Dialling down your bodyfat percentage can be a frustrating experience. There you are, making great progress from your bodybuilding dieting efforts, when all of a sudden it grinds to a halt! Do you feel like you’ve reached an impasse in your bodybuilding training and nutrition program?
If you’re like me, you’ve probably encountered numerous obstacles and frustrations on your road to a lean body. Or perhaps you’re one of the lucky few who can eat at McDonald’s, Burger King, or Kentucky Fried Chicken and still look like a Greek god, carved out of stone!
But for the rest of us (myself included!), the challenges of the daily bodybuilding diet can be overwhelming at times. In this article, I’m going to identify some of the common problems that arise during the dieting process. I’m also going to show you how to troubleshoot your bodybuilding program and implement solutions that work.
DO NOT GET FRUSTRATED!
The most important thing to keep in mind is to not get frustrated and blow your program completely. The natural response when you come to an impasse is to say, “The heck with it. I’ve already blown it, I’m not making any progress and I might as well really blow it.”
Well, as my friend, world renowned nutritionist Keith Klein, is fond of saying, “Don’t shoot all the tires off the car when you get a flat.” If you’re driving along the freeway and you get a flat tire, you pull over to the shoulder of the road and you change the tire. You don’t get out of the car, pull out a gun and shoot out the other three tires in frustration.
A similar analogy can be drawn to the frustrations of a trainee that blows his diet or reaches an impasse in his physique goals. Let’s say you blow your diet. O.K., well you’ve made a mistake. But the best response is to fix it. Acknowledge that you’ve made a mistake, and get back on your diet as quickly as possible. Don’t throw the diet out the window entirely, keep bingeing and destroy your physique. Psychology plays a big part in the dieting and training process.
Now, let’s look at other common obstacles that you may encounter as you diet and train towards your lean body.
OBSTACLE 1: BODY WEIGHT IS NOT GOING DOWN.
If you are on a proper bodybuilding diet, i.e., adequate amounts of protein and complex carbs, your body weight may not go down at all. In fact, it may actually increase. This is because you are dropping fat and building muscle at the same time. Hence, the scale may not move.
Instead of worrying about the scale, pay close attention to your body composition as measured with body fat calipers or another reputable method, pay close attention to your pictures and your image in the mirror, and pay special attention to the way your clothes are fitting.
When first embarking on a bodybuilding diet, your body weight may actually go up while your body fat goes down, especially if you have never eaten properly before. If your body weight stays the same or it goes up and you’re getting leaner at the same time, you’re on the right track. Don’t reduce your calories further.
OBSTACLE 2: I’M NOT HUNGRY AT THE THREE-HOUR INTERVALS AT WHICH I’M SUPPOSED TO EAT.
A bodybuilding diet calls for 5-6 small meals per day. It may sound a little strange, but with proper nutrition you will not be hungry most of the time, even though you will be losing body fat! In order for your diet to work properly, it’s important that you eat all of your meals on time and in their entirety.
You should consume an adequate amount of protein and complex carbohydrates at every meal. Don’t drop off parts of the meal and don’t save some of the food for a later meal. You should eat all of the food that you have scheduled at each meal at the designated times. This is important to keep your muscles bathed in growth-producing nutrients and to keep your metabolism well stimulated.
OBSTACLE 3: I DON’T SEE ANY CHANGES IN MY BODY.
As I mentioned before, dieting is a psychological battle of perception. Many people have a problem keeping a handle on their self-image. So what I recommend is that you start any diet by taking pictures of yourself and getting your body composition measured by body fat caliper method or some other reputable method by someone who knows what they’re doing. Learn how track your progress to single digit bodyfat with The Get Lean Kit.
This will establish a benchmark that will help you to objectively gauge your progress. Once you have the proper benchmark established, then it’s just a matter of tweaking the diet and implementing the correct aerobics program to strip away body fat.
Some advice: If you’re not getting leaner, then increase your aerobic time slightly. For example, if you normally do aerobics for 20 minutes, add an additional 10 minutes for a total of 30 minutes of aerobics. I will caution you however, that aerobics should not be overdone. If you do too many aerobics, you may start burning valuable muscle tissue, and you’ll end up stringy and flat looking.
After increasing your aerobics by 50% for one week, drop 200 calories from your daily caloric intake and see if this creates the desired changes. If you don’t get the appropriate response within two weeks, repeat the process again.
OBSTACLE 4: I SEEM TO BE HOLDING FLUID.
A little water retention should be of no consequence to you unless you have a physique contest coming up. Most people try to rid themselves of excess body water (fluid) by limiting their sodium intake or restricting water. Both of these techniques fail over the long term because the body is very good at maintaining a balance of sodium, electrolytes and water, and will compensate for any adjustments that you make.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s O.K. to limit your sodium to a healthy level, but radical sodium restriction will only result in bloating as the body adjusts. I think the best policy is to drink lots of water and to consume foods without added salt.
OBSTACLE 5: I’M GETTING LEANER BUT I’VE LOST SOME OF MY VASCULARITY
Vascularity is a term used to describe visible, prominent veins on top of muscles. It’s a quality that many bodybuilders covet. If vascularity is important to you, keep in mind that it is contingent on blood volume and blood volume changes. Blood volume in turn depends on fluid intake.
My advice is to keep water intake as high as possible. I normally consume up to one gallon of water per day when undergoing an intense diet.
Low carbohydrate intake may also result in diminished vascularity. If your muscles are depleted of glycogen, it is important to replenish them by increasing complex carbohydrate intake periodically. I recommend that one day per week during your dieting phase, you increase your complex carbohydrate intake by at least 50% in order to keep your muscles from going flat and your vascularity prominent.
OBSTACLE 6: I DON’T HAVE ANY ENERGY ANYMORE.
This is the result of either cutting your calories back too far for too long or overtraining. Review your training program and if you feel that you are overtraining and are showing some of the symptoms of over training (unusual soreness, fatigue, lack of appetite, difficulty sleeping, catching colds) then take a few days off from your program to recover and adjust.
If taking a few days off doesn’t work, you may want to increase your calories by 500-800 calories per day primarily from complex carbohydrate for a couple of days, to see if that helps.
Review your supplement intake to make sure that you’re getting all of the nutrients you need to support your level of exercise. I use up to 3 Lean Body Ready to Drink high-protein nutrition drinks every day to ensure that I get all of the protein and nutrients that I need to keep my muscle nourished. I recommend that you do the same as additional nutritional assurance.
OBSTACLE 7: I SEEM TO HAVE LOST SOME MUSCLE.
Keep in mind that your muscle, or lean body mass, will always fluctuate up and down. Because muscle is made up of approximately 70% water, dehydration is usually the problem when it appears that one has lost muscle tissue.
As I mentioned before, I drink up to one gallon of water per day to insure that my body and my muscles have all of the fluid that they need.
Carbohydrate intake will also have an effect on your lean body mass. Remember that muscles store glycogen and glycogen pulls water into muscles. While it’s important to measure your body composition at least weekly, never make a dramatic adjustment in your diet based on the results of just one body fat composition. You should look at a couple of body composition tests taken over a two-week period before you make any dramatic adjustments in your diet.
Examine your protein intake and make sure that you’re getting enough protein for your body weight. I normally recommend 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. One easy way to ensure that you’re getting enough protein is to use a high quality protein blend such as my ProV60 protein blend.
Well, there you have it. These are some of the common obstacles that you may find on the road to building your lean body. I promise you that if you follow the solutions provided to any of these problems and you stick to your bodybuilding program, a lean body will be yours in no time.
Yours for a Leaner Body,
Lee Labrada is a former IFBB Mr. Universe and IFFB Pro World Cup winner. He is one of few men in history to place in the top four in the Mr. Olympia seven consecutive times, and was recently inducted into the IFBB Pro Bodybuilding Hall of Fame. Lee is President/CEO of Houston-based Labrada Nutrition.