Contest Dieting Made Simple
by Mark Dagnall
Fitness Model ~ Appearing in National and International Magazines
Middleweight Winner of 5 Natural Bodybuilding Contests
Overall Winner of 4 Natural Bodybuilding Contests
Sponsored by a Major Supplement Company

I'm often asked how I prepare for an upcoming bodybuilding contest or photo shoot. "What type of foods do you eat" or "how many meals do you eat each day", are some of the questions I get. While there are a number of cookie-cutter contest dieting approaches to choose from, I like to keep things very basic.

My diet consists of a combination of complete protein, low glycemic carbohydrates and a small amount of fats. Normally, protein and carbohydrates make up about 80% of my caloric intake, with fats coming in at about 20%. I eat a minimum of five meals per day and try to eat every two to four hours. If you do not consume a meal while after four hours your body goes into gluconeogenisis, a process where your body converts amino acids within the muscle to glucose in order to fuel the brain and nervous system. This is not a good thing because you will be losing muscle and maintaining fat, plus you are slowing your metabolism down! I normally give myself between 12 and 15 weeks to prepare for a contest. For the most part, I'm usually ready after 10 weeks of dieting and the final few weeks will bring out the extra separation in my hard-to-hit areas like glutes and hamstrings.

First, I like to make sure that I am taking in the right amount of protein each day to maintain and build muscle. My goal each day is to take in approximately 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. My proteins sources are chicken, egg whites, fish, turkey and protein shakes. Protein will make up about 40%-50 % of my daily caloric intake.

Second, for carbohydrates I normally take in about the exact same percent as protein but I will gradually lower my carbohydrate intake over the course of the diet. My carbohydrate sources are mainly oatmeal, which I eat 4 times per day, and vegetables. Sometimes I will eat a sweet potato or some rice, however, when I'm getting close to the contest or shoot I stick with oatmeal and vegetables.

Finally, the remainder of my caloric intake comes from fat. With each of my protein shakes I add one tablespoon of canola oil. The rest of my fat is consumed with the whole food protein sources I eat. It is important to take in some fat, however, remember that your goal is to get ripped and too much fat will slow your ability to get ultra-shredded.

Remember, everyone is different, so you will have to experiment a bit to find the exact macronutrient breakdown that will effectively work for you. One thing is certain, you need to feed your muscles if you want to keep them and that is especially true when you are trying to get lean for a contest or photo shoot. Eating a meal every two to four hours is a must and each meal should consist of a good amount of protein and carbohydrates and a smaller amount of fat. Also, it takes time to see the results. Nobody is going to be ready for a contest after dieting for two or three weeks. You should use the mirror as your guide and adjust your food intake accordingly.

For instance, when I am getting ready for a contest, I do weekly physique assessments. During these assessments I look at my physique in the mirror and decide what changes need to be made in my diet. Usually, my macronutrient intake stays fairly consistent for the first three or four weeks. After that, I slowly lower my carbohydrates every two-week period, however, this is done only if I feel the need. Sometimes I may keep my diet the same for a couple more weeks before making the adjustment. As you get closer to the contest you will need to decrease your overall caloric intake but you must not eliminate any one macronutrient from your diet. There's no need to go with zero carbohydrates to get ripped. Keep a journal and record all of your meals and be consistent. If you're having cheat meals every week your chances of wining that contest or landing a photo shoot are going to be lessened.

Good Luck!


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