When I competed in bodybuilding contests over 40 years ago, the favored diet to achieve the low body fat status known as "ripped," was a low carbohydrate diet. The low carb diet was defined as containing no more than 100 grams of carbohydrate a day. But this varied among individuals. I found through experience that my limit of carbs to induce continued fat loss was only 60 grams a day. Not only that, but I would start the diet four months prior to a contest appearance. I would begin with what's known today as a "ketogenic diet." This involved consuming no more than 20 grams of carbohydrate a day. This was a tough diet to follow, as side effects were common. These effects, known as the "keto flu" were related to the natural diuretic effects of the ketogenic diet. It rapidly flushed water out of the body, but with the water went minerals, too. It was the mineral loss that caused most of the side effects of the ketogenic diet. I wrote an article about how to deal with the Keto Flu in a past issue of Applied Metabolics. I can only say that I wish I had that information available to me when I competed. It would have made dieting a lot easier.
Besides low carb dieting, a favored technique of bodybuilders in the 70s was known as having a "cheat day." This involved going off the strict diet and eating a lot more food for 1 to 2 days. You would either go off the diet for two consecutive days, such as the weekend, or go off one day in the middle of the week, such as on Wednesday, then again on Sunday. An early advocate of cheat days was the famed bodybuilding trainer, Vince Gironda. Vince correctly asserted that following a low carb diet would lead to glycogen depletion in muscle (glycogen is a type of stored complex carbohydrate), and this was problematic because muscle glycogen was the prime fuel for anaerobic exercise, such as typical bodybuilding workouts. Vince specified that the focus on cheat days should be on carbohydrate intake, since carbs were the basic substrate for glycogen synthesis (glycogen can also be produced in the liver from other sources,such as lactate, amino acids, and glycerol from fat). Other authors later echoed Vince's advice. These included Dr.Mauro DiPasquale, a Canadian physician who also happened to be a champion powerlifter. Mauro designed what he called the Anabolic Diet, which involved ingesting a low carb diet 5 days a week, then ingesting more carbs on weekends. Mauro explained that the carb intake on weekends not only replenished depleted muscle glycogen stores, but also promoted the release of insulin, which provided anti-catabolic effects in muscle. Not ingesting carbs and consuming a higher fat intake on the other days promoted the release of both growth hormone and testosterone, hence the name "Anabolic diet." DiPasquale felt . . .