Bodybuilding Precontest Diet Tips
by Justin Leonard
Last Updated: 5/19/2012


Competition dieting is without a doubt the worst part of preparing for a show. In my opinion, this is the actual competition itself; fighting tempting commercials and avoiding triple bacon cheeseburger advertisements at fast food restaurants.

A competition diet can be very costly. The expense of quality meats, supplements, and other specialized foods combined with the quantity a competitive bodybuilder needs can cost quit a bit. It's important to plan all daily activities around your diet. You must make it a priority to be a successful competitor.

Most bodybuilders begin dieting at about 6 to 12 weeks before the day of competition. If you have a fast metabolism, you may only need as little as 5 weeks or less to come in shredded for competition. Slower metabolisms require up to 12 weeks of dieting time.

Initially, dieting needs to be done gradually so that the body doesn't react negatively or lose too much size too quickly. The way you do this is by gradually cutting the quantity of "bad calorie" foods such as sugar, fat, high sodium, and food oils. For example, putting less sugar in fruit juice and cutting out mayonnaise on a sandwich.

Eventually food options will become extremely limited. This usually happens around the fourth or fifth week of dieting. Below is a list of foods that a precontest diet would consist of.


Lean Red Meat (i.e. steak)
Protein Supplements


Wheat Bread
Rice Cakes
Sweet Potatoes
Shredded Wheat
Natural Sugars


Fibrous Carbohydrates
Mixed Vegetables
Any leafy vegetable


Natural Fats
Nuts (i.e. almonds)
Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) Oil
Olive Oil

Sample Precontest Diet

For this next example, we will assume an average competition diet of approximately 8 weeks. Starting exactly 8 weeks prior to competition, you should begin to gradually cut out sugars and fats as previously mentioned. The elimination process should take approximately 3 to 4 weeks to finish.

This leaves about 5 weeks of "serious" dieting. The remaining weeks are probably the most crucial and most important because you have to continuously monitor [daily and hourly] how your body is responding to certain foods.

For example, you should be able to notice changes in muscle tone when a certain type of food is eaten at a certain time of day. That's how well you should know your body during a precontest diet.

You may find that some foods cause the body to have a bloated, smooth, or flat appearance, but you'll only know this by knowing your body extremely well. That's why the last 4 to 5 weeks leading up to a show are so important. Below is how your diet should look around the 4 - 5 week mark.

Meal 1 - 7:30am

Oatmeal, Egg White/Egg Beaters, Water, Fat Burner

Meal 2 - 9:30am

Meal Replacement Powder, L-Glutamine, Multivitamin

Meal 3 - 11:30am

2 Grilled Boneless Chicken Breasts, Potato or Rice (1 Cup Cooked), Salad, Water, Fat Burner

Meal 4 - 1:30pm

1 Can Tuna, Spinach, 1 Cup Rice

Meal 5 - 3:30pm

Meal Replacement Powder, Multivitamin, Water

Meal 6 - 5:30pm

Similar to meal 3, cut carb intake in half, no fat burner

Meal 7 - 7:00pm

Protein Shake, L-Glutamine

It's important to note that the quantity and type of food you consume will probably vary depending on your individual needs. Some may require more, some need less. For example, a bodybuilder who weighs 230 pounds will not benefit from this diet. They will probably need bigger food servings.

Notice how carbohydrates are taken mostly early in the day. Sometime between 11:00am and 1:00pm is when carbohydrates should be decreased. This will force the body to burn more body fat as energy.

Are there any foods that taste good during a precontest diet?

Yes and no. The food you eat is actually good, you just have to be creative so that your diet doesn't become repetitive. Ensure your diet consists of several food options. Your body will thank you.

If fat cravings come about, consider what I call "casual cheating." Most would probably think this is a bad idea. The bottom line is that some people cannot afford to do things like this and some can. Basically, the word casual in this case means very sparingly or in moderation.

For example, on the Monday of every other week, eat your choice of two or three oatmeal cookies, two tablespoons of peanut butter, or 2 slices of toast with jelly in the morning. This will carry you through the day and provide more energy. It may also give your body a better and more full-looking appearance.

The body is happy, so you're happy. The body will need some fat to keep muscle fullness and help metabolize even more fat. This is why casual cheating is a good idea in my opinion. Adding a little fat to a competition diet can also make the muscles more vascular. Experiment with casual cheating and constantly monitor your body!

Another dieting technique is what I call the yo-yo competition diet. Again, it may or may not work for you. It's similar to the previous diet example with a few exceptions:

On Monday and Tuesday, the carb intake is higher than normal. On Wednesday and Thursday, the carb intake is slightly lower than normal. Friday and Saturday are a repeat of Monday and Tuesday. Sunday is a low carb day.

Monday - high carb

Tuesday - high carb

Wednesday - low carb

Thursday - low carb

Friday - high carb

Saturday - high carb

Sunday - low carb

This diet basically trains the body to have the same effect that is supposed to take place the week of the actual competition or the gradual carb loading effect. This type of diet can also be staggered in different ways.

For example, Monday low carbs, Tuesday low carbs, Wednesday gradually increase carbs, Thursday increase carbs to normal levels, Friday is a repeat of Thursday, and Saturday maintain peak condition for the show.

Monday - low carb

Tuesday - low carb

Wednesday - slightly increase carbs

Thursday - slightly increase carbs

Friday - slightly increase carbs

Saturday - maintain peak condition

Question: How should I diet the final week of the show?

Answer: The last week or week of the show is without a doubt the most important week of competition dieting. Most would agree that this is the week that will make you or break you.

In other words, there can be no mistakes. There are several techniques bodybuilders use to achieve peak condition. Peaking is done by manipulating body water, carb intake, and protein intake. In addition, constant body monitoring must be done for the final week to be successful. Too much or not enough of one thing or the other can cause big problems.

For this example, lets' assume the competition is on a Saturday. You should be drinking water every hour of the day. You will see how important water is later in the week.

On Monday, you should consume at least six to eight meals. The meals should be slightly higher in carbohydrates (no carbs after approx. 2:00pm). Protein intake should be moderate and you should be consuming vegetables high in fiber. For example, anything green and leafy is preferred. Sodium intake should be moderate. Sparingly using food flavorings and seasonings such as ketchup, hot sauce, barbecue sauce, etc.

On Tuesday, the diet should be exactly as Monday was. On Wednesday, the only change is in carb intake. It should be decreased to almost half of normal levels. Keep consumption of vegetables extremely high. Keep water intake extremely high.

Frequent visits to the restroom as a result if high body water is perfectly normal.

On Thursday, the diet should be exactly as Monday was with one exception: bring sodium intake down slightly lower (in half) than the previous days. Continue the high water, vegetables, low carb, low sodium intake. On Friday, eliminate sodium completely. Gradually bring carbohydrates back to normal levels, similar to Monday and Tuesday's levels.

Water is still high until midday Friday. After midday (about 3:00), cut water intake to half of normal consumption. This is where that high water intake I've been talking about comes into play. By drinking enormous amounts of water and eliminating sodium, you're basically manipulating or training your body to drop (by urinating) water, even when it is cut in half. Protein consumption should be slightly lower than normal. It may even need to be less than or equal to total carb intake.

Important: No meal should be just carbohydrates alone. Keep the diet as close to normal as possible or the body may have a negative reaction (i.e. bloating). At approximately 7:30pm Friday evening, cut water out of your diet completely. Do not drink anymore!

On Saturday, you should be losing body water. The body should be extremely vascular and the midsection should come in ripped. "Sip" water the day of the show as needed. For some people, this dieting technique will work and for some it may not. It is important to monitor (hourly) your condition throughout the dieting process.

An alternative to carb loading is fat loading. This method is basically the same as Friday except you would keep carbs low and add small servings of fat to the diet. This fat usually comes in the form of peanut butter or some type of nuts such as almonds.

It should be used approximately every 2 to 3 hours by the teaspoon or tablespoon, depending on what you feel is necessary. For some body types, the fat loading method is a much better alternative.

You might have heard of bodybuilders who eat pizza a day before, or even on the day of the show. This is true and it works for some. The end result is a tight, vascular body. The trick to this method is to drink very little with the pizza or whatever it is you're loading with.

Question: Wouldn't fat loading make your abs hold fat and water?

Answer: If fat is taken in moderation and constantly monitored, it will only have positive effects. The amount taken should never be enough to produce "excess" fat. As long as the fat isn't in the form of cooking grease or an equivalent, you should be good to go.

The goal is to add just enough fat to increase vascularity and muscle fullness. Basically, the reason the body responds well to the fat is because it was deprived of it for a long time. The same [effect] is true with carb loading. As stated before, any method you decide on must be constantly monitored for it to work.

Next is a subject that I don't really want to go into, but I must do so because it happens. Precontest dieting can sometimes tighten up your stool because of the high protein and mineral combinations. Ouch! There's an easy way around this: any herbal laxative in tablet form will do. All health food stores carry them.



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