Ever wonder how precontest dieting affects your body - other than minimizing bodyfat? It may not be the healthiest endeavor, and may not even give you the maximum muscle you want. Consider this case report from the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness; which documented the effects of a 10-week precompetition bodybuilding diet and training regimen on blood chemistry and body composition.
This adult male bodybuilder consumed a daily average of 2,263 calories, with 71% of calories from protein, 16% of calories from carbohydrate and 13% from fat. His protein intake was a whopping 2.27 grams per pound of bodyweight! During the diet his initial weight of 168 pounds dropped to 139, while his bodyfat dropped from 16% to 4.4%. That's a loss of 20.7 pounds of fat and 7.7 pounds of lean tissue so roughly 25% of his weight loss was lean tissue and the remaining 75% was bodyfat. Lean tissue or lean body mass could include stored glycogen, ward; blood volume, etc., hut we can reasonably assume that most of the lean mass lost was muscle mass.
Blood analysis found that this subject had low levels of blood glucose (hypoglycemia), likely due to his carbohydrate-restricted diet. Levels of creatine kinase (an enzyme found in skeletal muscle) were elevated, indicating that his muscle fibers were damaged at the microscopic level as a result of heavy and intense training. This isn't anything to be concerned about it's a normal response to exercise training. Blood urea nitrogen increased from 16 to 53 mg per deciliter (normal range is 8-20 mg dl), likely the result of his high protein intake.
So what's the take-home message from this specific case? One, anyone preparing for a bodybuilding contest should keep meticulous track of his or her dietary intake and training load and volume. Getting a blood chemistry analysis before, during and after a contest is also highly suggested. This information can help you make adjustments in your diet and/or training the next time you attempt to drop your bodyfat into single digits.
As you can see from this case report, the subject lost a lot of muscle even with a huge protein intake. But with a tweak here and there in your diet, you might be able to minimize this loss of lean tissue. For starters, eating more carbs would help. Then adding supplements such as glutamine or ornithinc alpha-ketoglutarate could also help ameliorate this catabolic effect. Better yet, take a tip from several pros: Don't hulk up so much that you need to lose so much weight so fast for a contest.
Remember, you're a single-subject experiment, so do some research!