Tomorrow is the day. Day one of contest prep. I really don’t mind contest prep. I mean it’s not the most awesome 12-14 weeks of my life, but, being through it many times before, I know what to expect. I know that I’m going to be hungry and tired constantly for the next three months. I know I won’t be able to drink anything but water. I know I’ll be spending most of my evenings cooking plain chicken & sweet potatoes. I’ll be irritable; my sex drive will be all but nonexistent. It’s definitely not sunshine & rainbows, but it has become my routine, and I readily accept everything that comes with it because I’ve seen the results of the hard work and dedication. But it’s going to be a little different this time.
My next show will be my first as a pro. The game’s a little tougher now. As an amateur, I became accustomed to winning. I have as many first-place trophies as I have all other places combined. It has never been a walk in the park, but I’ve seen the score sheets after the fact, and I know that several times I've been picked as the winner unanimously by the judging panel. In my last two INBF amateur shows, no one has come close to beating me, but I’m not so naive to expect that at the pro level. For the first time as a bodybuilder, I’m a little bit nervous.
I’m not going to get into the specifics of my contest prep (it will bore your socks off), but since I’m asked about it a lot, I will give a rundown of what I need to do to go from fat boy to shredded in time to step on the stage.
I call myself fat in the offseason, but actually I never really get higher than 12% bodyfat. I eat like crazy and don’t watch my diet, but I don't need to because I’m blessed with the metabolism of a 17 year old (let’s hope that keeps up). I’m what’s known as a hard-gainer, a once-skinny kid who has a hard time putting on any weight. Burgers, beer, pasta, pizza. These are my weight gaining weapons in the offseason. My body also adapts quickly, so when I’m ready to begin my contest diet, I jump right into it. Some competitors begin to eat clean – cutting out unnecessary fats and simple carbs – several weeks or even months before they begin their contest diet, but I’ve found that I can drop a lot of fat weight relatively quickly if I just get into it.
16 weeks before my contest date, I make an early morning trip to the Meredith College Human Performance Lab. There, Dr. Chris Eschbach performs a complete body composition test on me. He determines my bodyfat & lean body composition and provides me with a printout of how much I should weigh at 12%, 10%, 8%, 6%, 4% & 2% bodyfat. I then have a scale to determine when I should begin my diet and how on-track I am throughout the contest prep phase.
The goal of the contest prep diet is to lose weight as slowly and steadily as possible while maintaining as much muscle mass as possible (now is not the time for gaining muscle mass; that is done in the offseason). A properly designed and executed diet will ensure that I am reaching my optimum body composition exactly at contest time, a process known as peaking (which we will cover later). I have my own set of equations and other guidelines that I go by to determine my daily nutritional intake, but, for a beginner, the Basic Metabolic Rate Calculator and the Harris Benedict Equation are good starting points.
Once I know the number of calories I need to be consuming each day, I divide by six to determine the average number of calories I need to be consuming per meal. I then decide on the best methods to cycle my macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates & fats) to take in the optimum number of each at the optimum times of each day. Once all that is determined, I’m ready to begin my diet cycle. What does each meal consist of? Some combination of the following: Egg whites, oatmeal, chicken, tuna, sweet potatoes, broccoli, green beans and a little bit of red meal. No sauces, minimal spices. All fat trimmed. Raw or baked. That will be my menu for the next three months.
In my next few blog posts, along with a mini journal about that I’m doing each day, I’ll cover more about the diet as well as my training routine, supplementation, peaking, proper recovery and the amazing phenomenon known as the cheat day.