carbs back is an effective approach for two reasons. First, this procedure redistributes water in the body: Water beneath the surface of the skin is shed to reveal muscle separation. Second, as a bonus, once carbs are loaded, the muscles are pumped with glycogen, a sugar that is the principal form in which carbohydrates are stored in tissues, helping create a fuller look.
The depletion phase usually occurs approximately 1-week out from a fitness show, but this technique can also be used pre-photo shoot and can last anywhere from 3 to 5 days depending on the athlete, your current condition and how hard or firm you need to be based on your category. During this time, the diet is composed of minimal carbohydrates and lighter protein options like fish and chicken and is higher in fats. Although everyone is different, during the depletion phase, carbs should be cut by about 50% of the baseline diet.
Lock and Load
After depletion, you will need to perform a loading phase, in fact lowered glycogen levels increase the activity of enzymes that help to form new glycogen when a greater amount of carbs are reintroduced into the body. During loading approximately 30 to 50% more carbs can be consumed versus the competition diet. Whatever you do, do not over do it, a huge change can result in drastic changes, not to mention tummy distress! After all you have been following a consistent diet for sometime, so introducing a new macronutrient ratio can be cumbersome on some competitors. If you are eating 100g of carbs during the pre-contest diet, and depleted by consuming only 50g of carbs per day, then you should load by consuming 150g of carbs. When beginning the loading phase, high glycemic, starchy carbs such as white rice or white potatoes are generally the best choice for day one of the load-up. After this, complex carbs can be utilized. At this point, there is no more training! Training will drain the muscles of the glycogen they are being filled with and at this point all the hard work is done!
Finally, water is also reduced during loading; if the process is followed correctly water lose will occur under the skin, because loading carbs into glycogen-deprived muscles requires water. Cutting back on the water consumed during carb loading will lead to a tighter appearance. Water is generally reduced by 50% on the days carb loading occurs, which could be up to 2 to 3 days prior to your show. As you get closer to your show you will need to cut your water intake further and further. Do not cut your water completely! You will need water to digest your meals. In your last 24 hours, a 500 mL bottle of water is usually plenty to get your meals down and still keep you tight!
Give me Candy!
Come contest day, the fun begins! If you have done your load and depletion workouts correctly, you will be ready to go. Some individuals like to use a little red wine about 30 minutes prior to going on stage, the reason – red wine contains polyphenols that have been shown to cause vasodilation, which means when you perform your pre-stage pump up you will get a nice rush of blood and nutrients to your muscles. The result – you will look tighter and firmer on stage! In addition to red wine, many fitness competitors like to use high sugar candy or sweets to drive an additional pump to the muscles – my favourite pre-contest candy – Snickers Peanut Butter! And speaking of PB, nut butters are another perfect food option for filling out muscles. Whatever you choose, try to make it enjoyable, after all, it has proably been a long time coming, and you have not doubt worked very hard for that little bit of enjoyment!
As mentioned at the beginning of this blog, these are just guidelines, you will need to try different ratios of macronutrients, try various workouts, and water adjustments to determine what exactly will work for you! If you are in need of more specific advice I am just one click away from online training, diets and workouts designed specifically for you!
Got any questions or have some of your own pre-contest dieting advice, please do me a favor hit the ‘like’ button for this blog, leave a comment and share it with your friends! But I have lots more to share, enter your email below and you will be subscribed to my newsletter where I will share with you all kinds of advice on how to build muscle, burn off fat and get into your best ever fitness model condition! Until next time…
Be Fierce and Rule the World,