Making the decision to enter a bodybuilding or physique competition and showing the world all the hard work you put in the gym can be a scary one. It is a very vulnerable position to be on stage under the bright lights being scrutinized not only by the judges in front of you but also the entire crowd. Not to mention you are just about completely naked.
This should provide ample motivation to do everything within your power to bring your best possible package to the stage. But all the discipline and hard work in the world means nothing if your training and diet protocols are not on point. This three-part guide will give you the information needed to take you through all stages of contest prep. The first phase we will cover is the offseason where the goal is to gain as much quality muscle as possible while minimizing accumulation of body fat.
This phase should be roughly twice as long as your cutting phase. Being skinny and shredded won’t earn you any top placings because while you may look great by yourself, you must have an appreciable amount of muscle on stage otherwise, you will be overshadowed during comparisons. It’s inevitable that you will lose some muscle during your 12-16 week cutting phase but how you approach your offseason can help minimize that effect.
Off Season Diet
Many competitors blow up during the offseason by overindulging and consuming massive amounts of calories which add muscle, but also adds more body fat and water retention than is desirable. Creating the illusion you have more muscle than you actually do. In fact, eating with reckless abandon in an effort to get some “gainz” hinders muscle growth because insulin sensitivity is lowered. The more insulin resistant your body becomes, the harder it is to store amino acids and glucose in the muscle cells. This leads to less protein synthesis and more fat storage.
Another consequence of insulin resistance is the increased rate of amino acid oxidation for energy so you are very likely to burn muscle tissue once your calories and carbohydrates are lowered.(1) To prevent a rapid loss of muscle mass once you start your cut, you must eat to maximize muscle gain while minimizing fat gain and allow for a smooth transition into the cutting phase. Consuming too drastic of a caloric surplus leads to fat storage. So aim for between 18-20x your bodyweight in calories based off of how physically active you are. These should be spread out over 5-7 meals.
This is the easy one. Protein is essential to grow, but it is not necessary to go crazy with the amounts. Your gut health could suffer if you are constantly eating processed meats or slugging down multiple shakes a day. Consuming between .8-1.2 gs of protein per pound of body weight is more than enough, despite what has long been preached by some members of the bodybuilding community. While in a caloric surplus your body doesn’t require as much protein to build and maintain muscle as it does during a deficit. Ideal protein sources would be grass-fed beef, wild caught seafood, and eggs. These meats provide the most nutrients beneficial for bodybuilding such as creatine, zinc, cla, choline, and omega-3, among others.
Healthy dietary fats help increase testosterone and are the building blocks of every cell membrane within our body. So obviously, they play a vital role in not only bodybuilding but overall health. The amount of fats you consume during the offseason will vary based on personal preferences. The typical range is about .4 g/lb-.6 g/lb of dietary fat. Natural endomorphs that tend to store fat easily may need to go even higher while going decreasing carbohydrates. Dietary fats should come primarily from your animal proteins, coconut or olive oil, avocados, and raw nuts.
Carbs are extremely important when it comes to building dense muscle mass in the offseason since they will be the fuel for intense workout sessions. Once you have calculated your protein and fat requirements, the remaining calories will come from carbohydrates.
For example, let’s take an 180lb man that is very physically active and break down the total amounts of carbs, proteins, and fats required.
|Caloric Requirement||180×20=||3600 Calories|
|Total Calories From Protein And Fat||216×4+ 108×9=||1836 Calories|
|Total Calories From Carbohydrates||3600-1836=||1764 Calories|
So the totals for our example would be 216 gs of protein, 108 gs of fat, and 441 gs of carbohydrates. Carbs are the most mishandled macronutrient because people often turn to high GI carbs that are overly processed and inflammatory. Ideal sources would be ancient grains such as ezekiel bread, sweet potatoes or yams, white rice, darker fruits such as berries, or quinoa.
Don’t Get Bogged Down With The Numbers
Although there may appear to be a lot of numbers and calculations, rest assured there is no need to go OCD and bring a scale to weigh and record every little morsel of food you consume. The truth is most of the bodybuilding community goes overboard when it comes to tracking their calories.
There are many different factors affecting our daily caloric needs such as the thermic effects of digesting different foods, how many calories are actually absorbed versus eaten, cortisol levels, immune system responses, hormonal and cell signaling, gut biome health, and much more. So while it is a good idea to track your calories for a brief period to gain an understanding of what your calorie and macronutrient requirements look like on a plate, once you have a grasp of how much you’re consuming, it may not be necessary to continue to log obsessively.
Another important component of your offseason nutrition is proper supplementation. There are some specific supplements needed during a bulking phase.The most important aspect of the offseason is working out intensely and stimulating hypertrophy so focus on supplements that help with new muscle growth.
Sheer Platinum Pre-X: This pre-workout supplement helps you up the intensity in the gym while providing a nitric oxide boost during your workout. This increased pump means more cellular swelling resulting in increased hypertrophy.
Sheer Recovery: This product contains ingredients proven to aid in recovery. Since your workouts will be most intense in the offseason, it’s important to make sure you recover adequately, so you grow. Remember lifting weights in itself is catabolic, it’s our recovery period that is anabolic leading to hypertrophy. Sheer Recovery also contains creatine monohydrate, which should be in every lifters supplement stack regardless of goals. It’s the most proven supplement in the industry and helps fuel your body’s ATP energy system during explosive lifts to achieve that one extra rep.
Sheer Platinum Alpha +: Testosterone levels should be optimized if you want to pack on as much muscle as possible. There are many different testosterone boosters on the market, but this one’s ingredient list puts it at the top. It contains d-aspartic acid, ashwaganda, and other science-backed ingredients to optimize testosterone levels.
During the bulking period, your training volume will be much more than during the cutting phase. Aim to hit each bodypart twice a week using a variety of compound and isolation exercises. It’s important to train heavy in the 1-5 rep range to build power and strengthen your CNS system. This creates a base for you to work from once you start cutting because at that point it’s all about lifting heavy to retain muscle. If you haven’t spent at least some time training this way during your bulk, your CNS will fatigue before your muscles, and you may atrophy more than necessary.
The first part of your workout should consist of heavy compound lifting with ample rest. After you finish your heavy set, it’s time to load up more volume in the 8-20 range. Use a mix of free weights and machines incorporating intensity techniques such as supersets, drop sets, pyramids, banded or chained lifts, forced reps, etc. This is when your body is stocked full of glucose and glycogen stores to fuel workouts so take advantage of the energy supply, because once you start the cutting phase that will be long gone.
Cardio will not be a huge emphasis during the bulking phase, but it is still optimal to incorporate some HIIT 1-2 times a week. Performing 10-20 minutes of this anaerobic style training will not only help minimize body fat gained, it helps partition nutrients to skeletal muscle instead of fat stores and increases metabolic conditioning leading to more intense workouts with faster recovery.