Planning the Perfect Pre-Contest Diet

Probably half of those who will compete this year will begin their efforts on January 1st. The aftermath of New Year’s Eve (empty bags of Doritos, a genocide of chicken wing bones, half-eaten pizza crusts…) is taken to the curb along with last year’s results. It’s a new game. You know what they say about doing things the same way, but expecting different results, right? Grab a sheet of paper and let’s do some math.I’m sitting in an airport having just collaborated with Nadine Dumas and Mathew Park (promoters and owners of INBF Canada) for a fantastic camp in Alberta. As lecture topics moved from contest dieting to peaking to an actual posing clinic, a common theme coursed through the day. Most were prepping for a contest in six weeks and asked if I thought they would be ready in time. Some frantically described how “coaches” had dropped them into full-blown ketogenic diets (one even expressed how ill she had become), demanded they do hours of cardio per day, and one even had a written rule that the client “must trust me,” though he had no formal education in health, nutrition, or physiology. In other words, just suck it up and do what I say! With a little work starting right now, you can avoid relying on dangerous dieting, unqualified opinions, and start on a path to know your body better than anyone else. How does being able to progress consistency and predictability with your dieting and peaking sound? It will serve you very well to become a more active participant in your contest dieting and to KNOW you’ll be ready on time!

Dr. Joe Klemczewski – side triceps poseI’ve written a couple of articles solely focused on the benefit of being ready for a contest early enough that you have to start adding food just to stop losing body fat. The implications are not just theoretical. We often end a diet with massive eating and binging after a show, so very few of us know what it’s actually like to start incrementally adding food once a desired level of body fat is reached. You can “trust me” in that I’ve seen it many times—many times every year. When it’s applied to contest dieting, it usually results in a pro title or pro card. I don’t want to restate the entire process, but when carbs are gradually increased, so is the met rate. More food equals more strength and energy in the gym and the increased work effort, matched with the increased calories, leads to a regaining of fullness and even lost lean body mass. This upward spiral, if truly measured and carefully executed, will not only lead to increased size, but you can keep getting leaner at the same time; could anything be better in life?!

If you reach this competitor utopia, there are further benefits you can apply to the stage. When you’re this lean before the show and you’re not so worried about aggressive dieting, you can practice and take notes on peaking variables. More about that in a bit; first, let’s plan.

Most men can count on losing 1.5 pounds per week, but may get a little more some weeks, a little less some weeks. I’d predict one pound for women, but again, met rates vary. Get out your entire collection of contest pictures from years past and note your weight and condition at each one. Objectively predict how much leaner you may need to be by comparing your pictures to the top WNBF pros. You may as well compare yourself to the best if you want to be the best! Whatever your weight is now, plus the extra pounds you want to factor in to improve, calculate how many weeks you realistically need to diet. It may be tempting to think you can lose three pounds a week, but you can’t. Now tack on an extra six weeks as a buffer and to be able to start moving food levels back up. Are you starting to see why it’s important to stay within 10 to 15 pounds of contest weight? It also may be important to shift your thoughts of contest dieting from 12 to 16 weeks to 20 to 24. Next, select contests that fit that schedule.

Divide your contest into three stages:

* Transition Phase
* Core Phase
* Set Point Phase
* Metabolic Building Phase
* Fine-Tuning Phase

The Transition Phase is best characterized by the fact your metabolism is sky-high from off-season food levels and you will lose fast. Glycogen and water constitutes a first-week drop, but you’ll also continue to lose quickly as you work down toward a normal dieting met rate. The amount of food required NOT to lose weight in the off-season serves to keep your metabolism higher than when calorie intake falls to a deficit low enough to lose weight. Unfortunately, there is a wide gap that many don’t know exists and they errantly think they are harming their metabolism. It is very normal for you to need to drop food levels farther than you think from off-season levels to a dieting intake that will sustain a good fat-loss pace. This transition phase will last three to four weeks and then you’re in the middle of your diet.

Womens Figure Competition

The Core Phase is the bulk of your time dieting. Your body will settle into a pace commensurate with your food level and what your genetics allow. As you approach your metabolic set point—the body fat level where your body will noticeably start to resist fat loss, your pace will slow. The Core Phase may last two to three months, but is varied based on how far you have until you bump into that set point.

That puts you into the Set Point Phase. The name says it all. Depleted, having been dieting for a couple of months or longer, your met rate slowing, your energy falling, you have to fight for every ounce of fat loss at this point. It is a grind. Dropping lower in carbs or doing more cardio may not be the answer; often it’s just making sure you allow enough time for the slower rate. Weight may not drop as fast, caliper measurements may not show much progress, but if you give yourself enough time, you will visually see a dramatic hardening of your physique. At this point, the body fat percentage is low enough that every pound you lose may be 10% or more of the existing fat stores – you will see the changes.

Many people stay in the Set Point Phase up to the show whether they’re truly ready or not. The dice were rolled on having enough time and whether you’re where you wanted to be or not, you’re on stage. If you get to a level of condition that you would describe as contest ready, and you still have time, you can enjoy the seemingly forbidden fruit of the sport. You can start incrementally moving food up. Instead of gaining weight, however, you’ll see you get hungrier and keep losing. You’re forcing your body into the Metabolic Building Phase where you have to chase your metabolism up with gradual, small increases in food (carbs preferably), which in turn translates into higher energy and strength in the gym, regained fullness, and your weight will likely start to increase AS BODY FAT LEVELS FALL. This phase can continue until you’re very close to off-season, maintenance levels of food. This is where you will see your absolute best look ever achieved. As a matter of fact, once you’ve been here, you’ll never be satisfied with a normal contest prep approach. You’ll now have time to even begin practicing your peaking technique, manipulate variables, get to understand the best approaches for your body type, and walk into peak week confidently ready to win. Mapping out your peak through the Fine-Tuning Phase will be the subject of my next article, so until then, craft your winning plan for this year right now!

About the Author:

Dr. Klemczewski received his Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Therapy from the Indiana University School of Medicine.While working as an orthopedic outpatient physical therapist, he continued his education by earning a Masters and Doctorate in health and nutrition related fields. Along the way, he also studied for and passed the renowned Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist examination with the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).He finished a second doctoral dissertation investigating all contributing causes of childhood obesity and a corrective approach on his way to a PhD in Health Education. Athletics led Klemczewski to weight training by the age of thirteen and he competed in his first bodybuilding contest at the age of twenty. By the age of twenty-seven he won his pro card with the World Natural Bodybuilding Federation (WNBF) and has competed in pro bodybuilding?s largest venues including top-five finishes at the Mr. International and Mr. Universe contests. Shortly after finishing his first doctorate and winning his pro card, Dr. Joe created a wellness corporation and opened a fitness facility. He next founded Genetitec, Inc., a supplement company specializing in proprietary protein formulations. Dr. Joe can be contacted through his website: www.perfectpeaking.com

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