Preparing for a bodybuilding show takes dedication, commitment, and time. One of the biggest challenges is trying to eat all your meals throughout the day.
I have fond memories of rushing between clients to scarf down my meals so I could stick to my plan. I wouldn’t say it’s ideal but when you are competing you do whatever it takes to get your meals in and for many of us we have to eat 5, sometimes more meals every day.
Don’t forget the daily gallon of water and timing of cardio and weight training. I was doing two workouts a day, early morning at 5am and later in the afternoon around between 5 and 7PM. With this schedule IF has been a blessing in disguise.
intermittent fasting is a lifestyle
I want to start by stating intermittent fasting is a lifestyle, not a diet, or the latest weight loss craze (well maybe), it’s been around from the very beginning when our ancestors were hunting and gathering as part of their meal prep.
IF is a way for your body to recycle its cells, rid the body of toxins, and burn fat until we eat our first meal.
IF has two states: a fasting state and feeding state. It’s exactly as it sounds. You do not consume any calories, including but not limited to supplements and medications, while fasting. You can drink water, black tea, and unsweetened teas. During my feeding state 12PM- 8PM I fit all my meals and most times did not want to eat but of course I did because I know how much my body needed the calories. My last meal was at 7PM then fast would start around 8PM until 12PM the next day, sometimes til 2PM depending on my client schedule.
Waking up to do my fasted cardio and fasting til my first meal gave me great energy for the day and I did not have to stress about when I would eat my next meal. This schedule of eating met my needs and made prepping easy, especially because I knew what I was eating every day and didn’t have to think about it. I also noticed I lost body fat in less time and came in leaner than any of my previous preps. This prep I gave myself 10 weeks and was ready at the end of week 8.
Intermittent fasting (IF) and BIKINI prep
When I started fasting it was before my previous prep (July 6th, 2019) and knew I wanted to continue it as part of my daily behaviors. It helped keep me on track and not eat outside my feeding window. Knowing the drawbacks of breaking my fast too soon kept me honest and I was able to experience the benefits.
Using IF for my competition bikini prep proved to bring positive results and I have continued to keep IF as part of my daily eating schedule. There are other time windows to try with IF and I recommend it to anyone trying to become healthier with more than just exercise and recovery.
For more than 10 years I have created individual meal plans for people with different fitness and body goals. As a nutritionist I believe eating healthy whole foods in the right amounts allow you to have enough energy to perform daily tasks and reach your fitness goals. Meal plans are great because it takes all the guess work out and allows for eating the right foods. While some people prefer to be told what to eat and do not mind eating the same things every day it’s not for everyone. One thing I’ve learned over the years is variety and flexibility helps people stick to their meal plan and not give up when they can see they have not completely fallen off the grid. Even more empowering is learning how to create your own meal plans with the right tools and turning it into a lifestyle you can enjoy.
Let me ask you a question. How many times have you found yourself on a “diet” that was hard to stick to and you fell off only to feel defeated and go off eating whatever you wanted the rest of the day? Or since you “already fell off,” you made a deal with yourself to start fresh on Monday? Believe me, I have been there. If you were eating for your macros you would track your unhealthy meal, look at your total macros and adjust the remainder of your food. Once you learn which foods you can exchange and eat you will be able to plan events, parties, and prepare your meals in advance. Before I continue let me explain what macros are for those that have recently joined the healthy eating world. Macros or macronutrients are the foods we eat, protein, carbohydrates, and fat.They each play multiple roles in our nourishment and when eaten in the right amounts can help you reach your health and fitness goals. The focus is to eat the amount of grams for each macro and not stress over the calories because your total macros end up meeting your total calorie goal. Understanding serving sizes of foods is a necessity.It can be overwhelming at first but with patience and consistency it becomes easier.If you’ve ever looked at a nutrition label it gives you a breakdown of each macro nutrient in one serving of the food item.
I started counting my macros a few years after I started competing in bodybuilding. Realizing I was not eating enough I took the scientific approach and calculated the amount of calories I needed to eat to gain muscle in my off season. The number took me by surprise and thought it was too much food but I knew I had to give it a chance to reach my goals. At first I was frustrated trying to figure out what muscle growing foods would total 250 grams of carbs in a day. Then I had to figure out the amounts and look up nutrient facts to be accurate. I felt like I was in a new math class! I finally looked into using a food logging app that had a database with most of the nutrition facts for the foods I was eating and as I logged each meal it totaled the grams for each macronutrient. This made tracking my macros easier and it saved my favorite foods, meals, and recipes. I tried multiple apps and found Lose It to be my favorite with My Fitness Pal running a close second. Let’s be honest, it was a lot of work but at the end of the day this method has kept me in check during my off season. You don’t have to be a fitness competitor to count your macros, you just have to be ready to learn how to mange your nutrition. In my experience as a nutritionist my clients that track and log their food see better results than when they do not.
So, by now you are asking “How does this work?” or “How do I figure out what my macros are?” The first thing you need to establish are your fitness goals. Are you trying to lose weight? Lean out? Gain muscle? Once you know this we can can calculate your needs. First, calculate your BMR basal metabolic rate. The formula used by most apps and nutritionists is the Harris-Benedict equation.
BMR = (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) – (5 × age in years) + 5
BMR = (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) – (5 × age in years) – 161
Then you need to establish your total daily energy expenditure by multiplying your BMR by activity level.
Very heavy exercise (twice per day, extra heavy workouts)
Daily kilocalories needed = BMR x 1.9
This calculation tells you how many calories you need in a day to maintain your current weight. If you are trying to lose fat, gain muscle, or increase performance an additional calculation can tell you total calories required and finally calculate your daily macros (yes, more math required).
Calculating macros is a task in itself and it’s no wonder a lot of people get frustrated and give up before they even start. When it comes to counting and tracking your macros it’s necessary to have a solid understanding of what they are and serving sizes of the different foods to reach daily goals. For nearly ten years I have used this technique and have been successful when it comes to my clients and my own fitness goals. It keeps us accountable and on track. Counting macros is not for everyone but with the right resources and guidance it can help you reach your goals.
If you are looking for more information on counting your macros or a customized meal plan you can contact me directly email@example.com
For many of us that have been competing for multiple years we have learned that post competition nutrition is an important thing to understand, especially if you do not want to torch everything you’ve worked so hard for the previous three to four months. I have seen hundreds of competitors just a couple of weeks post show and am baffled to see they gained anywhere from 5 to twenty pounds after watching them work so hard to get lean and ripped for a show. I understand after being on a restricted competition diet we want to eat everything in sight. For me, I am constantly looking at foods on Pinterest and saving recipes of foods I want to eat after my show. We want what we can’t have and we definitely miss the foods that make us feel good. Our mind loves to play tricks on us and it’s human nature to want what you can’t have and lord knows I want it all after a show. The problem is our body has been on a restricted plan for a long period of time and the moment you flood it with foods you haven’t eaten in months like dairy, high glycemic carbs, bad fats, and sugar from dessert and alcohol we put our body through an emotional roller coaster and flood it with chaos. We immediately go into carb overload and with every gram of carb comes 4 grams of water which causes us to bloat because we were depleted just days earlier. The ideal thing to do is take baby steps into regular eating. It took one time for me to learn that eating what I wanted post show was not the way to go. You would be surprised at how easy it is to lose that tight midsection and ripped body. So before you start hoarding your favorite cookies and stocking up on every flavor of bluebell there are a few things to understand.
First, for the last few months you have been eating clean and your body has been working like a machine to get you to your goals. Many of you have been eating a set number of carbs that your body has been using for energy and to fill out those hard earned gains. When you eat more carbs than the body needs it is going to take the extra carbs and store them for later use. But if you are use to eating 100-150 grams a day and eat a whole pizza, then your body is going to take the extra carbs and store as fat. Let’s not forget all the additional water that comes with the carbs, hence the post show eating bloat. I recommend easing your way into eating more. After a show your body is depleted so a good cheat post show is fine. The disaster begins when we start an eating binge that continues into the week post show.
Second, I recommend getting back on your usual eating plan and slowly start adding calories by increasing portions or adding a few foods that you’ve kept away but are still good for you like a little fruit, yogurt, and healthy grains. Don’t completely stop eating your healthy meals. Balance is everything and understanding how many macros/calories you need to maintain your weight is important when planning your meals for the day. Remember, you still need to stay on track to keep your hard earned body fit. This is a good time to talk to your nutritionist about future goals.
Finally, take what you’ve learned from your competition prep and continue to grow. Now that you understand you have to be consistent with your nutrition to get the amazing results of a bodybuilder use that to continue reaching new goals. If your next goal is to add more muscle then start a plan you will follow consistently to reach that goal. Grocery shop, meal prep, take your supplements, track your progress, and most importantly build that physique you have pictured in your mind!
You are the only person that can get you to your goals and the only person that can keep you from them. It’s up to you.
To contact Juliana for competition prep or questions: firstname.lastname@example.org