Bodybuilding Pre-contest Diet

The dietary and pharmaceutical practices of pre-competition bodybuilding athletes have been documented in several studies (Elliot, Goldberg, Kuehl, & Catlin, 1987; Hickson, Johnson, Lee, & Sidor, 1990; de Boer, De Jong, van Rossum, & Maes, 1991; Kleiner, Bazzarre, & Litchford, 1990; Balon, Horowitz, & Fitzsimmons, 1992; Bazzarre, Kleiner, & Litchford, 1990; Hildebrand, Saldanha, & Endres, 1989).

Sandoval (1989) studied the body composition, exercise, and nutritional profiles of 5 male and 6 female bodybuilders before the competition. The average male competitor had 3.6 years of experience (range 1 to 10 yr) and was 7.2 ±1.6% body fat measured by hydrostatic weighing 24 to 48 hours prior to competition. Sixty percent of male competitors included some form of aerobic activity in addition to weight training. The most popular form of aerobic exercise was station cycling. Days before the competition, the mean energy intake for men was 2347 ±220 kcalories; 199 ±65 gm of protein (34% of kcal), 305 ±91 gm of carbohydrates (52% of kcal), 41 ±19 gm of fat (16% kcal). This was calculated to be an average of 28 kcal/kg of body weight. The most popular source of protein was white chicken meat, lean fish, egg whites, and canned tuna packed in water. Calcium was the only nutrient low in the diet supplying 54% of the RDA. Only one man reported using a vitamin/mineral supplement and 3 men reported using protein or amino acid supplements. All men reported using anabolic steroids during training (Sandoval, Heyward, & Lyons, 1989).

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Hickson (1990) looked at the dietary and precontest preparations of a male bodybuilder preceding competition. The subject weight trained 6 days per week and included bicycling and running activities most of these days. Anabolic steroids, HCG, and diuretic drugs were self-administered weeks 1 through 3 of the study. Anabolic steroids included nandrolone decanoate 100 mg/wk (weeks 1-3), boldenone undecylenate 50 mg/wk (weeks 1,2) 75 mg/wk (week 3), methenolone-enantato 20 mg/wk (weeks 1-3), stanozolol 10mg/day (week 1), oxandrolone 12.5 mg/day (week 1) 15 mg/day (weeks 2-3), ethylestrenol 10mg/day (weeks 1,2), 12 mg/day (weeks 3). A strict regimented diet was followed, supplying 2094 ±295 kcalories on days 1 through 21. This consisted of 26 ±4% protein, 56 ±8% carbohydrates, and 18 ±7% fat. On days 24 through 26, the subject employed a low carbohydrate (11% of kcalories) diet supplying 1769 to 1781 kcal. On days 24 through 26, he returned his carbohydrates to 57% of the total calories and consumed 2437 to 3285 kcal. All basic nutrients exceeded 80% of the RDA except calcium (57 ±9%) and zinc (53 ±8%). A loss of approximately 5 lbs of lean body weight and 10.5 lbs of fat was measured throughout the study to the day before the competition. One day before the competition, body fat was estimated at 4.9% fat. Finally, on day 27, the subject place third in his weight class division (Hickson, Johnson, Lee, & Sidor, 1990).

Kleiner (1990) studied diet, body composition, training, health, and drug usage in 19 men and 8 women competing at the 1988 NPC Junior USA Bodybuilding Championships. Data was collected using dietary record forms, questionnaires, and interview surveys. Anthropometrics, blood pressure measurements, and blood samples were also taken. Most competitors progressively restricted their diets 2 to 4 months before the competition. The week before the competition, the men's diet consisted of 2015 ±1060 kcalories; 169 ±94 gm of protein (33.5% of kcal), 243 ±121 gm of carbohydrates (48% of kcal), and 40 ±51 gm of fat (18% of kcal). The main source of protein was egg whites, but also included white chicken meat, flounder, and haddock. Practically all basic nutrients meet or exceeded the RDA except calcium (75%) and zinc (71%). In addition, nutrition supplements were used by nearly all athletes. Precontest body composition, estimated by seven-site skinfold measurements, showed men at 6 ±1.8% body fat and women at 9.8 ±1.5% body fat. Many athletes reported the use of various drugs including anabolic steroids, diuretics, and laxatives as part of their training regimens. A large portion of competitors left the questions pertaining to drug use unanswered. Two men practiced sodium loading preceded by sodium depletion prior to the competition. Beginning 2 to 3 days before the competition, fluid restriction and dehydration practices were reported by all competitors (Kleiner, Bazzarre, & Litchford, 1990).

Bazzarre et. al. (1990) studied the nutrition intake, body fat, and lipid profiles of 19 male and 8 female bodybuilders competing at the 1988 NPC USA Bodybuilding Championships. The average male subjects had trained 8.2±4 years, competed in bodybuilding events 5.6 ±3.1 years, competed in 8.5 ±6.0 competitions, and won 3.4 ±2.4 competitions. The average body fat was 6.0 ±1.8% estimated by seven skinfold sites. The week preceding competition, the men's diet consisted of 2015 ±1060 kcalories; 169 ±94 gm of protein (34 ±12% of kcal), 243 ±121 gm of carbohydrates (50 ±13% of kcal), 40 ±51 gm of fat (15 ±9% of kcal). Eggs, egg whites, poultry, and fish seemed to be the primary sources of protein. The basic nutrients were above the RDA except calcium (75 %) and zinc (80%) (Bazzarre, Kleiner, & Litchford, 1990).

Balon et. al (1992) studied the effectiveness of carbohydrate loading on muscle girth. Carbohydrate loading is often practiced by bodybuilders on the premise that it will increase muscle mass. This theory was based on calculations that 2.33 to 4 grams of water would bind to every gram of glycogen stored in the muscle. Balon et. al (1992) conclude that carbohydrate loading has no additional advantage to enhancing muscle girth in bodybuilders over weight-lifting alone. They mention one elite female bodybuilder (Corey Everson) who does not recommend carbohydrate loading despite the popular literature advocating this procedure for bodybuilders.(Balon, Horowitz and Fitzimmons, 1992).

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