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8 Signs Of A Contest Prep Coach You Shouldn’t Hire

Avoid These Red Flags To Save Your Health!

Posted by NutritionMax - July 5th, 2015

A 1200 Calorie Diet From The Start
Give or take. If you are immediately given a diet so low in calories and it is quite far from the amount you are currently eating, you are doomed from the start. Not only will you feel absolutely miserable, depleted and cantankerous, you will plateau quicker with fat loss, set yourself up for a potential food binge and undermine your health and metabolism. This is the biggest red flag with a prep coach.

Cookie Cutter Diet Plans 

Before your hire a coach, you better do some investigative work on how the person coaches clients. There is no such thing as one diet plan to apply to everyone. If there is zero individualization and you discover other people are receiving the same macronutrient and calorie numbers, do not even think twice about it.

Removal Of All Carbs
This is almost as big of a mistake as dropping calories significantly. You need enough carbs to maintain a well enough performance in the gym, but not low enough to make you lose your sanity and metal focus. I always say, eat as many carbs as you can while making fat loss progress. It is a tough balance and it requires some self-experimentation. But having them completely removed or being low enough to induce ketosis right off the bat, when you’re still 12 weeks out is just foolish and unnecessary and will make you wish you never competed.

Eating The Same Three Foods Daily
Since when does competing equate to being miserable and eating the same vapid, monotonous foods over and over? It is undeserved punishment. And even if you do enjoy eating the same foods every day, that still poses a slight problem. Micronutrients. Food diversity in your diet is crucial for reaching the 40+ vitamins and minerals you need daily. You are not going to achieve that very well by eating chicken, asparagus and rice every day.

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Excessive Cardio
Cardio can have its place in one’s workout regimen, but it is not a prerequisite for fat loss. Let us be clear on that. Anyone who says you need to do 1 hour or more of cardio per day on top of lifting is predisposing you to metabolic disaster. Creating a safe calorie deficit is the goal for sustainable progress; not an exorbitant calorie deficit. When that is coupled with an already very low calorie diet, your body will quickly pay the price.

The Peak Week Triad – Potassium Loading, Sodium Depletion & Diuretics
is an incredibly vital cation (positively charged electrolyte) and mineral that resides outside of your cells that facilitates in muscle contraction and nerve impulse transmission. The reason why “coaches” decide to take it from you is because it also attracts water. By way of osmosis, water moves from low solute concentrations to high concentrations. So, the theory is if sodium is lower in the body, water won’t follow and you won’t be bloated. That is true, but to an extent…

A lack of sodium in the body results in a decrease in blood volume, blood pressure, oxygen transport and vascularity. Furthermore, sodium is critical in transporting potassium into the cell. Potassium is the predominant positively charged electrolyte inside the cell. Along with sodium, it allows for nerve impulses to travel and thus allow for digestion and muscle contraction, especially with regulating your heartbeat. It takes a great deal of energy for sodium to transport potassium into the cell, so if sodium is absent, your body can very easily conserve calories (much like starvation mode), which indicates a decreased metabolic rate.

That is certainly not optimal.

The balance of sodium and potassium is so tightly regulated, like blood pH that when you mess with it, your body finds a way to reach homeostasis (balance) again. When you remove sodium completely from the diet, the hormone aldosterone is elevated beyond normal levels, which causes sodium AND water reabsorption. Simply meaning, all you have done is forced your body to retain the sodium you do have and since water follows sodium, you are now more bloated and have achieved the opposite of what you desired. If you have sufficient sodium, water will follow and both will be excreted through the urine at a rate the body prefers. Also, sodium is needed for glycogen formation in the muscle, so without it you miss out on the long desired muscle fullness.

And potassium loading? It’s pointless. Your kidneys excrete potassium and will secrete more of it if you decide to ingest copious amounts of it, again for cell equilibrium purposes. 98% of total body potassium is inside the cell. (By the way, this is why if you want to measure your potassium levels, plasma or serum is testing is futile). If potassium leaves the cell from too much intake, it stimulates that annoying hormone again aldosterone, thereby causing more sodium and water reabsorption. And if you do not have enough potassium, you experience muscle cramps, muscular weakness, fatigue, etc.

Diuretics just exacerbate the issue because by attempting to remove water from the spaces around the cells known as the interstitial fluid, blood pressure and blood volume drop, aldosterone is stimulated once again and you know what that means – an increase in potassium loss and sodium retention. As you can see, you cannot control where you want water to stay and not stay. Cutting water causes loss of water inside and outside the cell, making your look flat and frail.

So, what’s the common denominator with potassium loading, sodium depletion and diuretics have in common?

Water retention.

In the end, if you want to have an improved performance in the gym, have a greater pump and feel hard then you do not want to manipulate your sodium and potassium. Once you understand the physiology, it makes total sense.

No “Cheat” Foods
First off, that word doesn’t exist, at least in my vocabulary. There are no “good” or “bad” foods. Secondly, the foods we perceive as “cheat” foods are anything but that. Labeling burgers, chicken wings, hot dogs and dare I say, Chipotle as a “cheat” is completely outrageous and does nothing but create a needless fear about a harmless food you could be eating and still make fantastic fat loss progress during prep. There is a place for all food; however, when to eat it is a different story. If the words “You can’t have X food” during prep come out of someone’s mouth (for reasons related to progress)… next please.

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No Social Support System
All competitors know how mentally challenging it is to stay focused, tenacious and on track during prep. There are good days where you are amped up and others where you feel defeated and think you cannot go on. Nothing is quite worse than having the ghost prep coach who is not there to support you and lift your spirits up. You should have complete access to your coach for any troubleshooting at any time with a prompt response. Similarly, your coach should always be by your side, motivating you and reassuring that you will kick ass on stage.

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posted by NutritionMax
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NASM CPT, Master's in Human Nutrition
Precision Nutrition Sports & Exercise Nutritionist

Justin Janoska is a professional fitness coach and a clinical nutritionist who specializes in helping people with challenging diseases. He runs an online coaching platform where he helps people like you reach build muscle or lose weight.

For an intimate coaching experience, visit

Twitter: NutritionMax
Instagram: nutrition_max


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nice article


Not sure if I will compete, I have a sick interest in it though so maybe I will just for the experiance lol!


Thank God I'm too old to compete. :)


You forgot #9!  They look like they don't lift! haha  Great article @nutritionmax


awesome article! i have a quick question here, is ramen noodles a good pre workout, cause of the sodium and carbs, i believe they have complexe carbs right? just wonderin , thanks

NutritionMax  Edit  Delete  Close

I recommend Celtic, sea salt or Himalayian. 

Fox84  Edit  Delete  Close

lol i thought so, i should buy some more sweet potatoes and just put some salt on it, or iodine salt, , hey so which salt would be best to used on a regular basis for food?

NutritionMax  Edit  Delete  Close

Yeah, ramen noodles is just processed garbage IMO, and if you look at the ingredients it's not nice... Sodium is fine though and actually I would encourage that pre-workout.  Where do you think vascularity and "the pump" comes from? Sodium. 


Nice one @nutritionmax! I definitely hear you on the eating the same foods section - some people will literally use three or four foods to get all of their macros and all of the calories for the day. It's crazy! Those microntrients are super important.


Coudln't agree more about the cheat meal section!



Fuckin' hell yeah Justin!  Love this article.  I also love when you wrote "No “Cheat” Foods
First off, that word doesn’t exist, at least in my vocabulary"   Sometimes I feel like the biggest nutrition Nazi on this site but to me nutrition is so critical you either do it right 100% of the time or go home.  Cheat meals are like saying "a little heroin"........or "I am not a heroin addict, I just do a little heroin every once in a while."   :-)

NutritionMax  Edit  Delete  Close

Haha thanks man!  Yeah good point. It's ridiclous really to ban any food just becaus your dieting... it's not a make it or break it thing.  People get caught up in this notion that a single food derails your diet the day and gives you 5 lbs of fat or some nonsense! 


Great Article dude!