Eat for Your Sport: Cutting Calories Is Not the Answer

Sophia McDermott Drysdale


Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, Bodybuilding, Nutrition, Women's Fitness


Preparing for Ms. Figure

Preparing for a Ms. Figure show has a completely different objective. It is all about how you look for a small period of time, rather than how you perform. However, the preparation involved is painstakingly long.


Most bodybuilding competitors begin their preparation 8-16 weeks out from their show, depending on their level of body fat. Since I always stay lean, I start 8 weeks out. Instead of eating 4-5 times per day, I switch to 5-6 meals per day and reduce the size of each meal. Keeping your body constantly supplied with small meals keeps your metabolism elevated. Since the meals are small, the body utilises everything for energy and there is nothing left over to store.



Fuel your body for your sports-specific goals

Since the meals are small, the body utilises everything for energy and there is nothing left over to store.



Protein is the main staple in this eating plan. Every meal consists of about 30-40g of protein. I eat close to 200g of protein per day since my carbohydrates and fats are lower and I need to keep my caloric intake up. I also consume higher levels of protein to maintain muscle mass while my body is not getting as much carbohydrate and fats for energy.


The majority of my protein comes from egg whites, fish, and a high-quality whey protein isolate (protein shake). I drink at least 4 litres (1 gallon) of water per day. This keeps my kidneys and liver functioning optimally and helps them process the proteins.



The meals I eat while preparing for a Ms. Figure show are all low in fat. I want to encourage my body to use its fat stores rather than the fat supplied through diet. I cook with coconut oil and add olive oil to my salads, but I cut out nut butters, and add only one whole egg to four or five egg whites.



All my meals contain carbohydrates derived from vegetables and salads. I limit dense, grain-based complex carbohydrates to two meals per day. I eat 1/2 cup of rice or sweet potato in a meal right before and right after a workout. I also don’t eat very much fruit, since the simple sugars are broken down too easily and could result in an insulin spike. Reducing carbohydrates also lowers my subcutaneous water, which is important when you need your skin to be as thin as possible to show maximum muscular definition.



The timing of each meal is imperative. I never skip a meal. I eat every two and a half to three hours religiously. If my body thinks it is not getting calories for even a short amount of time, it will release cortisol and more lipolytic (fat storing) enzymes. It will also be more likely to store any calories when supplied and cut into my muscle for energy. 


"Long-term calorie restriction, cutting calories, and skipping meals is not the answer."

Since I am expending less calories during Ms. Figure prep, I reduce my calories accordingly. However, I do not reduce my calories below my basal metabolic rate, nor do I deprive my body of calories it needs to function optimally and get through my workouts.


The Fundamentals Are the Same

Whether I am training for a BJJ competition, prepping for a Ms. Figure show, or just trying to maintain a healthy weight, the fundamentals are the same: a healthy eating plan consisting of the right types of foods such as whole grains, fruits, lean meats, eggs, good fats, and an abundance of fresh vegetables. Eating regular, smaller meals is also important, as is drinking a lot of water throughout the day.


If you are a serious athlete, tweak your eating plan to suit your specific goals. Small, consistent changes over time can increase your performance and help you to achieve your weight and body fat goals. Long-term calorie restriction, cutting calories, and skipping meals is not the answer. Tailor your diet to your needs to achieve the outcomes you desire.


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1. World Health Organization: Obesity and overweight Fact sheet N°311 January 2015

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