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Successful bodybuilders must be lean as well as strong.
Bodybuilding isn't just about developing bulging muscles. Judges in a bodybuilding contest are also looking for sharp muscle definition across your body, which means competitors must trim as much fat as possible. As a result, many bodybuilders go through a вЂњcuttingвЂќ routine to drop some fat in the months before a contest. Losing fat while still consuming sufficient calories to maintain or to further build your muscles is definitely a challenge, but it's a challenge that you can meet successfully -- with the right strategy.
Take Your Time
Going on an extreme diet to lose weight rapidly is typically not recommended for anyone. In the case of a bodybuilder, you must consume enough calories to allow you to continue your training schedule. If you attempt an extreme diet, you won't have the energy to maintain your strength routine, causing you to lose muscle mass. Instead, bodybuilder Layne Norton recommends that you try to lose about 1 pound per week. Knowing how many pounds you wish to lose, therefore, tells you how many weeks in advance of the contest you must begin cutting.
Perform Plenty of Cardio
Your strength-training routine shouldn't have to change much, if at all, during the cutting phase. But you should add more cardio work -- such as jogging or cycling -- to burn extra calories and lose fat. Bodybuilder and fitness author Lee Hayward advises that you gradually increase your cardio workouts as the contest approaches. Begin five to six months before the contest by doing 30 minutes of cardio, four to six times per week. With four to five months remaining, increase the workouts to 45 minutes, five to seven times weekly. For the final three to four months before the contest, do 60 minutes of cardio daily. Bodybuilder Tom Venuto does a daily 30-minute cardio session starting 12 weeks before a contest, increases the workouts to 45 minutes two weeks later and then adds a second 30-minute cardio workout every other day, beginning about six weeks before the contest.
Spread Out Your Meals
Instead of simply eating breakfast, lunch and dinner each day, consume smaller but more frequent meals to keep your metabolism running smoothly. Many bodybuilders, such as Tom Venuto and R.J. Perkins, eat six times per day while cutting. Stu Yellin eats eight times per day while preparing for contests. He spreads his meals over a 14-hour period, with two to three hours between meals.
Eliminate junk food, processed foods and anything else high in fat from your diet while cutting. Perkins, for example, eats foods such as chicken and fish, egg whites, oats, yams, brown rice and peanut butter. In the final two months before a contest, Hayward recommends that you consume 1 gram of carbohydrates and 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily while keeping your fat intake low. Hayward also suggests drinking 1 gallon of water per day while cutting.