Bodybuilders strive to be big on stage, but they also need to be as lean as possible to show off their muscular definition. Since leaning out to this degree can cause a lot of stress to the body, it may also result in significant muscle loss. Nevertheless, you can take several steps to ensure that you have the leanest body possible on stage with minimal muscle loss.
Prevent Muscle Breakdown
Eat properly and stay as lean as possible all year long. Many bodybuilders "bulk up" in the offseason by eating anything and everything in sight. The belief here is that eating lots of calories will make them bigger. Yet, when you decide to get on stage, bulking up like this only means you have more fat to lose. Joe Klemczewski of Bodybuilding.com notes that, as the bulking up method will increase the severity of your diet when you need to lose fat, it will also decrease your chances of muscle loss during dieting. Stay relatively lean and diet gradually to retain as much muscle as possible.
Don't do too much cardio! According to fitness expert Rachel Cosgrove of Men's Fitness Magazine, cardio can excessively burn into muscle stores in three ways: doing it too long, doing it too often and doing it on an empty stomach. Perform moderate amounts of cardio for 30 to 45 minutes three days a week, and do it after your workout rather than doing it on an empty stomach in the morning. Additionally, definitely do not train for a marathon or an endurance event if your goal is to preserve muscle mass.
Supplement with branched-chain amino acids, or BCAAs. According to one discussion in the Journal of Nutrition, BCAAs stimulate the building of protein in muscle and possibly prevent muscular breakdown. The best time to take BCAAs to prevent muscle breakdown is right before, during and directly after a workout. This will aid in protein synthesis, preventing your body from turning to your muscles for energy and allowing it to focus on your fat stores.
In addition to these steps, stay hydrated as much as possible. Dehydration will cause stress to your body, and this could send a signal to your body to store fat and turn on your muscle stores. According to the Mayo Clinic, the average male living in a temperate climate should take in roughly three liters of water per day, and the average female should drink around 2.2 liters per day. These estimates are rough and your need will vary based on your activity level, but if you are following a bodybuilding routine with resistance and cardio training, your needs should be more rather than less.
Consult your physician before beginning any fat loss, nutrition or supplementation program. Allowing your body fat to fall below 5 percent could create risks of organ failure, faintness and fatigue.