Get the lowdown on basic punches, gear, and shadowboxing.Read article
Keep your program on track by making sure you’re getting the right amount of nutrients for your training.
Just as important as your hard work in the gym is your attention to your diet. The right foods will help fuel your fitness and keep you energized while enhancing recovery. The best part is, the healthy eating habits you’ll use during contest prep can last well beyond showtime. Similar to the fitness prep program, the diet prep plan, designed by IFBB pro and nutritionist Gennifer Strobo, is divided into three segments. The first segment is about establishing a healthy, balanced diet, which means eliminating some of the junk like processed foods and high-sugar items and adding in more nutritious options like fruits, vegetables, and lean protein. In the second phase, it’s time to get a little more serious. You’ll add in some lower-carb days to help you cut body fat and boost your metabolism. Phase 3 begins two weeks before your show date, with a stricter plan that will help you deliver a peak performance. (You may need to start this a little earlier depending on where your progress is for the show, says Strobo.)
Lean Proteins: Choose from a variety of proteins, including meat, eggs, dairy, and protein powder. Just make sure you’re watching your portion sizes. That generally means 3 to 4 oz of meat or fish per meal, 1 cup of liquid egg whites, 2 whole eggs, or 1 scoop of protein powder.
Fresh Fruits: Sweet, delicious, and nutritious, fruit will help ensure you’re getting the right amount of vitamins and other nutrients. Don’t forget, even savory fruits like tomatoes count!
Greens And Other Veggies: Try to have at least one cup of vegetables per meal, and vary your choices. “It’s important to keep things interesting—especially in these early weeks. You don’t want to get burned out on asparagus and still be two months away from the show!” advises Strobo.
Balanced Carbs: Carbs deserve a place in your diet, especially at this point in your show prep when you are just getting started. They help provide the energy you need for workouts and keep you on an even keel. Just watch your serving size—about 1⁄2 cup (4 oz) of carbs in your meals is suitable at this point, says Strobo.
Healthy Fats: The right mix of fats help to keep your body energized and your heart healthy,” says Strobo. In addition to providing satiety, “good” fats help your muscles feel fuller, she adds. Since fat has more than twice the calories per gram of carbs or protein, keep your portions in check.
Focus On: Establishing Healthy Eating Habits
Time: 4 weeks (12 to 8 weeks from competition date)
“This phrase is all about cleaning up things in your daily nutrition,” says Strobo. If you aren’t already, you should be eating five to six times a day—a combination of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two to three snacks, depend- ing on your body’s needs. This will help speed your metabolism and prevent your blood- sugar levels from crashing. Each main meal should include a protein, veggie, fat, and carb option. You should also have about two servings of fruit, either as part of a snack or in your meals. Try to eat whole foods whenever possible, and remove any sugars, nibbles, or meal-replacement bars, says Strobo. This is also a good time to keep a food journal of what you’ve eaten and to start weighing and portioning out all your meals.
Use these menus as a guide for how to mix and match the food groups on the previous pages. Depending on where you are in your training, you may want to start adding in one or two low-carb days a week. (These can often be on rest days, when you’re not training.)
Breakfast: Avocado and Egg Sandwich
Directions: Mash or slice avocado and spread on bread. Set egg whites in the middle of a slice of bread. Top with salsa, or use it for dipping, and other slice of bread.
Lunch: Mediterranean Wrap
Directions: Spread hummus on tortilla, lay out cucumber, add tuna, and roll up tortilla.
Bedtime Snack: Nutty Mug Cake
Directions: Blend together ingredients, place in a mug, and microwave approximately 45 to 60 seconds.
Breakfast: Overnight Oats
Directions: Place all ingredients in a container and in refrigerator overnight. In the morning, stir and enjoy this “pudding” cold or heat and eat.
Lunch: Chicken Salad
Dinner: Italian Stuffed Pepper
Sauté turkey until cooked, add beans and seasoning, and heat through. Halve pepper and clean out the center. Add turkey mixture to pepper and bake at 350°F for 20 to 25 minutes.
Sauté vegetables in oil. Whip eggs and pour over vegetables; cook to desired doneness.
Lunch: “Spaghetti” Time
Dinner: Fish and Veggies
Blend together until smooth.
Focus on: Body Composition
Time: 6 weeks (8 to 2 weeks from competition date)
By now, your meals should be fairly standard, with a balanced mix of nutrients and regular timing. Keep weighing and measuring your portions to ensure accuracy, says Strobo. “You can still add a small amount of flavor through sauces and spices, but try to minimize that so you can curb your cravings,” she adds. Your primary goal in this phase is to keep getting your body leaner by speeding your metabolism while staying in a small calorie deficit so you’re burning a few more calories than you’re taking in. “Some days you may feel hungry; others you might not even think about it. Your priority is to keep your body somewhat hungry but not so starving that you’re depleting your muscle mass,” says Strobo.
Your number of lower-carb days may start to increase here depending on where you are in your plan. This can vary according to your body type as well (your coach can help you determine exactly how many days a week you should be low-carb), but often that may include three low-carb days five to eight weeks from your show date and four low-carb days two to four weeks from the show. Use the same macro and food-group breakdowns from Phase 1 as a guide.
Higher-Carb Day: Pancakes
Directions: Blend all together and cook like a pancake or place in a waffle maker.
Lower-Carb Day: Pancakes
Higher Carb Day: Turkey Sandwich
Lower-Carb Day: Surf or Turf Salad
Higher-Carb Day: Snack
Or Chicken Pasta
Lower Carb Day: Smoothie
Directions: Blend with ice and water
Directions: Sauté all ingredients together and serve.
Lower-Carb Day: Stir-fry
Either Day: Snack
Focus On: Getting Show-ready
Time: 2 weeks out from competition date
Your final diet phase lasts only two weeks, but it requires some discipline and determination. You’re very close to competing, and it’s important to keep your diet strictly on track, says Strobo. That doesn’t mean starving yourself, of course—you still need plenty of energy to power your workouts and keep your muscles looking full. But the meals here are basic—no spices, sauces, or sweeteners. “These don’t necessarily have a caloric value, but your body still has to metabolize them before it can work on the food in the meal and burn body fat, so no need to waste that energy,” explains Strobo. You may want to talk to your coach about how many low-carb or very low-carb days you should follow, but it could be as many as five or more at this point. If you need to get leaner for the show, you’ll need more of the low-carb options. Don’t let your calorie intake drop below 1,300. Don’t forget spices or sauces are not allowed at this phase, so get creative with presentation!
Higher-Carb: Eggs & Oats
Low-Carb Day: Eggs & Vegetables
Either Day: Snack
Higher-Carb Day: Chicken & Veggies
Low-Carb Day: Surf or turf
Either Day: Smoothie
Higher-Carb Day: Chicken & Vegetables
Low-Carb Day: Surf or Turf
Either Day: Snack
Directions: Blend until thick (like pudding).
In the final two weeks of prep, you might want to help reduce some of the body’s natural water retention and get that final “tightness” you are looking for onstage, says Strobo. Here’s how to do it safely.