Powerlifters know this and apply it as they employ superslows or cadence-oriented reps such as 4:2s (4 second eccentrics, 2 second concentrics). Time is an often-overlooked factor in our training, but what about our nutrition?
Have you heard the question:
Have you ever had a task so large or daunting that you had to chip away at it a little at a time, maybe even with segmental goals and budgeted time? Some big projects have to be scaled down into pieces or they'll never get done. At times, there are projects so big that were literally paralyzed from action because we just don't know where to start.
Pre Contest Dieting
Our subject matter at hand is pre-contest dieting, but keep these illustrations in mind. If you have 30 pounds to lose, at roughly 3,500 calories per pound, that's about 105,000 stored calories you have to use in excess of your food intake.
How long is that going to take? How many calories per day and per week are you going to have to create a deficit to make that goal? Time is the greatest variable and one of the biggest predictors I see in competitive bodybuilders. I often have to tell clients,
let's shoot for one later in the year."
"You're not going to look your best at the first one,
but I know I can have you at a life-time best for the second."
In this article, I want to share with you how you can guarantee yourself the greatest peak and possibly the greatest possible condition you can physiologically achieve by using time correctly.
We all get 24 hours of it a day. You can't buy more and you can't make it pass any faster. But, we can sure waste it and misuse it. The number one problem you have to fix is giving yourself the right amount of time to accomplish the right amount of work.
Giving Yourself The Time
First, as a basic premise of peaking, you can't rush it. If you have to lose weight too fast by eating too little precious, muscle-sparing carbohydrates and/or performing too much muscle-wasting cardio, you defeat the purpose of your contest by ending up smaller, flatter, probably softer, and certainly not crisp or full.
Cramming six months of dieting into three is your worst plan.
A Staring Point
The first order of business in preparing not to rush your diet; plan an appropriate starting point. I penned an article a couple of years ago regarding staying (relatively) lean in the off-season to prevent over-dieting for a contest. In it, I lamented that it's too bad bodybuilders only look like bodybuilders one day a year.
That quote resonated with a lot of readers and I get it quoted back to me often. Unfortunately, the rest of the year we are as fat and nearly out of shape as the rest of society.
My primary reason for promoting staying leaner in this context is that the less you have to diet, the more muscle you'll retain.
Yes, you gain more lean body mass the heavier you get, but the longer and harder you diet, the faster you lose that muscle and the vast majority of the time, you end up losing more even though you gained more. I mean that quite literally. If I let my bodyweight get up to 185 in the off-season, I may see my lean body mass edge up to 165.
Dieting 30 pounds off, however, and I may end up with a lean body mass of 148 lbs. If my starting point for dieting was a consistent 165 lbs., I would be able to diet slower and not as severely and would end up with more lean body mass at contest time, probably 152-153 lbs. instead of 148 lbs., even though I wasn't as big and strong in the off-season.
Why Does That Happen?
The single biggest reason this happens is that the more severely you restrict calories the more your metabolic rate falls. The longer you stay this low, the harder you suppress and your own body becomes your enemy, lowering your resting metabolism up to 45%.
You need scheduled increases in calories in various cycling formats to prevent this, but again, it's a luxury only for those who have enough time.
Cardio & Food
The first question most asked when it comes to creating the perfect pre-contest phase is...
or less cardio and less food?
Good question. It is always best to use cardio, but only in accordance with your body type. If you're a natural ectomorph, doing too much cardio may strip muscle from your long, lean frame. If you're more of a meso or endomorph, you have to do more cardio to mobilize the extra lower body fat you carry.
Central body fat is much more dynamic and easier to lose while lower body fat takes more work and takes longer. Regional body control of and reactivity to the lipoprotein, lipase, that regulates cellular fat intake and to fat mobilizing hormones is very genetic.
Lipoprotein: Any of a group of conjugated proteins in which at least one of the components is a lipid. Lipoproteins, classified according to their densities and chemical qualities, are the principal means by which lipids are transported in the blood.
Lipase: An enzyme secreted in the digestive tract that catalyzes the breakdown of fats into individual fatty acids that can be absorbed into the bloodstream
This is why my approach with different clients often looks, well, very different. Even the number of fat cells we have can vary from 25 billion to 250 billion.
Don't lose the application point in the details. Whether you have the ability to lose fat fast or if it seems like Columbus could have returned to Spain before you lost 10 pounds, the leaner you are when you start and the longer you give yourself to lose it, you'll be able to retain more muscle every time and never have to worry about being lean enough.
You'll see what it's like to have to increase your calories toward the end and still get harder and harder even though you start regaining fullness that the dieting robbed you of. The judges will see you onstage, full, crisp, and confident among those who are soft, flat, or stringy. Though you all had the same amount of time, you made the best of yours!
More Pre-Contest Articles:
Dr. Joe Klemczewski is a WNBF Pro with graduate degrees in health and nutrition. He personally works with top pro and amateur bodybuilders around the world with his unique online Perfect Peaking Program. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.