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 at! If you don’t have it yet, what the heck are you waiting for? It’s the best selling diet and fitness ebook in Internet history for a reason! AND… it’s the only intelligent way to do low carb. (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!)

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Comments on Pre Contest Diet Changes 12 Weeks Out – Tightening Things up! Leave a Comment

July 10, 2005

David @ 10:28 am #

This is a great site! I recently purchased your teleseminar series and learned a lot from it. It is a excellent compliement to your BFFM book. Keep up the great work!
I had a quick question. You mentioned not competing for 4 years and you brought up your muscle mass up in that time. In those 4 years, were you in a constant “off season” diet and just keeping your bodyfat in check? Were you zig zagging your calories from maintenance to slightly above in that 4 year span? Thanks. David

Tom Venuto @ 10:55 am #

In the 3 years 2002, 2003, 2004 that I didn’t compete, right up to about a month ago in June 2005, I was working on increasing muscle mass as much as possible. My body weight got up to 205. I was hoping to get even bigger, but I was probably not consistent enough with keeping the calories up. My body fat got up as high as 10%, which is high for me My goal is generally to stay under 10% body fat year round. If I go over that number, then yes I sometimes zig zag my calories: for example 3 days with calories in a very small deficit, 3 days in surplus. I also add in 3 days of cardio about 20-30 minutes. This allows you to add mass without adding a lot of body fat. My “off season” diet is very clean, it’s just a lot of calories – usually over 4000 a day if I’m sticking with it. I live by a 95-5 rule: eat clean 95% of the time, which translates to 2 “cheat” meals a week, which sometimes I don’t even have. I just don’t crave a lot of junk food. I always stop for a moment before eating anything, and think about what the food will do to me (in ugly, vivid detail) and it usually makes me lose my appetite for stuff I shouldn’t be eating. A “cheat” meal for me is often something like sushi or a big giant restaurant steak with a glass of wine. “Cheating” for me off season is not so much about eating junk food as it is missing a meal here and there. It’s a lot of work to shovel down six or even seven meals a day – that’s the biggest challenge off season. All it takes is one missed meal and that can be the difference between gaining and not gaining.

July 11, 2005

michal @ 12:51 pm #

i just had to say i got hooked on that stair mill! i used to think it was for wusses because at my gym (and probably everywhere else), people go on it so slow, and cling to the handles for real life. well, i tried it last week – and i’m hooked! at the end of a 20 minutes intervals (level 6-11) sessions my legs were shaking so hard and i was panting like i’m going to faint. and i’m a runner, mind you. wow, i can’t wait to go on that thing again! yeah! Thanks for introducing this devilish machine to me!

Teresa Miranda @ 3:33 pm #

As I have e-mailed you in the past the carb cycling and all that you mentioned in your book is working wonders for me! It was really nice to see it explained from a personal experience to help me make adjustments! Thanks!

July 12, 2005

gene genise @ 8:15 pm #

Hi Tom. First of all, thank y ou! You are an inspiration to myself and no doubt many others. I know you’re probably too busy to take notice of all these comments, but on july 10th I entered 2 contests – body for life – and also sylvester stallone’s contest. I already took my before pictures and entered I bought your e-book, Burn The Fat, Feed The Muscle (BFFM) and read it twice already! It was great! Thank you. Just remember me please – I’m also from New Jersey – I live in freehold. When I win one of these contest hopefully i can get a chance to meet you ….thanks again Gene

July 14, 2005

Tom Venuto @ 1:17 pm #

Gene, thanks for your comment and for the kind words. I didn’t even know Stallone HAD a contest! Kick some butt, man. I LOVE your attitude — “when” I win, not “if” I win. Train hard and expect success!

July 24, 2005

Jan @ 8:51 pm #

Hi Tom
this is kinda a general question, but do you still have a “cheat” meal and do you do your 95%-5% when you are cutting up into the last 5 weeks to a comp??
I have your BTFFM and have told heaps of people about it – it is Great!

Tom Venuto @ 9:13 pm #

No cheat meals before contest, ZERO. Probably could, but don’t want to. It’s as much a mental thing as physical. I don’t want to break my discipline or my momentum. Funny thing is, I was just talking to Richie (my trainer) the other day about how he FORCED one of his clients to eat pizza 11 days out from a contest. Why? Because she was too ripped and was starting to eat away at her lean body mass and she was looking really flat and depleted. I asked him, “well why didn’t you have her eat more CLEAN food?” And he said, oh yeah, let’s give her another yam, or some more oatmeal and some more chicken! Her body would incinerate that like tissue paper in a furnace. She needed some fat and some carbs and some junk!” He said she didn’t want to do it and fought him tooth and nail, but finally broke down… went to Benny Tudino’s (the pizza joint here in Hoboken that has GIANT slices), and chowed down. The next day, she had filled out and look 10X better. Go figure. In any case, I personally don’t need a cheat day, But I’m fully aware of many stories like this where a bodybuilder ate “junk” and looked better as a result… BUT… this seems only to happen in the final stages of contest prep after months of dieting when the body is depleted and the metabolism is racing. FYI: I don’t give the same advice on cheat meals to people training/dieting for fitness and weight loss as I do to bodybuilders…. 2 different animals.

July 29, 2005

Mendo @ 2:01 am #

Hi Tom,
Nice log and a great site. I like the way you sharing your diet and training with us. You look awesome!
What time of the day do you train and if you train in the evening do you take (starchy) carbs after your work-out? I remember in BFFM you mentioned that it’s not that important if you want 2 loose fat. I always train in the evening, I eat some starchy carbs at 9 and go 2 bed at 10. Is it better 2 skip them and eat some more proteine and fat?
Keep up the good work!
Greetings, Mendo
ps: Did you already had your pizza, our didn’t Richie forced you to eat some? 🙂

July 31, 2005

Tom Venuto @ 7:14 pm #

I train a different times, depending on whether I’m working out around a training partner’s schedule, or Richie’s schedule. In past years I almost always trained in the late morning (10 – 10:30 am, after two meals). This year, Ive been training at 7:30 am or 8:00 am (to accomodate my trainer or training partners), after one starchy carb meal, ALWAYS followed by another starchy carb meal – even on low carb days. So I “frame” my workouts with starchy carbs even when carb depleting and this works out well when I train in the morning because I prefer to “front load” my carbs early in the day. Ultimately fat loss is a matter of calories in versus calories out, and its always better for muscle growth and recovery to eat your carbs with your protein post workout, however, the stricter the diet becomes, the fewer carbs I am likely to eat in the evening, even if I happen to be training in the evening (I double split my routines on occasion, although evening sessions are usually only calves or abs by themselves… sometimes hamstrings if I split them up from quads due to really intense morning quad workouts.)

February 8, 2008

Alex L @ 6:11 pm #

Hi Tom,
just wanted to say, great site! super informational! i love the logs, they have really helped me create my own program as i am 12-weeks out from my 1st natural figure comp. the Ontario PHysique Association show on april 26th….
i really like the idea of carb cycling!!! i have found everything on this site to be very helpful!

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