Here’s a little background about myself. I’m 34 years old, 5’8″. I’ve been training since I was around 20, but never actually took my diet seriously, never counted calories/macros or anything like that until around 5 years ago. In fact, I even managed to get up to around 205 lbs on a dreamer bulk in 2010.
My summer “cuts” each year have usually been pretty half-arsed and ended up with me sitting at around 155 lbs, 12%~ BF with a 31″ waist and semi-visible six pack thinking, “that’s good enough for the summer”.
This year I decided to take it a bit further.
I started this year’s cut on May 1st, weighing in at 157 lbs. My waist measurements (tensed, but not sucked in) on that day were 30.9″ (2″ above navel), 31.3″ (navel) and 31.5″ (2″ below navel).
Here are the pictures from the start of the cut
The gym I train at in Osaka (B&F) is a pretty serious bodybuilding and powerlifting gym, and it holds its own bodybuilding and physique contest each summer. Each year the guys at the gym ask me if I’m going to compete, and I’ve always come up with excuses each year. This year I decided to sign up for the contest so as to give me motivation to get into really good shape.
My basic plan for my diet was as follows. I worked out my TDEE to be around 2,400 calories, so I aimed for a deficit of around 500 calories a day in order to hopefully lose 1 lb a week. I basically followed a “Leangains”/IIFYM-type approach: higher calories, higher carbs and lower fat on workout days; lower calories, lower carbs and higher fat on rest days. I wasn’t too fussed about eating an exact number of calories each day, I just made sure that I was within 100~ calories of my target over the course of the week.
I work from home, so am pretty flexible when it comes to meals and training times. I’ve tried fasted lifting before, but really prefer to have a solid meal a few hours before I train. So, I wake up around 9:30 am, have my first meal around 1 pm, work out around 3 or 4 pm, have my post workout meal after the gym, then have dinner around 9 pm.
I find that I naturally have a very big appetite. If I eat “intuitively”, I generally need around 1,500 or 2,000 calories to feel “full”. Then 2 hours later I will be hungry again. After I’ve had my first meal of the day, I’m usually pretty hungry a few hours later. However, if I fast during the morning, I really don’t notice any hunger, especially if I get busy with work for a few hours and I forget about eating. That’s the main benefit of fasting in the morning and having an 8-hour eating window for me – it basically helps me control my appetite and keeps me more satiated by allowing me to have bigger meals during my feeding window.
As for the content of my meals, I’m not the most creative cook, but I generally have a rotation of 6-7 meals that I cook on a regular basis and am pretty good at. I’ve calculated all the macros in each meal, so it’s easy for me to make the same things over and over again and just choose a combination of 2 meals + snack or protein shake, or 3 meals for the day depending on what macros I’m shooting for. Here are some actual examples of my common meals:
– Fried rice (200g) with 2 eggs and 70g beef/pork mince [668 cal, 36P, 30F, 60C]
– Oatmeal (80g) with protein powder, peanut butter powder and berries [581 cal, 43P, 16F, 70C]
– Chicken breast (300g), curry pilaf (150g) and vegetables [704 cal, 84P, 7F, 66C]
– Fish (Salmon if I’m having a high fat day, Pacific ocean perch if I’m having a low fat day), potatoes, beans and vegetables
– Salad with chicken breast (300g), chickpeas, beans, gauc, salsa, potatoes, etc. [914 cal, 94P, 19F, 75C]
– Pizza (I hand-make the dough by myself and count the exact macros for the pizza!) [1076 cal, 60P, 29F, 144C]
– Spaghetti (130g) with beef/pork mince (130g) [936 cal, 48P, 32F, 111C]
Here are a few pics of my staple dishes which I screen-capped from my YouTube videos. If you want to watch me do some meal prep and talk about my diet and life in Japan, then check out my my YouTube Channel. (Work in progress)
So, on workout days I would have 3 meals, all of which were heavy with carbs.
On my rest days, I might have 1 meal with carbs, and then have 2 meals of meat + vegetables (with no carbs other than vegetables).
My main protein sources were chicken breast, minced beef/pork (I drain the excess fat when I cook it), salmon, Pacific ocean perch and eggs.
My main carb sources were rice, oats, potatoes, beans and chickpeas.
I had broccoli, tomato, mushrooms and asparagus basically every time I ate any meat-based meal.
I cooked all my meals with olive oil and generally get enough fats from fish and eggs. I also snack on some mixed nuts (walnuts, cashews and almonds) from time to time.
I also train kickboxing as a hobby. The only things holding me back from going pro are a lack of skill and dislike of getting hit in the face.
Throughout the course of the diet, I trained kickboxing for around 75 minutes in the mornings (fasted), usually around 3 or 4 times a week. This consists of a 10 minute warm up, 30-40 minutes of pad work and drills with a partner, then around 8-10 x 2-3 minute rounds of sparring. Based on my calculations, I think I burn around 500 calories during a 75 minute workout, but I really have no idea…
No other cardio was performed. (I despise jogging and any other cardio for the sake of cardio)
You can tell from the pics that I’m obviously natty.
Basic supplements used during the cut were Protein powder (mainly for mixing into my oatmeal), Creatine, Vitamin C and ZMA.
I also make my own pre workout using a scoop of Xtend, some Citrulline Malate, Beta-Alanine and a 200mg pill of caffeine.
I also tried using some Yohimbine HCL together with caffeine when I did my fasted morning kickboxing, but I didn’t like the jittery/anxious feeling I got after I worked my way up to 7.5mg, so I stopped taking it after a few times.
As for my workouts, I trained 2 x upper and 2 x legs/shoulders per week. I gave myself a little flexibility with the exercises, but the general workouts were as follows.
Monday (Upper 1): Bench press (3×8), Cable flyes (3×10), Seated row (3×8), weighted chin ups (3×8), Barbell curls (3×10), Skullcrushers (3×10)
Tuesday (Legs/shoulders 1): Squats (3×6), Leg Curl (3×10), Leg Extension (3×10), Calf raises (3×10), Barbell shoulder press (3×8), Lateral raise (3×8), Face pulls (3×8), Abs
Thursday (Upper 2): Incline DB press (3×8), Pec deck (3×10), DB row (3×8), chin ups (3×8), Close grip bench press (3×10), DB curls (3×10)
Friday (Legs/shoulders 1): Leg press (3×6), Straight leg deadlift (3×8), Bulgarian split squat (2×8), Calf raises (3×10), DB shoulder press (3×8), Lateral raise (3×8), Face pulls (3×8), Abs
No deadlifts? You ask?
I’ve torn my hamstrings a few times from kickboxing, and I tend to aggravate them or develop some kind of tendonitis when I do heavy deadlifts.
Macros and Diet progress:
My actual weekly macros and weight loss are as follows. (The weight is my average weight for the week, measured each morning)
|Weight||Calories (kcal)||Protein||Fat||Carbs||Alcohol calories||Calories burned from kickboxing (estimated)|
Basically it was smooth sailing most of the way. I was losing weight very consistently as I had intended. Things were going so well that I took a diet break for 12 days mid-way through the cut. (Hence the increased calories for the second half of Week 7 and all of Week 8)
However, around week 11 of the cut I hit the wall. Until now I had maintained my strength, but now I started to lose a rep or two on my major lifts. My recovery also got worse. Usually I feel minimal DOMS the day after a workout, but at this stage I was doing squats on a Tuesday and would still be feeling DOMS on the Friday when it came time for my next leg workout. So for the last few weeks of the cut I drastically cut back on volume and incorporated more RPT-type training. I would do one maximal weight/effort set for each exercise, then one set of a lighter weight with higher reps. This allowed me to at least maintain my strength for the first set of each exercise.
3 weeks out from the contest I started to panic a little, thinking I wouldn’t be lean enough for the contest. I cut calories to around 1700 for 2 weeks to burn as much fat as possible. I basically kept carbs low all week, and did one carb-up day each week. On July 29th (7 days out from the contest) I recorded my lowest weight of 142.3 lbs in a carb-depleted state. My waist measurements on this day were 28″ / 28.8″ / 28.8″ – which is a loss of around 2.5 – 3″ from the start of the diet. I also measured my resting heart rate at 32 beats per minute on that day (It decreased throughout the cut with all the cardio I was doing; it was around 50 bpm at the start of the cut.)
The featured image for this page is a comparison pic from around start of the diet (May 2) to July 22 (2 weeks out, carb-depleted state).
After hitting my lowest weight, I was happy at how shredded I had become. But I also think that I started to look a bit too thin – sickly and unhealthy, so I decided that I would eat at maintenance for the week leading into the contest to hopefully restore my muscle glycogen and look a bit fuller and more vascular for the contest.
Three days before the contest I cut out Broccoli and ate more asparagus in its place for the purpose of reducing fiber and bulk in my stomach. (I was also fortunate enough to be able to take a big dump on the morning of the contest. Fun fact: Regularity of bowel movements decreases during contest prep.) Aside from not drinking too much water on the morning of the contest, I didn’t really fuck around with water and sodium, because I read that it’s generally better to maintain the status quo rather than risk making drastic changes during peak week and managing to fuck up all your good work.
On the morning of the contest (August 5th) my weight was 145.4 lbs (3 lbs higher than the week before). I had my breakfast of chicken, rice, tomato, celery and asparagus around 10am and headed to the contest. I was due on stage at 2:30pm, so I had a caffeine tablet, some pre-workout and a few kit-kat bars around 2:00pm and then went outside into the sunny car park and started to pump up using a resistance band.
There were 7 competitors in the physique division. Most of us already knew each other from the gym, so everyone was very friendly back-stage – everyone sharing food and helping one another pump up.
Then they called the physique competitors and it was time for us to enter the stage.
Here are the photos from the day. I’m no #24.
I finished 3rd out of 7 competitors. The guy in the white shorts (#29) placed first and #23 placed second. One of the judges told me that I was probably the best conditioned there, but lost points because of my posing (particularly for the back pose, I wasn’t showing off my rear delts properly) and because I didn’t tan.
As for the tanning, this was a small contest and therefore there was nothing like any company or anything offering spray tans on site at the contest (I hear that this is common in other bigger contests). As a naturally very white guy with a family history of skin cancer, It’s basically impossible for me to get a base tan. The owner of the gym told me that if I used the rub-on tan without a base tan, I would look orange, so it’d be better for me to just go on stage as is. Looking back on things, I think I will shell out for a few spray tan sessions if I choose to compete again.
I was widely complimented on my chest and abs, but told that my shoulders and back need work, which I would agree with.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever compete again, but I’m at least happy I gave it a go and got into pretty good shape in the process. I was starting to develop mental issues with food during the prep, so I feel great now that I’m starting a long, slow bulk and I don’t have to worry about calories so much.
Note: My reward meal after the contest was 4 slices of French toast with Nutella and peanut butter, total macros: 1506 cals, 54P, 64F, 192C.