I have only been bodybuilding for a year now and my diets have been a trial and error process. I have had very good results with some of my ideas and different cooking schemes. During the cutting phase of my diet I have transformed my body to the lean muscular look that I strive to achieve.
The Cutting Phase
The cutting phase is the most challenging diet for most people and I believe it is mostly a mental problem. Giving up those desserts, late night snacks and huge pasta dinners is hard and takes a ton of will power. Here are a couple of my tricks to help keep me motivated when I am temped to eat junk food. I keep pictures of myself when I look my best on competition day around and make sure that I see them several times a day, I think that this serves as a good self-motivator.
Another idea is to get rid of all the junk food out of the house, this is easy for me because my wife likes to eat healthy too. If you have a family to deal with that likes chips and pop, I would make them hide it from you. Another small trick is when you are hungry especially for sweets, go and brush your teeth or chew a piece of sugar free gum. I always hate to eat stuff right after I brush my teeth.
Emotional eating can become a big problem when trying to diet hard. Emotional eating is eating when you are bored, depressed or just out of habit. I have a hard time not eating when I'm bored, how many times a day do you go to the fridge and look through it just because you're bored. I know that I do it at least 5-6 times a day. I always find myself at the fridge with the door open and I don't even have a purpose to be in there, it is just a habit. Get out of the house and do something whether it is going to the gym, playing a sport, biking or jump online and go to Bodybuilding.com to check out the latest articles.
Dieting is hard and takes a ton of work! When you are dieting you have to eat more often because your meals aren't as large and this means that you will have to carry food around with you. This is what takes the most work. In order to eat quality meals while your schedule is hectic you always need to plan ahead (even if it is a week ahead). Time is everyone's worst enemy. Whether you have to go to school or work, everyone is familiar with a busy schedule. One good idea is to cook up a half dozen pieces of chicken on the weekend or when you have time.
This allows you to eat quality snacks and meals when you're on the run. I will cook up six pieces of chicken and two to three cups of rice on a Sunday afternoon when I have nothing to do. Then during the week, when I'm in class or at work I am able to eat a healthy meals throughout the day all week long. I always plan ahead and if I know that I will be gone from right after breakfast until mid afternoon I will bring food. For my mid morning snack I will bring my protein or meal replacement shake and some fruit. My lunch will usually consist of rice, a vegetable and some kind of meat, and then I will bring another small meal for my mid afternoon snack.
During the cutting phase of my diet I cut carbs down to 2g per kg body weight. When I start to cut down I am weighing 221, so for me this equals out to 200g of carbs per day. If you eat healthy and don't "waste" your carbs on simple carbs like white breads and sugars, it still ends up being a lot of food.
Fruits are the exception to the rule and should be eaten as much as your diet allows. Fruits are an ideal simple sugar that can help raise insulin levels to help "push" all the nutrients and supplements that you are taking into your cells which is a very important concept for your post workout meal. An idea of my diet during the cutting phase consists of around 200 grams of carbs and I try to get at least 200 grams of protein, I try to keep my fat down and get as many healthy fats as I can.
This is something that is completely trial and error for me. I have had good luck with this scheme but I also think that you need to be able to listen to your body. If you feel that you don't have the energy you need or are not able to think because of carb depletion you need to modify your diet accordingly. Add some fruit or nuts to help you keep your energy level up.
Example Cutting Phase Diet
Oatmeal: 3/4 Cup
Egg Whites: 5
Protein Shake: 1
Brown Rice: 1/2 Cup
Cottage Cheese: 1/2 Cup
Protein Shake: 1
On this day I received 200g of carbs, 285g of pro, and 50 g fat. I came in where I wanted to with my carbs but my protein was a little high so in last few weeks of cutting I can cut a little protein if I need to. My fat is good and it is around 15% of my caloric intake it could stand to be a little higher but it is good enough for cutting.
I think that sodium intake doesn't matter until the week of the competition so I use hot sauces and salsa to flavor eggs and other foods but I still eat sodium in moderation.
I have dieted for two competitions back to back. I dieted for 6 weeks for my first competition and went from 7 % body fat to 4.4%. I then continued dieting for a grand total of 13 weeks and got down to 2.2% body fat. I think that from now on I will end up dieting for at least 12 weeks. You aren't supposed to lose more than 1-2 pounds per week to be safe.
I think that I lost a little more lean body mass than I wanted to but then again I am right on the line for light-heavy/heavy weight. I hope to gain 5-6 pounds of lean muscle mass by next season to be able to compete at Heavy weight, so I have a year to work hard and eat right.