Food is the most anabolic thing you can put in your body. There is no questioning this. The goal of weight training, taking supplements and performance enhancing drugs is to create an anabolic environment. I’m going to use the analogy of a construction site. Creating the anabolic environment would be the process of hiring an engineering team to draft blue prints, renting all the needed equipment and hiring a construction crew.

grocery list

Having the entire crew and blue prints ready is great, but nothing can be built until the raw materials are present. You can have the best construction team on the planet, the best blue prints money can buy, but if you don’t have the concrete, base boards and materials needed to build the project, it will all go to waste. The same is true with your body. You can train like an animal in the gym, take every supplement known to mankind, use an aggressive drug protocol but if the raw materials for building the muscle aren’t present (food), you will never accomplish your goals. What you eat will make or break your progress. Point black.

Similarly, what you eat effects your metabolism and how efficiently your body metabolizes fatty acids. Everyone has heard the statement:  Weight gain/loss = calories in – calories out.
That is completely correct, you cannot argue with the laws of physics. But what that statement fails to take into account is what you eat (calories in), affects your metabolism (calories out) and how optimal it is for your body to metabolize fatty acids as fuel. I created this grocery list to turn you into a muscle building, fat burning machine.

Animal Protein

Protein will be the basis of your diet. Protein is what our bodies are made of. Muscle tissue, skin, hair, bones, hormones and enzymes are all made of protein. Protein is the single most important nutrient for the bodybuilder. As an added bonus, protein is the hardest macronutrient for your body to turn into adipose tissue (fat).

Red meat, poultry and fish are rich in protein and cholesterol. As an added bonus, red meat is naturally high in creatine and L-carnitine, and the essential fatty acids in fish promote fat breakdown and increase testosterone levels.

Best Options

  • Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast (ideally organic) – Breasts or Ground
  • Boneless, Skinless Turkey Breast (ideally organic) – Breasts or Ground
  • Beef Top Round Steaks or Roast, Top Sirloin, Tenderloin, Flank steam or Eye of Round (ideally from grass fed beef)
  • Egg Whites and Eggs (ideally organic and free range)
  • Wild Game Meat (Bison, Elk, Deer)
  • Tuna (water packed)
  • Wild Caught Fatty Fish (salmon, trout, sardines)
  • Wild Caught Lean Fish (cod, sole, halibut, snapper)

Moderate Options

  • Shrimp
  • Extra Lean Ground Beef or Ground Round (92-96%) (ideally from grass fed beef)
  • Pork Tenderloin (ideally organic)

Complex Carbohydrates
Carbohydrates are your bodies preferred energy source, fueling muscle contraction and brain function. Complex carbohydrates are long chains of glucose linked together called polysaccharides. Their long chains cause them to be digested slowly and provide sustained energy levels. Carbohydrates also cause the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin is the most anabolic hormone in your body. Carbohydrates are essential to fuel your workouts and provide the energy your body needs to repair and build muscle tissue.

Best Options

  • Sweet Potatoes (yams)
  • Quinoa
  • Oatmeal (old fashioned, steel cut or quick oats)
  • Brown Rice

Moderate Options

  • Potatoes (red, baking, new)
  • Oat Bran Cereal
  • Cream of Rice Cereal
  • Rice Krispies Cereal
  • Brown Rice Pasta
  • Rice (white, jasmine, basmati, Arborio, wild)
  • Amaranth
  • Canned Pumpkin

Fibrous Carbohydrates
Unlike complex carbohydrate, fibrous carbohydrates are mainly cellulose. Your body cannot digest cellulose, causing these carbohydrates to be very minimal in calories. Fibrous carbohydrates are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Consider these carbohydrates as your ‘filler’ foods. These carbohydrates should be eaten at times when you do not need an energy source, like right before bed.

Best Options

  • Green Leafy Lettuce (Green Leaf, Red, Leaf, Romaine)
  • Broccoli
  • Asparagus
  • Mushrooms
  • Cauliflower
  • Celery
  • Spinach
  • Kale

Moderate Options

  • String Beans
  • Bell Peppers
  • Brussels Sprouts

Other Produce & Fruits
These carbohydrates have high sugar content, making them rapidly digested and assimilated. These carbohydrates are optimal for times when you want an immediate energy source, like right before your workout or immediately after to replace depleted glycogen levels. Eat these carbohydrates sparingly when not around your workout time.

Best Options

  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini
  • Lemons or Limes

Moderate Options

  • Carrots
  • Cucumber
  • Green or Red Pepper
  • Fruit: bananas, apples, grapefruit, peaches, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, black berries, cantaloupe, watermelon, pineapple

Healthy Fats
Fats are essential for hormone production, particularly testosterone levels. Protein and carbohydrates should make the premise of your diet, but healthy fats still have their place and should still be included in your diet. As a general rule, if a meal is higher in fat, you will want to reduce the carbohydrates in that meal. Fats have 9 calories per gram, where as protein and carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram. Healthy fats should compromise about 20% of the calories in your diet.

Best Options

  • Coconut Oil
  • Macadamia Nut Oil
  • Flaxseed Oil
  • Avocado
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Moderate Options

  • Nuts (peanuts, almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, brazil nuts)
  • Natural Style Peanut Butter or Almond Butter
  • Seeds (flaxseed, chia seed, pumpkin seed, sunflower seed)

Dairy & Eggs
Similar to animal protein, dairy and eggs are great sources of protein. Eggs have the highest biological value of any protein source available. The casein protein found in dairy coagulates in your stomach and can take up to 8 hours to fully digest, making it a great choice to eat around bedtime.

Best Options

  • Low-fat Cottage Cheese (Wet or Dry)
  • Eggs
  • Egg Whites

Moderate Options

  • Low-fat Greek Yogurt (plain)
  • Low or Non-Fat Milk

The human body is roughly 70% water. Every cell, tissue and organ in your body needs water to function correctly. Your body uses water to maintain its temperature, remove waste and lubricate joints. Water helps improve the digestive process and is imperative in maintaining a healthy digestive system. In order to move and flex your muscles, you need water. Water is essential for good health.

Best Options

  • Bottled Water
  • Sparkling Water
  • Green Tea
  • Coffee
  • Peppermint Tea

Moderate Options

  • Mineral Water
  • Powerade Zero

Condiments & Misc.
Most condiments are high in calories and should be avoided. The condiments I have listed have minimal calories and most have health benefits associated with them. Apple cider vinegar, for example, is antimicrobial, lowers blood sugar, protects against cancer and is full of natural enzymes to help with digestion. Cinnamon has been shown to lower the insulin response of a meal and increase insulin sensitivity in muscles. Sea salt is rich in trace minerals and essential for muscle contraction and keeping hydrated.

Best Options

  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Mustard
  • Hot Sauce
  • Sea Salt
  • Cinnamon
  • Cocoa Powder (not hot chocolate mix)

Moderate Options

  • Reduced Sodium Soy Sauce
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Salsa
  • Sugar Free Ketchup
  • Chili Paste
  • Extracts (vanilla, almond, etc.)
  • Low Sodium beef or chicken broth
  • Chili powder
  • Mrs. Dash
  • Pasta Sauce

Supplements & Misc.
A good diet can be turned great through the use of supplements. Whey protein isolate and casein protein provide the high quality dairy proteins, but without the sugar or fat associated with dairy. Carbohydrate powders are a great asset to use around workouts when you want a carbohydrate source that doesn’t need to be digested and won’t cause stomach distress. A greens powder and psyllium husk fiber will help your body remove wastes and maintain an alkaline PH.

  • Whey Protein Isolate
  • N2Detox
  • Casein Protein
  • Carbohydrate Powder (waxy maize, karbolyn, highly branched cyclic dextrin)
  • MLFB Greens Powder
  • Psyllium Husk Fiber
  • N2Slin


with Anita Ramsey CSCS, CFT, CSN, SPARQ

1990 NPC Western Cup Heavyweight & Overall Champion

1998 NPC Southern States Heavyweight & Overall Champion

2003 IPA 165 Class Sub-Masters World Record Bench

2008 & 2009 4th place NPC Masters Nationals Light Heavies

2009 ranked top 10 in the world bench only 148 lb class & 165 lb class

Day of Competition:

  • Get to the venue early and that doesn’t mean an hour or two before check in, unless you live around the corner – But that doesn’t always work either.  There could be a car accident or construction like my friend Ron Harris found out the day of the NPC New England in his own back yard – he ran into a detour and he was already running late.  So, get in a day early and check-in.  After all the work you put into this competition, go out there and have fun-you’ve earned it!
  • Find out the schedule of events and be ready
  • Again, remember the idea is to eliminate stress not create it!

That’s Bodybuilding!

Competition diet, weight training, and cardio are the most important pieces of your competition preparation.  Your workouts should be tailored for growth, size and shape development.  Since dieting will help refine your physique, make sure you prioritize your weak points during workouts.  Yes, you have weak points, everyone has one or two and you will need to work overtime on them.  Muscle proportion, separation and size should be your main priorities.  To get the best definition possible you will need to concentrate on that diet and cardio too.  Ahhh, you thought I was going to tell you to do lots of super sets, cable crossovers, and maybe 100 rep schemes?  NOT!  Who ever is still talking like that has not learned a thing and you should caution on listening to them.  Point, my husband does reps in the 100 range and has done super sets, trust me he’s far from cut.  Another thing is do not think super sets are the only workout that will get you “cut.”  This is not true.  Or do not think you are going to get weaker the closer you get to your show.  This is another fallacy.  Two weeks out from my last show I cranked-out 6 reps with 140 pounds on dumbbell rows, and was still pressing 80-pound dumbbells on Incline.  If your diet is right and your food intake is maintained all the time the above will occur.  Being FULLER and THICKER is every bodybuilder’s goal to look on stage.  If this is your first contest, you may have a ton of questions and consulting with a coach will help eliminate your fears and help you reach your goals.

So what do I do to start burning off body fat?

You want to base all you do (cardio, diet and lifting) off of how your body changes weekly in the mirror and sometimes off of what the scale says.  Weigh yourself before breakfast because this will give you your true body weight.  As you can imagine, if you weigh yourself later in the day you will be heavier due to the meals and fluids you have consumed.  Many people cut back their calories to attain the look they are striving for, however, often they cut way to many calories and often way to early.  But, this is stupid and will make them look stringy!  What is bodybuilding about?  It’s about building muscle and being ripped.  How on earth can anyone expect to keep muscle if they constantly keep cutting back on their food???  Aerobics: I do between 2-3 sessions per week of 30 minutes on the stepper to start and progress it as the weeks go by.  My body weight is stable with this and my stage is set.  I now have everything in place to work from.

Lets summarize:

Stage 1: Start off your diet with clean foods.  If you are eating a fair bit of junk, work out your calories, etc. and replace with quality foods, so it resembles the diet I mentioned previously.  Do this about 4 weeks before you start your contest run in.  If you do a 12- week diet, start the clean up phase 16 weeks out, come the 12-week stage you will have your stage set perfectly.

Stage 2: Do aerobics 30 – 40 minutes, once everyday to start, especially when most don’t do aerobics in the off-season or very little.  Obviously, you have got to lose body fat.

Stage 3: Next, when things start to slow down, increase your aerobics by 10/15 minutes per session.

Stage 4: The next step you can consider to keep things rolling is to increase aerobics by doing 2 sessions everyday.

Stage 5: When weight loss slows down again, up your cardio and start dropping your carbohydrate intake and if not taking carbohydrates start dropping your fat intake.

Stage 6: Finally, when things start to slow again reduce your carbohydrates or totally eliminate them and again if not using carbs then drop your fat intake again. Stage 6 and 7 should be the first time you reduce food across the whole of your diet, as you have exploited every other avenue.

If you still need to get that extra off, repeat stage 7.  Your goal should be that you are in contest condition, around 1-2 weeks out from the show.  This will allow you to eat up slightly into your show and at the very least level things off so you can relax knowing that the hard work has been done.

Some of my tricks

Here is a short run down of one of my contest preps, I hope it helps some of you and maybe even gives you some ideas on what to do for your next show.

I like loosing my weight slowly, which is why I start so far out, and doing this helps you from getting that depleted look, loose skin or stringy look.  I start with my calories just under 2,800, which is pretty high for me.  I do not watch my sodium intake as the quantities of water I consume take care of that.  But, I do care about carb and fat intakes.  My carb intake is very low and progresses to 0.  My fat intake is higher and rotates to having fats on some days and not on others.  My protein intake is pretty high and I maintain a high protein intake all the way up to the show, I totally eliminate my carbohydrate intake and adjust fat intake as needed up to the show.  This keeps the muscle on me and helps me to add more muscle the closer I get to the show.  Also, other then an eat day on Sunday’s, my diet and food stays the same all the way through.  But, about 12 weeks out I do stop the eat day.  My contest diet looks something like this:

Meal One: 6 egg whites & 2 whole eggs

Meal Two: 1 protein shake + 1 tbsp peanutbutter

Meal Three: 6 oz Chicken breasts and 1 oz nuts

Meal Four: 6 oz salmon or steak and 1 tbsp olive oil

Meal Five: 1 protein shake + 1 tbsp peanutbutter

As you can see, fat and protein are a major part of my dieting.  I utilize fats instead of carbs for energy and to burn off my body fat.  This is what works best for me and for many other female bodybuilders that are dieting for a show.  I also do 40-50 minuets of cardio on a treadmill in the morning and another 30 minuets after my evening iron pumping session.  I am very lucky to have a very fast metabolism, but year after year your body changes and something that worked a year ago will not necessarily work the next year.

Regarding pumping the iron, I do not lift weights like most other bodybuilders.  I do not do more sets, reps or supersets the closer I get to a show.  But, rather, one body part a day, and I do 4-5 exercise and 3-4 sets per exercise for each body part, and my reps do not drop below six or go over 20.  The closer I get to show time I get stronger, instead of weaker.  My husband made a bet with me that if I got to the 150’s by contest he’d be my maid for a week.  I lost, but I tried very hard to get those 150’s.  I did 140 pound dumbbell Rows for six reps each arm three weeks prior to the NPC Southern States.

Everyone’s body is different and peaking is often hit or miss.  Your water and electrolyte intake is a big thing the day before and the morning of the show and if done improperly or in mix with the wrong foods you may head for a disaster the morning of the show.  I always see other female competitors drinking water and eating carbs prior to getting on stage and the night before, then they wonder why they smoothed out.  Or they ask why their legs were not as cut.  Well, my contest peaking is all due to the exact timing of when I stop drinking water, which is between noon and 6 p.m. Friday afternoon.

I also up my dosage of vitamins to help with any cramping that may occur on stage.  I stop doing all leg work about 10 days before the show this gets rid of all the excess lactic acid, enabling my legs to get the sharpness needed to compete on the National level.  I go through my compulsorily poses every day and hold each pose for about one minute each.  It’s a workout.  Try it.  It will prep you for on stage and you’ll feel like a veteran and not a rookie posing.

The most important part is to realize that nothing matters except how you look.  It doesn’t matter what your body-fat percentage is or how strong you are or even how much you weigh.  You have to have good skin tone, a good hair cut, and for you girls out there make sure the make-up is just right too, do not go out with “Ghost” face, know how to pose like a veteran, and be cut and muscular.  Here is what an IFBB Pro has to say about what it takes to become a competitive bodybuilder.  Lisa Bavington “Competitive bodybuilders must come to realize and accept that they will be judged based not only on how they look when standing alone, but how they look in comparison to the other athletes on stage that day and at that particular time.  The higher up you go, the more this becomes evident.  It doesn’t matter what you looked like in the gym 2 weeks out, whether this is the best condition you’ve ever been in or if all your supporters think that the show was yours to win or lose.  It only matters how you measure up to the rest of the field…Bodybuilding is about creating the illusion of reality and convincing the judges that your physique is far above the other competitors with regards to symmetry, conditioning, muscularity and stage presence.  In other words, those individuals that have the least amount of weaknesses will be the ones, most likely, that come out victorious.”

LEARNING from your mistakes

In bodybuilding learning from ones experiences is very helpful. It is a good idea to attend shows.  This is a must.  Talk to the competitors and ask the judges questions.  However, the latter is something I readily tell people not to do, especially after the show they’ve competed in.  If you ask more then one judge at the competition you’ll get two different answers.  I learned quickly to not ask them the day of the show or around others.  I asked the head judge of a National show, years ago, why I got placed where I did?  The answer was: “Your legs where smooth!”  In astonishment I replied by picking up my skirt and flexing my striated cut thighs and then went on to say that they where full of it.  I later wrote this person a letter to the fact again.  Only to receive a call late one evening from this judge explaining to me why what was said.  This individual read my letter of disharmony, and then explained that I received what I got because I was “too big” and though this person said I looked “great” at the time the NPC was “toning it down,” and to “never ask in front of others.”  I said thank you and never again asked a judge why again.

First and foremost, again get a support crew or a competition prep trainer.  This can be a group of individuals or one person.  A support crew should help you achieve your bodybuilding goals.  They serve as advisors telling you what strengths and weaknesses you have.  You can get me of course, but there are many other great people out there as well. If you would like a recommendation please do not hesitate to ask.  Again, contest prep requires you to devote your day’s making your meals, going to the gym, doing cardio sometimes twice a day, working on your mandatory poses, and your evening routine.  All these elements will determine the outcome of your efforts.

Competition is a part of life, we compete against one another every day, but the most difficult thing to do is to compete with yourself, to push the boundaries of your own physique and your own psyche.  Stepping on stage can be one of the most frightening and difficult experiences that you may ever go through.  But, it is also something that you can walk away from with a great deal of personal satisfaction, knowing that you have accomplished something that few of your peers will ever have the guts to do.  Remember, if it were easy everyone would be doing it.  If bodybuilding competition is something you’ve been thinking about, my advice is, use the directions provided in this article and make your competition goals a reality.  Even though competing for bodybuilding may be tough, if you maintain your focus and put in the hard work everything will pay off and soon you’ll be holding that overall trophy high over your head. Good luck, have fun, and compete!


We are not all created equally, physically speaking.  Second, no matter how hard you train, there are no guarantees you will ever become the level of champion you set your sites on.  Every athlete, with a desire to compete, must brace himself or herself for the reality of bodybuilding.  Bodybuilding at any level and in all organizations is a subjective sport that is ruled and based upon opinions of several different people.  Though there are guidelines and rules, and judges are supposed to be impartial, they still bring their opinions and feelings to the panel.  Remember it is how they, the judges, perceive you on that day and how they feel their ideal physique should look.

The madness in this muscle business, to a certain degree, is controlled and regulated by what seems to be a handful of individuals we title as judges.  Judges play an integral part on how we soar as a competitor up the ladder of Bodybuilding supremacy.  These individuals hold your dreams in their hands.  They are the all-important amateur and professional judges in every organization.  These judges also have a certain amount of control over what look takes us into each new-year!  Therefore, no matter how hard you trained and dieted or what you may think of your opposition, the final outcome is totally out of your control.  So, be professional.  You must accept the judge’s decision as final.  I don’t mean “professional” as Pro status, no, what I mean is be professional and understand that you cannot control those decisions, you are in a human Dog Show, the West Minster Human Kennel Club Nationals.

At the end of the day, if you do your best you will reap the rewards of your hard work in other areas of life that may come in different forms.  The real reward comes in the journey to your desired look.  Finish what you started and step up to the plate to see what you’re made of.  Stay the course, understand Bodybuilding is subjective and you’ll at least win in the most important game.  The game of Life!  Always remember to compete to have fun and to win!  Be happy for all your hard work and the accomplishment of making it through 20 weeks of diet, training, posing, and everything else you put into that one day on stage.