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Old 07-27-2011, 10:33 AM   #1
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Default Pre-Contest Dieting

Pre-Contest Dieting by Layne Norton

Obviously the most pertinent issue regarding pre-contest preparation is the diet aspect of preparation. It is not enough to just clean up what you eat, it must be far more drastic than that. When you see the winner of a bodybuilding competition onstage, rest assured they tracked their calories, carbs, proteins, fats, and never missed meals. If you want to do well in a bodybuilding competition, you should expect to do nothing less.

Before I begin talking about a proper pre-contest diet, we need to examine exactly how long a person should diet for a contest. The first thing that should be done is an "assessment" of your body. Look yourself over and be honest about your faults, strengths, and about how long you think it will take for you to get into stage shape.

Keep in mind that if you think you have around 25 lbs of fat to lose, you are not going to be able to lose it all in 10 weeks and keep all of your lean body mass. Aim to diet as slowly as possible. The severity of your calorie deficit will, to a large extent, determine how much muscle you retain/lose. Short periods of high severity dieting (more than 1000 kcals per day below maintenance level) are not too muscle wasting, but prolonging them for more than a few days will certainly cause one to lose a good deal of muscle.

As a general rule of thumb, losing 1 lb of bodyweight per week will allow one to retain most of their muscle mass. One can probably lose up to 1.5 lbs per week and retain most, if not all of their muscle mass (provided their training and nutrition are optimized).

If one tries to push their body to lose more than 2 lbs per week for any length of time, then they will begin to experience quite a bit of muscle loss. It is for this reason that I usually try to give myself enough time so that I only need to lose 1-1.5 lbs per week at most. If one is naturally ectomorphic (has an easy time losing weight) however, they may want to diet for a shorter period of time, and I would recommend a time period of 11-15 weeks. If one is naturally endomorphic (has a hard time losing weight), then they may want to lengthen their dieting time to 16-22 weeks. If this is the first time that you have ever done a contest then you would want to also give yourself an extra week as you will probably experience a hitch at some point along the way.

Diet Information

The diet that one follows for their contest will be the single most important determining factor of how well they will place in the competition. A person can have all the mass in the world but if they do not come in razor sharp on contest day, then the mass will mean little.

Judges almost always go for conditioning over size. To design a proper diet one should give themselves adequate time to lose the necessary body fat to achieve that aforementioned shredded look. Being said, what kind of diet is optimal for a person to follow?

Well The Diet Should Have Three Main Goals:

1. Spare as much muscle mass as possible.
2. Lose as much fat as possible.
3. Not cause the person to lose intensity in the weight room.

Unfortunately, these goals all seem to contradict each other. When the body is in a starved (calorie deficit) state, muscle loss can occur although a calorie deficit is required to lose fat. This calorie deficit will also cause one to feel less energetic. To get around the negatives, there are small adjustments and little tricks to aid in the accomplishment of the positives. Before discussing the diet, it is important to discuss the three macronutrients and their roles.

Protein

Protein is probably the single most important macronutrient for the purposes of maintaining muscle on a diet. Dietary protein is hydrolyzed (broken down) into it's constitutive amino acids during digestion. These amino acids are released into the bloodstream where they may then be taken up by cells (usually muscle cells).
Dietary protein is also very important as amino acid availability is the single most important variable for protein synthesis to occur. This means that protein synthesis increases in a linear fashion (directly proportional to plasma amino acid concentrations) until the plasma amino concentrations are approximately twice that of normal plasma concentrations 1.

To generalize for the less scientifically inclined, ingesting enough dietary protein is very important for someone who is looking to gain muscle, or maintain it while dieting. Dietary protein spares muscle by helping increase protein synthesis (and thus induce net muscle gain) and by acting as a muscle sparing substrate as it can be used for glucogensis (synthesis of glucose).

Dietary protein however, is not as muscle sparing as are carbohydrates when used as a substrate for glucose synthesis. Protein is also a very "expensive" molecule for your body to use as energy. The body would much rather store amino acids than oxidize them as protein oxidation yields less net ATP produced per amino acid when compared to fat or carbohydrates2. Therefore, it can be stated that dietary protein has a thermogenic effect on the body.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates have probably gotten the worst reputation of the macronutrients due to the ketogenic dieting rave. Ketogenic dieting refers to reducing carbohydrate intake to practically nothing, while simultaneously raising fat and protein intake. With little glucose for the brain to utilize for energy, the body will begin producing ketones.
Ketones are by-products of fat oxidation and the brain can use ketones for energy. This does indeed have a potent fat burning effect, as insulin levels will be severely reduced due to lack of carbohydrate intake. Low insulin levels correlate with high rates of fat oxidation.

Indeed, the ketogenic diet may be the single best way to lose the maximum amount of body fat in the shortest amount of time. However, if you will quickly refer to our goals during a pre contest diet you will notice that maintaining muscle is number one on our list, with fat loss second.

If one has not properly scheduled enough time to lose body fat and they are in need of drastic measures, then using a ketogenic diet may be their only choice in order to become contest-ready in time. Unfortunately, they will not maintain an optimum amount of muscle mass.
For those who have given themselves ample time to prepare, I do not suggest using a ketogenic diet. Instead, I recommend reducing carbohydrates, but keeping them high enough to possess the muscle sparing benefits of carbohydrates while still losing body fat.

There are several main reasons that I recommend retaining carbohydrates. The first reason being that carbohydrates are much more muscle sparing than fats during times of stress when glucose becomes a primary source of fuel (i.e. anaerobic exercise, injury, infection, etc) 3.

The muscle sparing effects of carbohydrates occur via several different mechanisms. When the body is in a low energy state, it may try to produce energy by converting amino acids to glucose. Carbohydrates prevent this since they can be easily broken down (and converted if need be) to glucose molecules. Carbohydrates then spare dietary protein from oxidation and these proteins can be stored rather than oxidized.

Carbohydrates are also very muscle sparing during exercise. When one lifts heavy weights, the primary pathway that is used to produce ATP (cellular energy currency) is the anaerobic or glycolytic pathway (as the name implies this pathway operates in the absence of oxygen). The only substrate for this pathway is glucose, which can be obtained from dietary carbohydrates or by breaking down glycogen (the cell's stored form of glucose).
If one is on a ketogenic or extreme "low carb" diet however, the body will need to utilize another source to synthesize glucose from. Since glycogen levels are low on a ketogenic diet, the body will actually convert amino acids to glucose and this glucose will be used in the anaerobic pathway to produce ATP. These amino acids will come from dietary protein, amino acids from the cellular amino acid pool, and from muscle tissue. The latter situation is where one would experience muscle loss. Dietary protein would be sacrificed for ATP production and the depleted amino acid pool would not bode well for protein synthesis rates, thus causing a net loss in muscle mass.

Carbohydrates are also muscle sparing because they are a cause of insulin release. Now I know your thinking, "but Layne, you just said in your intro that low insulin levels were great for fat burning!?" Yes, you are correct. I did indeed say that low insulin levels are good for fat burning. Insulin inhibits lipolytic (fat burning) activity and must be kept low if one wishes to burn a maximal amount of fat.

However, the pesky re-occurring theme of maintaining muscle prevents us from totally excluding insulin from our pre-contest diet ****nal, as insulin happens to be one of the most anabolic/anti-catabolic hormones in the body. Insulin binding to the cell membrane causes all sorts of reactions in your body that are beneficial to maintaining and gaining muscle tissue. Insulin inhibits protein breakdown and amino acid oxidation, thus promoting muscle maintenance or gain 1,2.

Insulin also has an antagonist (inhibitory) affect with regards to several catabolic hormones, including cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that is released during times of stress such as dieting, lifting, injury, etc. Cortisol produces glucose by breaking down proteins, including muscle tissue. Cortisol is the primary catabolic hormone that is released when one lifts or does any kind of activity.

Insulin release inhibits the activity of cortisol by preventing its release from the pancreas, thus sparing muscle tissue from cortisol's catabolic effects. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that long-term exposure of cells to ketones (i.e., ketogenic diet) retard insulin-induced activation of the insulin surface receptor 4. This causes one to become extremely sensitive to carbohydrates when they begin ingesting them again after they finish dieting and could lead to an undesired post diet fat gain.
Carbohydrates act to maintain muscle mass while dieting by maintaining cellular osmotic pressure and cell volume. Cell size is an indicator of the "state" that the body is in. When cells are of large volume, it signals that the body is in a fed state. When cell volume is low it signals that the body is in a starved state. Without delving too far into the science behind this, trust me when I say that you would like your body to think it is in a fed state as this will increase the levels of fat burning hormones and anabolic hormones.

Cell size also indicates the anabolic state of the cell. When cell volume is high, protein synthesis rates increase. If cell volume drops, then protein synthesis levels drop 5,6,7,8. It is easy to infer we would like to maintain cell volume, especially when dieting. The problem with extreme low carbohydrate diets is they cause severe reduction in cell size.

The body stores carbohydrates inside cells as glycogen. For every gram of glycogen stored, the body stores around 2.7 g of water. Therefore, cells that have greater glycogen levels will also have more volume. One can see then how low carbohydrate diets severely decrease cell size due to severe glycogen depletion. Concluding, carbohydrates help maintain muscle by increasing cell volume. One more issue to consider is performance. If you refer to the goals of a pre-contest diet, you will see that number three maintains that you must keep a high level of intensity in the gym. This is important for several reasons. If performance begins to suffer, then a person will undoubtedly lose strength. This could lead to a subsequent loss of muscle mass due to decreased stimulation from a decreased training overload. Therefore, it is important that performance be kept at an optimal level.

Low glycogen levels have been associated with increased fatigue and decreased performance in athletes (endurance, strength, power output, etc). Several studies have shown that consuming adequate amounts of carbohydrates before, during, and after exercise may attenuate the increased fatigue and increase performance.9-14

It is worth noting that one such study concluded that "the rate of recovery is coupled with the rate of muscle glycogen replenishment and suggests that recovery supplements should be consumed to optimize muscle glycogen synthesis as well as fluid replacement." It can therefore be concluded that an adequate supply of carbohydrates is crucial for maintaining performance and for proper muscle recovery.

Fats are very important molecules and are considered essential to ones survival. Indeed, fats are involved in many of the body's processes which are required for survival. Several key functions of fats in the human body are for energy storage and hormone synthesis. They are the body's preferred source of stored energy and the most efficient molecule for the body to burn. (in terms of energy yield per gram, 9kcals/gram).

The main hormone that fats impact which we are concerned with is testosterone. When calories are restricted, testosterone levels will drop, as the body will suppress its release of anabolic hormones in order to spare nutrients for oxidation (energy production). This makes perfect sense: the body senses it is "starving" and thus it represses it's anabolic hormones to prevent nutrients from being used to increase tissue mass and spares them for energy production.

That's the first hit against testosterone production. Drastically lowering your fat intake is another hit against testosterone production since fatty acids are the substrates for cholesterol synthesis and therefore are also the substrates for testosterone synthesis (cholesterol is converted to testosterone, among other things).

Unfortunately, fats are also easily stored as adipose tissue (body fat) So there must be some type of compromise between ingesting enough fat for hormone maintenance (and subsequent muscle maintenance) and reducing fat intake enough to decrease body fat.
There has been some research done on the effects of dietary fat on testosterone. The answer to, "how much dietary fat is optimal" is difficult to decipher, as there are major differences in the designs of the performed studies.

This makes it difficult to compare them to each other and come up with a "standard" answer. Several studies concluded that diets low in fat (under 15% of total calories) significantly decreased testosterone levels while diets higher in fat (above 30% of total calories) increased serum testosterone levels.15, 16 Rather than continuing with this discussion I will provide a link to an article which covers the subject quite nicely.

To simplify everything that I have said, it seems that one should not lower fat below 15% of daily calories unless they would like to face extreme testosterone deficiencies. Likewise, one should not increase fat to say 40% in order to increase testosterone.

Although fat increases testosterone to a degree, it is important to remember that testosterone is only a small piece of the larger puzzle. There are many other hormones and factors involved in building muscle other than just testosterone. By increasing fat to extremely high levels, there will be less "space" for carbohydrates and protein, both of which are very important for aforementioned reasons.

As with most things in life, moderation is key. In order to keep hormone production regular and fat burning in high gear, while allowing enough "space" to supply adequate carbohydrates and protein for muscle sparing purposes I do not recommend increasing fat above 30% of daily calories.

In order to come up with macronutrient totals for a diet, it is necessary to assess how many lbs per week one will need to lose to be in contest shape. This is not an exact science, however we can still get a reasonable experience-based estimate. Here are some example calculations so that you may have an understanding of how to go about doing this.

For example, we have a subject who is a mesomorph weighing 200 lbs and has 13% bodyfat. Since 3-4% is considered "stage condition", that means the subject will need to drop roughly 10% body fat which equates to about 20 lbs. To recapitulate, I do not recommend dropping weight any faster than 1-1.5 lbs per week. Since 20 weeks is a long time to diet, let's have the subject lose about 1.5 lbs per week.

I recommend that one lose approximately 80% of their weight due to calorie restriction and 20% of their weight due to cardio (someone who is ectomorphic should do less cardio, while someone with an endomorphic build should do more cardio). To lose 1.2 lbs (80%) per week from diet, there must be a 600 kcal per day deficit from diet. To lose the other .3 lbs (20%) per week from cardio, one should perform 3 cardio sessions per week, which burn 350 kcals per session.

The best way to determine one's caloric intake required to lose fat at a certain rate is to chart calorie intake for a period of a few weeks and try to determine at what level the subject does not gain weight (this is the caloric baseline). For those who do not exercise this method, a rough estimate can be made using the following strategy.

Utilize The Subsequent Equations To Find Your Caloric Baseline:
• Mesomorphs - bodyweight x 15.
• Ectomorphs - bodyweight x 16-17.
• Endomorphs - bodyweight x 13-14.

So for our subject; 200 X 15 = 3000 kcals per day. This is the subject's caloric baseline (roughly). So if he wishes to lose 1.2 lbs per week from dieting (caloric restriction of 600 kcals per day); 3000 - 600 = 2400 kcals per day.

Meal Frequency Is As Follows:
• Mesomorphs - eat every 2.5 - 3.5 hours.
• Ectomorphs - eat every 2 - 3 hours.
• Endomorphs - eat every 3.5 - 5 hours.

Protein Intake

The "golden standard" protein intake for a bodybuilder is around 1 g/lb of bodyweight. This will need to be increased while dieting. Protein is a thermogenic macronutrient key in sparing muscle tissue when in a caloric deficit (see aforementioned section on protein). I recommend the following protein intakes for different body types:
o Mesomorphs - 1.2g/lb - 1.3g/lb.
o Ectomorphs - 1.4g/lb - 1.6g/lb.
o Endomorphs - 1.4g/lb - 1.5g/lb.*

For our subject, this equates to a protein intake of around 240-260 g protein per day. Let's go 'middle of the road' and set the subjects protein intake at 250 g protein per day. This means 1000 kcals have been devoted to protein intake, leaving us with 1400 kcals for fat and carbohydrate intake.

Fat Intake

Fat intakes are as follows:
o Mesomorphs - 17% - 23% of total calories.
o Ectomophs - 24%-28% of total calories.
o Endomorphs - 23%-28% of total calories (fat intake is increased in order to reduce carbohydrate intake, as endomorphs may have a difficult time losing fat with higher carbohydrate intakes).

For our subject, this equates to about 400 - 550 kcal from fat per day (45g - 60g fat per day) Once again, I prefer the 'middle of the road' approach and would set his fat intake at around 55g fat per day (495 kcals/day from fat) .

Carbohydrate Intake


Whatever calories that have not been allotted to protein and fat intake will make up total daily carbohydrate intake. For our subject in question, this leaves 2400 (1000 + 495) = 905 kcals per day for carbohydrate intake. This equates to 225g of carbohydrates per day.

* I recommend a higher protein intake for endomorph's while dieting because of the thermogenic effect of a higher protein intake and increased protein turnover, not because they need more protein to maintain muscle mass.

Re-Feeding

One should also incorporate re-feeds into their diet plan. Re-feeds help boost a hormone called leptin, which is the mother of all fat burning hormones. As one diets, leptin levels drop in an attempt by the body to spare body fat. Periodic, proper re-feeding can raise leptin levels and help one continue to burn fat an optimum rate.

A person who is lean will need to re-feed more frequently than someone who has a higher body fat percentage. For those who are below 10%, it is probably a wise idea to incorporate re-feeds two times per week. For those people who are in the 10-15% range, re-feeding every 6-12 days will probably be adequate, for those who are above 15%, re-feeding will probably not need to be done more than once every week to two weeks. Obviously as one loses body fat they will need to re-feed more often.

Re-Feed Days Should Be Planned As Follows:
• Re-feed on the day you work your worst body part(s) as re-feeding will not only raise leptin, but be quite anabolic.
• Keep fat as low as possible during re-feed days as high insulin levels will increase dietary fat transport into adipose tissue. In addition dietary fat has little to no impact on leptin levels.
• Reduce protein intake to 1 g/lb bodyweight.
• Consume as little fructose as possible as fructose does not have an impact on leptin levels.
• Increase calories to maintenance level (or above if you are an ectomorph) and increase carbs by at least 50-100% (endo's stay on the low end, while ecto's should stay on the high end) over normal diet levels.
This section was only a brief introduction to leptin and re-feeding. I highly recommend you read the following articles by Par Deus and Spook to gain a greater understanding of leptin.
• Leptin: The Next Big Thing I
• Leptin: The Next Big Thing II
• Leptin: The Next Big Thing III
• Leptin The Next Big Thing IV
• Leptin: The Next Big Thing V

Nutrient Timing

As previously discussed before, carbohydrates cause insulin release, which is very muscle sparing, but also very anti-lipolytic. It is therefore important that we construct a diet so that we intersperse long periods of low insulin levels in order to maximize lipolysis, coupled with short periods of high insulin levels to protect muscle when it is at the greatest risk of catabolism.

There are essentially two crucial times during the day when muscle tissue is at the greatest risk of catabolism.

The most crucial time is during your workout. As many of you already know, working out is actually catabolic. When one is in a calorie deficit, the catabolic effect of working out is enhanced, as the body will attempt to raise low glucose levels by de-aminating amino acids and converting them to glucose.

One of the main hormones that control this action is cortisol. Unfortunately this is quite catabolic as some of these amino acids may come from muscle tissue (See carbohydrates section). It is crucial that one consumes carbohydrates before exercise for several reasons.
• Dietary carbohydrates will provide fuel for the anaerobic pathway, and spare muscle tissue from being converted to glucose for fuel.
• Dietary carbohydrates will cause the release of insulin, which blocks the release of cortisol from the pancreas.
• Dietary carbohydrates will increase muscle glycogen levels which will improve performance and decrease fatigue.

I suggest one consume 35% of their total daily carbohydrates in a meal 1.5 to 2 hours before their workout as this will allow the carbohydrates adequate time to be digested and enter the bloodstream.
I also suggest consuming a shake composed of 30-40g of whey protein along with dextrose or maltodextrin during their workout. The carbohydrates in the shake should account for about 20% of one's total daily carbohydrate intake.

This Shake Will Have Several Benefits:
• Spare muscle glycogen and increase performance.
• Spare muscle tissue.
• Maintain a constant release of insulin, therefore inhibiting cortisol release.
• The continuous ingestion of carbohydrates will ensure that adequate substrate is available for the glycolytic pathway.

It is also a wise idea to consume a post workout meal composed of whole food, low GI carbohydrate sources (although one may consume another protein shake if they feel so inclined) about 30 minutes after finishing the in workout shake.

This low GI carbohydrate should contain about 25% of your total daily carbohydrates and will help stabilize blood sugar levels. You see, dextrose causes a very large insulin spike, and actually can cause insulin to be over secreted, when insulin is over secreted, blood sugar levels will drop rapidly as insulin disposes of the glucose into the tissues and one may even begin to experience hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

Low blood sugar may lead one to experience an increase in hunger. A lower GI carbohydrate and protein meal post workout will help counteract this negative effect by stabilizing blood sugar levels.

The other time of day when one should consume a meal containing carbohydrates is upon rising. Waking up is actually a stressful time on the body and in an effort to "ready itself" the body releases several catabolic hormones in order to produce energy for the fasted person.

The main two hormones released are cortisol and glucogen both of which can be catabolic to muscle tissue. Consuming a carbohydrate meal will retard the release of these catabolic hormones and spare muscle tissue. It will also make you feel better by providing fuel for your brain to run on.

There is some anecdotal evidence that suggests consuming a meal containing carbohydrates may also help suppress hunger later in the day. I suggest consuming 15% of your daily carbohydrate intake at this meal in the form of low GI carbohydrates. The remaining 5% of your total daily carbohydrates should come from veggies throughout the day such as salad, broccoli, peas, etc.
If you happen to workout after breakfast, merely combine breakfast and your pre workout meal. Thus 35% + 15% = 50% of daily carbohydrate intake should be in pre workout/breakfast meal

During these high carbohydrate meals one should aim to keep fat as low as possible. High insulin levels increases fatty acid transport into adipose tissue, so it is a good idea to keep your fat low during times of high insulin. You should spread your remaining fat intake evenly over the rest of your low carbohydrate meals. Protein intake should be spread fairly evenly over all of your meals.

The Following Is A List Of Acceptable Protein, Carbohydrate, & Fat Sources While Dieting:

Protein:

* Tuna or most any fish.
* Cottage cheese.
* Eggs (especially the whites).
* Chicken breast (boneless skinless).
* Turkey breast (boneless skinless).
* Lean beef.
* Low fat or no fat cheese.
* Low fat pork.
* Milk protein isolate.
* Whey protein.
* Soy protein.
* Essentially most any other source of protein so long as it is low in saturated fat and carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates:

* Sweet potatoes.
* Oat meal, oat bran, oat bran cereal (i.e. cheerios).
* Bran cereal.
* Brown rice.
* Wheat bread (try to limit to 2 slices per day).
* Beans.
* Low fat popcorn (low fat butter spray makes this a delicacy).
* Fruits (limit to 2-3 servings per day).
* Malto dextrin (during workout).
* Dextrose (during workout)
* Vegetables.
* Stay away from refined grains and anything that says "enriched" or "high fructose corn syrup" on the label!

Fat:

* Omega 3 capsules (i.e. fish oil capsules).
* Flax seed oil.
* Primrose oil.
* Borage oil.
* Olive oil.
* Nuts (limit to 1 serving per day), peanut butter (as long as it does not contain hydrogenated oils).
* Egg yolks.
* Fish (salmon especially).
* All other fat should come as a by-product of your carbohydrate and protein intake.

Cardio

Perhaps the most dreaded word in a bodybuilder's vocabulary is "cardio." Unfortunately, cardio is a necessary evil of pre contest prep for most people. Few are able to achieve contest bodyfat levels through diet alone (i.e. ectomorphs with extremely fast metabolisms).
In men, cardio increases lipolysis in visceral fat (surrounding organs), especially in the stubborn abdominal area. In women, cardio increases lipolysis in the stubborn subcutaneous buttocks and thigh area in women. This is due to innervation and blood flow, which aerobic activity influences much more than diet alone 17.

Cardiovascular exercise has several myths surrounding it. The largest myth being that one should perform low intensity cardio in a fasted state. The logic being that if one is in a fasted state, their glycogen levels will be low and will force their body to burn fat. Unfortunately, this idea is misguided.

While performing cardio in a fasted state may indeed increase the amount of calories that are burned from fat stores, it will also increase amino acid oxidation. Cardiovascular exercise while in a fasted state is a great way to increase cortisol release. Cortisol will liberate amino acids to produce glucose (glucose cannot be synthesized from fats) and can lead to muscle loss.

Additionally, I find it ironic that many people take such great care to time their meals so that they do not go for more than 2-3 hours without eating in order to prevent muscle loss. However, they purposefully induce this state and then perform work on top of this!

Research has shown that the type of substrate used during cardiovascular work makes little overall difference on fat loss. This is most likely due to the fact if one relies mostly upon fat stores during cardio (i.e. low intensity cardio), the body will burn predominantly glucose at other times of the day. Likewise, if one mainly utilizes glucose for energy during cardio (i.e. high intensity cardio) the body will customarily rely on fat at other times of the day in order to spare muscle glycogen.

Training in and of itself causes the body to preferentially spare muscle glycogen and burn fat. It makes sense that one should strive to do their cardio on their 'off days' from lifting (as to not further hinder their recovery), and plan their carbohydrate intake similar to their lifting regime.
Cardiovascular work will increase nutrient partitioning towards muscle tissue and away from fat tissue. One should take advantage of this by consuming the bulk of their carbohydrate intake around this time. The benefits are that these nutrients induce fat storage, but will rather be stored in muscle tissue.

Why would you want to deny your muscles nutrients at the most crucial time of the day, but then provide them during rest? It does not make sense. Treat your cardiovascular work like your lifting.

Another question that often arises regarding cardio is the argument "Low-Intensity vs High-Intensity" cardio. Many people automatically assume that low-intensity cardio is better; citing that high-intensity cardio primarily utilizes glucose (anaerobic metabolism), while low-intensity cardio primarily burns fat (aerobic metabolism).

Once again, the substrate used during cardiovascular work is not as important as the caloric deficit created by the cardiovascular work. In actuality, high-intensity cardiovascular work is superior to low-intensity cardio for several reasons

High intensity cardio has a much stronger effect on GLUT-4 translocation in muscle cells due to the increased force of muscle contraction. This means that high-intensity cardio creates a much stronger nutrient partitioning effect towards muscle tissue than low-intensity cardio.

Low periods of low-intensity exercise tend to "overtrain" the fast-twitch muscle fibers and convert the intermediate muscle fibers to slow-twitch fibers. This is not a desirable effect as the fast twitch muscle fibers are those that have the greatest chance to hypertrophy. If your body has less fast twitch fibers, then you will experience less hypertrophy from training.

The body's hormonal response to high intensity cardio is similar to the body's hormonal response to resistance training (i.e. increased insulin sensitivity, gh release, Igf-1 release, etc) without placing the same strain on the nervous system as resistance training.
High-intensity cardio causes the body to preferentially store more carbohydrates and burn more fat.

High-intensity cardiovascular exercise increases oxygen expenditure and forces the body to adapt by becoming more efficient at oxygen transport (increase in VO2 max). More efficient oxygen transport to the muscles will increase fat oxidation as fat oxidation is dependant upon the presence of oxygen.

High-intensity cardio seems to be more muscle sparing. Several studies have shown that high-intensity interval training (aka HIT) burns less calories when compared to continuous lower intensity cardio. However, the skinfold losses were greater with the HIT group than in the continuous intensity group. This means not only did the HIT group lose more fat, they also spared more muscle tissue by burning less overall calories .

At this point I am going to refer you to several articles that I think are some of the best I've seen regarding cardiovascular work. I urge you to read them as they will re-emphasize what I have already stated, as well as help you gain a further understanding of how cardiovascular work effects your metabolism.

In conclusion, I suggest performing HIT cardiovascular work on their off days only. One should treat this cardio session like a weight session and eat accordingly (as outlined in the diet section). If you must perform cardio on your lifting days then do it on the day you train your weakest body part and divide up your carbohydrate intake in view that you leave enough carbohydrates for both pre/post lifting and cardio.

With all the things that one has to focus on when preparing for a contest, (dieting, cardio, training, etc) it is understandable that one could forget to practice their posing. This is a recipe for disaster.

A bodybuilding contest is not a contest in the typical sense of the word. It is a show. You will be required to show off your physique. Posing is a huge part of showing off your body. I have seen people who are 220 lbs look like 180 lbs because of atrocious posing. Likewise, I have seen people weighing 180 lbs look like 220 lbs onstage because they were able to present their physique in a manner that showcased their strengths, while hiding any weaknesses they had.

One should be constantly practicing their posing, at least once per day, everyday for 10 weeks before their contest. Trying to whip it all together at the last minute won't cut it.
Another factor that many people do not take into account is endurance. Posing onstage is hard. Posing by yourself in front of your mirror at home is easy. At home you can hit a few poses, rest, and go at your own pace in the comfort of air conditioning.

Onstage, it is a whole different world. There is no mirror, only the audience and judges table are in front of you. You won't be able to see the audience due to the blinding stage lights that are pointed in your direction. It is also hot onstage. It feels like 100 degrees and you are flexing... flexing hard. Judges may ask you to hold poses for up to 10-20seconds... to the point of cramping and falling over.

If you have not practiced and rehe****d you will not be prepared for this environment. In every contest I have competed in or watched, there is always at least one person who will begin to shake after holding a pose for a few seconds. If you cannot control your muscles while you flex, why should the judges award you a good placing? If you cannot flex without shaking, how do you expect to properly show off your physique? You might not think this can happen to you, but if you have not practiced, rest assured it will.

References

1. Nygren J, Nair KS. "Differential regulation of protein dynamics in splanchnic and skeletal muscle beds by insulin and amino acids in healthy human subjects." Diabetes 2003 Jun;52(6):1377-85

2. Garrett, Reginald H. and Charles M. Grisham. Biochemistry 2nd Edition.

Saunders College Publishing. United States: 1999.

3. Hart et al. "Efficacy of a high-carbohydrate diet in catabolic illness." Crit Care Med 2001 Jul;29(7):1318-24

4. Yokoo et al. "Distinct effects of ketone bodies on down-regulation of cell surface insulin receptor and insulin receptor substrate-1 phosphorylation in adrenal chromaffin cells." J Pharmacol Exp Ther 2003 Mar;304(3):994-1002

5. Meijer AJ. "Amino acids as regulators and components of nonproteinogenic pathways." J Nutr 2003 Jun;133(6):2057S-62S

6. Schliess F, Haussinger D. "Cell volume and insulin signaling." Int Rev Cytol 2003;225:187-228

7. Chen et al. "Osmotic shock inhibits insulin signaling by maintaining Akt/protein kinase B in an inactive dephosphorylated state." Mol Cell Biol 1999 Jul;19(7):4684-94

8. Brosnan JT. "Comments on metabolic needs for glucose and the role of gluconeogenesis." Eur J Clin Nutr 1999 Apr;53 Suppl 1:S107-11

9. Shephard RJ, Leatt P. "Carbohydrate and fluid needs of the soccer player." Sports Med 1987 May-Jun;4(3):164-76

10. Tsintzas, O.K., Williams C., Boobis, L.Greenhaff, P. "Carbohydrate ingestion and single muscle fiber glycogen metabolism during prolonged running in man." Journal of Applied Physiology 1996; 81 (2) : 801 - 809.

11. Rockwell MS, Rankin JW, Dixon H. "Effects of muscle glycogen on performance of repeated sprints and mechanisms of fatigue." . Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2003 Mar;13(1):1-14

12. Haff GG, Lehmkuhl MJ, McCoy LB, Stone MH. "Carbohydrate supplementation and resistance training" J Strength Cond Res 2003 Feb;17(1):187-96

13. Karelis AD, Peronnet F, Gardiner PF. "Glucose infusion attenuates muscle fatigue in rat plantaris muscle during prolonged indirect stimulation in situ." Exp Physiol 2002 Sep;87(5):585-92

14. Williams MB, Raven PB, Fogt DL, Ivy JL. "Effects of recovery beverages on glycogen restoration and endurance exercise performance." J Strength Cond Res 2003 Feb;17(1):12-9

15. The Journal of Nutrition, Sept 2000 v130 i9 p2356 "High Dietary Fat Intake Increases Renal Cyst Disease Progression in Han:SPRD-cy Rats. " Shobana Jayapalan; M. Hossein Saboorian; Jeff W. Edmunds; Harold M. Aukema.

16. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Dec 1996 v64 n6 p850(6) "Effects of dietary fat and fiber on plasma and urine androgens and estrogens in men: a controlled feeding study." Joanne F. Dorgan; Joseph T. Judd; Christopher Longcope; Charles Brown; Arthur Schatzkin; Beverly A. Clevidence; William S. Campbell; Padmanabhan P. Nair; Charlene Franz; Lisa Kahle; Philip R. Taylor.

17. Abe T, Kawakami Y, Sugita M, Fukunaga T. "Relationship between training frequency and subcutaneous and visceral fat in women." Med Sci Sports Exerc 1997 Dec;29(12):1549-53
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Old 07-27-2011, 12:16 PM   #2
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Great post Steve.

I would like to add that even Layne will point out that this is only a great starting point.

From there as you advance and know how your body reacts you can tweak it.

As you drop fat, you may need to tweak a little more, but the knowledge in how to tweak it the right way is hear. He don't put it all out there because thats how he makes his $$$$$.

But he post 95% out here.
Layne is one of the top shelf diet knowledge people out there.
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Old 07-27-2011, 12:19 PM   #3
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Rapid Backload Peaking: The Cliff Wilson Approach To Pre-Contest Dieting

By Cliff Wilson

http://www.muscleandstrength.com/art...t-dieting.html

Quote:
Rapid Backload Peaking: CARBS, WATER, and SODIUM

Bodybuilders always want more - more muscle, more fat loss, more results. In this constant quest for more, many bodybuilders sabotage themselves.

To show you what I mean, imagine you are running a marathon. You have trained for years to prepare for this race. You are near the front of the pack, and with only two miles to go and it looks like your hard work has paid off. You like your chances but you want to do something that will give you an edge on your competition during the home stretch. So you decide to lighten your load, take off your shoes and socks and run the last two miles barefoot. Rather than lightening your load, you find yourself wincing and dancing in pain with every sharp rock you step on, and end up losing the race by a mile.

I know what you are probably thinking, “That is the worst idea I have ever heard! That just ruined any chance I had of winning.” This situation may seem crazy but this is the equivalent to what most bodybuilders do during the week leading up to their show. They handicap themselves right at the end and ruin any chance they had of winning. There is a lot of misinformation on peaking in the bodybuilding world. But as long as you know certain principles you can be sure you will not sabotage yourself.

People that have followed my clients have come to know that my method for peaking has become somewhat legendary for the amount of carbs I recommend in the days before the show. Although, my peaking methods may be somewhat controversial and fly in the face of the norm, they are fully based on scientific research and the results speak for themselves.

This method is one of things that has allowed me to go from having only a handful of clients and zero pros 2010, to now having clients around the country including many pros, and multiple clients in the Yorton Pro World Championships in 2011. There are many small working parts to my entire peaking process but the main components involve carbohydrates, water, and sodium.

The self-sabotage that is usually seen during the final week of show prep is almost always due to the standard model for peaking. I say standard model because bodybuilding “experts” have been following the same practices for years. The truth is that most of the commonly accepted theories about peaking are just plain wrong and have no scientific basis whatsoever.

The standard peaking method looks something like this. First you carb deplete for three days at the beginning of the week, then follow with a carb load for three few days before the show. Water and sodium will both be dropped either one or two days before the show. Lastly, some people will start loading up on potassium once they take sodium out.

Sound familiar? It should because this is what most people still do for their peak week. Most are left wondering what went wrong come show day. Knowing how your body reacts to carbs, water, sodium, and potassium will allow you to make the right moves during the final week and bring you into show day big, full, and absolutely shredded.

CARBOHYDRATES

Carb depleting and loading will cause your body to store more glycogen that usual. This is called Glycogen Supercompensation and is about the only thing that is correct with the typical style of peaking. When you deplete your body of carbs and subsequently glycogen, your body takes steps to try and correct the imbalance. One of the ways it does this is by increasing the amount of glycogen which can be stored within the muscle tissue.

So after a few days of depleting carbs your body will be ready to store higher than normal amounts of glycogen. This is why you will want to carb load after you deplete. A muscle that is loaded with glycogen will be very big and full which will cause your skin to be very tight around the muscle, making you appear both bigger and leaner at the same time. This is obviously a good thing for any competitive bodybuilder.

There are multiple methods of doing a carb up that can all be effective. Some people do a front load, meaning they carb load at the beginning of the week before a show and slowly taper their carb intake as the show gets closer. Some do a back load where they will load carbs for the 3 days prior to a show. Any carb up method can be effective as long as you achieve the goal of filling the muscles with glycogen and not spilling over.

A front load has its advantages because if you spill over you have plenty of time to correct the problem. Although I had always used the front load method of carb loading in the past and it worked very well, anyone that has ever read my past articles will know that I am not concerned with what works well, I am concerned with what works the best. This led me to a carb load protocol that was somewhat controversial. I call it the Rapid Back-Load Peaking Method.

A few years ago I stopped using the front load technique and switched to a back load. The main difference between a typical back load and the back load I now use is that my new method hinges on taking in nearly all the carbs you will need in the day or day and half before the show. Hence the name- rapid back-load. This may not sound like a big deal but, this means that you must now consume enough carbs in a single day to completely stock your body with glycogen.

You must also make sure that you know exactly how many carbs to consume. If you over carb, you will hold water and look blurry on show day. If you under carb you will be flat, and any carbs that you consume on show day will not really hit your muscle tissue as glycogen in time to make a difference. So you must really be familiar with your metabolism and body type. If you know exactly what you are doing there is no risk of getting it wrong. When I work with my clients I get months to become very familiar with their metabolism, so come carb up time I know exactly how many carbs they will need.

You are probably wondering why I would switch from a very safe carb up method to one that has so many risks involved. The simple answer to that is RESULTS. The main reason a rapid one-day load works better than a typical three-day load is adaptation. Every single time you make a diet adjustment you body will try to adapt.

With a three day load your body will take notice that carbs are coming in on the first day. As a result, it will immediately start to take actions to undo some of the supercompensation that it created during the deplete stage. By the time the third day comes around a lot of that extra storage space that was created has been diminished. This is another reason why many people over carb on the three day back load method.

With a one-day load the body does not have time to adapt to the carbs coming in. This means that far more glycogen will be able to be stored within the muscle tissue. The new method gives far better results because it more effectively takes advantage of the Glycogen Supercompensation created by the deplete.

So how many carbs should you consume during your load? Unfortunately this is not a very easy question to answer. The amount of carbs it takes for the perfect carb load is usually higher than most would think. This is usually the area where people think that I am crazy. During the 24-36 hours before pre judging, some of my clients will consume up to 1600 grams. That’s right, up to 1600 grams of carbs in a single day!

You might be thinking that is absolutely crazy, but if you have run your deplete stage correctly then it will work. The trick is to know your individual requirement. 1600 grams is just about at the top of the range for carbs that I will have people consume. Most people will actually take in between 900-1300 grams.

In designing a recommendation I need to take into consideration an individual’s gender, body type, metabolism, bodyweight, activity level and every possible combination of these. It is not easy, but if I am given enough time to work with someone I will be able to nail down the perfect amount of carbs that they must take in. Generally the more muscle mass you have and the faster your metabolism, the closer you will be to that peak number.

Once again you must make sure that you hit the CORRECT amount of carbs during your load because if you don’t the results can be disastrous. If you do not take in enough carbs you will look flat and small, like a deflated balloon on stage. If you take in too many carbs you will be big but you will hold too much water under your skin and your detail will be blurred, making you appear less lean. The reason too many carbs will make you hold water under your skin is that carbs draw water with them wherever they go.

If you completely fill up your glycogen stores all the water will be drawn into the muscles. If you fill up your glycogen stores, then the extra carbs will have nowhere to go but the outer tissues. When this happens they will draw water to the outer tissues, causing water to be held underneath the skin and over the muscle tissue, blurring all the definition you worked so hard for.

There are other still other factors that come into play when executing this carb up method such as time of day the carbs are consumed, what type of carbs you use, how much potassium is in the foods you eat, and what time of day the you eat higher potassium foods. These little factors still play an important role but the primary concern is still how many total carbs you take in during that 24-36 hour period. I have used this carb load process for some time now and the results achieved through the rapid back load are definitely greater risk but also give much greater reward when done correctly.

WATER

One of the most common practices in a peak week is the time honored tradition of cutting water. I can’t begin to describe the looks that my clients get at shows when they walk in drinking their gallon-jugs of water. People think they have lost their minds. It is understandable why people think this though.

Common sense tells us that if you don’t drink water you can’t hold water. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite work like that. You must continue to drink water or else your carb up will be essentially pointless. As I said earlier, carbs draw water to them wherever they go and this is also true of carbs within the muscle. In the absence of water carbs will be preferably stored as fat rather than glycogen. This is because glycogen can ONLY be stored in a hydrated state. (2)

When carbs get stored within the muscle they store 2.7 grams of water for each gram of glycogen. This means that when you carb up and your muscles become full and round, water accounts for about 75% of that size. So if you stop drinking water you can kiss those nice, full muscles goodbye and say hello to flat, small, sagging muscles. So cutting water will not only leave you smaller but also not nearly as lean. If you muscles are full they will push out against your against your skin making it tighter.

Even when I explain to people the importance of water to the peaking process, they still have a fear that drinking too much will cause water retention under the skin. The culprit for holding water under the skin is actually carbs, not water. Your muscle tissue is a lot like a bathtub with the drain open. No matter how much water you let flow into that tub it will just empty through the drain. The water in that tub needs something to stop it from emptying through the drain.

The same thing happens when you drink water. Anything you drink will just be urinated out unless something stops it from leaving the body. Now let’s say I start throwing sponges into the tub. The sponges will start soaking up the water and prevent some of it from emptying out. This is very similar to what carbs do within the body. They soak up water wherever they go. When you eat carbs and drink water you body will always fill your muscle tissue first.

The issues with water retention arise when you throw too many sponges into the tub. If this happens some of the sponges and water will start spilling over onto the floor. The same happens if you eat too many carbs, they will start to spill over into the out tissues, drawing water with them. This is why it is so important to eat precisely the correct amount of carbs for your carb up. The water will never find its way to the outer tissues if you do not eat too many carbs much the same way the water would not have spilled onto the floor had I not thrown so many sponges into the tub.

If you want to look your best on show day, do not cut water. This is one of the most common reasons why people are often dissatisfied with their peak come show day. The important thing is to take steps to make sure that the water you consume is kept within your muscle tissues and not underneath the skin. As long as you have consumed the correct amount of carbs no amount of water will impede your results, it will only help.

SODIUM

The last major piece of the equation to peaking correctly is sodium. Just like water, many bodybuilders also avoid sodium before a show for fear that it will make them hold water. Sodium plays many important roles in the processes of hydration and carbohydrate metabolism. Just like with other nutrients that are required by the body often times if you restrict them severely you will get an equally severe reaction. Unfortunately, it is not always the reaction you were hoping for.

There are numerous reasons that you will want to keep sodium in your diet all the way up until the day of the show. Sodium is a primary controller of blood volume. When sodium intake is low blood volume will be reduced. (3) This means you can kiss all that nice vascularity good bye, and you might as well forget about trying to get a pump. This may sound like a nightmare but it happens all the time.

To prove my point, think of the last time you were really lean and had a salty cheat meal. Within an hour you probably had your veins popping out and a slight pump while doing nothing more strenuous than sitting on the couch. A lot of people think that it is from all the carbs, but this is usually due to the excess sodium that usually accompanies cheat foods.

As if increased blood volume wasn’t enough there is an even better reason to leave sodium in your diet during peaking. When sodium losses occur in the body, the initial loss is accompanied by water loss as well. We have already discussed why water loss is not a good thing. As sodium and water loss continue, there will be the expected reduction in blood volume.

This drop in blood volume causes your body to secrete a hormone called arginine vasopressin, or AVP for short. (4) AVP has several functions in the body, one of which is causing water retention. The retained water due to AVP release will be primarily held in the extra cellular tissues, meaning under the skin. This spells disaster for any competitor on stage. AVP also causes vasoconstriction, which will further inhibit vascularity.

Many people do not realize that sodium is also necessary for carbohydrate absorption. Carbohydrates and sodium are both absorbed through a transporter called SGLT-1 which stands for sodium-glucose-transporter-1. It is called this because this transporter carries both sodium and glucose and will not carry one without the other.

Even though it has been suggested that exogenous sodium is not required to ensure adequate activation of the active sodium transporters, subbing in magnesium for sodium in a glucose beverage results in less glucose absorption. (5) This means that although you will still absorb carbohydrates if you cut sodium, carb absorption appears to be enhanced if extra sodium is consumed.

Lastly, sodium works with potassium to regulate intracellular and extracellular hydration. Without getting too in depth into cellular processes, sodium and potassium are moved into and out of cells by something called the sodium-potassium pump. The sodium-potassium pump is a primary regulator of cell volume. This process hinges on keeping the correct balance of sodium and potassium.

When sodium goes up, potassium must go up as well. Also, if potassium levels ever go higher that sodium then the balance will be thrown off and water will begin to leak out of the muscle cells into the surrounding tissues. This is why you do not want to start loading up on potassium before you show. You are going to strive for balance above all else.

So to summarize: If you restrict sodium you will be flat, unable to achieve a pump, lacking vascularity, dehydrated, and holding water underneath your skin, all at the same time. Keep that list in mind the next time someone tells you that you should cut sodium for your next show.

For these reasons I never cut sodium one bit leading up to the show. In fact, depending on the individual I may even increase sodium for the day or two before the show. Sodium levels during the final week should range between 3000-5000 milligrams per day. I will also make certain sodium adjustments on the day of the show to make sure my clients are fully pumped and vascular.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER

These are the main points to my Rapid Back-Load peaking method: keep sodium intake at higher than normal levels, keep water coming in, and take in extremely high levels of carbs the day before the show. Although there are still other factors I use in creating a perfect peak, they are minor details specific to each individual.

There is one final major catch to getting the very best results from your peak. You must be absolutely shredded before peak week starts. You can’t go into peak week with fat on your hamstrings, glutes, and abs thinking that the peak week will take care of everything. This may sound harsh, but the truth is that 95% of people that say they were holding water on show day were just simply not nearly lean enough.

So make sure you put in the work to rid your body of every ounce of fat before peak week starts. The rapid back load peak will only use the body’s natural mechanisms to highlight your muscular and vascular development. It will not compensate for deficiencies in your training and diet.

If you follow these main points to my peaking method you are well on your way on your way to a show day like you have never experienced before. This peaking method will not only allow you to keep your shoes on down the home stretch but it may just give you that second wind you need to win the race.

1. Dunford, M., Doyle, J. A., Nutrition for Sport and Exercise, 2007, 99 p.
2. Gibney, M., J., Introduction to Human Nutrition, 2009, 45 p.
3. McGuire, M., Beerman, K., A., Nutritional Sciences: From Fundamentals to Food, 2009, 552 p.
4. Gaw, A., Murphy, M. J., Cowen, R. A., Clinical Biochemistry: An Illustrated Colour Text, 2008, 14-17p.
5. Arnaud, M., J., Hydration Throughout Life, 1998, 93-94 p.
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Old 07-29-2011, 07:40 AM   #4
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The Fiber Factor in a Body Building Diet

By Dane C. Fletcher



Fiber is a very crucial part of a body building diet, and the advantages of including fiber when choosing foods is very cardinal. Essentially, the major sources of fiber in the diet are complex carbohydrates, closely followed by vegetables. Simple carbohydrates lack in fiber, since most have been processed and refined to remove this very crucial component.

The more the fiber contained in a meal, then the harder it will be to fully digest it. That means you will take longer to covert the food into nutrients absorbed into the blood consequently burning more calories in the process than if the food was refined. Fiber content in the stomach also slows down the breakdown in a way that the meal will provide a steady, sustained and yet optimal amounts of sugar into the blood, eliminating the need for insulin in the blood. For those body builders interested in loosing fats, the slow breakdown of fiber-rich meals is an advantage since it gives the body adequate time to burn all your accumulated fats while the breakdown takes place.

Another key advantage of a high fiber meal is that the fiber imparts that essential feeling of being full. This is ideal for those body builders willing to suppress their appetite so as to give the body enough time to reduce fat deposit levels. Again, fibers increase the efficiency of nutrients absorption from the intestines since it slows down the movement of the food or in other words decreases the transit time, thereby giving then villi adequate time to absorb all necessary nutrients in the food. After full absorption takes place, the fibers also help the process of elimination, ensuring that the stomach and intestines are swept clean. This helps in amplifying the health and fitness of the digestive track.

Finally, the soluble fibers in a diet usually yield some phytochemicals, which act as vital antioxidants. These phytochemicals like Betaglucan, have been identified as essential in protecting the body builder against heart disease. Vegetables like broccoli and tomatoes are rich in phytochemicals, sufurafane and lupein in this instance, respectively. That is why manufacturers of diet supplements have actually produced fiber supplements like Metamucil, to give those body builders who cannot eat enough fiber a chance.

The best option however remains combination of vegetables, grains and fruits all the daily meals a body builder eats. It would be better if you strive to maximize the use complex carbohydrates over simple carbs. Gains these complex carbs are better ingested in their natural forms, intact with the high fiber content. Oatmeal should be eaten in thick flakes and not in instant varieties that have gone through processing and refinement. So too for the brown rice, which is better than the white rice varieties. Brown bread should be preferred over white bread, baked potatoes with their skin intact over mashed potatoes and so on and so on. Try out corn, barley, celery, whole maize meals, figs and prunes for they have a very high fiber content.

Dane Fletcher is the world's most prolific bodybuilding and fitness expert and is currently the executive editor for BodybuildingToday.com.

Article Source: Dane C. Fletcher - EzineArticles.com Expert Author
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Old 09-27-2011, 08:09 AM   #5
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Some Good stuff
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Super interesting read!!!
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Does it work? Pity that Google Translate is not perfect yet

Quote:
Originally Posted by BendtheBar View Post
Pre-Contest Dieting by Layne Norton

Obviously the most pertinent issue regarding pre-contest preparation is the diet aspect of preparation. It is not enough to just clean up what you eat, it must be far more drastic than that. When you see the winner of a bodybuilding competition onstage, rest assured they tracked their calories, carbs, proteins, fats, and never missed meals. If you want to do well in a bodybuilding competition, you should expect to do nothing less.

Before I begin talking about a proper pre-contest diet, we need to examine exactly how long a person should diet for a contest. The first thing that should be done is an "assessment" of your body. Look yourself over and be honest about your faults, strengths, and about how long you think it will take for you to get into stage shape.

Keep in mind that if you think you have around 25 lbs of fat to lose, you are not going to be able to lose it all in 10 weeks and keep all of your lean body mass. Aim to diet as slowly as possible. The severity of your calorie deficit will, to a large extent, determine how much muscle you retain/lose. Short periods of high severity dieting (more than 1000 kcals per day below maintenance level) are not too muscle wasting, but prolonging them for more than a few days will certainly cause one to lose a good deal of muscle.

As a general rule of thumb, losing 1 lb of bodyweight per week will allow one to retain most of their muscle mass. One can probably lose up to 1.5 lbs per week and retain most, if not all of their muscle mass (provided their training and nutrition are optimized).

If one tries to push their body to lose more than 2 lbs per week for any length of time, then they will begin to experience quite a bit of muscle loss. It is for this reason that I usually try to give myself enough time so that I only need to lose 1-1.5 lbs per week at most. If one is naturally ectomorphic (has an easy time losing weight) however, they may want to diet for a shorter period of time, and I would recommend a time period of 11-15 weeks. If one is naturally endomorphic (has a hard time losing weight), then they may want to lengthen their dieting time to 16-22 weeks. If this is the first time that you have ever done a contest then you would want to also give yourself an extra week as you will probably experience a hitch at some point along the way.

Diet Information

The diet that one follows for their contest will be the single most important determining factor of how well they will place in the competition. A person can have all the mass in the world but if they do not come in razor sharp on contest day, then the mass will mean little.

Judges almost always go for conditioning over size. To design a proper diet one should give themselves adequate time to lose the necessary body fat to achieve that aforementioned shredded look. Being said, what kind of diet is optimal for a person to follow?

Well The Diet Should Have Three Main Goals:

1. Spare as much muscle mass as possible.
2. Lose as much fat as possible.
3. Not cause the person to lose intensity in the weight room.

Unfortunately, these goals all seem to contradict each other. When the body is in a starved (calorie deficit) state, muscle loss can occur although a calorie deficit is required to lose fat. This calorie deficit will also cause one to feel less energetic. To get around the negatives, there are small adjustments and little tricks to aid in the accomplishment of the positives. Before discussing the diet, it is important to discuss the three macronutrients and their roles.

Protein

Protein is probably the single most important macronutrient for the purposes of maintaining muscle on a diet. Dietary protein is hydrolyzed (broken down) into it's constitutive amino acids during digestion. These amino acids are released into the bloodstream where they may then be taken up by cells (usually muscle cells).
Dietary protein is also very important as amino acid availability is the single most important variable for protein synthesis to occur. This means that protein synthesis increases in a linear fashion (directly proportional to plasma amino acid concentrations) until the plasma amino concentrations are approximately twice that of normal plasma concentrations 1.

To generalize for the less scientifically inclined, ingesting enough dietary protein is very important for someone who is looking to gain muscle, or maintain it while dieting. Dietary protein spares muscle by helping increase protein synthesis (and thus induce net muscle gain) and by acting as a muscle sparing substrate as it can be used for glucogensis (synthesis of glucose).

Dietary protein however, is not as muscle sparing as are carbohydrates when used as a substrate for glucose synthesis. Protein is also a very "expensive" molecule for your body to use as energy. The body would much rather store amino acids than oxidize them as protein oxidation yields less net ATP produced per amino acid when compared to fat or carbohydrates2. Therefore, it can be stated that dietary protein has a thermogenic effect on the body.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates have probably gotten the worst reputation of the macronutrients due to the ketogenic dieting rave. Ketogenic dieting refers to reducing carbohydrate intake to practically nothing, while simultaneously raising fat and protein intake. With little glucose for the brain to utilize for energy, the body will begin producing ketones.
Ketones are by-products of fat oxidation and the brain can use ketones for energy. This does indeed have a potent fat burning effect, as insulin levels will be severely reduced due to lack of carbohydrate intake. Low insulin levels correlate with high rates of fat oxidation.

Indeed, the ketogenic diet may be the single best way to lose the maximum amount of body fat in the shortest amount of time. However, if you will quickly refer to our goals during a pre contest diet you will notice that maintaining muscle is number one on our list, with fat loss second.

If one has not properly scheduled enough time to lose body fat and they are in need of drastic measures, then using a ketogenic diet may be their only choice in order to become contest-ready in time. Unfortunately, they will not maintain an optimum amount of muscle mass.
For those who have given themselves ample time to prepare, I do not suggest using a ketogenic diet. Instead, I recommend reducing carbohydrates, but keeping them high enough to possess the muscle sparing benefits of carbohydrates while still losing body fat.

There are several main reasons that I recommend retaining carbohydrates. The first reason being that carbohydrates are much more muscle sparing than fats during times of stress when glucose becomes a primary source of fuel (i.e. anaerobic exercise, injury, infection, etc) 3.

The muscle sparing effects of carbohydrates occur via several different mechanisms. When the body is in a low energy state, it may try to produce energy by converting amino acids to glucose. Carbohydrates prevent this since they can be easily broken down (and converted if need be) to glucose molecules. Carbohydrates then spare dietary protein from oxidation and these proteins can be stored rather than oxidized.

Carbohydrates are also very muscle sparing during exercise. When one lifts heavy weights, the primary pathway that is used to produce ATP (cellular energy currency) is the anaerobic or glycolytic pathway (as the name implies this pathway operates in the absence of oxygen). The only substrate for this pathway is glucose, which can be obtained from dietary carbohydrates or by breaking down glycogen (the cell's stored form of glucose).
If one is on a ketogenic or extreme "low carb" diet however, the body will need to utilize another source to synthesize glucose from. Since glycogen levels are low on a ketogenic diet, the body will actually convert amino acids to glucose and this glucose will be used in the anaerobic pathway to produce ATP. These amino acids will come from dietary protein, amino acids from the cellular amino acid pool, and from muscle tissue. The latter situation is where one would experience muscle loss. Dietary protein would be sacrificed for ATP production and the depleted amino acid pool would not bode well for protein synthesis rates, thus causing a net loss in muscle mass.

Carbohydrates are also muscle sparing because they are a cause of insulin release. Now I know your thinking, "but Layne, you just said in your intro that low insulin levels were great for fat burning!?" Yes, you are correct. I did indeed say that low insulin levels are good for fat burning. Insulin inhibits lipolytic (fat burning) activity and must be kept low if one wishes to burn a maximal amount of fat.

However, the pesky re-occurring theme of maintaining muscle prevents us from totally excluding insulin from our pre-contest diet ****nal, as insulin happens to be one of the most anabolic/anti-catabolic hormones in the body. Insulin binding to the cell membrane causes all sorts of reactions in your body that are beneficial to maintaining and gaining muscle tissue. Insulin inhibits protein breakdown and amino acid oxidation, thus promoting muscle maintenance or gain 1,2.

Insulin also has an antagonist (inhibitory) affect with regards to several catabolic hormones, including cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that is released during times of stress such as dieting, lifting, injury, etc. Cortisol produces glucose by breaking down proteins, including muscle tissue. Cortisol is the primary catabolic hormone that is released when one lifts or does any kind of activity.

Insulin release inhibits the activity of cortisol by preventing its release from the pancreas, thus sparing muscle tissue from cortisol's catabolic effects. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that long-term exposure of cells to ketones (i.e., ketogenic diet) retard insulin-induced activation of the insulin surface receptor 4. This causes one to become extremely sensitive to carbohydrates when they begin ingesting them again after they finish dieting and could lead to an undesired post diet fat gain.
Carbohydrates act to maintain muscle mass while dieting by maintaining cellular osmotic pressure and cell volume. Cell size is an indicator of the "state" that the body is in. When cells are of large volume, it signals that the body is in a fed state. When cell volume is low it signals that the body is in a starved state. Without delving too far into the science behind this, trust me when I say that you would like your body to think it is in a fed state as this will increase the levels of fat burning hormones and anabolic hormones.

Cell size also indicates the anabolic state of the cell. When cell volume is high, protein synthesis rates increase. If cell volume drops, then protein synthesis levels drop 5,6,7,8. It is easy to infer we would like to maintain cell volume, especially when dieting. The problem with extreme low carbohydrate diets is they cause severe reduction in cell size.

The body stores carbohydrates inside cells as glycogen. For every gram of glycogen stored, the body stores around 2.7 g of water. Therefore, cells that have greater glycogen levels will also have more volume. One can see then how low carbohydrate diets severely decrease cell size due to severe glycogen depletion. Concluding, carbohydrates help maintain muscle by increasing cell volume. One more issue to consider is performance. If you refer to the goals of a pre-contest diet, you will see that number three maintains that you must keep a high level of intensity in the gym. This is important for several reasons. If performance begins to suffer, then a person will undoubtedly lose strength. This could lead to a subsequent loss of muscle mass due to decreased stimulation from a decreased training overload. Therefore, it is important that performance be kept at an optimal level.

Low glycogen levels have been associated with increased fatigue and decreased performance in athletes (endurance, strength, power output, etc). Several studies have shown that consuming adequate amounts of carbohydrates before, during, and after exercise may attenuate the increased fatigue and increase performance.9-14

It is worth noting that one such study concluded that "the rate of recovery is coupled with the rate of muscle glycogen replenishment and suggests that recovery supplements should be consumed to optimize muscle glycogen synthesis as well as fluid replacement." It can therefore be concluded that an adequate supply of carbohydrates is crucial for maintaining performance and for proper muscle recovery.

Fats are very important molecules and are considered essential to ones survival. Indeed, fats are involved in many of the body's processes which are required for survival. Several key functions of fats in the human body are for energy storage and hormone synthesis. They are the body's preferred source of stored energy and the most efficient molecule for the body to burn. (in terms of energy yield per gram, 9kcals/gram).

The main hormone that fats impact which we are concerned with is testosterone. When calories are restricted, testosterone levels will drop, as the body will suppress its release of anabolic hormones in order to spare nutrients for oxidation (energy production). This makes perfect sense: the body senses it is "starving" and thus it represses it's anabolic hormones to prevent nutrients from being used to increase tissue mass and spares them for energy production.

That's the first hit against testosterone production. Drastically lowering your fat intake is another hit against testosterone production since fatty acids are the substrates for cholesterol synthesis and therefore are also the substrates for testosterone synthesis (cholesterol is converted to testosterone, among other things).

Unfortunately, fats are also easily stored as adipose tissue (body fat) So there must be some type of compromise between ingesting enough fat for hormone maintenance (and subsequent muscle maintenance) and reducing fat intake enough to decrease body fat.
There has been some research done on the effects of dietary fat on testosterone. The answer to, "how much dietary fat is optimal" is difficult to decipher, as there are major differences in the designs of the performed studies.

This makes it difficult to compare them to each other and come up with a "standard" answer. Several studies concluded that diets low in fat (under 15% of total calories) significantly decreased testosterone levels while diets higher in fat (above 30% of total calories) increased serum testosterone levels.15, 16 Rather than continuing with this discussion I will provide a link to an article which covers the subject quite nicely.

To simplify everything that I have said, it seems that one should not lower fat below 15% of daily calories unless they would like to face extreme testosterone deficiencies. Likewise, one should not increase fat to say 40% in order to increase testosterone.

Although fat increases testosterone to a degree, it is important to remember that testosterone is only a small piece of the larger puzzle. There are many other hormones and factors involved in building muscle other than just testosterone. By increasing fat to extremely high levels, there will be less "space" for carbohydrates and protein, both of which are very important for aforementioned reasons.

As with most things in life, moderation is key. In order to keep hormone production regular and fat burning in high gear, while allowing enough "space" to supply adequate carbohydrates and protein for muscle sparing purposes I do not recommend increasing fat above 30% of daily calories.

In order to come up with macronutrient totals for a diet, it is necessary to assess how many lbs per week one will need to lose to be in contest shape. This is not an exact science, however we can still get a reasonable experience-based estimate. Here are some example calculations so that you may have an understanding of how to go about doing this.

For example, we have a subject who is a mesomorph weighing 200 lbs and has 13% bodyfat. Since 3-4% is considered "stage condition", that means the subject will need to drop roughly 10% body fat which equates to about 20 lbs. To recapitulate, I do not recommend dropping weight any faster than 1-1.5 lbs per week. Since 20 weeks is a long time to diet, let's have the subject lose about 1.5 lbs per week.

I recommend that one lose approximately 80% of their weight due to calorie restriction and 20% of their weight due to cardio (someone who is ectomorphic should do less cardio, while someone with an endomorphic build should do more cardio). To lose 1.2 lbs (80%) per week from diet, there must be a 600 kcal per day deficit from diet. To lose the other .3 lbs (20%) per week from cardio, one should perform 3 cardio sessions per week, which burn 350 kcals per session.

The best way to determine one's caloric intake required to lose fat at a certain rate is to chart calorie intake for a period of a few weeks and try to determine at what level the subject does not gain weight (this is the caloric baseline). For those who do not exercise this method, a rough estimate can be made using the following strategy.

Utilize The Subsequent Equations To Find Your Caloric Baseline:
• Mesomorphs - bodyweight x 15.
• Ectomorphs - bodyweight x 16-17.
• Endomorphs - bodyweight x 13-14.

So for our subject; 200 X 15 = 3000 kcals per day. This is the subject's caloric baseline (roughly). So if he wishes to lose 1.2 lbs per week from dieting (caloric restriction of 600 kcals per day); 3000 - 600 = 2400 kcals per day.

Meal Frequency Is As Follows:
• Mesomorphs - eat every 2.5 - 3.5 hours.
• Ectomorphs - eat every 2 - 3 hours.
• Endomorphs - eat every 3.5 - 5 hours.

Protein Intake

The "golden standard" protein intake for a bodybuilder is around 1 g/lb of bodyweight. This will need to be increased while dieting. Protein is a thermogenic macronutrient key in sparing muscle tissue when in a caloric deficit (see aforementioned section on protein). I recommend the following protein intakes for different body types:
o Mesomorphs - 1.2g/lb - 1.3g/lb.
o Ectomorphs - 1.4g/lb - 1.6g/lb.
o Endomorphs - 1.4g/lb - 1.5g/lb.*

For our subject, this equates to a protein intake of around 240-260 g protein per day. Let's go 'middle of the road' and set the subjects protein intake at 250 g protein per day. This means 1000 kcals have been devoted to protein intake, leaving us with 1400 kcals for fat and carbohydrate intake.

Fat Intake

Fat intakes are as follows:
o Mesomorphs - 17% - 23% of total calories.
o Ectomophs - 24%-28% of total calories.
o Endomorphs - 23%-28% of total calories (fat intake is increased in order to reduce carbohydrate intake, as endomorphs may have a difficult time losing fat with higher carbohydrate intakes).

For our subject, this equates to about 400 - 550 kcal from fat per day (45g - 60g fat per day) Once again, I prefer the 'middle of the road' approach and would set his fat intake at around 55g fat per day (495 kcals/day from fat) .

Carbohydrate Intake


Whatever calories that have not been allotted to protein and fat intake will make up total daily carbohydrate intake. For our subject in question, this leaves 2400 (1000 + 495) = 905 kcals per day for carbohydrate intake. This equates to 225g of carbohydrates per day.

* I recommend a higher protein intake for endomorph's while dieting because of the thermogenic effect of a higher protein intake and increased protein turnover, not because they need more protein to maintain muscle mass.

Re-Feeding

One should also incorporate re-feeds into their diet plan. Re-feeds help boost a hormone called leptin, which is the mother of all fat burning hormones. As one diets, leptin levels drop in an attempt by the body to spare body fat. Periodic, proper re-feeding can raise leptin levels and help one continue to burn fat an optimum rate.

A person who is lean will need to re-feed more frequently than someone who has a higher body fat percentage. For those who are below 10%, it is probably a wise idea to incorporate re-feeds two times per week. For those people who are in the 10-15% range, re-feeding every 6-12 days will probably be adequate, for those who are above 15%, re-feeding will probably not need to be done more than once every week to two weeks. Obviously as one loses body fat they will need to re-feed more often.

Re-Feed Days Should Be Planned As Follows:
• Re-feed on the day you work your worst body part(s) as re-feeding will not only raise leptin, but be quite anabolic.
• Keep fat as low as possible during re-feed days as high insulin levels will increase dietary fat transport into adipose tissue. In addition dietary fat has little to no impact on leptin levels.
• Reduce protein intake to 1 g/lb bodyweight.
• Consume as little fructose as possible as fructose does not have an impact on leptin levels.
• Increase calories to maintenance level (or above if you are an ectomorph) and increase carbs by at least 50-100% (endo's stay on the low end, while ecto's should stay on the high end) over normal diet levels.
This section was only a brief introduction to leptin and re-feeding. I highly recommend you read the following articles by Par Deus and Spook to gain a greater understanding of leptin.
• Leptin: The Next Big Thing I
• Leptin: The Next Big Thing II
• Leptin: The Next Big Thing III
• Leptin The Next Big Thing IV
• Leptin: The Next Big Thing V

Nutrient Timing

As previously discussed before, carbohydrates cause insulin release, which is very muscle sparing, but also very anti-lipolytic. It is therefore important that we construct a diet so that we intersperse long periods of low insulin levels in order to maximize lipolysis, coupled with short periods of high insulin levels to protect muscle when it is at the greatest risk of catabolism.

There are essentially two crucial times during the day when muscle tissue is at the greatest risk of catabolism.

The most crucial time is during your workout. As many of you already know, working out is actually catabolic. When one is in a calorie deficit, the catabolic effect of working out is enhanced, as the body will attempt to raise low glucose levels by de-aminating amino acids and converting them to glucose.

One of the main hormones that control this action is cortisol. Unfortunately this is quite catabolic as some of these amino acids may come from muscle tissue (See carbohydrates section). It is crucial that one consumes carbohydrates before exercise for several reasons.
• Dietary carbohydrates will provide fuel for the anaerobic pathway, and spare muscle tissue from being converted to glucose for fuel.
• Dietary carbohydrates will cause the release of insulin, which blocks the release of cortisol from the pancreas.
• Dietary carbohydrates will increase muscle glycogen levels which will improve performance and decrease fatigue.

I suggest one consume 35% of their total daily carbohydrates in a meal 1.5 to 2 hours before their workout as this will allow the carbohydrates adequate time to be digested and enter the bloodstream.
I also suggest consuming a shake composed of 30-40g of whey protein along with dextrose or maltodextrin during their workout. The carbohydrates in the shake should account for about 20% of one's total daily carbohydrate intake.

This Shake Will Have Several Benefits:
• Spare muscle glycogen and increase performance.
• Spare muscle tissue.
• Maintain a constant release of insulin, therefore inhibiting cortisol release.
• The continuous ingestion of carbohydrates will ensure that adequate substrate is available for the glycolytic pathway.

It is also a wise idea to consume a post workout meal composed of whole food, low GI carbohydrate sources (although one may consume another protein shake if they feel so inclined) about 30 minutes after finishing the in workout shake.

This low GI carbohydrate should contain about 25% of your total daily carbohydrates and will help stabilize blood sugar levels. You see, dextrose causes a very large insulin spike, and actually can cause insulin to be over secreted, when insulin is over secreted, blood sugar levels will drop rapidly as insulin disposes of the glucose into the tissues and one may even begin to experience hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

Low blood sugar may lead one to experience an increase in hunger. A lower GI carbohydrate and protein meal post workout will help counteract this negative effect by stabilizing blood sugar levels.

The other time of day when one should consume a meal containing carbohydrates is upon rising. Waking up is actually a stressful time on the body and in an effort to "ready itself" the body releases several catabolic hormones in order to produce energy for the fasted person.

The main two hormones released are cortisol and glucogen both of which can be catabolic to muscle tissue. Consuming a carbohydrate meal will retard the release of these catabolic hormones and spare muscle tissue. It will also make you feel better by providing fuel for your brain to run on.

There is some anecdotal evidence that suggests consuming a meal containing carbohydrates may also help suppress hunger later in the day. I suggest consuming 15% of your daily carbohydrate intake at this meal in the form of low GI carbohydrates. The remaining 5% of your total daily carbohydrates should come from veggies throughout the day such as salad, broccoli, peas, etc.
If you happen to workout after breakfast, merely combine breakfast and your pre workout meal. Thus 35% + 15% = 50% of daily carbohydrate intake should be in pre workout/breakfast meal

During these high carbohydrate meals one should aim to keep fat as low as possible. High insulin levels increases fatty acid transport into adipose tissue, so it is a good idea to keep your fat low during times of high insulin. You should spread your remaining fat intake evenly over the rest of your low carbohydrate meals. Protein intake should be spread fairly evenly over all of your meals.

The Following Is A List Of Acceptable Protein, Carbohydrate, & Fat Sources While Dieting:

Protein:

* Tuna or most any fish.
* Cottage cheese.
* Eggs (especially the whites).
* Chicken breast (boneless skinless).
* Turkey breast (boneless skinless).
* Lean beef.
* Low fat or no fat cheese.
* Low fat pork.
* Milk protein isolate.
* Whey protein.
* Soy protein.
* Essentially most any other source of protein so long as it is low in saturated fat and carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates:

* Sweet potatoes.
* Oat meal, oat bran, oat bran cereal (i.e. cheerios).
* Bran cereal.
* Brown rice.
* Wheat bread (try to limit to 2 slices per day).
* Beans.
* Low fat popcorn (low fat butter spray makes this a delicacy).
* Fruits (limit to 2-3 servings per day).
* Malto dextrin (during workout).
* Dextrose (during workout)
* Vegetables.
* Stay away from refined grains and anything that says "enriched" or "high fructose corn syrup" on the label!

Fat:

* Omega 3 capsules (i.e. fish oil capsules).
* Flax seed oil.
* Primrose oil.
* Borage oil.
* Olive oil.
* Nuts (limit to 1 serving per day), peanut butter (as long as it does not contain hydrogenated oils).
* Egg yolks.
* Fish (salmon especially).
* All other fat should come as a by-product of your carbohydrate and protein intake.

Cardio

Perhaps the most dreaded word in a bodybuilder's vocabulary is "cardio." Unfortunately, cardio is a necessary evil of pre contest prep for most people. Few are able to achieve contest bodyfat levels through diet alone (i.e. ectomorphs with extremely fast metabolisms).
In men, cardio increases lipolysis in visceral fat (surrounding organs), especially in the stubborn abdominal area. In women, cardio increases lipolysis in the stubborn subcutaneous buttocks and thigh area in women. This is due to innervation and blood flow, which aerobic activity influences much more than diet alone 17.

Cardiovascular exercise has several myths surrounding it. The largest myth being that one should perform low intensity cardio in a fasted state. The logic being that if one is in a fasted state, their glycogen levels will be low and will force their body to burn fat. Unfortunately, this idea is misguided.

While performing cardio in a fasted state may indeed increase the amount of calories that are burned from fat stores, it will also increase amino acid oxidation. Cardiovascular exercise while in a fasted state is a great way to increase cortisol release. Cortisol will liberate amino acids to produce glucose (glucose cannot be synthesized from fats) and can lead to muscle loss.

Additionally, I find it ironic that many people take such great care to time their meals so that they do not go for more than 2-3 hours without eating in order to prevent muscle loss. However, they purposefully induce this state and then perform work on top of this!

Research has shown that the type of substrate used during cardiovascular work makes little overall difference on fat loss. This is most likely due to the fact if one relies mostly upon fat stores during cardio (i.e. low intensity cardio), the body will burn predominantly glucose at other times of the day. Likewise, if one mainly utilizes glucose for energy during cardio (i.e. high intensity cardio) the body will customarily rely on fat at other times of the day in order to spare muscle glycogen.

Training in and of itself causes the body to preferentially spare muscle glycogen and burn fat. It makes sense that one should strive to do their cardio on their 'off days' from lifting (as to not further hinder their recovery), and plan their carbohydrate intake similar to their lifting regime.
Cardiovascular work will increase nutrient partitioning towards muscle tissue and away from fat tissue. One should take advantage of this by consuming the bulk of their carbohydrate intake around this time. The benefits are that these nutrients induce fat storage, but will rather be stored in muscle tissue.

Why would you want to deny your muscles nutrients at the most crucial time of the day, but then provide them during rest? It does not make sense. Treat your cardiovascular work like your lifting.

Another question that often arises regarding cardio is the argument "Low-Intensity vs High-Intensity" cardio. Many people automatically assume that low-intensity cardio is better; citing that high-intensity cardio primarily utilizes glucose (anaerobic metabolism), while low-intensity cardio primarily burns fat (aerobic metabolism).

Once again, the substrate used during cardiovascular work is not as important as the caloric deficit created by the cardiovascular work. In actuality, high-intensity cardiovascular work is superior to low-intensity cardio for several reasons

High intensity cardio has a much stronger effect on GLUT-4 translocation in muscle cells due to the increased force of muscle contraction. This means that high-intensity cardio creates a much stronger nutrient partitioning effect towards muscle tissue than low-intensity cardio.

Low periods of low-intensity exercise tend to "overtrain" the fast-twitch muscle fibers and convert the intermediate muscle fibers to slow-twitch fibers. This is not a desirable effect as the fast twitch muscle fibers are those that have the greatest chance to hypertrophy. If your body has less fast twitch fibers, then you will experience less hypertrophy from training.

The body's hormonal response to high intensity cardio is similar to the body's hormonal response to resistance training (i.e. increased insulin sensitivity, gh release, Igf-1 release, etc) without placing the same strain on the nervous system as resistance training.
High-intensity cardio causes the body to preferentially store more carbohydrates and burn more fat.

High-intensity cardiovascular exercise increases oxygen expenditure and forces the body to adapt by becoming more efficient at oxygen transport (increase in VO2 max). More efficient oxygen transport to the muscles will increase fat oxidation as fat oxidation is dependant upon the presence of oxygen.

High-intensity cardio seems to be more muscle sparing. Several studies have shown that high-intensity interval training (aka HIT) burns less calories when compared to continuous lower intensity cardio. However, the skinfold losses were greater with the HIT group than in the continuous intensity group. This means not only did the HIT group lose more fat, they also spared more muscle tissue by burning less overall calories .

At this point I am going to refer you to several articles that I think are some of the best I've seen regarding cardiovascular work. I urge you to read them as they will re-emphasize what I have already stated, as well as help you gain a further understanding of how cardiovascular work effects your metabolism.

In conclusion, I suggest performing HIT cardiovascular work on their off days only. One should treat this cardio session like a weight session and eat accordingly (as outlined in the diet section). If you must perform cardio on your lifting days then do it on the day you train your weakest body part and divide up your carbohydrate intake in view that you leave enough carbohydrates for both pre/post lifting and cardio.

With all the things that one has to focus on when preparing for a contest, (dieting, cardio, training, etc) it is understandable that one could forget to practice their posing. This is a recipe for disaster.

A bodybuilding contest is not a contest in the typical sense of the word. It is a show. You will be required to show off your physique. Posing is a huge part of showing off your body. I have seen people who are 220 lbs look like 180 lbs because of atrocious posing. Likewise, I have seen people weighing 180 lbs look like 220 lbs onstage because they were able to present their physique in a manner that showcased their strengths, while hiding any weaknesses they had.

One should be constantly practicing their posing, at least once per day, everyday for 10 weeks before their contest. Trying to whip it all together at the last minute won't cut it.
Another factor that many people do not take into account is endurance. Posing onstage is hard. Posing by yourself in front of your mirror at home is easy. At home you can hit a few poses, rest, and go at your own pace in the comfort of air conditioning.

Onstage, it is a whole different world. There is no mirror, only the audience and judges table are in front of you. You won't be able to see the audience due to the blinding stage lights that are pointed in your direction. It is also hot onstage. It feels like 100 degrees and you are flexing... flexing hard. Judges may ask you to hold poses for up to 10-20seconds... to the point of cramping and falling over.

If you have not practiced and rehe****d you will not be prepared for this environment. In every contest I have competed in or watched, there is always at least one person who will begin to shake after holding a pose for a few seconds. If you cannot control your muscles while you flex, why should the judges award you a good placing? If you cannot flex without shaking, how do you expect to properly show off your physique? You might not think this can happen to you, but if you have not practiced, rest assured it will.

References

1. Nygren J, Nair KS. "Differential regulation of protein dynamics in splanchnic and skeletal muscle beds by insulin and amino acids in healthy human subjects." Diabetes 2003 Jun;52(6):1377-85

2. Garrett, Reginald H. and Charles M. Grisham. Biochemistry 2nd Edition.

Saunders College Publishing. United States: 1999.

3. Hart et al. "Efficacy of a high-carbohydrate diet in catabolic illness." Crit Care Med 2001 Jul;29(7):1318-24

4. Yokoo et al. "Distinct effects of ketone bodies on down-regulation of cell surface insulin receptor and insulin receptor substrate-1 phosphorylation in adrenal chromaffin cells." J Pharmacol Exp Ther 2003 Mar;304(3):994-1002

5. Meijer AJ. "Amino acids as regulators and components of nonproteinogenic pathways." J Nutr 2003 Jun;133(6):2057S-62S

6. Schliess F, Haussinger D. "Cell volume and insulin signaling." Int Rev Cytol 2003;225:187-228

7. Chen et al. "Osmotic shock inhibits insulin signaling by maintaining Akt/protein kinase B in an inactive dephosphorylated state." Mol Cell Biol 1999 Jul;19(7):4684-94

8. Brosnan JT. "Comments on metabolic needs for glucose and the role of gluconeogenesis." Eur J Clin Nutr 1999 Apr;53 Suppl 1:S107-11

9. Shephard RJ, Leatt P. "Carbohydrate and fluid needs of the soccer player." Sports Med 1987 May-Jun;4(3):164-76

10. Tsintzas, O.K., Williams C., Boobis, L.Greenhaff, P. "Carbohydrate ingestion and single muscle fiber glycogen metabolism during prolonged running in man." Journal of Applied Physiology 1996; 81 (2) : 801 - 809.

11. Rockwell MS, Rankin JW, Dixon H. "Effects of muscle glycogen on performance of repeated sprints and mechanisms of fatigue." . Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2003 Mar;13(1):1-14

12. Haff GG, Lehmkuhl MJ, McCoy LB, Stone MH. "Carbohydrate supplementation and resistance training" J Strength Cond Res 2003 Feb;17(1):187-96

13. Karelis AD, Peronnet F, Gardiner PF. "Glucose infusion attenuates muscle fatigue in rat plantaris muscle during prolonged indirect stimulation in situ." Exp Physiol 2002 Sep;87(5):585-92

14. Williams MB, Raven PB, Fogt DL, Ivy JL. "Effects of recovery beverages on glycogen restoration and endurance exercise performance." J Strength Cond Res 2003 Feb;17(1):12-9

15. The Journal of Nutrition, Sept 2000 v130 i9 p2356 "High Dietary Fat Intake Increases Renal Cyst Disease Progression in Han:SPRD-cy Rats. " Shobana Jayapalan; M. Hossein Saboorian; Jeff W. Edmunds; Harold M. Aukema.

16. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Dec 1996 v64 n6 p850(6) "Effects of dietary fat and fiber on plasma and urine androgens and estrogens in men: a controlled feeding study." Joanne F. Dorgan; Joseph T. Judd; Christopher Longcope; Charles Brown; Arthur Schatzkin; Beverly A. Clevidence; William S. Campbell; Padmanabhan P. Nair; Charlene Franz; Lisa Kahle; Philip R. Taylor.

17. Abe T, Kawakami Y, Sugita M, Fukunaga T. "Relationship between training frequency and subcutaneous and visceral fat in women." Med Sci Sports Exerc 1997 Dec;29(12):1549-53
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