Stick To It: Five Rules For Staying On Your Next Contest Diet – By Sean Andros

You’ve done all the research and your next diet is meticulously planned out. Protein, fat and carbs are calculated down to the gram and you know exactly what to eat and when to eat it.

Every month, Simplyshredded gives diet tips from the top bodybuilders, scientists and nutritionists in the world so you have all the best ways to diet. Dieting itself isn’t the challenge late-night infomercials make it out to be. The challenge comes after a few weeks (or maybe days) when you can’t manage another day of depriving yourself of your favorite tasty foods.

You wonder how the IFBB Pro League bodybuilders you admire can do this for 12-20 weeks before a contest it seems impossible.

Photography By: Mike Siren

Here To Help: Nutrition Expert Hany Rambod

It’s not impossible for them and it’s not impossible for you. The key is to know the tricks and tools you can use to make your next diet feel like you aren’t missing much at all. We turned to top nutritionist Hany Rambod to find out what he tells his clients to make dieting more comfortable. It seems that everyone who calls on Rambod’s services has success: in 2010 alone, he coached four-time Mr. Olympia Jay Cutler, 2010 Olympia runner-up Phil Heath and two-time Olympia 202 Showdown champion Kevin English.

These fellows are as human as you, and you’d be kidding yourself to think that Rambod hasn’t had to coax each of them through some diet defeats.

#5 Go Ahead And Cheat

As long as you are following your diet plan perfectly, a cheat meal is not just allowed, it’s encouraged. According to Rambod, “It is important to have one [cheat meal] every three or four days so you don’t feel like you are dieting.” The critical point is to have one cheat meal and not a cheat day. And make it the last meal if you have a lot of carbs early in the day, the insulin spike set off by them will lead to all-day cravings.

It will then take about five days to counteract the damage from one day of cheating!

Do This:

Rambod suggests you go to a restaurant. “Get out of the house and break up the monotony of dieting. Going out also allows you to indulge on controlled portions and leave the food there. Then you can return to your safe, controlled environment.” Go with steak and sweet-potato fries or pasta and chicken followed by a small dessert, such as frozen yogurt or a slice of carrot cake.

Red Alert:

Even though you are thinking of it as cheating, the meal must offer some nutritional value, so it needs to contain protein, carbs and fat. Stay away from food that is basically carbs and fat, such as pizza.

#4 Be Sweet

Artificial sweeteners are modern science’s answer to satisfying a sweet tooth without the calories. These products give the taste of sugar without a significant insulin spike. But like anything good, too much is a bad thing, so practice moderation.

Do This:

Sucralose a main ingredient in Splenda is 600 times sweeter than sugar, so just a few packets a day can go a long way in your oatmeal, rice, etc. There is 1 gram of maltodextrin (a carb that is used as a filler) in each packet. A newer version of Splenda contains a gram of fiber in every teaspoon. Second on the list is stevia, which is actually an herb with up to 300 times the sweetness of sugar. Some brands of stevia have a bitter aftertaste shop around until you find one that agrees with you.

Red Alert:

Taken in excess, aspartame (found in diet sodas and in many varieties of Crystal Light) and saccharin can cause headaches. Those sweeteners also have been known to cause severe intestinal distress that can have you running to the bathroom instead of the gym.

#3 Eat Your Veggies

Fibrous vegetables are saviors for the hungry, dieting bodybuilder. The carb count in them is very low and the fiber fills you up minus the calories.

“The fiber is digested slowly and that keeps you fuller longer,” Rambod says. If that isn’t enough, the fiber is great for digestive health, which is imperative when you are on a low-carb plan and fiber is scarce.

Do This:

Stock up on broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus and bell peppers. Another option is to add a small salad to your meal (lettuce, spinach, cucumber and tomatoes, plus some spices and a few drops of balsamic vinegar) to keep you feeling fuller for longer.

Red Alert:

Avoid carrots, peas and corn for their higher sugar content. If you’re not sure, always check nutritional values first to avoid excess sugar and calories.

#2 Add Flavor

Chicken, fish, rice and oatmeal can be pretty bland, which makes it harder to stay on point, unless you add some zest. Luckily, according to Rambod, “Condiments are OK offseason and precontest. The only difference is the sugar content.” In the offseason, the excess calories from sugary sauces like barbecue or teriyaki are acceptable. When you are trying to get shredded, there are plenty of great options to add flavor without the calories.

Do This:

Rambod recommends mustard (many varieties), horseradish, low-sodium soy sauce and hot sauce. If sauces aren’t your fancy, there are a ton of other spices that provide great flavors. Popular among bodybuilders is Mrs. Dash, a brand of seasoning blends that comes in wide varieties without any sodium. If sodium content isn’t a concern (a hard-dieting bodybuilder needs plenty), then a few shakes of seasoned salt will help make any fish or chicken easier to get down.

Red Alert:

If you pile the spices on your food, you might feel it in your stomach later. Many spices can cause acid reflux or indigestion, so if you start to feel the burn, cut back.

Don’t turn to acid-reducing medications; they create a number of other problems.

#1 Prepare, Prepare, Prepare

You must have a plan. Know where each meal is going to come from long before you need it. A hungry bodybuilder isn’t always a rational animal, so don’t expect to make great food choices when you’re famished. You never have to worry about making a bad choice, as long as you have a plan in place and as long as you follow it to the letter.

Do This:

Most of your meals should be homemade to ensure clean cooking and proper measurement. Some bodybuilders like the idea of cooking all their meals for the week at once, but Rambod has a better idea: “My athletes cook at least twice per week, so the food doesn’t get stale.” Each day that cooked meat sits in a refrigerator, it loses moisture, and if you warm already-stale food in a microwave, it is going to taste more like cardboard.

Rambod explains, “When you have to eat seven or eight meals per day, it’s tough to get dry, stale food down the pipe, so make it easier on yourself.”

Red Alert:

Even if you’re the most dedicated athlete, there will be times when you can’t avoid eating at a restaurant during your contest diet. Never assume that your food will be prepared in the cleanest way. Tell the wait staff exactly what you want speak out, so they can deliver a bodybuilder-friendly meal to your table.

Spice It Up

Rambod’s favorite spices will add life to otherwise boring diet fare and provide a few health benefits to boot.


“Cinnamon extract has been proven to aid in glucose disposal, so it keeps your blood sugar stable. Don’t bother with a cinnamon extract supplement; just add cinnamon extract to your food for flavor and fat loss. You might also think outside the box with cinnamon it works great with a lot of foods you might not expect.”


“This is often found in South Asian and Middle Eastern dishes and it is commonly used in many curries. The active component is curcumin, an antioxidant that has been found to aid joint health, helping to reduce inflammation and heal injured joints.”

Cayenne Pepper

“If you like it hot, then this is the spice for you. A dash will give your food some kick and put your body in fat-burning mode. Capsaicin is the active ingredient in cayenne and it is a proven thermogenic. Cayenne causes a slight rise in body temperature, which means more calorie burning and fat loss not bad for something sitting in your spice rack.

If you aren’t a fan of the dry version, then grab some hot sauce and put a few drops on your chicken or steak.”

Author: Sean Andros
COPYRIGHT 2011 Weider Publications
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