How to Eat in Phases for Competitive Bodybuilding

By: Melaine R. Watts

Increasing muscle size, strength and endurance is the result of a consistent workout regimen and a sound nutrition program. Almost all professional bodybuilders and athletes go through 'phases' during their training programs to ensure they are meeting their performance goals and eating just enough to feed their muscles. It's important to note that most of the muscle gaining takes place in the off season, a time when eating large amounts of protein and eating small meals throughout the day is essential for success.
There are other phases besides off-season and a transition from another phase requires changing the diet of a bodybuilder to match his or her objectives for each phase. It is crucial for every athlete to understand the dynamics of every training phase to come up with an effective training plan.
Off-season Phase - The main objective in this phase is to develop the muscles to the max. High protein foods and healthy carbohydrates are needed by an athlete to achieve this phase's objective, according to Luis Burke, author of the book "Practical Sports Nutrition". Bodybuilders maintain a regular eating schedule, which can be planned around workout sessions for improved results.
Hypertrophy - The main goal during this phase is to increase strength while maintaining weight. Athletes typically follow a strict diet eating every 2 to 3 hours. The diet consists of foods that support muscle growth and healthy carbohydrates for energy upkeep.
Competition Prep phase - The phase's main objective is to lose weight gradually and burn body fats without burning muscles built up during the previous phases. This phase starts 6 to 16 weeks prior to a competition event. Bodybuilders in competition prep eat a low fat and high protein planned around workout sessions.
Cutting - The cutting phase takes place a couple of weeks or days before a competition. This involves a higher degree of calorie restriction than competition prep to burn fats rapidly. Most bodybuilders depend on supplements for their nutritional needs as they reduce their calorie intake. Circuit training sessions are often done during this phase coupled with an increase in resting time to help the body recover.
Post Competition - many bodybuilders resort to binge eating immediately after the competition since they've been on a near starvation diet for up to 6 months prior to competition. This can be a health hazard for many, especially for those that end up gaining a lot of weight in a very short period of time. Bodybuilders who want to avoid weight gain during this stage can ease themselves into a healthier eating program so that they can maintain some of the results they worked so hard for and not compromise their health in the process.
Maintaining a steady nutrition program is difficult with the different phases that most bodybuilders go through. However, sound nutritional principles and working with a nutritionist or dietitian throughout training can help you increase your chances of long-term success.

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