Bodybuilding Contest Nutrition Outline

Contest Nutrition Outline

An athlete’s regime for attempting to reach body fat percentages below comfortable levels.

There are certain factors that must be considered when designing a contest program, though there isn’t one exact protocol that will work for everyone. Each person will respond to the diet and exercise suggestions differently, so you must consider adjustments to reach your goals. The bottom line for everyone is, however, to maintain and energy deficit without losing lean mass, until you reach your goal.

First, determine the appropriate daily caloric intake for yourself. It should be based on the following variables:

1. Body Statistics (height and weight)

2. Current Caloric Intake (prior to beginning contest preparation)

3. Current Level of Training (time and intensity)

4. Current Body Fat Percentage

5. Amount of Time Remaining Prior to the Contest

Next, assess the percentage of protein, fat, and carbohydrates that will yield maximum energy production within your caloric allotment. When designing a contest diet, the percentage of daily dietary fat may be reduced to 15 to 20 percent, to give you a greater volume of food to intake for the same amount of calories.

The goal here is to help you during this prolonged energy deficit by increasing the volume of food (same calories but larger portions) and eating activity (chewing, swallowing, digestion, etc.) thus producing satiety without adding calories. Do not eliminate dietary fat entirely. A specific amount of dietary fat is essential for body fat reduction. Additionally, dietary fat makes its own metabolic contribution to satiety and performance (up to a certain point) which may vary among individuals. Because of this individuality some prefer their allotted calories to contain a higher percentage of fat.

To lower fat intake simply replace some of the foods that contain little or no fat. Manipulating the percentage of dietary fat will not affect the number of calories consumed. To maintain or increase muscle while striving to achieve optimal definition (body fat loss) one must continually nourish the muscle while starving the body fat. This can be accomplished by supplying the body with foods and supplementation necessary to compensate for dietary deficiencies resulting from the restricted caloric intake and high-energy output. These added nutrients supply the body with high quality nutrition and few, if any, calories.

Try to keep the caloric intake as high as possible, for as long as possible, so you may obtain optimal results from each workout. Attempting to get in shape by simply reducing caloric intake causes the body to adapt to the reduction by wasting muscle tissue. As the lean tissue is reduced you also lose energy and strength. Consequently, workouts and daily activities suffer and fewer calories are utilized.

Rather than reducing calories in an effort to reduce body fat, increase your level of cardiorespiratory activity (treadmill, stairmaster, bike, etc.) and interval training during the allotted time. The body’s response to a combination of weight training, cardiorespiratory activity, proper nutrition and training results in preservation of lean muscle tissue and a reduction of body fat.

Research has shown that cardiorespiratory exercise, in conjunction with weight training and optimal nutrition, can promote the production of lean muscle tissue and inhibit muscle atrophy. During this fail-safe approach to contest dieting, the body perceives lean muscle tissue as being more valuable than body fat and has the ability to support it nutritionally when supplemented properly.

The final body fat percentages for men and women immediately prior to entering competition should be as follows:

MALE: top amateur and professional bodybuilders – 2.0 – 3.5 percent

MALE: novice and advanced amateur bodybuilders – 3.0 – 6.0 percent

FEMALE: top amateur and professional bodybuilders – 5.5 – 8.0 percent

FEMALE: novice and advanced amateur bodybuilders and fitness models 8.0- 14.0 percent

Setting up the Competition Protocol

Let’s set up a hypothetical case to illustrate how to properly set the protocol. If a man weighs 200 pounds, has a body fat reading of 13 percent and has 16 weeks before his next competition. His body fat percentage is currently at the highest allowable point for a male competitor 16 weeks prior to a contest; female bodybuilders should be no higher than 20 percent fat. Generally, top professionals and amateur males have from 6 to 11 percent and females have 11 to 16 percent when they begin preparations.

The first priority with a male athlete is to bring them down to seven- percent body fat within the first eight weeks. This goal should be fairly easy to accomplish. Begin with the following questions:

1. How many calories are you consuming on an average day? (example:4000)

2. How much cardiovascular exercise are you doing? (example: very little)

3. Has your weight been stable? (example: yes)

4. Are you following a proper weight training protocol? (example: yes)

5. Are you supplementing your food intake? (example: vitamin and protein shake)

Set up the energy intake:

Now, you can determine the proper percentages of protein, fat, and carbohydrates and the number of calories he should consume. Assume this person requires 3500 calories per day to begin losing body fat at 25{15aeb35eec840799df247626cfa6821cb9499241e90aba7a245c8546144fd8f4} protein, 55{15aeb35eec840799df247626cfa6821cb9499241e90aba7a245c8546144fd8f4} carbohydrates, and 20{15aeb35eec840799df247626cfa6821cb9499241e90aba7a245c8546144fd8f4} fat. The first alternation may be to reduce fat intake to 12- 20 percent of his daily calories.

Adjusting energy intake and output:

Have him begin cardiovascular exercise at low to medium intensity four days per week, twenty minutes each session. The amount of time and intensity will devote to cardiovascular activity in the future will be determined by how fast he loses body fat.

The goal is to get as many large muscles as possible working hard but continuously, to burn the greatest amount of calories during and after exercise. Once the body adapts to the current workload (No longer losing fat, or slowing down) it must be altered.

Attempt to help accomplish two things with alternations:

1. Help use more calories during exercise.

2. Maintain the adaptation period with this change, so he continues to burn extra calories throughout the day.

A measurable reduction in the athlete’s body fat should take place every 2 – 3 weeks. Do not make any adjustments if the athlete is making significant progress. When or if the athlete’s progress (body fat reduction) slows dramatically or stops, the workload (caloric output) must be altered. Reducing caloric intake is usually the last option. As much as possible, use exercise adjustments to maintain the deficit (within time constraints, workload, performance, etc.).

If necessary, he should increase his cardiovascular to as much as two 60-minute sessions per day, six days per week. The amount of work is rarely necessary if all possible adjustments, within anyone’s time allotment. You may also want to begin fluctuating daily caloric intake – three days of reduced calories and one day of increased calories. Low days should consisted of reducing only carbohydrates and high days should consist of increasing carbohydrate intake.

Everyone loses fat at different rates and with varying amounts of physical activity.

Setting up and adjusting nutrient augmentation: Supplements allow us to augment nutrient intake without affecting calories, for a potential thermogenic effect. As the body gets leaner supplements may be used to improve performance and daily activities without adding calories and allow the athlete to maintain the mandatory deficit for fat loss. Proper supplementation can also assist in maintaining and increasing lean body mass, therefore, offsetting the net weight loss. Additionally, supplementation during periods of extreme physical exertion and limited calories can assist in maintaining health. This can have tremendous impact on the ability to maintain peak performance and regular attendance in the gym.

Guidelines for the Final Week

(Presuming the competition falls on a Saturday)


No thigh training for the last 10 days

No cardiovascular training for the last 4 days (depending)

Weight training with less intensity Monday and Tuesday

Wednesday, whole body workout

Thursday and Friday should be posing only


Calories should be raised during the final week prior to competition. However, it is vital that the athlete does not overeat. The athlete should look harder and more vascular each day. If he/she begins to lose this appearance you must reduce calories by restricting the carbohydrate intake. The athlete’s highest caloric day should be the Thursday prior to competition. On Friday reduce the athlete’s caloric intake by 20 percent. For example, if he/she is eating 3,000 calories on Thursday reduce it to 2000 on Friday. This may not be necessary if the athlete is still getting harder and more vascular through Friday. If this is the case, keep the athlete’s caloric intake as it was on Thursday.


Sodium intake should be normal if not higher until the Wednesday prior to the competition. On Wednesday reduce the sodium intake as much as possible. At this point the athlete should be drinking and cooking with only sodium-free distilled water. Recommend that he/she drink water until mid-afternoon on Friday. Beyond that point he/she may sip moderate amounts of water.

Competition Morning:

The athlete should eat a good breakfast consisting of complex carbohydrates consisting of oatmeal, rice, or potato. After this meal simple and complex carbohydrates should be consumed every hour until stage time. Also sip only an isotonic solution – only when thirsty.

Good Luck!

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