Hey Stu! I’m in the midst of preparing for my first competition, currently 5 weeks out and unfortunately will have to serve the army for 6 days during my 4th week out of competition (a call-up period for conscription). During these 6 days, I will have no access to any gym but will still be able to do cardio (running and posing). I also intend to bring in my own food (mostly sweet potatoes, tuna and protein powder).
What changes if any, will you recommend me to make on my own caloric intake, or exercise regime? I’m currently carb cycling with 300/200/120 carbs, fats around 60, protein around 200 and weighing in at 136 lbs. I have been doing cardio 10 times a week (posing every night and 3 sprint workouts a week) and lifting weights 6 times a week.
I intend to drop my carbs to around 120 for that 6 days and keep my cardio the same. [/quote]
I know there are a few other questions/comments I have to get to, but I figure that yours is most time-sensitive, so let me address it first.
No competitor wants real life to get in the way of a contest prep, but sometimes there’s not much we can do about it. In your case, the fact that you’ll be able to still control your food intake and cardio (which is pretty important at 4 weeks out) is a good thing. The issue you can’t control is the weight training. Luckily, the point of weight training during a contest diet is to stimulate the body to continue sending nutrients to the muscle tissue in order to prevent the body from reabsorbing it.
As this situation doesn’t always require large amounts of work volume, any little bits of muscle work can hopefully alleviate any horrible scenarios you had playing out in your head (pushups, pullups, stairs…)
Your idea to cut carbs would be viewed as sound by most people. It is after all the preferred fuel source for gut wrenching workouts and interval cardio. The flip side of the carbohydrate dilemma is that it also allows your body to spare burning through muscle tissue. This is why you’ll find so many unassisted bodybuilders never going full ketogenic, even if they do have to drop fairly low for several days at a time. Losing LBM is the surest way to put the brakes on what would be steady fat loss.
The longer I competed, the more I realized that I could keep my carb intake higher, so long as I was in a sufficient caloric deficit, and my body had a reason to continue sending nutrients to my muscles. Without getting into how many cals or glycogen I was actually burning through with my workouts, as long as I was progressing without stalls, I knew my intake and my expenditure were balanced enough to keep moving forward. The 180 g carb drop you’re proposing comes out to a little over 700 cals. How many you actually need to power through a training session is unknown to me, but you’re still going to need to deal with a good number of cardio, sprint, and posing sessions.
Two things can come out of your proposed approach:
1- Things work perfectly, and your adjustment of carbs/cals fits the difference of removing weight work. Additionally, you have enough glycogen stored, and enough carbs coming in at targeted points to prevent any excessive muscle loss.
2- Your body doesn’t like going 6 days on such low carbs (you’ve been cycling, so think of how many days you truly go ‘low’ without a bump), and aside from the weight drop you will undoubtedly see from the water shift, you sacrifice a bit of muscle in the process.
So, my suggestions, knowing nothing about your training, previous week’s stats, #s, etc…
-Definitely drop carbs to some degree for SOME of those days. Especially if you cannot even work in any type of weight-bearing work to substitute for muscle-retention purposes.
-Do NOT go a full 6 days on your ‘low’ #s. Your body is not used to it, and the real benefit of carb cycling is to prevent metabolic slowdown (and a whole list of hormonal, and psychological benefits as well)
I’ve had clients who have made use of traditional cyclical diets (high, medium and low), and when things get rough, and we’re digging in towards the end, we will sometimes just cycle between low and medium for a week or two in order to really goad the body into progress.
Remember, the trick isn’t being the biggest competitor in the off season, it’s retaining the most muscle en route to the stage!
Good Luck, hope my thoughts were helpful.