Whether you are trying to drop 10 pounds before summer or diet for a competition, you are going to begin to feel smaller. Shirt sleeves will fit a bit looser and pants won't be as snug. You aren't losing muscle. You are just losing fat and glycogen. As your carbohydrates get lower, your glycogen stores will become depleted which causes you to get flat. Flat just means that your muscles are depleted of glycogen which causes your muscles to look a bit smaller and stringy. They don't pop as much as they used to. This further compounds the problem of making you feel smaller. You need to accept this and realize you have the same amount of muscle you have always had. You may look smaller but it's not because you have less muscle, it's because you have less fat. You may look smaller in a shirt but you look much better without one and that's really what is important.
As the diet progresses and your body weight and calories begin to dip to all time low numbers, it's normal for strength to decline. You can't expect to lift the same weight when you weigh 30 pounds less, are eating half the amount of calories you used to, and doing a lot of cardio. Keep reminding yourself that you are training for a bodybuilding competition and not a power lifting one. The judges won't ask you how much you bench on stage. It's about who looks the best. Continue to lift as heavy as your body allows you to and when the show is over you can focus on building your strength back up to where is was before and even higher.
When dieting for a competition, you are going to be hungry all the time. It may not be too bad in the beginning but by the end you will go to sleep at night and dream about food. You will wake up extremely early and lay in bed wishing it was time to eat breakfast. This is all part of the process and there isn't much you can do about it. Keep your eyes on your goal and let that be your motivating factor to push through. When the hunger gets unbearable, you can try to ease the pain by drinking diet soda or another diet drink without calories. You can also try chewing gum or drinking some flavored BCAA's. Just remember that these have calories so keep track of them and don't let it get out of hand. The best thing you can do is to stay busy. When you are sitting home doing nothing, you will stare at the clock waiting for your next meal. If you are out, time will go faster and you won't even realize how hungry you are.
As you get deeper into your preparation and your calories get lower, you will begin to feel drained and you will find yourself getting annoyed more easily. Something that never used to bother you before suddenly becomes the most annoying thing in the world. The lack of carbohydrates effects your brain and mood. You are bound have a few outbursts along the way. Your best bet is to explain what you are doing to the people around you and apologize in advance if you do anything to offend them. It also helps to take a step back for a moment and think about the situation. Ask yourself "would I be this upset over this if I wasn't dieting?" If the answer is no, try to restrain yourself if it's not too late.
Won't Be Ready on Time
Even if you have striated glutes 8 weeks out from your show, you still probably won't feel like you will be ready. While everyone else sees your veins and striations popping out, all you will see is the little bit of fat on your hamstrings. The worst thing you can do is panic and ramp up your cardio and drastically reduce your calories. This will just cause you to lose muscle and put you in a bad situation. Instead, take progress pictures every 2 weeks and examine them. Make sure you are making noticeable progress. Post them on a forum where knowledgeable people can give you an honest critique. If they tell you that you are in good shape, then you don't need to worry. If they tell you that you are a few weeks behind, then it is a good idea to bump up cardio or reduce calories more. Facebook is the worst place to post your pictures for advice. All your friends will say that you look amazing and tell you that you will win no matter what you look like because chances are you are still in much better shape than anyone else they know.
It's common to worry about the people you will be going up against on stage. Unlike other sports, it doesn't matter what your competitor is doing. It's not like football where you can watch videos to study what your opponent does so you have a better chance to beat them. With bodybuilding, although you are technically competing against other competitors, you are truly only competing against yourself. For this reason, there is no point in worrying about who will show up. You need to just show up in the best shape you can because that is all you can control. Personally, I have psyched myself out a few times by looking at pictures of competitors before the show. I later realized that what someone looks like in their own bathroom mirror pictures is completely different than what they look like on stage anyway. Just focus on the controllable factors and hope for the best on show day.
Check back next week for part 5 which will cover peak week.