While countless hours at the gym help build muscle and burn fat, without proper nutrition, a competitor will not be at the top of his/her game. Nutrition is so important when training for a competition.
Competitors often go through seasons
of bulking (off season) and cutting (pre-competition).
In order to gain muscle, calorie consumption must be increased; especially with intense training sessions at the gym. Cutting involves eliminating sugars, most carbs, etc., from the diet in an attempt to eliminate any additional fat and maintain muscle mass. The length a person cuts depends on how much fat they’d like to lose before the competition. It’s especially important as the competition gets close.
Most competitors start dieting more than 6 weeks out.
As a toothpick in high school, I have come a long way by weight training and changing up my diet. I now have more muscle mass than ever before. Countless hours at the gym have brought me a long way, but without certain diet strategies, there’s no way I can be in tip top shape. Eating a sufficient amount of protein and eating smaller meals throughout the day to keep my metabolism going is crucial. While portion control and plenty of small high protein meals are important in the off-season, I still have to make sure I consume enough calories to sustain my intense workouts and allow me to gain lean muscle. My diet during the off season is a lot more flexible than my pre-competition diet. Training goes a long way, but without altering my diet in the last weeks before the competition, my muscles would not come through like they need to.
Competition means sacrificing a few of my favorite “food groups” – especially pizza and chocolate. It’s rough, but the experience and outcome are totally worth it. I experience a period of withdrawal, but by keeping my mind focused on my ultimate goal I am able to stick with it. Many competitors start strict diets 12+ weeks out; my strategy is to stick to a strict low carb diet 6 weeks out. I eat small high protein meals 4 times a day, and supplement with amino acids or low carb protein shakes in between meals.
Most of my meals consist primarily of lean meat, especially chicken, with broccoli or plain romaine.
While I stick to the low carb diet for 5-6 days of the week, I do have a day or two where I allow myself to carb up. Not only does this help re-energize me and keep me from burning out on my diet, but it also helps keep my body from becoming stagnant on the diet and keeps my metabolism going strong. I am sure to drink plenty of water too.
The week of competition I’ve experimented with a couple different strategies.
The first time I competed I carb depleted my body for about 2-3 days through highly repetitive fully body workouts twice a day and eating less than 30 grams of carbohydrates a day. Then, for about 2 days before the competition I “carbed” up and ate primarily carbohydrates, such as oatmeal, potatoes, whole grains, etc. Of course, “spilling over” is a concern when you carb up, therefore one must be cautious. If you consume too many carbohydrates during this time, your body will fail to show your hard work on game day. Your muscles will likely come in smooth, as opposed to filled out and cut. This was a fear of mine when attempting this strategy; therefore, I failed to carb up enough for my competition and came in a little flat.