Ok, so this is nearly it. You’ve been dieting for months upon months, you’ve been pushing your body to its absolute limits in the gym, you’ve put yourself through physical and mental torture, and you’re now almost ready to step on stage for the very first time, for your very first bodybuilding competition. Obviously you began your contest prep with the sole intention of getting your body into the absolute best shape of your life. You were looking at dominating the rest of the competition, and then taking first prize and going on to compete again and again, making a bigger name for yourself, moving up the rankings, and one day competing with the big guns and earning your pro card putting you in an elite class with some of the best bodybuilders on the face of the earth. The problem however, is that when you look in the mirror, and when you look at your progress pictures, you don’t actually look all that impressive, in fact, if you were to tell people you were 10 days out from a competition, they’d laugh in your face and tell you to stop winding them up. For a bodybuilder, there is absolutely nothing more frustrating than a messed up contest prep. It’s bad enough when they cheat on their diets or don’t take their training seriously, but when they’ve stuck to their diets and training religiously and are still not seeing great results, that’s where things really get frustrating.
You’ve put yourself through hell for several months, and for what? To step on stage and take last place? No, you’re not having that, so perhaps you should just withdraw from the contest, order a pizza, feel sorry for yourself, and maybe try again one day in a year or so? Not so fast. Before you make any brash decisions, first off you need to stop and think about things logically. You’re a specialist in body transformation, it’s what you do, it’s what bodybuilding is all about. Although compared to the months upon months of hard dieting and training you’ve had to endure, 10 days may seem like nothing, in reality it could provide you with plenty of time to transform your physique again, and even put you in contention for the number 1 spot. If you thought you weren’t previously contest-ready 10 days out, think again as here we’ll be providing you with some handy tips that will help you to dramatically improve your physique in next to no time at all.
Make sure that you taper your calories
For the next 10 days leading up to your competition, you’re going to want to be consuming around 10 calories for every pound that you weigh. So, if you weigh 200 lbs, you’ll be looking at 2000 calories per day. Now, you’re probably thinking that 2000 calories for a 200lb man is quite a lot, especially if they aren’t as lean or defined as they should be, so why aren’t the calories being dropped further? Well, the reality is that there is no point in reducing the calories any further, because in just one week, losing much body fat, especially if you’re already lean (which you should be) is next to impossible. Your goals are to only reduce the amount of calories consumed slightly, so that you still burn a slight amount of fat, especially with cardio and training, but don’t lose any muscle mass in the process, which you would with a sudden decrease in calorie consumption. Before you begin eating in this way, you should ideally be consuming 12 calories per pound, so a 200lber would have ordinarily have been consuming 2400 calories a day. This 400 calorie a day reduction is enough to stimulate slight fat loss, without resulting in extreme muscle loss in the process.
Use carbs to your advantage
Carbohydrates are most certainly one of the biggest causes of headaches for bodybuilders leading up to any contest, for so many reasons. If you get carb manipulation right, when you step on stage you will look amazing. If you get it wrong, you may look flat and deflated, or bloated and puffy, depending on if you go too low, or too high. With carb consumption, like goldilocks’ porridge, leading up to a competition it has to be just right. From days 10 through to 6, it is recommended that you reduce your carb consumption down to .5 of a gram for every pound of bodyweight. So, again, if you weigh 200 lbs, you will want to be consuming just 100 grams of carbs per day. That is already pretty low and it may come as a shock, but things do get even more complex (pardon the pun) because on day 5, your carb consumption should be reduced to just .25 of a gram for every pound that you weigh, so you will be on just 50 grams of carbs on day 5. The fun just keeps on coming because on day 4, you go ZERO carbs, other than low-sugar vegetables. The next three days however, do get easier because on days 3 – 1, you increase your carbs once more, looking for around 2.5 grams of carbs per pound of bodyweight, so 500 grams per day. Each of the 10 days, eat your carbs at roughly the same time as you ate them before. However, it is better to space your carbs out over several much smaller meals and snacks each day. Don’t starve yourself of carbs all day and then tuck into a huge bowl of pasta in the evening, instead, aim for 7 – 9 smaller meals, each one containing a carb source.
Bodybuilders will be sick of the sight of high protein foods by the time they’re ready to step on stage, but even so, that doesn’t make it any less beneficial. Protein is of course the most vital macronutrient from a bodybuilding standpoint, so getting your protein consumption right when leading up to a competition is absolutely essential. From days 10 – 4 look at consuming 1.5 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight, so you, being 200lbs, would be on 300 grams of protein a day. This means that close to two thirds of your daily calories will be coming from protein, so no wonder you’ll be sick of the sight of the stuff. However, on the last three days, which are your high-carb days, you drop your protein consumption down to just .5 grams per pound of bodyweight, so you’ll be going from 300 grams a day, to just 100 grams per day. This excess protein will stimulate the metabolism because it is thermogenic, so you will have more energy and will burn more calories as a result. It also obviously promotes muscle growth and repair and prevents wastage and breakdown. As for where your protein comes from, go with foods that you’ve always consumed leading up to the contest (providing they’re healthy and natural). Typical examples will be skinless chicken breast, turkey, lean grass-fed beef, egg whites, white fish, extra lean steak mince etc. Put simply, if you’ve been eating chicken breast as a primary source of protein for the last three months, don’t decide to suddenly switch to beef for the last 10 days, stick with foods your body is used to. It’s interesting here to note, that you should be wary of protein shakes, because they’re digested much quicker as they’re a liquid, which can make the diet more difficult. If you do insist on a protein shake, make it just one, immediately following a workout.
Reduce your fat consumption
Whilst healthy fats, are, well, healthy and very beneficial for us, not only for our health but for our body fat percentages as well, for the last 10 days leading up to your competition you should reduce your healthy fat consumption and aim for just .25 grams per pound of bodyweight, which would leave you at 50 grams per day. This may take a toll on you mentally, as hormones such as serotonin and endorphins may be reduced, which help make us feel happy and content. If you do feel that you really do still need to lose a little extra fat, then you can go with a pretty much ZERO fat approach from days 10 through to 4, but truthfully, that will drain your energy, make you miserable, and won’t make that much of a difference if truth be told. Again, if you are eating fats, eat them at the same time as before, and stick with the same sources as before (as long as they’re healthy). Typical examples will be: avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, organic nuts, and oily fish such as salmon. Even though these are all very healthy, the reason why we need to consume less fat than before is because it is still high in calories, and we still need to remain in a calorie deficit to burn fat and make progress.
Salt and bloating
It doesn’t matter how ripped you are or how low your body fat percentages are, if you consume too much sodium (salt) you will retain water, will look bloated, and will look far, far, far less impressive than if you’d stayed clear of too much sodium altogether. So, you probably think you should stay away from salt altogether? Well, in reality, you should do the exact opposite. Add a little extra salt to your meals, and possibly even your water from days 10 – 2. This may sound absurd, but the reason you should do this is so that your body is encouraged to excrete both water, and salt simultaneously. This actually helps to flush more sodium and water from your system, so by the time you’re two days out, you should look better than ever. From days 2 – 1 that’s when you go ZERO salt. Read food labels, don’t add any seasoning, and be wary of protein shakes and liquid eggs for example. This means no extra sources so your food will be pretty bland and tasteless, but hey, it’s only two days. Sodium causes you to bloat and retain water, hiding the muscles you’ve trained so hard to display. By the time you’re ready to compete, you’ll look drier and more shredded than ever.
Of course sodium can cause you to bloat and retain water, but on top of that, so too can, well, drinking water. By manipulating your water intake you can make some very big improvements to your body, especially if you follow these instructions. From days 10 – 2, you will add an extra 2 litres of water to your daily consumption. So, 2.5 litres would become 4.5 litres a day. Two days out, you reduce this to half, so 2.25 litres, and then on day 1 you will drink a maximum of one litre. Some people drink virtually nothing, but this is very dangerous, and is truthfully not needed. This means that you flush out more water when you take in more, so by day 1 you’re used to flushing out more water than ever. Combine this with salt and carb manipulation and you should be looking pretty shredded.
When training before a contest, train like you were several weeks/months previous. Train from days 10 – 4 exactly the same as before, although if you feel you really need it, you may add an extra cardio session in there to help shred away the last bit of body fat. On the last 3 days however, you should do NO training at all. Rest, focus on diet and nutrition, and practise your posing, which is a workout in itself. The idea here is to drain your glycogen levels over the training days, and then on days 3 – 1, to replenish them by not training. This helps the muscles to look full and rounded, which is what you want. Any exercise will drain glycogen and leave muscles looking soft and deflated, so resist the urge to train and take it easy instead.