Written by
12 July 2006

I’m dieting for my first contest and it’s eight weeks away. I’m six feet tall and 225 pounds and based on how much fat I’m carrying, I should come in around 210 or so. It’s a natural show, so I’m not worried about being too skinny. A few people tell me I’m eating too many carbs. On training days, I eat about 500 grams in the form of oatmeal, rice and sweet potatoes and on non-training days, I still get at least 300 grams. A few guys at my gym who’ve been competing for years try to tell me there’s no way I’ll be able to get into proper condition unless I come way down on those. They say I need to cycle my carbs and have days where I don’t eat any. The thing I’m concerned with is losing muscle mass. I’ve always had a hard time gaining and keeping weight and I’m a naturally lean person. I’ve only been dieting for three weeks, but I’ve already gotten leaner while eating all those carbs and I only do 30 minutes of cardio three times a week on the treadmill. What do you think? Have you ever followed someone’s diet advice and regretted it?

Have I ever listened to some bad diet advice and regretted it? Dude, I don’t think there’s a competitive bodybuilder alive who hasn’t! As far as I’m concerned, the most important rule is, “do what works for you.” And by that, I mean whether or not it works for everyone else, or anyone else. Former Mr. Olympia Sergio “The Myth” Oliva used to diet on pizza and Coca-Cola (they didn’t have Diet Coke back then) while his rivals were on the tuna and water plan. He said he tried eating like everyone else once and all that happened was he felt weak and tired and lost muscle. Sergio’s metabolism and the way his body processed certain types of foods was obviously different from the other bodybuilders of his time, just like yours is different from the guys at your gym. As long as you keep getting leaner, don’t change a thing. There might come a time in a few weeks when you hit a plateau and won’t lose any more fat. Then, you should start cycling your carbs. You can have two low days followed by a regular day. For you, it might be 250, 250 and 500 grams. My low-carb days are 100 grams and my high days are 300. Measure out your food and keep logs as you diet, so you know how your body responds to different amounts of proteins, fats and carbs. This way, you’ll really learn what works best for your particular body and can fine tune it so future diets are more successful. I’ve seen so many bodybuilders who made tremendous improvements once they figured out the best nutritional strategy for them. But I warn you— the more success you have, the more you’ll have knuckleheads coming to you with advice. And if you listen to everybody, you’ll just get confused and start doubting everything. It’s fine to take advice into consideration, but the bottom line should always be whether something works well for you.