Stay focused, all your hard work will be paid off.
When eating for everyday fitness and trying to look and feel your best, you should focus on nutrition but without making it a chore.
In other words, you should know what foods your body needs and about how much you need to consume, but you don't necessarily want to spend your days religiously counting every morsel of food that goes in your mouth and analyzing its nutritional value down to the milligrams of magnesium.
When you're training for a bodybuilding competition, everything changes. Just as you make substantial changes to your workout routines to maximize muscle gain and get lean before the competition, what you eat becomes even more critical.
If you're serious about winning or at least presenting yourself as a serious contender, you'll feel the urge to break out the spreadsheet and start recording everything you eat, planning ahead of time to ensure you always have what you need. Of course, eliminating temptation is also key so that you can keep your head on winning rather than on the cupcakes.
Yes, tracking is essential. So is nailing down exactly how much you need to consume of every macronutrient, not just protein. An everyday healthy diet allows you the freedom of keeping it within a range; say 100-200 grams of protein daily.
Bodybuilding competition diets are only perfect when they are precise. As an example; say 300 grams of protein daily, no more no less. If you need a list, make it and check it off daily. If you need a spreadsheet, create one ASAP.
You should consume more protein when preparing for a competition, but how much do you really need? Many professionals recommend consuming 40-50% more grams per pound of bodyweight than you would consume for everyday nutrition.
So, if you normally consume 1 gram per pound, you may go to 1.4 or 1.5 grams per pound during the month or so leading up to the competition. When you have more than a month to prepare, you may gradually work up to that increased level.
Why do you hear so much about bodybuilders cycling carbs when preparing for competition? This is the best way to ensure your body doesn't adjust to your pre-competition diet and stall progress.
You cycle carbs (rotate the amount consumed daily and/or weekly) to keep your body guessing and ensure it uses the carbs efficiently. The last thing you want is your body to think carbs are in short supply and start storing away those calories.
Your competition diet should go well beyond monitoring your protein intake or making sure your carbohydrates are natural and wholesome. You also need to think about little things that make a big difference on how you look and feel when you put it all out there for the judges.
For example, it's important to monitor sodium (salt) intake prior to a competition because water retention will interfere with the look of your muscles.
The closer you get to competition day, the more you should start cutting out sodium. With a month or more to spare, you can stay away from condiments, sauces and other unnecessary add-ons which contain sodium.
Within that last month to stage time, you want to start scaling back eggs, cheese and other foods that are naturally high in salt. This may mean going with protein shakes more often to eliminate high-sodium meats or changing from whole grains to fresh vegetables for your carbohydrates. Just throw the salt shaker out and start using fresh herbs and spices to season your food.
You may also watch your fat consumption more closely. Eliminate saturated fats entirely, and make sure healthy fats are no more than 30% of your daily calories. Leaning more heavily on protein shakes will help you get your protein in without worrying about cooking so that it tastes good.