How to Do Carbo-Loading Before a Bodybuilding Contest

Bodybuilding is a challenging pursuit, as you must have a disciplined nutrition and workout plan to achieve success. Although your food choices are not heavily restricted during mass-gaining phases, contest preparation when you will find your calorie intake and nutritional choices limited. Bodybuilder Joe Klemczewski notes that you should begin intense contest preparation and nutrient manipulation one week prior to your contest 1.

Begin the final week before your competition consuming .5 g of carbohydrates for each pound of your body weight. While this will likely be lower than the daily recommended intake of 130 g per day suggested by the National Academies, it is still enough to power your activities without causing you to hold extra water, as carbohydrates promote water retention.

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Reduce your sodium intake throughout the week. Sodium encourages water retention, so you should begin the week with a normal intake of sodium -- about 1,750 mg per day -- and work your way down to as little sodium as possible the day prior to your show.

Increase your carbohydrate intake gradually during the week. The bodybuilding website Fitness Atlantic notes that some carb-loading plans suggest reducing carbohydrate intake to prepare for a one-day carbohydrate-load, but suggests that a gradual load is preferable. A week-long carbohydrate load allows you to adequately fill muscles with glycogen, which improves definition and size.

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Consume bananas. Bananas are high in carbohydrates and low in fat, but also provide potassium. Potassium is an essential nutrient that can help prevent cramping as you decrease your sodium intake.

Decrease water consumption gradually throughout the week and continue increasing carbohydrate intake until you are consuming 2.5 g per pound of bodyweight on the day before the show. You should only drink 64 oz. of water the day prior to your show.

Consume simple carbohydrates on the day of your show. Fibrous foods can leave you bloated, so foods such as honey and apple butter are preferable, according to bodybuilder Jeff Behar.


Carbohydrate manipulation is just one aspect of bodybuilding show preparation; consult a veteran for tips on posing and tanning.