The art, sport and science of bodybuilding involves strategic approaches to get lean for competition day. To the outside world, it may seem as though bodybuilders possess lucky genetics or somehow defy the rules of weight loss. In reality, bodybuilders follow a well-orchestrated and detailed approach to lose weight quickly.
During a bodybuilder's off-season, when he is not getting ready for a competition, his sole purpose is to eat as much as his body allows and sometimes more. When a competition draws near, he reduces calories significantly. Canadian Natural Bodybuilding Champion Mike Kwao says that cutting calories is crucial to lose fat. Kwao ingests roughly 4,000 calories a day. When a competition approaches he lowers his caloric intake to roughly 3,200 calories daily. That allows him to maintain adequate muscle mass while ensuring the macronutrients he is eating are in a correct ratio.
During the off-season, Kwao doesn't stick to ratios. During competition preparation, he consumes 23 percent proteins, 58 percent carbohydrates and 19 percent fats to keep him energized and to maintain his muscle mass while shedding fat and losing weight.
To lose weight quickly for a show, bodybuilders lower their carbohydrate ratio while increasing their protein ratio. The increased protein helps maintain their muscle mass, and the lower carbohydrates help them to shed weight. A reduced carbohydrate diet has "several important metabolic and hormonal advantages that allow you to get leaner faster than a conventional baseline diet,” notes Tom Venuto, author of "Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle."
To peak on his competition day, Kwao revamps his workouts by lifting heavy weights for higher repetitions to burn as many calories as possible. Not only does this shock his body, it also accelerates his metabolic rate after the workout session. These sorts of "shocks" are what allow weight loss to occur quickly. Simply put, a body gets adapted to a certain way of training. When a training regimen alters, as it does drastically with bodybuilders, the body is forced to use extra fat stores to keep up with the demands, resulting in weight loss.
Most bodybuilders need supplementation to help meet the high requirements of protein during the lean out phase. Protein powders help bodybuilders attain adequate protein levels. In addition to protein, some bodybuilders will resort to more controversial supplementation such as thermogenic aids or what most people recognize as fat burners. They provide a thermogenic effect; however, there are too many risks associated with them that outweigh the benefits, Kwao and Venuto say. Do not take fat burners if you have any sort of cardiovascular problems including high blood pressure and consult your physician before beginning any thermogenic or supplementation regimen.
- Mike Kwao; 2009 IDFA Pro Division Bodybuilding Champion; Toronto, Ontario, Canada
- Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle; Tom Venuto