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Forum > Diet > Leaning out/Hardening up, suggestions?

Member Posts in Leaning out/Hardening up, suggestions?

Cristine B Posted by fightn40

I'm 8 weeks out from my competition and I don't seem to be hardening up like I think I should.
I've been off carbs for 5 weeks now, train 5 days a week.
Any other suggestions would be appreciated.

Sarah Sussman Posted by SarahSuss21

8 weeks! That is EXCITING! I am almost 5 weeks out, and I am SO eager to get on that stage!

Do you happen to have any "progress" pictures?

Cristine B Posted by fightn40

Not yet, kinda shy about that. Guess I should get over it. I can post some tomorrow.
Yes, it's my first show and I'm not sure if I am going to be ready, so I'm kinda freakn out.

Kristin Shaffer Posted by fabeditor

I documented my entire weight loss journey through competition. I gotta tell you posting those 'before' pics was NOT an easy thing to do. But oh so rewarding.

The program I documented takes all of the diet guesswork out of leaning down, "hardening up" and preparing for a competition. You can see the entire diet plan here.

Sarah Sussman Posted by SarahSuss21

Don't worry! We have ALL been there... :) No need to be shy. We should be like your second family, and we all just want to help! With that said, what division are you competing in? Could you post your meal plan? Are you taking any supplements? Do you do cardio? I know it seems like a lot of questions, but it is hard to give advice when you don't know all of the important components, you know?!

Cristine B Posted by fightn40

No, thanks for all the questions! I use Beverly Int sups, right now the mega pack & glutamene. I'm going to be in the Masters division and I'm 5'10" currently at 170lbs. I do cardio 5x week min of 20 min (depending on the workout). My diet goes like this:
1 whole egg & 5 egg whites
1/2 C oatmeal

am snack-
Beverly UMP protein shake, bar, or 2 handfuls of unsalted peanuts or almonds

5-6oz of chicken breast or Gr Round & 1C peas or broccoli

pm snack-
Protein shake or cottage cheese w/pear or apple

5-6 oz chicken, gr chuck or steak
1C peas or broccoli

and I'm drinking as much water as I can get my hands on w/Crystal light

Sarah Sussman Posted by SarahSuss21

Well, obviously this is my personal opinion ONLY. I am in no way an expert, a dietitian, a nutritionist or anything of that nature. I will share what works for me, and you can go from there. I am shorter than you. I'm about 5'7" and I weigh 128 pounds at the moment (keeping in mind im 5 weeks from a show).

When I start dieting for a contest, I cut out all bars and shakes. Personally, I feel solid, real food is more beneficial. Not to mention, many shakes/bars are high in sodium, calories, fat, sugar, etc.

Additionally, I only allow myself crystal light IF i have taken in a gallon of regular water that day. Although the nutritional values make crystal light appear as if there is nothing in it-- there obviously is. Look at the ingredients. Those ingredients MUST amount to something more than plain water would.

I also cut all dairy. I am not sure if youre drinking your coffee black, but I do. I don't touch cottage cheese or anything of that nature. Also, I avoid fruits at night. If you are going to do a fruit, I would suggest it going with your first meal so that you utilize the natural sugars.

Where you have snacks--- i would make those meals. Tilapia or egg whites should suffice, and maybe a cup of cooked greens with each.

Finally, I take peas away as they are higher in sugar than that of broccoli or spinach.

Good luck to you!
I wish you all the best, and if I can be of any further help- let me know!

Cristine B Posted by fightn40

Wow! Thank you so much.
One question, what supps do you use?
I will definitely use your suggestions. I really appreciate the input Sarah!

Sarah Sussman Posted by SarahSuss21

No problem! Please just make sure you do your own research if you are unsure about anything. I want you to be confident in the decisions and choices you make.

Regarding supplements:
Morning: Multi, Cal/Mag, Alpha lipoic acid, Lcarnitine, hydroxycut hardcore pro series

Before workout: Hydroxycut hardcore pro series

During workout: BCAAs and Glutamine

Post workout: Lcarnitine

*with every other meal- alpha lipoic acid

Before bed: glutamine, cal/mag, vegetarian herb&prune supplement (promotes regularity)

I think thats it :)

Cristine B Posted by fightn40

Looks like I need to do some research.
Thank you, thank you so much for your suggestions!

Sarah Sussman Posted by SarahSuss21

:) Good luck. Again, if you need anything- dont hesitate!

Kristin Shaffer Posted by fabeditor

Good for you for your journey!

I agree with Sarah on a number of items.

--Definitely try cutting out dairy. I know personally ANY dairy in my diet will sabotage any efforts I make otherwise to lose fat.

--I would look at the time of day that you're performing cardio. There are all sorts of opinions on this so you'll need to find what works for you. I love first thing in the morning on an empty stomach - burn on the treadmill or bike for not too long. Melts fat right off of me.

--Careful that you don't cut out too many carbs. Once you eliminate your dairy products you are in risk of this. Consider adding carbs like sweet potatoes or yams (a figure & bikini gal's best friend). :)

Keep in mind that it's a journey, not a destination. You'll need to experiment a little to find out what works for you. So absolutely find another show to compete in after this one so you have the next date in mind. Then you won't get too discouraged if you don't come in exactly how you want to for this one. Most of us here do that. :)

Hope that helps some!

Cristine B Posted by fightn40

Thank you for the wonderful suggestions!
As of today, no dairy! Got it.
As for the cardio, it tends to be very late at night due to my schedule & that I'm not a morning person AT ALL. I have a spin bike in my basement, so looks like I'll be gettn my booty up earlier...
My trainer had given me the diet and told me to get off the sweet potatoes and limit my carbs to the oatmeal so that is why. But since no more dairy, I will work em in.
I really don't have any set "goal" with the show. I just want to say that I did one. But having seen some of the girls at one, I was reconsidering b/c I just don't have the hardness or definition like they do.
I will definitely implement the suggestions though.
I also need to find some patients, its just not coming fast enough for me I guess!

Sarah Sussman Posted by SarahSuss21

I am not sure if you're interested, but I posted my meal plan somewhere on this site. I will find you the link if I can.... maybe it will give you an idea. :)

Sarah Sussman Posted by SarahSuss21

My Competition Meal Plan

just in case you wanna check it out.

Cristine B Posted by fightn40

Very helpful, thank you Sarah!

Sarah Sussman Posted by SarahSuss21

Hey again! Hows your day going? I wanted to share this link with you--- if you're interested, you can check out my album which will show pictures by week. (this way, you can see that my meal plan really does work!)

I hope you were successful in creating a plan that works for you! GOOD LUCK

Brandi McAtee Posted by i1tiger

Well, this goes against all the advice you've been given, and I apologize, but check out I found this site when I was 10 weeks out from the Big Sky Championships. In those 10 weeks, I gained 5 lbs of muscle and dropped from 19.5% body fat to 13% body fat. The best part was I FELT great...and still do. My testimonial for the Total Six Pack Abs book is if you want to read it. There is a charge for this book. However, EVERYTHING else on this site is FREE. You can make great improvements with the THT training style and the MANS Diet...again, free.

A sample day of eating for me would be:
3:30a.m. Pre-workout--1 1/2 scoops Super Pump Max, 1 scoop Myofusion protein ( I can't choke down food at 3:30 in the morning...ick!)
5:30a.m. Post-workout--1 1/2 scoops whey protein, 5g creatine, 5g L-glutamine, 2 Omega 3 1200mg
7:30a.m. (or whenever I get hungry) large coffee with Splenda and 2TBSP 1/2 & 1/2; 2 TBSP Adams chunky peanut butter on a low-carb wrap with cayenne pepper and 1 tsp agave nectar
11:30a.m. 1 cup taco-seasoned burger, cheddar cheese, salsa & sour cream; or a cheeseburger patty (no bun) with bacon, mustard, and pickles
3:30p.m. Spinach salad with onion, a couple baby carrots, black olives, avocado (if I have one), mushrooms, 3-4oz of roast beef, and 2 TBSP blue cheese dressing (no, not the low fat kind)
If I'm low on fat or protein, I'll have a spoonful of peanut butter or a Myofusion shake before bed.

I aim for 60g of carbs, 80g fat, and 130g protein a day. I eat dark meat poultry with the skin, beef, pork, elk, salmon, nuts, butter, cheese...basically anything high-fat and low-carb.
I do carb-load 24hrs per week, usually Fri afternoon til Sat afternoon. During this time I drop my fat and protein, and eat @ 250g of carbs.

As far as weight training goes, I train on a 6-day split, training abs twice a week. I train to failure (between 8 & 12 reps) every set, and do 6 sets for each muscle group. I rest 3-5 mins between sets. I don't do cardio until @4 weeks out from a show. I NEVER do more than 20 mins. I usually do 12 mins HIIT 2-3 times a week, and never on leg day.

I know it sounds crazy, but it works. Read my testimonial to get the whole story. Again, I apologize for contradicting everyone else's advice. Before I found Musclehack, I would have given you the exact same advice. Check it out and see what you think.
Good luck to you dear, whatever you decide. Just remember to enjoy the experience...this is an unbelievable sport!

Kristin Shaffer Posted by fabeditor

No apologies necessary! I think your post is wonderful and illustrates that different things work for different people. Each individual has to figure out what works for them.

I'm a firm believer that this is a journey more than a destination. We get better with time and experimentation. And, just when we think we nailed it, then we get older and have to change it up again! ;)

That's a wonderful post with great advice. All except the part about getting up at 3:30am. ;) Nope - couldn't do it. Too much of a night owl here! :)

Sarah Sussman Posted by SarahSuss21

i1tiger (sorry, i wish i knew your name!) That is awesome that you've found something so unique that works so well for you! When is your next show? :) i am thinking about trying the Keto diet the next time around. Has anyone tried that yet?

Cristine B Posted by fightn40

OMG! This is so amazing!
You guys are wonderful, wonderful!
OK, so over the weekend I am going to take some pics. promise
I will also get into the info you have shared. Thank you so much!
I do have one pic that I'll put as my profile, doesn't show anything but at least you can put a face to a name.

Brandi McAtee Posted by i1tiger

Thanks, ladies! Sarah, my name is Brandi McAtee, or as my husband calls me, Squishy. Don't ask! :) The diet I do is kind of a Keto diet. The MANS Diet I mentioned is only 30g carbs, fat depends on your lean mass but mine is @90g a day, and protein 127g a day. It's amazing how you feel your body switch fuels! For the first few days I started to feel a little sluggish, then it just switched. It was amazing! I felt so much more energized than I ever had, and the fat literally started melting off! I dropped almost 5% body fat in 2 weeks when I started it. Craziness!

Cristine, can't wait to see your pics. Take lots of progress pics along the really helps.

Kristin, this is a great forum you have here! I was hesitant to post my opinion/experience. I've contributed to several fitness forums in the past, and so many people were just sh!##y. Anything out of the box was a major faux pas. I actually told my story (about how fitness saved me from my Fibro) to a girl with some of the same issues, hoping to help her take that leap, and I was chastised for not breaking it into small enough paragraphs! Can you believe that? Jerks! This site is awesome! Thanks again!

Brandi McAtee Posted by i1tiger

Oops, Sarah, I forgot, my next competition is Sept 24th in Snoqualmie, WA then I have one Oct 8th in Belgrade, MT. (The Washington Ironman and the Yellowstone Classic, respectively)

Kristin Shaffer Posted by fabeditor

Brandi, I'm so glad you like the site! It's inspirational individuals like you, Sarah, and Christine that make it wonderful. Without your unselfish contributions it would be nothing.

Your comment about other forums on the web being what I call "harsh" environments is spot on. That's one of the reasons I was so compelled to form Figure & Bikini.

None of that kind of behavior will be tolerated here. I am committed to providing an environment where members have "safe harbor" to share what ever is on their minds. If I see any disrespectful comments, they will be swiftly removed and the member will be given notice. And if it happens a second time, they will be banned from the site.

Sarah Sussman Posted by SarahSuss21

Brandi! Goooood luck to you! I am sure you will do amazing. Make sure you keep us updated on your progress and your success :)

Andddd--- this site IS awesome. I am SO happy to be a part of this online community

Kim Schaefer Posted by Kim Schaefer

These are all great suggestions. I find my body responds very well to fish. I lean out very quickly on it. But I have to admit I hate fish and choke it down anyway. Definately do more cardio and for sure cut out dairy. Get in at least a gallon of water per day, carry a gallon jug if you have to and make sure you drink it all. I agree on the Crystal Light. I only drink it when there is no way I can get to my gallon and a half.
Good Luck!

Brandi McAtee Posted by i1tiger

Thanks Kristin and Sarah! I'll definitely keep you posted! I've already beaten my personal best figure, hopefully it's enough to place well too :)

Angel Kolb Posted by ajkolb

I agree with everyone! This page has helped me so much!!!!

Kristin Shaffer Posted by fabeditor

So glad Angel! Hey isn't your competition coming up here soon?

Angel Kolb Posted by ajkolb

Yes! Oct 1st!!!! Im trying to upload more pics and i cant get it!

Kristin Shaffer Posted by fabeditor

Just sent you an email Angel.

Kim Schaefer Posted by Kim Schaefer

Good luck Angel. My show is about 2 weeks after yours.

Angel Kolb Posted by ajkolb

Thanks Kim! Good luck to you!!!

Brandi McAtee Posted by i1tiger

Good luck Kim and Angel. Where are you competing? I'm doing the Washington Ironman (Snoqualmie Casino, Issaquah, WA) on Sept 24th & the Yellowstone Classic in Belgrade, MT on Oct 8th.

The Night of Champions in Spokane, WA is Oct 1st. Is that your show, Angel? I would love to do that one, but not enough cash for 3 in a row. I want to go back to the Ironman and place better than last time (I got 8th out of 9), and the Yellowstone Classic is one of only two competitions on this side of MT so I have to support it.

Again, good luck to you both! Hopefully we'll cross paths one day! :)

Anu Pabla Posted by brown_eyez

Ladies I am preparing for my second comp. I thought I had this diet thing down but I nervous.

I am 4 weeks out and now just started to drop carbs and bump up cardio to harden up. Maybe the nerves are kicking in but I am so afraid the body fat will not drop and that i will not lean out.

Here is my meal plan

m1 - 4oz chicken + Asparagus
m2 - 4oz chicken + broccolli
m3 - 4oz chicken
m4 - 4 oz chicken + salad
m5 - 4oz chicken + Asparagus
m6 - 4oz chicken + Broccoli

I take Extend BCAA's before I do cardio in the morning and during my afternoon weight training session.

Also doing colon cleanse :-)

I do feel bloated on certain days. Not sure how to handle that.

Any feedback tips/help/jokes would be much appreciated.

Sarah Sussman Posted by SarahSuss21

Hey there!

Well, first off--- DONT STRESS! 4 weeks is still a good amount of time.

You're most likely bloated due to the greens you're eating. Not only do greens "hold water" but they also tend to make people bloated/gassy. Especially the darker greens... at least thats what i notice.

You may want to consider varying your protein source too. Four weeks from a show, i am usually incorporating a very clean fish in there and still eating egg whites here and there. Chicken does still have fat in it.

Also.... perhaps you would benefit from a bit of carbs. As I diet for more shows, I learn a thing or two. I used to pull carbs 5 weeks out... however, my body was "confused" and not able to get lean enough. I would come in flat and "stringy" and the judges would always say--- FULLER FULLER FULLER-- EAT EAT EAT!

Personally, I plan to keep carbs in my diet until maybe a week and a half before this time around.

Just some thoughts, and obviously this is only my opinion. Good luck to you!


Anu Pabla Posted by brown_eyez

THANK you for responding. May I ask what kind of carb you added to your diet?

I will alter the protein source to change between Tilapia and chicken.

Is there any supplementation that can assist with reducing the bloat?

Sarah Sussman Posted by SarahSuss21


Personally, I find oatmeal to work the best with my body; however, right now (i am 12 weeks out) ... I eat oatmeal, sweet potato, and white potato. I also liked cream of wheat as I get closer to the show. Believe it or not, my favorite meal is tilapia mixed into cream of wheat! LOL

as far as the bloating goes..... man, thats a great question. maybe drinking a natural tea meant for bloating. the vitamin shoppe sells one by Yogi I believe. I take their detox tea and it works great. Also, maybe consider adding digestive enzymes and probiotics into your routine if you don't take them already.

If you need anything- please feel free to contact me

or if you have Facebook

Kristin Shaffer Posted by fabeditor

Ooooooo I LOVE this thread! One other consideration on the bloating is the Extend BCAA's. It has an artificial sweetener in it so I would drop that soon as well.

To Sarah's point, Broccoli as well will bloat. That last couple of days I would watch that.

With love,


Sarah Sussman Posted by SarahSuss21

i missed that

good eye, Kristin!!

Anu Pabla Posted by brown_eyez

The BCAA's have really helped me through this diet down. I am going to drop that out of my diet next week and do a capsule BCAA supplement.

I have pushed out my comp date to the end of Sept. I am finding it a little difficult to drop the last few pounds of body fat. I would appreciate any advice/suggestions others may have to get me to my goal.

My progress pics are posted on my bodybuilding profile.

Kristin Shaffer Posted by fabeditor

Might just be time to drop those last few pounds. Most of us (me included) underestimate how long it will take to drop it.

Another thing a lot of competitors underestimate is the impact of cheat meals. If you are incorporating any cheats into your diet this can significantly slow progress (more than most believe). Those last few pounds are the most stubborn, so a squeaky clean diet is the best way to carve them off.

Anu Pabla Posted by brown_eyez

My diet is super clean. I have 6 meals a day with a single serving of steel cut oats in my first meal. THe other meals are chicken/asparagus or fish/green beans or a salad. (I was told to drop the tomatoes).

This is my second cut week. I expected the scale to show a change in numbers but I am not seeing that. I do see a physical change.

My training involves 40-60 min cardio 6 days a week in the morning and 5 days a week I continue to lift.

I guess I am just frustrated and nervous that my progress is slow.

I do appreciate your response.

Kristin Shaffer Posted by fabeditor

You likely just need to relax and give your body some time. The only other thing that might be happening is that you may be dipping below your BMR with the limited amount of calories and extensive amount of exercise you're doing. Tough to tell without really diving into all of your details. But if you don't lose anything in the next two weeks I would actually look at increasing your calories.

Alison A-O Posted by Ally86

I am having a lot of the same fear and anxiety. More so I think because its my first show ever so all of this is new to me and I am not always totally sure what my body will do. I am now 9 weeks out and sitting at 137-138 lbs and my coach has said that my goal "stage weight" should be 124-125. I haven't been that low ever in my adult life that I can remember. I can see muscle gains and more definition in my arms etc as I go, but it seems that the muscles are growing but the fat isn't dropping. My diet is also rather clean, meal 1-egg white, sweet potato and flax oil, meal 2- sweet potato, broccoli (or other "green veg") and a protein shake, meals 3-5 are chicken and broccoli (or "green veg" when I cant take broccoli) I know what you mean about the cheating. Sometimes I get stressed and "cheat" by adding a fruit or something else that is still clean, but still a cheat. Ppl even at the gym tell me that 9 weeks is plenty of time, but its feeling like im not making progress and I am also wondering how fast I can really lose the last 10-12lbs and tighten up....oooh anxiety

Kristin Shaffer Posted by fabeditor

Hi Ally! It's totally normal and natural to be experiencing some anxiety at this point. We all do, even seasoned competitors. :) Since you have a coach I would stick to his/her plan and try to relax, even as difficult as that may be at times. :):)

Anu Pabla Posted by brown_eyez

Yes I agree that the anxiety will always be there even if you have competed in the past. This year I worked hard to put on size. I am walking a fine line with trying to maintain muscle with the right diet and just enough cardio.

I added dandelion tea into my diet. I seem to be holding a lot of water. I will keep you ladies posted with my progress.

Thank you to all for the support.

Sara Byrd Posted by Sara28

Hi ladies! I have really enjoyed this thread and wanted to jump in to get some advice. I am 8 weeks out from my first figure show and do not feel like I am losing weight like I should be. My muscle growth and definition is there and looking good but I just can't seem to lean out. My diet and workouts are below:

Meal 1: 1 cup egg whites with spinach (cooked in a small amount of coconut oil). 2oz Sweet Potato and a table spoon of Flax Oil. Black Coffee.

Meal 2: 1 scoop Whey and 1/4 cup almonds

Meal 3: 5oz Chicken or Turkey and 1/2 cup green veggie (usually brussle sprouts or green beans)

Meal 4: Pre-workout 1 scoop Whey

Meal 5: After workout Protein (Heabalife 24 Rebuild )

Meal 6: 5oz ground beef, 2oz Seeet Potato, and 1/2 cup green veggie

Meal 7: 3/4 Cup Cottage Cheese (before bed udually)

I also drink at least a gallon of water a day.

Supplements: I take Iron, Glutamein, B12, Multivitamin, and Herbalife Ameinogen.

My workouts are:
3 times a week Heavy lifting.
Circut training 3 times a week For a total of 6 days a week lifting. Abs 2-3 times a week.
Cardio 6 times a week. 2 days 30 minuet Jog, 2 Days a week 30 Min HIT workout
2 Days 45 minuet SPIN.

I am only losing about 1.5lbs a week and that is REALLY slow compared to what I have been reading and the effort involved. I am starting to get a tad discouraged. I have about 15lbs to lose before I am "stage ready" and I am worried I will not make it. From the conversation above I believe I will cut the cottage cheese out, however will that make my calories too low?

Any help or advice is EXTREMELY appreciated!

Sara Byrd Posted by Sara28

Also, I have been researching Sarah's supplements and believe I need to add in some BCAAs and I am going to look into the Hydroxycut Hardcore Pro Series. Might help me step it up.

Posted by dgeorgevitch@charter

I am new on here, I am 12 and a half weeks out from my first bikini show. I feel good about everything except the cellulite on the back of my legs and butt. I am so worried I will not tone it up. Tell me it will. Any ideas on the best exercises? Sometimes I worry I am exercising too much and losing muscle tone, is that possible?

Kristin Shaffer Posted by fabeditor

You absolutely can lose that cellulite. Have you seen my transformation? :)

With love,


Posted by Stoug

Hey All ... Do you all eat a meal right before bed? I should be receiving a meal plan from a coach this week. IF I compete I am 10 weeks out right now. I have self trained to this point and am really happy with where I am to date. Just need more "structure" and guidance at this point. So I can't wait to get my meal plan, etc. It will be my first bikini comp .. at 34 :) I am about 5'2. I have a blog with a few pics ....

My bigger question is for those of you cutting out dairy. All my shakes are Whey .. and well .. whey is dairy. My beloved Quest bars also have dairy. What are you thoughts on this? I currently had to give up dairy for health reasons but will be able to resume it in 2 weeks. In the meantime I switched to a Vegan protein. However I have noticed some muscle loss (maybe it's just me). I do know that Whey is a HUGE staple on most major competitors diets even the week of show. Thoughts???

THANK YOU!!! SO excited to find this forum!!

Posted by Stoug

One more question! Does anyone know anything about how "Scars" affect judging? I broke my femur in 1998 and had emergency to put in a rod and pins ... then had to have surgery in 1999 to remove them all. I have a large scar on my right hip and 3 small scars down the side of my right leg (about 1/2 inch each .. with the top one about 4 inches) The large one is very noticeable. I am so lucky to be here ... but I am very insecure about them. Especially with competing. Do you all have any idea how this could affect scoring??? It's obviously something out of my control :(

Posted by Tara2693

Hello Everyone,

This is my first post on here, I finally decided to join after reading all the helpful information. I am currently 3 weeks out from my first bikini show ever! I am super excited however stressed about my diet. I have been calculating my macros and trying to just eat foods that fill them such as chicken, broccoli, oatmeal, egg whites, tilapia, asparagus,brown rice with one of my meals,zucchini, and lean ground turkey. I am 5'7 and currently sitting at 141.... when i started prep I was 151. I set my macros for 160- protein, 120 - carbs (which I was going to lower this week) andn 30g - fat. I am not 100% sure on my diet and would love any helpful tips or suggestions for leaning out over the next 2 weeks to come! Thanks :)