Two weeks from a show, I start taking any fruits, artificial sweeteners and unnecessary fats out of my diet. I also lower my carbs and restrict all carbs after 1:00 p.m. I make my meals smaller and eat more frequently, while being consistent with my cardio 6 days per week for 20 min. to 30 min. I focus on one body part per day and start lifting smaller weight with higher reps.
The 7 day prior to a show, I start my carb deplete/water load, which is typical of any competitor. I up my water intake gradually by 1/2 gallon per day Monday, Tuesday and then Wednesday getting up to 2 gallons. I do not use sodium seasons on my food this week AT ALL. The diet is very simple this week, consisting of white fish, chicken breast or ground turkey. I grill it or blacken the fish with pepper only. The veggie of choice is asparagus for sure. Broccoli and green beans all work against me in terms of bloating, so I stay away from them. For my workout, I keep the cardio at 20 min. max, slow ans steady and work all bodyparts with 100 reps of light weight to keep the muscles pumped and full.
The last 2 days are what we call carb load and water decrease (not deplete). I start my day with oatmeal, then at every other meal, I eat my protein with either veggies (asparagus) then yam, alternating like this throughout the 6 meals of the day. On these last two days, I sip water and to increase water shed, I will eat cucumbers, watercress, onions with apple cider vinegar on my protein. I drop the cardio these last 2 days, but continue with the 100 reps per body part.
This is what actually works for me, but believe me, I've tried everything else too. If my goal were to gain a lot of muscle off season, the diet would change considerably. You can't build muscle on a limited diet. I'm currently reading and researching the anabolic calorie loading and then decreasing 14 day cycle. I'll let you know what I find out, but it sounds like it has quality research behind the concept.
If anyone else has ideas they want to share, this is a great place to do it. If we all help each other, its a better world for everyone.