The Author Practices What He Preaches And Shows How He Uses His Own Fat Burning Diet System For Bodybuilding And Competition Diets.
After reading my letter on the home page, many people are intrigued about the “natural bodybuilder’s diet.” At first they wonder if it will work for them if they are NOT bodybuilders. Of course, I explained on the home page that this nutrition program was created BY a bodybuilder, not just FOR bodybuilders.
With that out of the way, usually one of the next questions my readers send me is, “What exactly do you eat Tom, to get so lean? I have never before, except in one of my little-known bodybuilding blogs, published my OWN actual pre-competition bodybuilding diet, but I thought I would finally go ahead and share my meals and menu plans so you get a better idea of what my fat burning nutrition system is all about.
Keep in mind, that all nutrition programs must be customized for the individual. I teach this customization process in my Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle program. Calories, protein, carbs, fats, macronutrient ratios and food choices, must all be individualized.
What you will read below is a sample of some of my personal bodybuilding diet menu plans that I actually used to prepare for competition. My goal is to prove to you that I practice what I preach and to let you see an actual sample of bodybuilding diet menu plans.
My very best to you,
Author, Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle
Lifetime Natural Bodybuilder
Pre Contest Diet Changes 12 Weeks Out – Tightening Things up!
Friday, July 8th, 2005. 83 days to go (that’s 11.8 weeks!). For the past three weeks, I’ve been on what you could call a “clean” diet, but it was far from strict, low calorie or low carb – it was more like a “pre-diet diet”. You can see my 13-15 weeks out menu in last week’s blog dated July 2nd. After an “official” weigh-in today and an un-official body fat test, it’s definitely time to tighten things up. Here’s what’s changed…
My previous baseline diet is now going to be my high carb / “re-feed” day at 3800 calories and 380 grams of carbs. I will now begin carb cycling with medium carb days of 240 grams a day, with the majority of those carbs taken in the morning and early afternoon. The carbs will probably go even lower (150-200 grams) in the weeks to come. Note: 150 grams is a very low carb diet for me. You wouldn’t like me when I eat less carbs than that 🙂
My early day meals will contain the starchy carbs (mainly oatmeal and yams, sometimes white potatoes or rice, especially after workouts), and my late day meals will contain the fibrous carbs (green veggies & salad veggies), with the essential fats. Protein stays constant in every meal. I’ve bumped up my essential oil supplement to two tablespoons a day in conjunction with the drop in carbs. If I feel like it, I’ll substitute 1 of the tablespoons of oil for natural peanut butter instead (why? Because it keeps the dietary fat up where I need it and tastes damn good when you’re on a diet!)
I know some bodybuilders who use cream for their pre-contest fat instead. That can make a nice protein shake if you mix it with protein powder, but I use whole foods over shakes most of the time (go figure… I’m not on the payroll of any supplement company!), and I prefer my EFA oil blend and/or peanut butter. I also get some fat from red meat and egg yolk. I eat red meat once every day. The rest of the fat is incidental in my chicken breasts, oatmeal, etc. Whatever works for you. In any case, you want to keep *some* fat in the diet, and the lower your carbs go, the more fat you can eat, within reason.
I do NOT like ketogenic diets (close to zero carb, or very low carb/high fat). In fact, I think they suck. I’m not saying they won’t or can’t get you ripped, I’m just saying in my opinion, I think they suck for hard training bodybuilders. Adaptation to low carbs and high fat can certainly take place for many people after a short period of absolute hell (no energy, grouchy, irritable, etc. – just ask anyone who has lived with a no carb dieter), but I have never seemed to get over the lack of energy when the carbs are so low. I also go totally flat and can’t get a pump. You can sometimes remedy the energy problems by taking the fats way up, but I find that a diet over 20-25% dietary fat is not nearly as thermogenic as a high protein, lower fat diet.
I prefer a cyclical low carb diet with very high protein (for healthy bodybuilders. I would not advise copying my precontest diet for general weight loss purposes… better to stay on a mildly calorie restricted balanced diet for that). When you’re training hard and doing cardio, believe me 240 grams of carbs a day is low, and 150-200 grams (where I’ll undoubtedly be headed soon), is very low. I just can’t understand why anyone would want to drop to 100, 70, 50, or god forbid, 20 grams of carbs a day when a moderate reduction in carbs with a periodic reefed works so well, while keeping you energetic and sane.
Right now my carb cycle is 3 days medium carbs (240 grams, 3400 calories) and then 1 day high carbs (380 grams, 3800 calories). This is still not that strict, it’s only the first adjustment… calories and carbs will go lower soon. Here’s the “medium carb days” where I will be 6 out of every 8 days. (the macronutrient split here is approximately 45% protein, 30% carbs and 25% fat)
Meal 1: 6:45 am 1 cup oatmeal 12 egg whites 1 whole egg 1/2 large grapefruit Meal 2: 9:30 am 1 cup oatmeal 2 scoops vanilla protein powder (or 12 egg whites) 1/2 large grapefruit Meal 3: 12:30 pm 8-10 oz yam, white potato or 1.5-2.0 cups of brown rice 8 oz chicken breast 8 oz broccoli Meal 4: 3:00 pm 8 oz lean sirloin, top round or flank steak 8 oz broccoli Meal 5: 5:30 pm 8 oz chicken breast 8 oz asparagus 1 tbsp EFA oil or natural peanut butter Meal 6: 8:00 pm 8 oz chicken breast or 1 can tuna or 8 oz Alaskan salmon Spinach and lettuce salad, cucumber, tomato 2 tbsp low calorie salad dressing 1 tbsp EFA oil
I did my official weigh in this morning, being Friday: 198 lbs. That’s down another pound since last week. This was wearing only a t-shirt and sweatpants, no shoes. I unfortunately haven’t had anyone around to take my body fat with the Skyndex (4-site digital body fat skinfold caliper), although there are some trainers at our club that will volunteer for me. I would normally have Richie measure me, as it’s important to have a skilled tester for consistent measurements, but I haven’t been able to connect with him as often as I’d like. So what I did instead this week was to break out my Accu measure caliper.
I often recommend the Accu-measure for other people, but for me it doesn’t offer as much precision as I need. Only measuring one skinfold site (iliac crest) doesn’t work well for a bodybuilder who is shooting for low single digit body fat, because some of the charts don’t even go down that low, and I find that once my iliac crest is down to 2mm or so in thickness, I still have fat in other areas that could be measured with a multi site test, but at this point, the Accu-measure has “bottomed out.” You might see a 1.5 mm reading, but that’s about as low as a skinfold goes.
Anyway, just for kicks, I measured my iliac crest with the Accu measure and it was 6.0 mm. Not so good actually. If I use the age categories on the accu measure skinfold interpretation chart (I’m 36, and the age brackets go 26-30, 31-35, 36-40, and so on) that puts me at 9.9% body fat. Which would be quite high (for a bodybuilder at this point).
I would put myself closer to 8% if I had to guess… no, seriously… I’m not making excuses for being a “fat” 9.9% body fat! (sez the accu measure, LOL!) The age categories on the skinfold interpretation charts tend to overestimate body fat in athletic populations, which is the reason why there are skinfold regression equation formulas specifically for athletes and there is an “athlete” mode on impedance analysis scales like the Tanita. For example, if I were to use the age 26-30 chart, that would put my body fat at 7.8%. Body composition testing is obviously not an exact science. Usually the best bet is to pick one method, use the same tester every time and stick with them for consistency.
Next week, hopefully, I’ll get measured accurately with a 4-site test and I’ll log in the results consistently every week after that. But for whatever it’s worth, I know my self-tested iliac crest skinfold is 6 mm, so I do have lots of work to do to get that sucker down to 2 mm or less!
Honestly, I don’t really need to test body fat anymore. After 26 competitions, I know exactly when I’m ready by looking in the mirror. I can even tell if I’m getting leaner just by pinching the skin on my abs and waistline with my fingers. The goal is to have what I call “Saran wrap” skin. That is, the skin is so thin that it almost appears translucent and literally “clings” to the muscles underneath. If you pull it away from the abdominal muscles, it literally snaps right back… TIGHT AS A DRUM!
I’m still keeping my cardio at one session a day, usually 30 minutes, although today I went 35 minutes on the stairmaster 4400 PT, level 7 and level 8 at the end, and that was good for burning 535 calories. Was drenched in sweat after that one! That was steady, by the way, not interval…and it was pretty intense the entire time…
If you think about it, it’s really kind of dumb, this whole high intensity versus low intensity cardio debate. Which is better? Which burns more fat. A low intensity “walk in the park” or a sweat-pouring, heart pounding, metabolism stimulating high intensity cardio workout. DUH. Doesn’t take a PhD. to figure out that one. Did I mention, DUH. ).
Until next time, train hard, eat right and forget about those silly zero carb diets. If you want to know more about my carbohydrate cycling method, go get a copy of my ebook, Burn The Fat, Feed the Muscle Check out chapter 12 in particular. After reading that, you will be an expert at carb manipulation for getting as ripped as you want to be! The carb cycling method I explain in my book is really the most sensible and intelligent way to do low carb, in my opinion.
Pre Contest Diet Changes 10 Weeks Out
Friday, July 29th, 2005. Things are on schedule and looking good. I weigh 196 lbs today. I’ve been losing weight slowly, but that’s intentional as I’ve been known to lose too quickly in the past and come in shredded but flat and kind of “stringy-looking.” Gotta keep the size and thickness, but over the next few weeks I definitely need to kick the fat loss up a notch, so I’ve made a few adjustments (slight decrease in calories and carbs on low days.)
My new carb cycle is 3 days low carbs (approx 200 grams, 3200 calories) and then 1 day high carbs (380 grams, 3800 calories). This is my second adjustment (downward) in carbs so far. I’m not a really low carb kind of guy, I prefer moderate reduction in carbs and a lot of cardio. That’s what works best for me and my body type. When I go very low in the carbs, I completely “deflate” and look flat. For me, 200 grams IS low carbs, and 150-175 grams is VERY low carbs (and is about the lowest I’ll go).
Even on very very low carbs, I don’t seem to get lean without a lot of cardio. My body simply responds to the cardio more than carbohydrate manipulation. I know some people are the reverse (cut carbs and don’t do much cardio), so it’s important to understand your own body and how it responds. There’s no doubt – I DO get leaner with as reduction in carbs, just not a severe reduction
As of earlier this week, the diet now looks something like this:
Meal 1: 6:45 am 3/4 cup oatmeal 8-12 egg whites 1 whole egg 1/2 large grapefruit Meal 2: 9:30 am 3/4 cup oatmeal 2 scoops vanilla protein powder (or 8-12 egg whites) Meal 3: 12:30 pm 7 oz yam 6-8 oz chicken breast 8 oz broccoli Meal 4: 3:00 pm 6- 8 oz lean sirloin, top round or flank steak 8 oz broccoli Meal 5: 5:30 pm 6-8 oz chicken breast 8 oz asparagus 2 tbsp natural peanut butter Meal 6: 8:00 pm 6-8 oz chicken breast or 1 can tuna or 8 oz Alaskan salmon 8 oz asparagus 1 tbsl udos oil or flaxseed oil
My high days are the same as before (LOVE those high days: 380 grams of carbs!) the difference is the low days (posted above). I’ve decreased my oatmeal from 1 cup to 3/4 cup, and decreased the size of the yam (I weigh the yam before cooking to make sure it’s exact).I don’t weigh my food year-round, but before contests, I want to know my carb intake to the gram.
You’ll notice that the basic structure of my low carb days is that the first three meals are protein and starchy carb (high carb) meals, and the last three meals are protein, fibrous carb and fat meals (fat from beef, natural peanut butter or udos oil/flaxseed oil). It’s important to keep some fats in the diet as the carbs go lower. I’ve found that approx 25% of the calories from fat is more than enough. Higher fat diets don’t seem to do much else for me.
I was hungry a few weeks ago when I first shifted from the off season diet to lower carbs, but since I’ve cut the carbs and calories again, oddly enough, I haven’t really been hungry. So far, I’m actually eating more than in previous years and still getting leaner. I’m not concerned with getting lean enough; I can always come in shredded, no problem. The challenge is to come in shredded and FULL. I’ve been looking a little flat by the 3rd day of low carbs (even “medium” carbs), and the pumps haven’t been as good as they could be, but I suppose that’s to be expected. I’ll be keeping an eye on my condition and it I’m perpetually flat and I feel like I’m losing size after being on 200 grams for a while, I’ll probably take 2 high carb days rather than one, or pull back on the cardio a bit.
When I started several weeks ago, I immediately began with 30 minutes of cardio, 7 days a week at a moderate intensity. I’m now doing 45 minutes of cardio, 7 days a week, at moderate to moderately high intensity. I’ve been using the stairmaster for half of my cardio sessions and the lifecycle for the other half.
Two or three days a week, I have also added in a second session, and many of my sessions are now first thing in the morning (about 6:15 – 6:30 am) on an empty stomach before my 7:00 am meal. I’ve been hitting a lot of weight training sessions at 8 am – with Richie on weekdays and with Kostas on weekends, so on those days I do the cardio later because I don’t want to do cardio so close to my weights. In previous years I trained in the late morning so I did early morning cardio at 6 – 6:30 am, then got in TWO meals before training at around 10 or 10:30 am. My schedule has been a little different this year to accomodate my trainer or training partner(s).
If you want to know more about my nutrition methods, including carbohydrate cycling, visit the home page on Burn The Fat.com
Pre Contest Diet Changes 6 Weeks Out: Tightening up even more
Tom Venuto, CSCS, CPT
Monday, August 30th 2005. Four weeks ago (at 10 weeks out), I made my first cut in calories and carbs to about 3200 calories per day on my low days. Last week, I cut them again… time to go from “lean” to R-I-P-P-E-D! …
My new calorie and carb cycle is 2900 calories and about 180 grams of carbs a day. High days I am still keeping at about 375 grams of carbs and 3800 calories. I’m using a 3 days low, 1 day high rotation, although a couple times I have taken 3 days low, 2 days high if I felt very depleted and or flat. The high days are important because I do a lot of cardio and I’ve been training very hard with some relatively heavy training during some of the workouts.
As of earlier last week, the diet now looks something like this:
Meal 1: 6:45 am 3/4 cup oatmeal 1/2 large grapefruit 2 scoops vanilla protein powder Meal 2: 9:30 am 1/2 cup oatmeal 1/2 large grapefruit 8 egg whites 1 whole egg Meal 3: 12:30 pm 6 oz yam 6 oz chicken breast 8 oz broccoli Meal 4: 3:00 pm 8 oz top round steak (grass fed, organic) 8 oz broccoli Meal 5: 5:30 pm 6 oz chicken breast 8 oz asparagus Meal 6: 8:00 pm 6 chicken breast or 1 can tuna or 8 oz Alaskan salmon 8 oz asparagus or spinach salad
This breaks down to about 180 grams of carbs, 360 grams of protein and about 70 grams of fat (that’s approx 50% protein, 25% carbs, 25% fat, give or take). I know many people go much lower on carbs, but this is about as strict as it gets on a contest diet for me. I don’t believe in removing all the starchy carbs (and besides, I would get really, really grumpy if you took away my oatmeal and yams!)
I’m still keeping my high days the same as before: 3800 calories, 380 grams of carbs. That may seem like a lot of food, but at this point, my body just “incinerates” it, and one day at that level is not nearly enough carbs to fill me out. It would take 2.5 to 3 days to completely carb up and fill out, which is what I will do the last week before the show. I consider these high days very necessary to keep my energy up, my muscles full, the metabolic machinery running smoothly and the fat burning hormones flowing normally, as much as possible.
I’ve decreased my oatmeal from 1 cup to 3/4 cup in meal one and to only Ѕ a cup in meal two (that aint much). I decreased my yam to 6 oz (I weigh the yam before cooking to make sure it’s exact). I’ve even decreased my protein portions to 8 egg whites at a time (formerly a dozen) and 6 oz of chicken breast (formerly 8 oz). The protein is still very high though, about 360 grams a day. I’m keeping some fat in the diet in the form of an egg yolk, red meat once a day and a tablespoon of an essential fatty acid oil blend.
My bodyweight is down to about 191 lbs now, although it fluctuates quite a bit. It was 194 lbs in the evening on my last high carb day (carbs and water inside the muscles), but back down to 192 the following day and once again 191 the day after that. With these diet changes, I intend to drop now into the 180’s over the next several weeks. I should be ripped in the low to mid 180’s the week before the show. I don’t have to worry about making a weight class this year as the NBI-sanctioned Natural USA Championships go by height classes. When I competed in the NPC, I was a middleweight (cut off 176 ј lbs), which means I often had to decrease water quite a bit the last day or two to make weight (I often weigh 181-183 just days before the show)
I haven’t changed my cardio much in past weeks: it’s still 1 session 7 days a week for 45 minutes at a moderate to moderately-hard intensity sufficient to burn at least 600-700 calories (according to the stairmaster readout). Every other day, I do a 2nd session of 30 minutes in the evening. Some of these are steady state sessions and some are high intensity interval sessions with a brief warm up, 12 one minute sprint intervals alternated with 12 one minute recovery intervals and a short cool down.
Most of my cardio is on the stairmaster now because I seem to get the best results that way. Walking on a treadmill doesn’t seem to do much of anything in the way of fat loss for me, and the lifecyle isn’t as effective for me either because by the time I get the pedal resistance high enough that my heart rate is high enough, my quads burn like crazy and its difficult to maintain. It’s much easier for me to hit 145-150 bpm target heart rate on the stairs – regular stairmaster or stepmill stairmaster.
Compared to previous years, my training and diet have been more conservative this year. For previous shows, most of my dieting was on 2600-2800 calories a day and 150-175 grams of carbs on low days and about 300-350 grams on high days. I even experimented with very low carb diets (under 100 grams), but the results were always the same: I came in looking flat and thin. Cardio used to be two sessions a day, every day for at least the last 8-12 weeks.
This year, I’m eating more and doing (a little) less cardio. As a result, I have lost weight and fat slowly, but also believe I’ve maintained more size and strength and fullness. So far so good, but I’m not quite contest ready yet. If it takes less carbs, less calories and more cardio over the next several weeks, then that’s what I’ll do. Whatever it takes!
Monday, September 5th, 2005. Just two weeks ago (at six weeks out), I cut my calories down to 2900 from 3200. Now its time for the FINAL PUSH and yet another calorie and carb cut.
I’ve now dropped to about 2700 calories and 150 grams of carbs a day on the low days. In other words, I get to “suffer” for the next four weeks, LOL! When you consider how intensely I train and how much cardio I do, 150 grams a day might as well be zero. 150 grams a day is very low carbs for me. I’m also bumping up my cardio to double sessions every day for at least the next two weeks, and possibly the next three weeks.
Yeah, it sucks… but in my quest for that “walking anatomy chart” look, ya gotta do what ya gotta do. If I had more time, I would keep on with the slow and steady one pound per week fat loss that I’ve been able to achieve with 3200 calories and 200-220 grams of carbs a day (with one cardio session a day). It’s not that this stopped working, it’s simply that I ran out of time and have to pick up the pace.
I could have lost weight at a rate of 2 lbs (or even 3 lbs) per week right from the start, but the slower you lose the fat (and weight), the more lean body mass you can retain. Large and or fast weight loss always equals lean body mass loss.
Fat loss is not easy, but it’s very, very predictable. There’s no mystery, it just takes a calorie deficit. Increase the deficit without going to the degree that you slow your metabolism, and you increase the fat loss. I expect at these new calorie and carb levels, based on past experience, that I will harden up immediately, the skin on my lower abs will tighten up (last place to come in), the vascularity will really start to show and I will start losing two pounds per week and maintain that for the next three weeks. I weighed in at 189 today, so 6 lbs in the next 3 weeks would put me at 183 lbs a week before the show. Then I will undoubtedly drop a lot of water weight on top of that.
In the past, I’ve been pretty much shredded and dialed in at around 180 lbs by one week out (then I’ve cut water to make weight). The goal is to have ALL the fat off at least 7-8 days before the show. You should not be thinking about losing body fat the last week. The final week should only be about getting the water out and carbing up those last few days.
In nearly all of my previous competitions, I weighed somewhere between 170-176 lbs the day of the show, which made me a middleweight (I was actually a lightweight in my first two shows many moons ago… but don’t tell anyone I was ever that small!) I don’t have to make a weight class for the upcoming natural USA championships October 1st (it’s height classes). In most organizations, including the NPC, the middleweight cut off is 176 Ѕ lbs.
This year it looks possible that I may hit the stage heavier than I’ve ever been before while still being totally dialed in. We’ll see how it goes… sometimes its hard to say in advance what you’ll weigh on show day because it’s so easy to lose a lot of water weight in those final weeks since the low carbs tends to dry you out. If this were a contest with weight classes, I would have to make middleweight regardless, because I’m not big enough yet to be a light heavy, but if I end up onstage at 180 to 182 and in condition, then the height classes will turn out to be a real advantage to me, since I’ll be carrying 4-6 lbs more day of show muscle than ever before.
Anyway, back to my diet…
My menu is exactly as it was at 6 weeks out, but I’ve cut out some calories here and there including some fat and the starchy carbs in meal three. For the next 3 Ѕ weeks, until I start carbing up Wednesday before the show, its only starchy carbs in the first two meals; a little bit of oatmeal, and / or yam.
Fortunately, I am still carbing up every fourth day… Thank Gawd for that, because as it is, I’m already having thoughts of Pizza, Baked Ziti, and Domino’s Cheesy Bread pop into my mind with strangely increasing frequency.
Train hard and expect success,
Fat Loss Coach
PS. For more information on my Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle fat burning system, visit the home page at: www.BurnTheFat.com
PPS. So. Did Tom Venuto’s Bodybuilding Diet Work? Judge For Yourself – here are the results:
About Bodybuilding & Fat Loss Coach, Tom Venuto
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