Our preparation for the Naturally Fit Supershow in Austin TX is coming right along and we’re getting ready to enter the home stretch! As you can see from Marcella’s last post, we’ve been making excellent progress on a high carb whole food plant-based diet! In fact, I’m the biggest and leanest I’ve ever been at this point in a contest prep, and I’ve been doing very little cardio! With Marcella controlling the meal plan and coming up with delicious meals that fit the calories and macronutrients I set for us preparing for this contest has been a breeze! Over the next few weeks we will be ratcheting things up several more notches and I expect things to get tougher, but considering how far we’ve come it’s been a remarkably easy process up to this point. Marcella has dropped from 29 to 16% bodyfat and I’ve gone from 9.5 to 5%! Here’s a recap of what I attribute our success to:
- Staying leaner in the off season: This has made a tremendous difference for me and we were able to shave several % body fat off Marcella as well by keeping to strictly clean food and a little cardio. In the past during non-contest prep times we generally ate out 2-3 times per week, with at least one being a decadent meal, and our daily menu was less reigned in. This go round we kept eating out to a minimum and got onto a clean diet 6 months ahead of time! It’s an easy switch that has definitely been worth it!
- Making gradual changes: We’ve never dropped calories by more than 200-300 per day, and never more often than at 3 week intervals. We will continue to make incremental changes for the rest of the prep so that we minimize the risk of muscle loss while still creating a calorie deficit. Another perk of starting the preparation with higher calories is you leave yourself a lot of room to make changes before hitting the extremely low calorie meal plans that often stall out progress. Similarly, with cardio I like to start out with a little and add slowly so that it’s less mentally daunting and easier to make adjustments as we go. Like giant calorie cuts, huge increases in cardio can stall out your metabolism in a matter of weeks!
- Attempting to ‘grow into the show’: Everyone’s dream, losing fat and gaining muscle! I think it’s natural for all competitors that the nearer a show gets, the harder you will train – I know it is for me. Keeping all our fat loss strategies slow and steady makes it much more likely that our bodies with retain and even add muscle as we up our game in the gym. Following our plan I’ve dropped from 9.5 to 5% body fat over 9 weeks, and only lost 3 pounds, which means I’ve gained over 5 pounds of muscle on a ‘contest diet’ and am now the biggest/leanest I’ve ever been! Marcella has made even better gains and we’ve both improved our strength in the gym.
- Our training has centered around the same basic exercises for each muscle group, but we’ve made shifts in volume (number of sets and reps), intensity (how heavy the weight is), and for Marcella, frequency (how often you train each muscle group).
- I’ve been sticking to the same exercises I have all along, but have reduced my overall volume from about 25 working sets per session to about 15-18. Marcella was doing even more volume and the same twice per week frequency that I use to really push her recovery limits to the edge of over-training and get as much in before showtime as possible, so now that her calories have gotten lower and cardio has increased a bit we’ve adjusted that to training once per week with almost half the volume and much more focus on intensity (15-20 working sets per session instead of 30ish, and lots more sets in the 5×5 and 6-8 range to really challenge her strength). Her program now resembles her initial off season strength gain plan because maintaining strength is the best way to preserve muscle mass on a calorie deficit, and cutting volume will decrease muscle break down. This makes workouts a little easier to recover from, and have the psychological benefit of making her training seem a lot easier than it has been, so that it’s more fun and easier to go all out. She’s reported her desire to kill me during her workouts has dropped substantially, and she’s making great strength gains so it appears to be working!
- I’ve also had to alter my training a bit due to recovering from a shoulder impingement and am always being careful of my longtime abdominal/psoas strain. I’m currently experimenting with a new training method to work around these issues and if it has the results I’m looking for I’ll be posting on it soon!