What a fitness competition diet entails

JoJo bikini competitor

I want to get extra lean so my trainer put me on a 4 month long fitness competition diet. My friends and family wanted to know what’s so different about it since I already eat small portions of healthy foods six times a day. One big change is that I’m drinking a lot more water: 100 ounces compared to my typical measly 65. This number is based on 1 ounce per pound of body weight. This amount of water helps quell my hunger but it’s been a challenge drinking this much water. To prevent guzzling so much in the afternoon, I gulp down 16 ounces of water (one large glass) shortly after waking. Then I drink a 16 ounce fruit/protein smoothie on the drive to the gym. Throughout my workout, I sip caffeinated zero calorie iced tea from my water bottle (total of 20 oz.). I divide the remaining three 16 ounce glasses of water in the afternoon. If I’m feeling water-logged, I’m probably sodium deficient so I’ll add little extra salt to my meal(s) and eat two large green olives stuffed with jalapeño and raw garlic (yum!).

My food is broken down into macronutrients: protein, fat and carbs. I weigh all my proteins, draining off any liquids, use measuring cups for the carbohydrates, and use teaspoons to measure out the fats. This is easy when I’m eating grilled fish, grapefruit and roasted vegetables with olive oil, but if I’m eating my fish/chicken etc. and grains or oats, I need to recalculate, and eat a smaller portion of non-vegan protein. For example, 17 grams of protein is 3 ounces of tilapia, but if I’m having oats with it and those oats have 5-6 grams of protein, then I would reduce my fish portion down to only 2 ounces. It gets really tricky if I’m making a casserole with both protein and carbs.

It gets even more complicated when figuring out how much fat to eat since all proteins have fat and at different amounts. I look up how much fat all my foods have so I’m not going over my 7 grams of fat per meal, but sometimes one meal has too little fat so I get to enjoy a level tablespoon of peanut butter, but then I usually forget that the nut butter has 4 grams of protein so I went over my protein quota. Ugh!

Then there’s the food choices, which are limited to lean proteins, whole grains, organic fruits, vegetables and legumes. No dairy (no problem), no white rice, no sugar or sugar substitutes, no alcohol, and no processed foods. That means no bread or tortillas and, basically, no dining out. The tough one is sugar since that means no more daily chocolate square. Wah! I also had to substitute Sriracha for hot sauce, and tomato sauce for chopped tomatoes since they both have added table sugar. I had to find a different chicken stock since the one I was buying contained evaporated cane juice (aka sugar).

For a diet to work it has to be fewer calories than you are burning to be in a deficit. So, there’s the hunger issue. For me, the two hardest aspects of this type of diet is drinking all that water and getting the math right. Is it worth it, I’ve been asked? Once I post my six-pack, you’ll see!

Photo: Friend Jojo with her awards from a bikini competition

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