T Nation

pre contest diet

Im doing my first show may 29, 2003. Its a level 2 show and its a natural show. My stats are age 34 body weight 194lbs at 7.2% body fat. My question is what is the best diet to follow to loose an additional 10-12 lbs and is a body fat of 4.5 to 5% good enough for a competion.

Hi, Charles. With any luck Timbo will stop by shortly. He’s getting ready for a competition too. I’m sure you’ll enjoy comparing notes.

A couple of questions for you. Could you give me an idea of what your diet is currently; i.e., carb, protein and fat intake per day – and calories, of course. An idea of your workout and cardio would also be helpful.

Now, here’s my problem, unless I’m doing my math wrong. At 194, 7.2% is 14 pounds of BF. Even if you were to drop half of that (i.e., 7 pounds (of fat, hopefully)), that would bring you in at 3.7% Why do you want to lose 10-12 pounds?

I’ll leave others to comment on what a winning BF percentage is. Look forward to hearing from you. And all the best!!!

Level 2? Sounds like a Canadian system. Where are you competing at?

I agree with Tampa-Terry. You only need to drop 5 pounds of FAT to get to 5% bodyfat. Anything more than that is probably going to be muscle. 5% is pretty damn lean!

Since its a natrual show I would get as lean as I can. If possible come in with shreeded glutes…

sorry to jump in and spoil the show (you guys must hate me by now!), but fat isnt the only thing you lose for a show. he did say he wanted to lose 10-12lbs, he didnt metion that was to be fat. some of the bigger bodybuilders i have worked with have lost up 7lbs in the last week. obviously this is water, and can make a HUGE difference on stage. personally i wouldnt worry too much about your weight, use the mirrors. the judges dont judge you on your weight, they how you look!

4-5% sounds really good for your first show, take the diet nice and slow, keep training hard, dont sacrifice weights lifted in the gym. if you are losing strength in the gym, stop what you are doing and re-assess everything. T-dawg would be good for the amount of time you have up your sleeve and the fat you have to drop.

Tampa and Co. Another thing you guys have to realize when preparing for a competition is the fact that weightclassing is involved. I’m not sure what it is for this particular contest, but I do believe that Middleweights need to be under 187. Now, ideally, you’d want to be a couple pounds under that when dry (i.e. depleted), so that you could crank up the carbs.

Chuck...It's already been mentioned, but I'll just reitterate that 4-5% may be good-to-go, but it's hard to say. You'll have to see how low you can go and still look dynamite.

My nutrition hasn't been as top-notch as it should have been up to this point. There are two shows coming up, one of which is 11 weeks away and the other 13. Unfortunately, I've never had to lose fat before (well, perhaps Fortunately), so I really don't know for sure how to approach the diet so much. I'll just give it a go, as it's a learning experience anyway.

You might want to review the T-Dawg. I'm doing something similar, in principle, but more of a JB-style Don't Diet. That is, I take in carbs during and immediately after training (with whey hydrolysate) and a protein and carb meal following the post-workout shake. The rest of the day is full of good fats and fibrous veggies.

Terry...I got NHE on Friday and I'm really enjoyjing it thus far. I am just getting into the Nutrition section now. A quick question for you: Do you think I should plan refeeds in a pre-contest regimen, or just go balls-out?

Glad to hear you got the book!!! Neat-o, Tim-bo. (grin)

Such an interesting question. I’ve been chewing on the topic all weekend because I may be working with a kick boxer who needs to drop weight, but cannot cut carbs. My thoughts are that carb refeeds serve two purposes. It’s essential/critical/vital that you do carb refeeds if you go the low-carb route. Obviously, unless you refill glycogen, performance will suffer in the gym. But let’s hit it from a different direction. Let’s say you DON’T go the low-carb route, but “run under the radar,” meaning you take in less (sometimes severely less) than maintenance. Besides refilling glycogen stores, a carb refeed boosts GH, thyroid output, leptin levels (and, I think, IGF-1). In other words, carb refeeds help keep your metabolism from down-regulating. Forget the part about refilling glycogen stores.

So say maintenance was 3,000 calories and you’re dieting at 2,250 (i.e., severe restriction), a carb refeed every four days of an additional 500 calories (i.e., 2,750 calories) SHOULD give your metabolism a much-needed kick.

In the same way people cycle carbs, you can cycle calories, going up and down to keep your body from becoming comfortable with a certain specific level of intake.

So what are your thoughts on the subject? Anyone else is free to jump in as well.

I’d certainly use an androgen and incorporate some planned overfeeding to get down to such a low level of bf without sacrificing additional lean mass.


First off, the middleweight cut off is uaually 176lbs, as opposed to the 187lbs Timbo mentioned.

As far as carb refeeds go, I think they’re a pretty good idea, but you can’t just arbitrarily (that doesnt look like it’s spelled right) say that you’ll refeed every 4 days. Those kinds of cookie cutter suggestions usually are not optimal. As you diet, you’ll get to know how your body responds and you’ll know WHEN to do it based on how you look, feel, your progress, and your in-the-gym performance.

I also dont think a 500 calorie refeed, which leaves you below maintainance in the earlier example is going to do much upregulating, particularly as you drop into the lower bodyfat percentages. Just my two cents.

TT…the book is very intriguing. I’m having difficulty putting it down, which might serve as a dilemma in the coming days as I have an exam to prepare for:-)

Re: refeeds…I certainly see the logic that you explain. That is the metabolic boost, the performance boost and the maintenance of LBM. Those are all things that concern me with dieting, as I know the potential negative consequences associated with reduced caloric intake. At this point, TT, I’m not sure that I’ll be prepared to enter the contest(s). I just am not in the right psychological frame of mind and I’m not sure that I can be good-to-go, seeing my inexperience with fat loss. It’s taken me over three freakin’ years to build some muscle, and the last thing I want to do is lose it! (grin)

So, my plan at this time, is to still go on as if I’ll be preparing and to crank up the fat loss, but I will not do anything foolish. That said, I will plan on implementing carb refeeds/overfeeds every third or fourth day to begin with. I’ll be hammering out the details as I go along, with your (and Joel’s assistance).

I would guestimate that I am in a daily caloric deficit of approximately 1000 calories, perhaps slightly less (i.e. 750). I will continue on with the diet that I posted previously.

Thanks, TT, for all your help and comments to this point. You don’t realize how much I look forward to your help and advice. You’re grand.

Joel, my man, great to have you in the loop. An androgen is not an option for me, based on personal preference (and due to the fact that one of the potential shows is Natural). Any thoughts on refeed frequency, duration and quantity (of carbs)?

Thanks, buddy.

has anyone tried the Ultimate Diet Solution plan by Dr. Gregory Ellis? I want to find out if it works better than the Metabolic Diet but on his website he insists that you buy his book to get the diet information.

The topic of refeeds came up so I thought as a natural competitor Id chime in. I use refeeds in my prep when my carbs dip below 100 grams.

I have found that with these refeeds I have flushed the glycogen from my body within 3-5 days after depending on training intensity. This is the time to do another. One can tell they have rid themselves by the lower belly button region, less water, less puffy, whatever fat you have will look less full and softer. So normally I do a Sun-Wed or Sun-Thurs schedule depending on training and how i feel.

I am a lightweight and my carb refeeds are this. 1.5 oats or rice, 8 oz yam, 4 oz bananna, 1 can of green beans and 1 tbs of real butter in my oats. If you weigh more increase the sweet potato and bannana.

Do not eat any protein with this meal. Also make it the last for the night. I put it in place of my usual fifth meal (8oz beef and can of greens). Dont worry if it falls after training since there is little protein in it. Have it anyways. This should keep the metabolims fired and the other metabolic process working.

Littler guys will look lean around 5-6% for amatuer/local shows, the bigger guys need to 5-4% to do damage. What I mean is I can have skin fold sums of say 35mm and a guy at 200 may have the same numbers, well his % will be less. But we will both look shredded. Anyways Im sure you knew that. Good luck.

Oh, and being 7.2% this far out you can coast into the show and maybe add LBM. Good work in the offseason. I on the other hand got to 12.5% at 180 so I have to suffer a bit more than you. later,


Thunder, sometimes when you see or read something, you know that it’s absolutely, irrefutably true. That’s how I responded to your comment on the “arbitrary number.” The point about refeeding at a number below maintenance is also well taken.

Joel, I have yet to find out whether an androgen is an option. I’ll know better on Wednesday after we meet. It’s a title fight, I believe.

Timbo, I just KNEW how much you would enjoy that book. I’m not at all surprised. It filled in a lot of holes for me and did a great job with basic hormonal concepts. So now that you’ve got NHE, I can retire, right? (grin)

Joel, Didnt he say it was a natural event, in Canada? how the hell is he going to use an androgen? Or do you mean a non androgenic-anabolic, like say methoxy?

Whoa! Thunder jumps in and strikes with a Bang! Great to have you join in the fun, big guy! I think that TT and I will both whole-heartedly agree with your comments on the fact that it’s not accurate to prescribe a set-in-stone number for the refeeds. However, I didn’t say it in those terms, and you did. So thank you:-)

I know the NPC middleweight cut-off is 187.25 pounds. The WNBF/INBF cut-offs are 176 for middleweight and 190 for light-heavyweight (class not offered in NPC). Thanks for the heads-up, Thunder.

Thunder and Jayboy (aka Snacks) thank you both for affirming the fact that refeeds are necessary, or at least well-advised, for natural competitors. I will now begin my focused approach. I’ll see how well I can do and how long it takes.

Snacks, thanks a bunch for all the specifics! That is absolutely Quality info. Would you mind sharing what a typically weekly training schedule would look like for you. I realize this will be highly variable and depends on where you’re at, but it will only help.

Thunder, you’re also very welcome to share your thoughts on training frequency and the like. Actually, I request that you do so, champ.

Po’ Man…NHE = Natural Hormonal Enhancement by Rob Faigin. Check out Extique, Rob’s website.

TT…Retire? No chance in hell! You beat a book any dang day:-)

Pomanatschool, Timbo and I have talked about Rob Faigin’s “Natural Hormonal Enhancement,” to a point that we’ve created an acronym for it. It’s a book about diets for the general population as well as a BB version. It uses a low-carb approach and strategic carb refeeds. It’s an epic work, with literally thousands of references; I’m not kidding. Do a search on the 'Net. It’s not available at bookstores. Best $30 I ever spent.

Timbo, and anyone else who is interested, I wrote an article on planned overfeeding while not using an androgen; if you are interested, email me.


Timbo, are you absolutely sure about the MW cut-off? I’ve never heard of MW going up to 187. Even the NPC National’s and USA’s have a MW cut-off of 176 1/4. That’s interesting.

Anyway, as far as my thoughts on training frequency, etc. while dieting go, I’m pretty much in agreement with the other people here. I’m definitely partial to strength training when dieting. No matter how intelligently one diets, most dieters will inevitably lose “some” muscle mass. It just happens. The leaner you get, the smarter your body gets, and the more it’s going to try to slow down your system obviously, and an easy way to do that is to try and dump some metabolically active tissue. It even happens to those using the gear so it’s not just a mistake dieting/training, although it definitely CAN be.

When you’re getting close to the show and you’re ready to play around with the last two weeks, let me know. It’s quite fun to watch your body change over a couple hours.