Saturday, July 2nd, 2005. 89 days (approximately 13 weeks) until show day. Most bodybuilders start their pre-contest diets at about 12 weeks out. However, the amount of time it takes to prepare for a competition depends on your body fat level to begin with. I’ve developed a pretty good system for figuring out exactly how long you’ll need to diet in order to come in for a perfect landing on the one day that counts. Check it out…
Some bodybuilders maintain low body fat (6-9%) all year because they have fast metabolisms and they’re naturally lean (ectomorph) types (or they intentionally stay lean because they are models or it’s their personal preference). In this case, it may only take 8-10 weeks or less to get ready.
Bodybuilders who have slower metabolisms and endomorph body types often start their contest prep with body fat in the 10-13% range. That usually takes about 12-16 weeks to get ready.
An easy way to estimate the required time for dieting is to choose a target body fat percentage (usually 3-5% for men), then subtract that from your current body fat percentage to see how much you have to lose. If you are 10.5% body fat and your goal for contest day is 3.5%, then you have to shed 7% body fat.
Next, based on losing 0.5% (1/2%) body fat per week, divide that weekly fat loss target by the amount of fat you have to lose (7% divided by 0.5% per week = 14 weeks of dieting to reach 3.5%).
Finally, add one week because the final week before the show is not for losing fat, it’s simply for taking care of your water and carbing up. If you still have body fat 7 days out, you screwed up. That makes 15 weeks total.
This is a conservative estimate. Many people can strip off 0.6%, 0.7% or even more body fat per week no problem, but I prefer to lose fat slowly and to include a fudge factor by allowing more time than necessary. I’d rather be ready too soon than scrambling at the last minute.
This year I started at 15 weeks out, simply because that was when I chose a competition date, and my body fat was definitely up around 10% or so (I will start having my body fat measured next week and will be keeping records of my weight, body fat and lean body mass).
However, this period of time, from 3-4 months out, is not really strict dieting yet. It’s more like a “pre-diet” diet for me. At 13-16 weeks out, my diet is still very much like my off season diet with a few small changes:
Aside from these minor changes, my diet remains more or less the same as it is the rest of the year. What you see in the example below is the first phase of my contest diet, but it’s pretty close to how I eat all the time:
This adds up to approximately 3600-3800 calories, 360-380 grams of carbs, 360-380 grams of protein and about 80-90 grams of fat. (Previously, my calories were at about 4200-4400 as I was still in a weight-gain mode).
My diet is going to change quite dramatically over the next week or two, as I kick things into high gear and start cycling the carbs and calories. I was taking in at least 400-450 grams of carbs a day most of the past year. I already reduced them slightly a couple weeks ago. Next week I will cut them substantially on the low carb days. I will post my exact low carb cycle sometime next week. So far, I’ve begun losing weight and fat with only these minor dietary changes and the addition of a 30 minute cardio session every day.
The only supplements I’m using now is some protein powder in my oatmeal (mainly for convenience and because I think it tastes good), a multi vitamin (plus an extra gram of vitamin C), creatine, and a tablespoon of an essential oil blend or flax oil (I may increase to 2-3 tbsp when my carbs go down later). I am very much a supplement “minimalist” and I’ll always choose whole food over meal replacements before a contest.
About two weeks ago, I weighed 205 with shoes on. Yesterday I weighed 201.5 lbs (shoes, t shirt, sweats). I took the shoes off and the scale said 199.5 lbs., so that’s my official weight today. Every Friday from now on I will do an official weigh in: It will be with shoes off, on the same scale at the gym, at 8:00 am in the morning before training and after one meal. Weighing under the same conditions each week will give me the most consistent results. The Natural USA competition, being sanctioned by the NBI, has height classes, not weight classes. However, I may do a second show, possibly an NPC event, and if so, I will need to make middleweights (the cutoff is 176.25 lbs). This will be no problem, because even if I weigh 180-185 the week before the show, I can lose water weight very, very easily (that would actually make me a “dehydrated light-heavyweight”).
Until next time, train hard, eat right and think about these words of champion wrestler and Olympian, Dan Gable:
“When I’d get tired and want to stop, I’d wonder what my next opponent was doing. I’d wonder if he was still working out. I tried to visualize him. When I could see him still working, I’d start pushing myself. When I could see him in the shower, I’d push myself harder”
Published on 02 July, 2005