samon-salad-food

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.)

Food Groups to Include 

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.

  • Chicken breast (3 oz) 
  • Eggs (2 whole)
  • Egg whites (1 cup) 
  • Flank steak (3 oz) 
  • Ground turkey breast (3 oz)
  • Lean ground beef (3 oz)
  • Salmon (3 oz) 
  • Shellfish (3 oz)
  • Tuna (packet) (3 oz)
  • Tofu or tempeh (3 oz)
  • Whey protein powder (1 scoop)
  • White fish (3 oz)

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!

  • Apple (1 small) 
  • Applesauce(1⁄2 cup) 
  • Banana (1⁄2 large) 
  • Berries (2⁄3 cup) 
  • Cherries (2⁄3 cup) 
  • Grapefruit (1 cup)
  • Pear (1 small) 
  • Pineapple (2⁄3 cup, chunks) 
  • Tomato sauce (2⁄3 cup) 
  • Salsa (2⁄3 cup)

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.

  • Asparagus (10 spears)
  • Broccoli (1 cup) 
  • Brussels sprouts (1 cup)
  • Cabbage (2 cups) 
  • Cauliflower (1 cup) 
  • Celery (4 stalks) 
  • Cucumber (1⁄2 large)
  • Green beans (1 cup)
  • Lettuce (2 cups) 
  • Mushrooms (1 cup) 
  • Onions (1⁄2 cup) 
  • Snow peas (2⁄3 cup) 
  • Spaghetti squash (1 cup)
  • Spinach (2 cups)

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.

  • Beans (1⁄2 cup) 
  • Brown rice (1⁄2 cup) 
  • Butternut squash(2 cups, cubed) 
  • Low-carb wheat tortilla (1; about 25 grams of carbs)
  • Oats (rolled, not steel-cut) (1⁄2 cup) 
  • Puffed-rice cereal (like Rice Krispies) (1 cup)
  • Quinoa (1⁄2 cup) 
  • Red potato (4 oz) 
  • Rice cakes (4 plain)
  • Sweet potato (4 oz) 
  • Whole-grain frozen waffle (2) 
  • Whole-grain pasta (1⁄2 cup) 
  • Whole-wheat bread (2 slices)

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.

  • Almonds (12 whole) 
  • Avocado (3 oz)
  • Cashews (8 whole)
  • Coconut oil (1⁄2 tbsp) 
  • Extra-virgin olive oil (1 tbsp) 
  • Flaxseed oil (1 tbsp)
  • Nut butter (1 tbsp)

SEE ALSO: Phase One of Our Competition Body Workout Plan

Phase 1: Pre-Prep

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.

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Phase 1: Sample Menus

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.)

Menu 1: Higher-Carb Day 

Breakfast:  Avocado and Egg Sandwich 

  • 3 oz avocado
  • 2 slices sprouted-grain bread, toasted 
  • 1 cup egg whites, scrambled 
  • Salsa (to taste)

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.

Snack:

  • 1 scoop protein powder 
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk 
  • 1⁄2 banana

Lunch:  Mediterranean Wrap

  • 2 tbsp hummus
  • 1 low-carb tortilla
  • Cucumber sticks 
  • 1 tuna pack

Directions:  Spread hummus on tortilla, lay out cucumber, add tuna, and roll up tortilla.

Snack: 

  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt 
  • 10 almonds
  • 1⁄2 cup berries

Dinner:  Stir-fry

  • 3 oz ground beef 
  • 1⁄2 cup brown rice
  • 1 cup stir-fry vegetables 
  • 1⁄2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce

Bedtime Snack: Nutty Mug Cake

  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • 1  tbsp nut butter 
  • 2  tbsp water 
  • 1 tbsp unsweetened almond milk

Directions:  Blend together ingredients, place in a mug, and microwave approximately 45 to 60 seconds.

grilled-chicken-salad

Menu 2: Higher-Carb Day 

Breakfast: Overnight Oats

  • 1 scoop whey protein 
  • 1⁄2 cup raspberries
  • 1 tbsp almond butter 
  • 1⁄2 cup oats
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk

Directions: Place all ingredients in a container and in refrigerator overnight. In the morning, stir and enjoy this “pudding” cold or heat and eat.

Snack: 

  • 1 apple
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter

Lunch: Chicken Salad

  • 3 oz chicken breast
  • 2 cups lettuce mix or spinach 
  • 3 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp avocado oil
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar 
  • 2 rice cakes (crumbled for croutons; optional)

Snack:

  • 1 tuna pack
  • 1 cup sliced cucumbers, soaked in balsamic vinegar

Dinner: Italian Stuffed Pepper

  • 4 oz ground turkey 
  • 1⁄2 cup black beans
  • 1 tbsp Italian seasoning 
  • 1 bell pepper (any color)

Directions: 

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.

Bedtime Snack:

  • 1/2 cup cottage cheese 
  • 12 almonds

celery-vegtables

Menu 3: Lower-Carb Day

Breakfast: Omelet

  • 1 cup diced vegetables 
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 whole eggs

Directions: 

Sauté vegetables in oil. Whip eggs and pour over vegetables; cook to desired doneness.

Snack: 

  • 1⁄4 cup hummus
  • 1 cup raw veggies

Lunch: “Spaghetti” Time 

  • 3 oz ground turkey 
  • 1 1⁄2 cups spaghetti squash
  • 1⁄4 cup low-sugar marinara sauce 
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Snack:

  • 2 hard-boiled eggs 
  • 1 cup celery and carrot sticks

Dinner:  Fish and Veggies

  • 3 oz salmon
  • 1 cup steamed vegetables

Bedtime Snack: 

  • 3 oz avocado (chilled) 
  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • 2 tbsp cocoa
  • 1⁄4 cup unsweetened almond milk

Directions: 

Blend together until smooth.

Phase 2: Main Prep

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.

blueberry-pancakes

Meal 1

Higher-Carb Day: Pancakes 

  • 5 egg whites
  • 1⁄2 cup oats
  • 1⁄2 scoop whey protein
  • 1⁄2 cup berries or cherries

Directions: Blend all together and cook like a pancake or place in a waffle maker.

Lower-Carb Day: Pancakes

  • 4 egg whites
  • 1⁄2 cup sweet potato 
  • 1⁄2 scoop whey protein 
  • 1⁄2 cup berries

Meal 2

Higher Carb Day: Turkey Sandwich 

  • 4 oz sliced turkey breast
  • 2 slices sprouted- grain bread
  • 2 oz avocado

Lower-Carb Day: Surf or Turf Salad

  • 4 oz salmon or flank steak
  • 2 cups spinach
  • Balsamic vinegar and lemon juice to taste 
  • 1 tbsp avocado or olive oil

Meal 3

Higher-Carb Day: Snack

  • 1 scoop whey protein powder mixed with water
  • 1 small apple
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 2 rice cakes

Or  Chicken Pasta

  • 4 oz chicken breast
  • 1⁄2  cup rice, quinoa, or whole-wheat pasta 
  • 1⁄2  cup dark-green vegetable of choice 
  • Lower-Carb Day:
  • Chicken & Asparagus
  • 4 oz chicken breast or white fish
  • 10 to12 asparagus spears 
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Meal 4

Higher-Carb:

  • Chicken & Veggies
  • 4 oz chicken breast 
  • 4 oz sweet potato (mash with cinnamon) 
  • 1⁄2 cup dark-green vegetable of choice

Lower Carb Day: Smoothie 

  • 1 scoop whey protein powder
  • 1 1⁄2 tbsp peanut butter

Directions: Blend with ice and water

Meal 5

Higher-Carb Day:

  • Stir Fry 
  • 4 oz chicken or turkey breast
  • 1 cup kale or spinach
  • 1 cup diced vegetables of choice
  • 1⁄3 cup brown rice 
  • 1⁄2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 to 3 tbsp Bragg’s Aminos or soy sauce

Directions: Sauté all ingredients together and serve.

Lower-Carb Day: Stir-fry

  • 4 oz chicken or turkey breast
  • 1 cup kale or spinach
  • 1 cup diced vegetables of choice
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 to 3 tbsp Bragg’s Aminos or soy sauce

Meal 6 

Either Day: Snack 

  • 1 scoop casein protein 
  • 10 cashews

SEE ALSO: Phase Two of Our Competition Body Meal Prep

Phase 3

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!

salad

Meal: 1

Higher-Carb: Eggs & Oats

  • 3 egg whites plus 
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1⁄3 cup oats
  • 1 tbsp flax oil

Low-Carb Day: Eggs & Vegetables

  • 2 whole eggs (scramble or make into an omelet)
  • 1⁄2 cup asparagus or broccoli
  • 2 oz avocado

Meal 2 

Either Day: Snack

  • 1 tuna pack (in water) 
  • 1 cup cucumber slices soaked in balsamic vinegar

Meal 3

Higher-Carb Day: Chicken & Veggies

  • 4 oz chicken breast
  • 1⁄2  cup rice or 4 oz sweet potato 
  • 1⁄2  cup dark-green vegetable of choice 

Low-Carb Day: Surf or turf

  • 4 oz salmon or lean ground beef
  • 1 cup zucchini or broccoli
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Meal 4

Either Day: Smoothie

  • 1 scoop whey protein powder
  • 1 1⁄2 tbsp peanut or almond butter

Meal 5

Higher-Carb Day: Chicken & Vegetables 

  • 4 oz chicken breast
  • 1⁄2 cup rice or sweet potato 
  • 1⁄2 cup dark-green vegetable of choice

Low-Carb Day: Surf or Turf  

  • 3 oz salmon or lean ground beef
  • 1 cup zucchini or broccoli
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Meal 6

Either Day: Snack

  • 1 scoop casein protein 
  • 1 100-calorie pack of almonds

Or

  • 1 cup cottage cheese 
  • 1 tbsp coco a powder 
  • 1 stevia packet
  • 1 tbsp nut butter

Directions: Blend until thick (like pudding).

SEE ALSO: Phase Three of Our Competition Body Workout Plan

Expert Q+A: What's the Best Way to Deal with Bloating?
Kristy-Anne Glubish/Design Pics/Corbis

Secret Slim Down

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.

  • One week before your show, try adding a little dandelion root to your water. (At this point, you should be drinking up to a gallon or more of water a day.) Dandelion leaves act as a diuretic, which can help reduce fluid levels in your body.
  • Monitor your fluid intake. Decrease your water to approximately a half gallon the day before your show. (Finish by midday.) Then sip only minimal amounts with each meal the night before and the day of the show until you are done competing.
  • Many supplement companies also have products that can help shed water. Look for ingredients like vitamin B6, Uva Ursi, and green tea. Read labels to make sure you’re taking the correct amounts and not overdoing it.