It’s a new year, and while that doesn’t mean it’s time to start over, the beginning of a new year is a good place to start.
I have been training myself since my competition last November, and while I have positively changed the appearance of my physique (stronger, more define abs, better glute structure), I have not gained the upper body size I have been chasing after for two years.
Over the holidays, I got the urge to compete again in order to have a focus, a plan, a goal; however, after reviewing the pure financial cost associated with pursuing another competition – forget about the opportunity cost – I just can’t swing it this year.
While chatting with my targeted trainer / coach the other week, I told her how I had been lifting for over a year but hadn’t gotten the size gains I wanted. She mentioned that I probably needed to stimulate my body in new ways – more dynamic movements and a modified diet, consisting of more carbohydrates.
So while I save up the funds to hit the stage in 2015 – if not sooner – I have resolved to make some shifts in my overall training / diet regimen starting this week to see where it takes me.
The Plan: Clean bulk over the next 3 months, starting the cutting phase in April
The Diet: 45 carbs / 40 protein / 15 fats
– Starting with 2000 calories, making adjustments as I review my measurements and weight every week
The Workout: 3 days instead of 6 days
– Incorporating more rest days
– Targeting all body parts each work day with more dynamic / power movements
The Results: Will keep you posted with photos and measurements
That is no longer the question.
Last Saturday I met with my coach for measurements and a final weigh-in. After 8 months of eating a clean, consistent diet of about 2400 calories and working out hard, my bulking phase was about to end.
I had gained 10lbs since I saw my coach the first time over 6 months ago. While my body fat had increased a few percentage points over those months, when I met her last week I was back to my original BMI.
That was good news: I had gained muscle, not fat. In order to prepare for a competition in either October or November, it was time to get started dieting right away.
To celebrate the beginning of the other half of my journey I bought my shoes: The Stiletto Heel Two-Band Mini-Platform Slide 5″ Heel LIP-102 ($38.99) from Sinful Fashions online.
Things are gettin’ real!
Monday (7/30) I started in with my new diet plan. I was directed to reduce my calories by about 800, start in with four 30-minute cardio sessions a week and am now on the path towards “the stage” (wherever that may be).
I have dropped about 4 pounds this week and feel remarkably slimmer, but for some silly reason I keep thinking I should look way different right away.
Why don’t I look cut yet?! I asked myself in the gym the other day, and then I thought: This has only just begun. It takes time, remember?
I took a minute to laugh because when I was bulking I felt the same way, asking myself why I wasn’t getting bigger faster, but I eventually got where I wanted to be.
Every part of this journey takes patience. Progress comes with time and does not happen instantly: This is important to remember in bodybuilding and in real life. If progress were so quick and easy, we would all be miles from where we are today. The key to making it through is your determination to succeed. Keep pushing and it will be progress that you make.
I can see glimmers of how this whole package is going to come together. I definitely have a long way to go, but I’m going to get there!
Here I am at one week in.
Where are you in your journey to the stage?
On a Sunday evening when you might be reading the paper, cooking dinner or petting the dog, I am hard at work in the kitchen building my body.
It’s not a lie that almost 80% of your physique is made in the kitchen. Changing your eating habits gets you almost all the way there.
Last week I started eating more to propel my muscle growth and I’m already surprised at the changes I’m seeing. Yet after tracking my diet and looking at my macronutrient composition (percentage of carbs, protein and fat), I realized that I’m still consuming way too much protein.
I was eating about .8g of carbs for every 1g of protein.
My trainer told me that I absolutely had to increase this ratio to at least 1.5:1 to see results. So last week I welcomed Mr. Sweet Potato and his friend, Brown Rice, into my weekly meal plan.
I need to be precise about eating because there’s a lot of margin for error, so on Saturday morning I sat down with my coffee and an Excel spreadsheet and took inventory of all the foods that I eat on a regular basis from boiled chicken to cottage cheese.
I noted how many calories, grams of protein, carbs and fat were in each each serving by weight and created a food library. Then for the next hour I put together a diet that would get me to my target needs for each day.
After some more discussion with my trainer we landed on the following for me (143lbs, 5’10”):
Believe it or not, this was a tricky task, but I did it! I created a meal plan for days that I workout in the morning and one for days that I workout in the evening and then I set to work to make it happen.
After all, you can dream about making changes all you want, but at some point, you need to make the moves.
Below is a quick rundown of my food prep for the week that happens every Sunday starting at about 4PM. In our apartment, we like to call it “Chicken Time” because for the next 3 hours, that’s exactly what it is.
STEP 1: Buy the chicken and the fish!
– I start with about 14 pounds of chicken and 1-2 bags of frozen tilapia.
– Fish is a nice add-in for variety and it’s an easier protein to digest, so my body is happier when it’s in the mix.
STEP 2: Wash the protein…and the sweet potatoes
– I clean all my proteins and pop the chicken in a pot of water on the stove and throw the tilapia in the oven with my sweet potatoes.
STEP 4: Wait and pack
– While the chicken boils and the tilapia and sweet potatoes bake, I prep my portable meals and snacks for the next 2 days.
– Since I eat breakfast and my last meal of the day at home, I take 3 mid-day containers to work each day.
– I use my digital food scale and divvy out the proper measurements of frozen and fresh veggies and my fat (nuts or avocado).
STEP 5: Pack the protein and the potatoes
– Once the tilapia and chicken are done I start to dish out my protein for the week into each of the containers.
– When the entire meal prep is complete, I will also have about 4oz sweet potato and 4 – 4.5oz protein in each dish along with about 100g of veggies.
STEP 6: Store
– I typically have plenty of protein left over, so I store two of the three containers shown below in the freezer and keep 1 in the fridge. This way I’ve always got something clean to eat on hand.
So that’s it! You cook, you pack, you go live your life – and you eat!
How do you get ready for your week ahead?
My first training session last week was a killer: Leg day.
I couldn’t walk without wincing until Thursday and if you had seen me wandering around New York City Tuesday or Wednesday you would have noticed a distinct limp. It was an intense session.
In between one-legged squats, lunges, jump squats and leg extensions my trainer and I talked about what I would need to do to get into competition shape.
Albert said I would need to adjust a few things first so we could get the muscle I needed like: increase my calories to 3,000 per day (really?), adjust my macronutrient intake to 2:1 carbs:protein (get out of here!) and lastly he said he wanted me to gain about 10lbs.
Hold the phone, sir.
As I started my next set of squats I couldn’t get “10lbs” out of my head. Rep count: 7, 8, 9, 10lbs, 11 and…12! I handed off the bar to Albert, “Nice set.”
“Ten pounds?” I panted, “Do you really think that’s a good idea?”
He told me that he most certainly did and that the 10lbs would come over a period of several months. He wanted me to gain about 2-3 pounds per month and that we would be gaining good clean weight: muscle.
It was made clear that I would not be permitted to eat sleeves of Oreos, entire pizzas or fatty cheeseburgers, but that I would need to make these gains through consistent clean eating and training.
He said that at competition time I would be back to my current weight but that the 10lbs I would lose by that point would be 10lbs of fat (whew) and that I would be a ripped Figure Competition Winning Machine.
So maybe 10lbs wasn’t so bad?
As we worked through the rest of the session I realized that I did have a lot of muscle to gain. My shoulders need to be more cupped, my lats need to expand, I need to get more of the bubble and sweep in my quad.
When I thought about my initial reaction to the weight gain proposal I realized that I had immediately thought about gaining all the weight in my hips and my butt – and I have never wanted to gain 10lbs in my hips or my butt.
But as I finished my final group of sets I thought about gaining 4 pounds of muscle in my arms and shoulders (nice!) and 4 pounds of muscle on my back and glutes (not too shabby) and about 2 pounds of muscle on my quads – 1 pound each, please.
Why was I fearing this weight, again? Ten pounds: let’s do this!
As I walked to the bus, legs like jelly, I realized how closed-minded I had been that night and maybe how closed-minded I have been for many years about my body and other things.
There is a lot of life out there that has the potential to make us uncomfortable, but we have to be open to understanding things beyond the uncomfortable and look deeper.
It could be weight gain or loss, initiating a job change, starting a new relationship, or even going on a trip, to a museum, movie or party alone.
If we take the time to think and look past our hasty preconceptions, we have the potential to realize amazing opportunities that are out there for ourselves.
There are new and marvelous things waiting for you out there: do you let uncomfortable hold you back?