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Post Ketogenic contest-prep dieting
by Narkissos 09-09-2009, 12:00 PM

The Ketogenic Approach
by The Squatch

This is a basic article to discuss low carbohydrate pre-contest dieting and to explain how to construct an effective approach to peaking for a competition.

We will discuss basic nutrition principles, body composition, the intricacies of a pre-contest diet, as well as utilizing cardio and weight training to properly peak for a physique contest.


Getting started
Before we get too in-depth about pre-contest dieting, itís important to understand the difference between a healthy fat loss diet, and contest preparation.

A pre-contest diet is constructed in order to help a physique competitor (bodybuilder, fitness, figure) lose as much body fat as possible while holding on to as much lean muscle mass as possible. Often times, the carbohydrates are limited, especially when closing in on the competition date. It is not a long-term fat loss methodology. It is a plan to peak for a certain date.

A healthy diet constructed for long-term fat loss is a balanced diet that puts the individual in a caloric deficit in order to lose body fat. It SHOULD be constructed to allow for a gradual loss of body fat (2 pounds a week being a healthy guideline to follow). Those of you looking to formulate a weight loss plan should not mirror a pre-contest diet.


Body Composition
The first step in formulating a pre-contest diet is assessing body composition, in order to identify lean body and fat mass. You can have a skinfold caliper test done at almost any local fitness facility. Although it is not the most accurate way to calculate body fat percentage, an experienced and qualified trainer can do it and get a relatively close reading.

Hydrostatic weighing is the most accurate form of body fat testing, though it is not as easily accessible as a skinfold caliper test. Some doctorís offices, sports medicine clinics, and universities with sports programs will have the proper equipment. It is also quite a bit more expensive than a skinfold caliper test.

After getting your body fat percentage identified, you can use it to calculate body composition. For example, a 235 pound male bodybuilder is identified with 15% body fat via skinfold caliper test. In order to calculate body composition, multiply weight (235) by bf (.15). This calculates to 35.25 pounds of body fat, and 199.5 pounds lean body mass.

In order to be competitive in bodybuilding, a male competitor should look to achieve <5% body fat. In order to calculate goal body composition and weight, multiply lean body mass (199.5) by goal body fat percentage in decimal +1 (1.05). This calculates to 209.475. To make things easy, weíll round down to 209 pounds. So, for a male bodybuilder weighing 235 pounds at 15% body fat, he would have to lose 26 pounds of body fat while maintaining his lean body mass.

For females, the same formulas are used; however, competitive female bodybuilders usually look to come in at a goal body fat of 6%-7%, with fitness and figure competitors at 7%-10%. These are general ranges. Everyone is a little different, and you wonít know what you look best at until you actually peak.

It should also be said that body composition should be monitored through the entire pre-contest phase (weekly or bi-weekly), and small adjustments can and usually have to be made.


Estimating Caloric Needs
BMR: Your BMR is the caloric requirement your body at rest needs to maintain normal function over a 24 hour period. Here is a link to a simple table to estimate BMR based on age, height, and weight. BMR Calculator

Daily Caloric Expenditure: The requirement your body needs to maintain normal function with daily activity factored in. The site referenced above also supplies a chart to estimate caloric requirement based on type and duration of exercise.

With that information, we can use the same example of a male bodybuilder who weighs 235 pounds, is 70 inches tall and is 25 years old. He would have a BMR of approximately 2261 kcal. If you factor in 45 minutes of weight training and 45 minutes cardiovascular activity, his daily caloric expenditure would be approximately 3000 kcal. We will use this information along with nutritional guidelines to help plan a pre-contest diet.



Nutrition
Iíd like to touch on basic nutrition a little, before we move into formulating an actual dietary plan for pre-contest dieting.


Carbohydrates are the best dietary source of energy. There are 4 calories per gram of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates can be broken into three groups: Monosaccharides, disaccharides and polysaccharides. Simple sugars like glucose and fructose fall into the monosaccharide category. These simple sugars can be found in honey, and fruits.

Disaccharides make up the second group of carbohydrates. Disaccharides consist of sucrose, lactose and dextrose, and can be found in table sugar, candy and milk.

Polysaccharides make up the third group of carbohydrates, and are those sugars referred to as complex carbohydrates. These starches and starch-like sugars (dextrin, cellulose, pectin and glycogen) can be found in whole grains, vegetables, nuts, some fruits and legumes.

Our bodies can only absorb monosaccharides. So, upon eating something high in simple sugars, it is quickly absorbed and can affect blood glucose and insulin levels in a very short time. Complex carbohydrates require time for digestion to break down the complex carbohydrates into monosaccharides.



Protein is an organic compound made up of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen. There are 4 calories per gram of protein. Proteinís main function is to synthesize muscle, as well as to synthesize hormones like insulin, growth hormone, and Insulin Growth Factor-I (IGF-1). These hormones are anabolic, and can effect muscle growth, strength, recovery, and cellular absorption.

The value of protein is based on its amino acid composition. Protein is made up of 21 amino acids, which are categorized as essential, conditionally-essential, and non essential. Essential amino acids (valine, methionine, tryptophan, theronine, phenylalanine, lysine, leucine and isoleucine) can not be synthesized by the body, and must be obtained from food. Conditionally-essential amino acids (tyrosine, taurine, proline, glutamine, cystine, arginine, and histidine) are amino acids that can not be synthesized in sufficient amounts by the body in times of immuno-distress or injury. Non-essential amino acids (serine, glycine, glutamic acid, aspartic acid, asparagine, and alanine) can be synthesized by the body in sufficient amounts, and are not required by diet.


Fats are found in solid and liquid form, and are also referred to as lipids. Fats arenít always the villain they are portrayed to be, and in fact are necessary for the body to function properly. Fats are the most highly concentrated source of energy, at 9 calories per gram, over twice the calories per gram than protein or carbohydrates.




Pre-contest nutrition
Normally, to form a dietary plan for weight loss, you want to figure out BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) along with your daily caloric requirements, and formulate a diet that is well balanced and keeps you in caloric deficit. With a pre-contest diet, we will use these figures as a check point, but what is most important is maintaining lean body mass while in caloric deficit.

There are several schools of thought out there regarding specifics of pre-contest diet. I wonít get into all of them, but I will discuss what I feel is the best approach for most people.

Ketosis
Ketosis is a stage in metabolism occurring when the liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies which can be used by the body for energy. What this does, in effect, is switch your body from using glucose to fat as its primary fuel source. In theory, this aids in the loss of body fat (in the short term), especially when in caloric deficit.

It is widely accepted that 50 grams of carbohydrates per day or less is required to stay in ketosis. With that in mind, itís time to actually put together the approach for the diet.

Protein Needs
When utilizing a ketogenic pre-contest diet, itís important to intake enough protein to combat the loss of lean body mass. I like to use 1.5 x LBM as a good starting point. With my strategy, it seems to be a very nice stepping off point that allows for consumption of enough food to keep from feeling hungry, and keep from going catabolic. With our 235 pound bodybuilder example, his LBM was approximately 200 pounds. Multiply 200 pounds by 1.5, which calculates to 300 grams of protein per day.

Fat Needs
When utilizing a ketogenic pre-contest diet, itís important to consume healthy fats for proper body function, hormone output, and fuel. You do want to be in a caloric deficit, but you want to make sure you have enough energy for every day activities, your weight training, and cardio. I feel that .5 x LBM is a good starting point. With our 235 pound bodybuilder example, his LBM was approximately 200 pounds. Multiply 200 pounds by .5, which calculates to 100 grams of fat per day.

Carbohydrate Needs
Again, in order to stay in ketosis, ingestion of carbohydrates is minimal. What carbohydrates you do intake will be from green, fibrous vegetables, and incidental carbohydrates from the other food sources. Carbohydrates from fibrous vegetables have less chance effecting blood sugar, and are packed with vitamins, fiber, and nutrients. 50 grams of carbohydrates or less will be the standard.

Nutrient Totals
We have estimated the macronutrient needs based on our example bodybuilder, now lets figure out what that looks like. 300 grams protein = 1200 kcal, 100 grams fat = 900 kcal, 50 grams carbohydrates = 200 kcal, for a total of 2300 kcal per day. Letís go back to where we calculated BMR and daily caloric requirement and check the totals for comparison. We are very close to the BMR, and under the daily caloric requirement, which equates to fat loss without loss of muscle.

Meal Preparation
We have our totals, now itís time to prepare the meals. A diet like this is best to split into 6-7 meals (I prefer 6) throughout the day, in order to have a steady supply of protein to prevent catabolism. You should look to evenly split the protein and fat through all 6 meals, and look to intake the carbohydrates from fibrous vegetables in one or two meals earlier in the day.

If you divide 300 by 6 meals, your protein intake per meal should be about 50 grams. Divide 100 by 6 meals, and your fat intake per meal should be about 16 grams.

Foods

Protein
Very Lean Beef
Turkey Breast
Halibut
Tuna
Protein Powder
Eggs
Buffalo
Tilapia

Fat
Almonds
Peanuts
Natural PB
Olive Oil
Eggs

Carbohydrates
Broccoli
Spinach
Asparagus
Cauliflower
Kale


A sample plan for our 235 pound bodybuilder might look like this:


Meal 1: 4 whole eggs, 1 cup egg whites - 48 g protein, 16 g fat

Meal 2: 8 oz chicken breast, 1 Tbsp natural PB, 1 cup broccoli - 53 g protein, 18 g fat, 11 g carbohydrate

Meal 3: 6 oz Tilapia, 1.5 cup asparagus, 1 oz almonds - 52 g protein, 17 g fat, 16 g carbohydrate

Meal 4: 4 whole eggs, 1 cup egg whites - 48 g protein, 16 g fat

Meal 5: (Post workout shake): 2 scoops whey protein (sugar free), 1 oz almonds - 52 g protein, 17 g fat, 10 g carbohydrates

Meal 6: 8 oz chicken breast, 1 Tbsp natural PB - 45 g protein, 18 g fat, 3 g carbohydrates

Sample Totals: Protein Ė 298 g, Fat Ė 102 g, Carbohydrates Ė 40 g


Cheat Meal
Once per week, I suggest a cheat meal following this type of contest preparation. A cheat meal consisting of a high amount of carbohydrates will help to keep the thyroid from cutting the output of T4, which results in less endogenous T3, and will also give you a weekly meal to look forward to. I donít feel the cheat meal needs to be controlled too greatly, as long as the protein consumption is adequate.

One cheat meal per week, thatís it. It is very important not to skip this meal. Doing so too far out from your competition will hinder progress. The thyroid hormones are an important part of the equation, and you donít want to blunt your bodyís production of them.

The cheat meal will come out of the process as the contest date nears. When it does is going to be based on overall progress.



Weight Training
Nothing much new here. I am not a proponent of changing routines for a contest prep regimen. I think what works in the off season works for a pre-contest regimen. The energy expended doing high-rep exercises has been shown to be very close to the energy spent doing exercises in the hypertrophy range (8-12). In fact, recent studies have shown that working in a lower rep range has a higher effect on metabolism 6 to12 hours post-workout.

Granted, you will lose a little strength as you get closer to the date you are trying to peak for, but the goal of a pre-contest diet and training regimen is not to get stronger, itís to drop body fat and retain lean muscle mass.


Cardio
AhhhÖ.Cardio, the best part of a pre-contest regimen. Iím not going to lie, cardio sucks ass, but itís a necessity to get into the shape where you will be competitive with other physique competitors.

High Intensity or Low Intensity?
This question has raged on for years. In my opinion, low intensity always wins out when the goal is fat loss, regardless of whether itís in a pre-contest regimen or not. High intensity cardio is great for strengthening the cardiovascular system, increasing VO2max, and sport-specific training, but it has no place in contest preparation.

The body uses glycogen to fuel high intensity cardio. In a reduced carbohydrate or ketogenic diet, there is very little consumption of carbohydrates to be converted to glycogen. In the absence of glycogen, your body will make glycogen via gluconeogenesis. Instead of boring you with the science of substrates and the metabolic processes of gluconeogenesis, I will tell you this: If you donít have enough glycogen to fuel high intensity cardio, your body will either catabolize your muscle or utilize dietary protein to create glycogen. Neither of these scenarios is favorable to someone trying to keep all of their hard earned muscle.

This brings up the question: Why not just ingest more carbohydrates? In my mind, the answer is simple. Itís a matter of two steps forward, one step back. You have to ingest carbohydrates to fuel high intensity cardio. Ingesting carbohydrates means greater caloric intake, which requires more cardio. So you get to eat some carbohydrates, but you have to work much harder to burn them off. That doesnít seem smart to me.

I suggest staying in a low intensity range of approximately 120-130 beats per minute. This will keep the body burning stored fat for energy, and will avoid having to convert muscle or dietary protein for fuel.

The duration of cardio will depend on the individualís status. If he/she begins contest prep at a low body fat percentage, 3-4 times weekly for 45 minutes per session should work nicely. For those that are at a higher body fat percentage, more sessions may be necessary. As you close in on the contest date, you may have to add in more/longer sessions (or split sessions to twice daily). Again, this will be based on progress.


Supplementation
Most of the time, I feel that supplementation is grossly overdone. However, when pre-contest dieting, supplementation is necessary. You are limiting your food intake to a small cross section of foods, and not all the necessary nutrients are going to be ingested.

Iíd suggest a good multi-vitamin/mineral twice daily. I also think supplementing Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids by way of fish and flax seed oil in the range of 5 grams each is smart. In addition, you may find that additional intake of fiber via a source like sugar-free Metamucil will be beneficial for digestion and regularity.

Glutamine is another popular supplement during pre-contest, though I donít feel itís necessary. You should be ingesting plenty of protein, which is rich in the amino acid glutamine. However, should you feel it necessary, 5-10 grams of glutamine daily should be more than sufficient.

Fat Burners (specifically an ECA stack) are widely used during pre-contest dieting. Iíd suggest saving these for the last few weeks prior to your contest.

Water, Sodium Manipulation, and Carb Depletion/Loading

This is another article in itself. Needless to say, these are some areas you will want to look into for the final week of your contest prep. These three things can mean the difference between placing very well, and placing very poorly. As with pre-contest diet, there are many, many theories about each of them. Do some research, talk to a coach and/or experienced competitor, and formulate a SMART approach.


Wrapping It Up
We have discussed a ketogenic pre-contest diet that works for many people. Is this the only way to prep for a contest? No. There are many contest prep methods that work, but this type of approach seems to work very well.

Keep in mind that pre-contest dieting is not the healthiest thing you can do for your body, but if youíve made the choice to compete, you already know that. Monitoring your body fat levels, judging progress in the mirror, and taking pictures will all help to show your progress through this process. You may need to tweak a few things here and there, but thatís the case with any type of pre-contest diet.

Also, post-contest weight gain is a serious reality. Many people gain upwards of 10% of their body mass within a few weeks of the contest because of the bodyís reaction to water and sodium depletion, and reintroduction of normal food. Gradual changes in sodium and diet can help to alleviate this. With all things, be careful and monitor your health.

Good luck
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Quote:
Originally Posted by greeniz515 View Post
when you say you are doing a keto diet are you limiting food to very specific choices or are you keeping your macros at a specific number and choosing whatever foods fit into the equation?
Assuming you are doing the flavor with high pro and moderate fat, I find it easier to eat the same stuff daily.

If you choose to be more varied, just make sure you eat healthy fats as the primary source. Also for your essential fats, get a 1:1 balance of omega 3 to 6. You dont want a whole bunch of saturated fats all day. Try to use macadamia nut oil, olive oil, natty PB, nuts, etc. You do want one fatty protein meal because saturated fats at a reasonable level are essential. Salmon or steak is good here.

Omega3 eggs are a great choice as well.
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