Part two of my article on contest dieting. Now I only read the draft once, so if you spot any grammar or spelling errors you'll just have to put up with, I just intent on finally getting it finished.
High protein, low carb diets a poor fit for the natural bodybuilder (Part 2)
BSc (hons) MSc Andrew Chappell
Dieting Theory and Practice.
Iíve been rather busy as of late with work, dieting and a various other things so forgive me for taking a while to post the second part of the article. I got quite a lot of good feedback from the first article so hopefully the second part lives up to expectations, although this article is likely to be less technical.
While the first article concentrated on the advantages of leaving carbs in your diet and the pros and cons of a high protein, low carb / keto approach, this article will focus more on diet design. Itís important to remember though that a dogmatic approach can be dangerous and certain methods wonít always work for everybody, age, gender, condition, background and genetics all play a part and there is such a thing as a non-responder. Iíve used this method myself quite a few times in the past and I know of quite a few other bodybuilders who take a similar approach and always come in shredded. Personally I think this method should always be your first port of call for any athlete and it can easily be adapted thereafter if need be.
The Baseline Diet Approach
Like all diets this is based on the very simple principle; energy in must be less than energy out. So donít expect any magic approaches or short cuts. As dull as it sounds you simply need to cut your calories enough to start the fat burning process as this diagram shows (figure1).
Figure 1. Dieting theory, taken from aider.
All diets are based on this principle, however to follow a baseline diet this method requires a large amount of work in the offseason to pull it off. I think itís the difference between a good amateur/pro and somebody who will only ever place at regional shows or qualifiers. Such a diet requires an athlete to regularly weigh their food, know exactly how many calories they eat from day to day and more or less involves hitting an exact requirement day in day out. So for example the total calorie goal maybe 3000kcals, a bodybuilder would aim to consume that amount of food every single day for months on end, with the same amount of carbs (higher carbs the better), fats, and proteins daily (figure 2). Now this is a considerable departure from what a novice who may typically aim for a protein amount say 200g in a day, then not worry about where the rest of the calories come from, as long as they eat 5 or 6 meals a day.
Meals varying in size and calorie count as a consequence (figure 3) and your body doesnít get used to similar foods at regular times. Now on the surface such a dedicated approach to counting calories may seem unnecessary and the other approach may also works but it pays dividends when it comes to dieting for a show. The simple fact is the body loves consistency and gets used to a certain amount of calories in a day, timed at certain intervals. As soon as a dent is made in the constant energy intake your body will respond, compared to a more random approach where the body is used to fluctuations in energy intake. I think the figures below show this phenomenon quite nicely (figure 2).
Figure 2. Uniform calorie intake using the baseline diet approach.
The baseline contest model shows a diet over 120 days, a 60 day offseason phase followed by a 60 day dieting phase. Now normally the run into the diet would be much longer, but remember itís just an example. In the first 60 days there is a clear uniform intake of calories on a daily basis followed by a slight increase in calories that you might see during a bulking phase, going from around 3300 calories to eventually just over 3600 in the space of 2 months. These calories have been slowly increased to ensure the bodybuilders body can adapt to the new calorie intake. Obviously if the bodybuilder started storing fat then the model would show fewer steps, afterall thereís no point just getting fat. Anyone whoís ever done a planned bulking diet will also know that your bodyweight will more or less level out at a certain amount of calories, weíll just assume it was 3600 for the example and that the bodybuilder with a bodyfat of around 12 - 15% BF. A figure I wouldnít regard as unrealistic.
The body gets used to consistency so in this example the calorie intake for the last 30 dayís has been the same. As soon as a deficit is introduced this will constitute a deficit and the body will start to give up fat. You can clearly see a reduction in calories on the graph and the body is no longer able to maintain the same bodyweight giving up fat like the first diagram showed. A few steps are introduced and by day 120 you can see the bodybuilder is still dieting on around 3000kcals leaving plenty of room for manoeuvring. Now most of the clinical studies that have looked at weight loss use a deficit of around 600kcals. However itís not really necessary to reduce calories by as much as this and a reduction between 400-200kcals, can work just as well. Everyone is different so what works for someone might not work for you. Itís important though that you avoid making any drop to severe to avoid your body going into starvation and stop giving up fat altogether. Remember once you start the diet and you start to see changes in the mirror, on the scale, with the tape or in photographs, then itís not necessary to reduce them anymore until the process slows. Itís always handy to have an experienced eye help you with this stage, but generally in general a loss of about 1.5 to 2lbs a week is a good indicator that your diets working. If youíre in better shape in the offseason and your intention is diet slowly then even 1lb is acceptable.
Now you may be thinking right now that seems like a pretty pointless since a similar dent in the other approach would do the same thin. The advantages in this approach is a) diet on a lot more calories, which b) allows for much more adjustments to the diet c) gives you more energy for training d) means you stay fuller e) minimises the amount of cardio you need to do f) means you can calculate your carb loading strategy better and g) generally means you have a better off season and h) there is an obvious starting point or figure to diet from.
The other model I mentioned in figure 2 typically reflects what you see in the average person or where calorie intake is highly variable. There are as many points above the BMR line as below so the person maintains there weight. Now believe me when I say this is pretty typical, analysis of food diaries and duplicate diet analysis have shown this to be the case. It makes sense when you think about it your average person rarely eats the same thing daily, on weekends they eat and drink more or less and then eat very little or more the following day. A lot of novice bodybuilders are the same although the fluctuations wonít be as great.
Figure 3. theoretical model
Looking at the second model itís obvious to see the advantage of following a baseline approach. Closer regulation of your calroie intake and regular meal sizes, means you can inevitably diet on more calories. With an offseason thatís not had the same sort of attention it can almost be a guessing game as to the actual calorie intake, and any deficit introduced will not reap the same steady weight loss. The body is unsure if it will receive a higher calories the following day like itís used to and wonít give up fat at the same rate. The result it can take longer for someone to get into the groove of dieting and usually on a lot less calories than they need to be. In this example you can see a diet has been set actually higher than the average intake was previously. When people tend to panic about weight loss, one of two things tend to happen they either drop calories or introduce lots of cardio, which can ultimatly lead to flat stringy physique if itís overdone come contest day.
Long drawn out cardio at low intensities is extremely catabolic, you see a change in phenotype from the large explosive type 2 muscle fibre to the smaller more endurance type 1 fibre if you over do it. 40 minute+ cardio sessions at 65- 70% of your heart rate, should be avoided, while the process in its self leads to a increase in protein breakdown (since glucogeneisis will always occur to some degree), while the corresponding increase in protein synthesis is not as pronounced as with resistance training. So you really want to avoid doing too much cardio and having to rely on it because you never got your calories right in the first place. If cardio needs to be implemented then it should be regarded as a tool for metabolism stimulating, and the focus should always be on H.I.I.T cardio instead.
Planning is obivously improtant for this sort of diet so working out a calorie intake for your offseason accurately is important. Be sure that itís metaboliclly suitable to build muscle, provide enough energy and prevent you from getting fat. The method I would suggest is to use the Sheffield equations to calculate your basic intake and then take it from there. These equations are based on calorimetry and have a Stand Error less than 100 kcals. So they are as accurate as you can get without employing something like a ventilation hood or chamber.
The equations are as follows:
Men 10-17y BMR = 0.074W + 2.754 SEE = 0.44
18-29y BMR = 0.063W + 2.896 SEE = 0.64
30-59y BMR = 0.048W + 3.653 SEE = 0.70
Women 10-17y BMR = 0.056W + 2.898 SEE = 0.47
18-29y BMR = 0.062W + 2.036 SEE = 0.50
30-59y BMR = 0.034W + 3.583 SEE = 0.47
BMR = basal metabolic weight (MJ/d)
W = weight (kg)
SEE = standard error of estimate
1 Kcal = 4.184
So for a 25yr old 80kg man the energy requirement would be : 0.063*80+2.896 = 7.936 MJ or 1896Kcals This figure represents the minimal calorie intake required to maintain homeostasis.
After establishing an intake, energy expenditure needs to calculate on top of this as follows:
Time spent in active over 24h, expressed as a multiple of BMR = energy requirements.
Light Moderate Moderate/heavy
Leisure M F M F M F
Non-active 1.4 1.4 1.6 1.5 1.7 1.5
Moderately active 1.5 1.5 1.7 1.6 1.8 1.6
Very active 1.6 1.6 1.8 1.7 1.9 1.7
So using our 80kg man example who works in an office and trains quite hard we could asscoume an activity level of betweeen 1.5 Ė 1.6. compared to that of say a labourer who might be 1.9.
The figure is then calculated as a multiple of the first figure so: 1896 x 1.5 = 2844Kcal
This figure now represents the amount of calories required for that bodybuilder to perform his workouts and live day to day while maintaining weight. This in itself is open to interpretation since, you could actually calculate the same numbers based on lean mass rather than total mass. Which makes sense when you consider fat is not metabolically active (brown fat is only really active in rodents and neonates). At 15% BF the same figures look like this and could be the basis of a lean bulk 2574Kcal.
Itís important to realise that calories are also required to build and repair muscle tissue (200kcal+), as well as calories for exercise (200kcal+). The final figure would be 3244 kcal with a further 200kcals added after a month in order to take us in line with the model in figure 2.
Calculating macro nutrients is then the next phase so your breakdown for a bodybuilding diet would be as follows:
Since carbohydrates are the main metabolic fuel needed for workouts and enrgy during bodybuilding they make up the lion share of the calories, which falls in line with most other anaerobic sports. Protein is needed for muscle building and can be pushed slightly higher during a diet because of its preserving qualities, while fats could easily make up 20% of the intake at the expense of protein, and again is used as an energy source.
Carbohydrates 55% 1748kcal / 3.75 kcal = 475g
Proteins 20 -25% 811kcal/ 4 kcal = 202g
Fats 15 - 20% 486kcal/ 9kcal = 54g
Based on those Figures a diet might look like this:
Breakfast: porridge oats, 4 eggs scrambled 2 yolks, multi vitamin, small handful of blueberries
Meal 2: Sweet Potato, Chicken breast, green leaf salad, Cider vinegar dressing.
Meal 3: rice cakes and Peanutbutter, small apple
Meal 4: Basmati Rice, Turkey breast, green veg salad, lemon dressing.
Meal 5: Baked white potato, salmon fillet with vegetables
Meal 6: handful of almonds, low fat cottage cheese
Iíll leave the rest of you to fill in the blanks for exacte amounts.
Now if you want you could actually calculate the length of diet required to get in shape for a show based on activity and diet deficit going by the BF % equation and the fact that 1kg of calories works out at 9000kcals. For the 80kg bodybuilder with 15% BF looking to get down to <5% a ten percent loss would be: 72kg competing on stage, with 8kg (17.6lbs) of fat to lose. So to lose half a kilo (or about a 1lb) of fat a week, dieting over 18 weeks the total calorie deficit needs to be 4000kcals a week or just under 600kcals per day. With daily activity, exercise and a calorie defict this is quite acheiveable, considering the average session might burn around 200 - 400kcals, additional exercise with posing and a little H.I.I.T cardio and you could reach this target. Itís not a method I employ myself since I wouldnít know what weight I was likely to step on stage at, but it could prove useful in planning a dieting strategy. Like I said previously though you donít want to over do it inititally when you have a long diet in fornt of you, itís important to be able to make adjustments as the diet progresses rather than going hell for leather right from the start.
So the first step in the diet would be to remove 200 Ė 400kcals to start the fat burning process. Because of proteins unqiue muscle sparing abilities itís usually wise to keep these levels at around 1g per lb of bodyweight just to be safe (hence the 25% bias), so the majority has to come from the carbs. Following that intital reduction once the fat burning process slowís you can then do one of two things either add a little H.I.I.T cardio or take more calories out. Massive amounts of calories arenít needed and a stepwise drop from non training days works quite well. Based on these facts a dieting plan might look like this:
Starting Calories week 1 - 3
Carbohydrates: 425g, Proteins: 202g, Fats:54g = 2888kcals
Starting caloires week 4 Ė 10
High Days: Carbohydrates: 425g, Proteins: 202g, Fats:54g = 2888kcals
Medium Days: Carbohydrates: 375g, Proteins: 202g, Fats:54g = 2688kcals
Lower Days Carboydrates: 325g, Protein 175g, Fats 54g = 2488kcals
Starting calories weeks 10 Ė 14
High Days: Carbohydrates: 375g, Proteins: 202g, Fats:54g = 2688kcals
Medium Days Carboydrates: 325g, Protein 175g, Fats 54g = 2488kcals
Low Days Carboydrates: 325g, Protein 175g, Fats 54g = 2388kcals
Starting Calories week 15 Ė 17
High Days Carboydrates: 325g, Protein 175g, Fats 54g = 2488kcals
Medium Days Carboydrates: 300g, Protein 175g, Fats 54g = 2388kcals
Low Days Carboydrates: 290g, Protein 170g, Fats 50g = 2288kcals
*Pose for 1 hour, all other posing sessions are 20 minute sessions.
Mon Tue Wed Thur Fri Sat Sun Back Chest Abs Shoulders Legs Off Off Weeks 1- 3 2888 2888 2888 2888 2888 2888 2888 Pose Pose Off Pose Pose Pose Pose* Weeks 4- 10 2888 2688 2488 2688 2888 2488 2488 Pose Pose/Cardio Off Pose/Cardio Pose Pose Pose* Week 10- 14 2688 2488 2388 2488 2688 2388 2388 Pose Pose/Cardio Off Pose/Cardio Pose Pose*/Cardio Pose* Week
2588 2388 2288 2388 2588 2288 2288 Pose Pose/Cardio Pose Pose/Cardio Pose Pose*/Cardio Pose*
Cardio is 15 minute H.I.I.T following the workout.
When to make the additions of cardio or cut calories will depend on the individual. The important thing is not to panic and make changes when things are going well, just because you feel the need to. So either get an expereinced eye to help you or use some sort of gauge like photoís, the scales or a tape measure.
The plan I have presented here is based around keeping calories high for intense training sessions with reducing calories on dayís where the demand is lower like an abs work out. This is a cycling method, obviously the goal was to keep the calories as high as possible but you, could also have 1 high day followed by several medium days. Then as the weeks progress, what was once a medium day becomes a high day as the calories come down, just like in this plan. You could also simply do straight drops with level intakes across ever day, followed by another drop once the fat loss slows. Iíd recommend at least starting with a cycling method to allow for higher calories throught the diet.
Like I said at the start of the article there are no magic formulaís itís just a case of putting the work in and making sure you keep burning fat by creating a dent in your calorie requirements. Anyway I hopefully youíll all find this information useful along with the examples. Happy dieting!