When you get two weeks out you have to be ready. This will make or break you. The second week out some people taper their carbs. I strongly discourage this, especially if you are carb depleting and carb loading during the final week. When you think about it, by doing two 45 min cardio sessions, along with a full strength training workout each day, you are already carb depleted. Depleting any more can be extremely detrimental. Your brain depends on carbohydrates to function (Glucose). Without this you can really hurt both your mind and your body. Save the carb depleting for the final week, if this is the way you choose.
As far as training goes, I take the last two weeks off of legs, and do lighter weights for the rest of my body. I don't want my legs to be sore at all when I'm on stage. They take a huge beating because they are the one muscle that is always flexed. I still do the cardio twice a day however. I feel this is very important to get rid of some of the intramuscular fat, and helps deepen my cuts. My training stops altogether on the Wednesday before which is when I do a full body workout, with two exercises per body part not quite going to failure, simply pumping blood into the muscles. Let's look at one of the most popular ways of cutting on the final weeks: carb depleting and loading.
Carb Depleting & Loading:
This method has been used as one of the most popular ways of preparing for a contest to date. Here's how it works. Carbohydrates are your body's main source of energy. Fat is your second. By depleting your carbs you are forcing your body to tap into all of its fat storage for energy. For the average bodybuilder (off-season weight 200lbs, 12%bf.) the final week goes something like this.
Monday: 75 grams of carbs from shredded wheat and brown rice.
protein intake by about 30 grams.
Tuesday: 25 Grams of Carbs.
Increasing your protein intake a further 30 grams.
Wednesday: Zero Carb Day!
Increasing protein intake a further 25 grams. This is hell day. The worst day of the whole diet. You will feel like shit. Flat, smooth and tiny as hell. I think I said a total of 4 words all day. Three of them being "I hate this". It was on this day that I almost quit. At lunch time I went into the gym and did a full body workout to use up all the muscle glycogen. I can tell you I honestly felt like shit. On this day you will truly be carb depleted. All I can say is get through it and go to bed as soon as possible, the day will be over soon.
Thursday: Carb Loading
300 Grams of Carbs throughout the day. Keep your protein intake the same.
Friday: 400-500 Grams of carbs.
Keeping your protein intake the same. Friday is also the day I cut out my water. At about 10 in the morning I take my last drink of water and take a small dose of a
herbal diuretic. When it gets too much I take enough water to wet my mouth but I never take more than a sip. On Friday night at the weigh in, I join the other bodybuilders in eating peanut butter and jam on rice cakes. The extra calories fill out your muscles nicely and none of the fat will be stored as body fat until after the show. One thing to watch is the sodium however because of its water retaining effects.
Saturday: Show Time!
The morning of the show I have some shredded wheat, dry, with some more peanut butter and jam, and I'll scarf down a protein bar. I snack on chocolate covered raisins until I go on stage. The sugar helps bring out the vascularity. Again the most important thing I am watching is my sodium so I don't retain water. I try not to eat too much food between the morning and night show, maybe a protein bar or two and some yams to continue with the carb loading. One important snack to have is some bananas. The potassium in these will prevent cramping which is a major problem because you are so dehydrated.
Decarbing & The Theory Behind It
This is the method of decarbing. The theory behind it is that you deplete your muscle cells of their glycogen stores, so they are very apt to store glycogen in the muscle cells. This is probably due to the increase in glycogen storing enzymes. I have used this the past two years I have competed, and it has worked nicely however I felt like I lost a bit too much muscle by depleting myself of all the carbohydrates.
Your body will use protein as an energy source when it is in a depleted state. It will break down your muscles into amino acids and these are converted to glycogen in the liver. This is the major downfall of this method. Everyone is different. No two bodies are exactly alike, and each body will react differently to different methods of preparing for a competition. The key is finding the method which is right for you. Try this method, if you feel it wasn't as beneficial, try something else such as fat loading, without carb depletion.
Competition is a huge game of trial and error, with water, tanning, posing, everything! The best advice I can give to someone wanting to compete is to try several different methods during your off season and see which one your body responds best to. Keep training hard and if you have any more questions let me know via email. I have a competition in 11 weeks and I am beginning my diet on February 1st. I plan on writing weekly articles and posting weekly pictures to track my progress. See you at the gym!
Best of luck,