Bodybuilding Precontest Competition Tips

2008 Mr. Olympia Posedown

Photo credit: Muscletime

Q: I have been doing Bodyopus since February for a Bodybuilding contest later this month. I read your article on precontest guidelines. I am down to 191.6lbs at 6.5% bodyfat. I am 5’8″ tall. What is your definition of low carbs? What would you do to define low carbs? What parameters would you look for to define low carb intake? During this low carb period are you in ketosis or out of it? Do you have any other suggestions regarding the last 8 days before the show?

Lyle McDonald: Since you’ve been on Bodyopus up to this point, I would generally suggest returning to it on Friday. Meaning take in a total of 30 grams of carbs across Friday (vegetables, not starches). You may or may not enter ketosis on Friday, especailly since you aren’t training on that day. But it’s no biggie. Basically you want to allow your body to drop any subcutaneous (under the skin) without losing muscular fullness. But at the same time you want to keep your blood volume up or your vasularity will suffer.

The only other things I can add are this:

Water intake: you should keep water intake high during the carb-up. This will ensure maximal fullness as well as keeping you body from upregulating Aldosterone (also called anti-diuretic hormone). Figure out how much water you drank per day during your carb-ups (which should be Tue and Wed, maybe Thu). Cut that in half on Thu, half again on Friday. So if you drank 2 liters of water on Wed, drink 1 liter on Thu, .5 liter on Fri. Sat is the day that can go either way. Basically sip on water as necessary. The diuretic should keep you peeing pretty well but you don’t want to dehydrate too much.

Sodium/potassium: I don’t beleive in sodium loading, have just heard too many bad things about it. But don’t do like many and cut your sodium too low too early or your body will hold water. Keep sodium at normal levels through your carb-up (it’s necessary to get glucose across the intestinal membrane) than decrease it on Friday and Saturday. This won’t leave you with many food choices and check everything for sodium intake.

Potassium is important to help avoid cramping but too much is as bad as too little. Generally 1000 mg taken in divided doses throughout the day will help. Again, don’t go crazy, too much potassium can be as dangerous as too little. calcium seems to help with cramping as well for some reason.

About 30 minutes before pre-judging, you’ll probably want to have some sort of quick digesting carbohydrate. this will bring up blood volume and bring out your vascularity. I’m aware that some have also used a shot of alcohol (what a healthy sport) to bring out vascularity but I”ve never had anyone try it so I can’t recommend doses. For carbs, 25-30 grams should be fine. Some like cookies, others powerbars and stuff.

Oh yeah, final thing. Even though we all *know* that placings are determined at prejudging, you don’t want to blow your look before the evening show. A female I worked with last year went out with her gym buddies and started her post-contest pig-out after pre-judging. Her stomach was way bloated at the evening show.

Sorry, one final final thing. DON’T PANIC!!! I coached a guy through email this year through the final 6 weeks of his contest. As he got closer to the contest time, I got more and more frequent panic emails. He wanted to badly to go off the plan we had set up for him. This is something that happens to all competitors. The last week they lose their minds a bit and try something weird (like sodium loading or doing a ton of cardio) and end up screwing themselves. This close to your contest, your getting close to as good as you’re gonna look. Any panic tactics you try at this point will likely do more harm than good. So stick with your plan and see what happens. If you aren’t happy with your performance at the contest, you can experiment during your next contest diet.

About Lyle McDonald

Lyle McDonald is the author of the Ketogenic Diet as well as the Rapid Fat Loss Handbook and the Guide to Flexible Dieting. He has been interested in all aspects of human performance physiology since becoming involved in competitive sports as a teenager. Pursuing a degree in Physiological Sciences from UCLA, he has devoted nearly 20 years of his life to studying human physiology and the science, art and practice of human performance, muscle gain, fat loss and body recomposition.