Just a week from this Saturday, 9 days away, I will be on stage again for the first time since July of 2011, at the same contest and the same exact stage: the NPC Team Universe in Teaneck, New Jersey.
Time really does fly. It doesn't seem like it's been two years at all, but it sure has. And this contest prep has also flown right by. Looking at photos I took with people at the Arnold Classic in early March, it's crazy to think how different I look in just a few months. I was a little over 230 pounds there, maybe 234 at my heaviest, and even though I could still see the vague outline of my abs at all times - I was hefty. My face was pretty round and my gut - yikes. It takes a lot of food for me to add any amount of muscle mass, and when I include foods with gluten in them such as regular oatmeal, whole-wheat bread, and the occasional stack of pancakes or waffles, my stomach really starts to protrude. Around that time, I slipped a tape measure around it just to see how huge it was. Ready? 41 inches, even though I was still barely squeezing into size 34 jeans. Now my waist is 32, and size 34 jeans are very loose around my waist. My glutes have come down in size too, thank goodness, yet I have managed to retain nearly all my thigh mass. What's my weight? It was 211 yesterday, and I can't say where it will be on July 21 for Masters Nationals.
I'm on track to be the best I've ever been at the Team U, and then even better than that at Masters Nationals two weeks later in Pittsburgh. Not only is that inevitable given that I will have another two full weeks of dieting and cardio to lose even more bodyfat, but it was the plan all along. At Team U, there is only one class for Over 40. Whether you weigh 140 pounds or 260, you are all in one group and only the winner gets a pro card. At Masters Nationals, there are weight divisions in the Over 40, and the top 3 weight class winners in the Overall decision each get pro cards. I am working as hard as possible to make sure I get one of them!
I get a lot of questions about what I plan to do the final week. Most competitive bodybuilders go through a complex process of carbohydrate depletion and loading. They often do a lot of high-rep circuit training Monday through Wednesday while they eat little or no carbs. This is meant to totally deplete all muscle glycogen. All training stops after this, and they spend the next couple days forcing down disgusting amounts of carbs. The theory behind this is that the overly depleted muscles will soak up all those carbs, and you will end up bursting with muscle fullness on stage Saturday. I did this myself many times over the years until I decided it was pointless.
Here's the thing. If you've been dieting for 12-16 weeks and eating far less calories and carbs anyway, in addition to doing far more cardio than you normally would on top of your usual weight training, you're pretty damn depleted as it is. So for three or four days, you're intentionally going to deplete yourself further? If the end result was indeed this amazing degree of fullness, it might make sense. But personally, I never looked any better and I don't see that happen with many others either. At best, you will make yourself look smaller and flatter for a few days only to eat yourself back up to normal by the time of the show. In other words, two steps backward and two steps forward.
All these last-minute voodoo tricks with sodium and water and carbs are done in hopes of drastically improving your physique at the last minute. Sorry to say this, but your physique 'is what it is,' and no amount of sweet potatoes in the last 72 hours is going to turn anyone into Jay Cutler or Phil Heath.
Cutting water is also a last resort for those who aren't lean enough, yet stubbornly insist that they're 'just holding water.' Nope, you didn't lose all the bodyfat you were supposed to! I do cut my fluids, but only for about 12 hours to sharpen up. Anything past that and the body will start overcompensating by retaining whatever water it still has. Not only that, but muscles need both carbs and water to have any amount of fullness. Go too long without either, and they flatten out like the proverbial pancake.
The only thing I really do that's different from the normal day to day training and dieting is to make sure I don't train legs for at least a week before the show. This allows all the inflammation and waste products to clear the lower body so all the deep separations and striations are much more clear and crisp. I actually did my final leg workout today. I'm not worried that they will lose any size. Even if they did lose a miniscule amount of size and fullness, the extra detail would more than make up for it. The more ripped a muscle is, the bigger it looks under the stage lights.
That's about it for now, talk to you later!