12-Week diet

Take your physique to the next level with this hardcore 12-week diet - if you dare.

fit woman

Basic Guidelines

  • Eat four meals and one snack per day. (Schedule your meals roughly three hours apart. Fit in your snack meal when it best suits your needs.) Your last meal or snack shouldn't be any later than two hours before bedtime.
  • Aim to drink 4 quarts of water a day, one each during your morning and afternoon workouts and two that you drink throughout the day.
  • Most days, your snack will be a protein drink with no or very low carbs. Twice a week, allow yourself a portion of fat-free frozen yogurt (containing less than 30 grams of carbs). It's a nice reward for the hard work of dieting, says Nicholls, and since it's "legal," you should have no guilt and, therefore, no ensuing binge. Decide what days and at what mealtimes you want to enjoy your treat. If you don't want frozen yogurt, a meal-replacement shake might be a nice change.
  • Nicholls strongly recommends rotating MRPs (meal-replacement powders) in and out of the diet. Go for one with about 40 grams of protein and 15-25 grams of carbs.
  • Use whey isolate protein powders for your daily snack, he advises. They're a bit more expensive but reduce bloating. Try mixing vanilla protein powder with your favorite Crystal Lite, or shake up chocolate protein powder with cold decaf coffee over ice for a mid-afternoon snack at the office. A half whey/half soy isolate product is also fine.
  • In the beginning, Nicholls recommends weighing your food on a scale and keeping track of calories as well as grams of protein, carbs and fat. After a while, you'll learn to eyeball portions. The slight variations in your amounts will help keep your metabolism from adjusting. One caveat: If you have trouble with portion control, continue to weigh your food. 
  • Get adequate rest and recovery time during this time of restricted food intake and stepped-up training!

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Remember, even the pros don't live on a precontest diet. This is a temporary program in which healthful foods such as fruit and dairy products are omitted to assist with time-efficient fat-burning. While you're living on restricted food choices, supplying your body with the necessary nutrients is vital.

To keep vitamins and minerals in your system throughout the day, take these supplement basics once in the morning and once in the afternoon: a good multivitamin/mineral, 1,000 mg Vitamin C, a calcium/zinc/magnesium product, and 400 IU Vitamin E. Also take one iron tablet in the afternoon only.

If the diet leaves you feeling deprived, eating one piece of fruit a week is acceptable (and better than skipping a meal, says Nicholls). Don't feel you have to have it, though. If you really want to see quick changes, you should avoid having cheat days during the first four weeks.

After you've dieted for a month, a cheat day becomes optional. Gauge your progress and your motivation. If you must indulge, preplan your cheat to stay incontrol. Write down what you crave, Nicholls suggests. Whether it's a plate of pancakes or a lasagna dinner, hold off for four hours instead of three between your cheat meal and the next meal, then make the latter light and easily digestible, such as an MRP.

Thermogenic products, which usually combine ephedra with caffeine, are entirely optional. Check with your doctor to make sure you're in good physical health before using thermogenics. They can help by curbing appetite, providing extra energy and raising body temperature, which boosts metabolism, but people with certain medical conditions shouldn't take them.