For all the thousands of shirtless selfies, gym progress photos, and motivational quotes with a lion background that can be found across the swaths of bodybuilding social media pages – one thing that has stood out to me is the paucity of transparency and information relevant to a bodybuilding prep. Sure, a handful of established coaches have put out written works detailing the process and a select few competitors have vlogged their journey; yet it seems to me that there are very few who are comfortable sharing the nitty gritty, the behind the scenes mental battles, etc. that come hand in hand with a natural bodybuilding contest prep.
Herein lies the purpose of this blog. It is my goal to not only share the fine details and programming that comes with my 2021 season but explain the rationale for alterations and strategies chosen and educate through my own successes and mistakes along the way.
What you can expect from this blog:
- Weekly updates on the status of my competition season
- Detailed macronutrient/food choice/training/cardio protocols
- Reflection on the biopsychosocial aspects of bodybuilding prep
- Commentary on my own journey
What you shouldn’t expect:
- Progress photos
o I’ve decided this year to keep my physique updates private between my inner
circle and coach. In the past the pressure to post the most flattering photos,
come up with catchy captions, stay relevant, etc became an emotional
drain and took away from other aspects of my life and therefore will be
eliminated for some time.
- A detail of my competition schedule
o As above, that information will stay private to me. No sense in trying to build
hype, compare myself to other registered athletes, create false drama – I’m
prepping for me and will step on stage when, as many times, and with what
organizations and classes my coach and I deem optimal.
Week 1 brings about the onset of my true “prep” phase, wherein prior I was completing a “prep before the prep” as coined by Team 3DMJ. At my peak this offseason I had reached 215lbs multiple times, however spent nearly a year at 205-210lbs in the attempt to add added tissue for a transition in my bodybuilding career. For reference my prior offseasons saw me at 185-190 for the vast majority of the time.
This period was created in a 3:1 severe deficit:maintenance scheme to allow for rapid fat loss while in a favorable position.
Weight on average of 196.9lbs with a 15.2 % BF as measured via BIA. Week’s change of -4.6lbs and -0.7% body fat.
I’m 5’9.5” for reference.
While not the most accurate I will be monitoring bodyfat percentage via a scale read BIA as I have consistently done the same in previous preps with the same scale and can therefore compare prior year’s % and weight vs. current, as well as monitor rate of change and trend.
Sleep has and always will be on the lower side of the norm for myself. I have never and will never be one of those guys who logs 9-10 hours consistently at the exact same time of night, with a one hour wind down of self-reflection and meditation, blue light blockers and nasal strip donned – just doesn’t fit my work/life schedule.
This week specifically saw me average 5.8 hours, with a weekly high of 7 and a low of 4.5 hrs.
Currently training 4x/week with a hybrid split comprised of Upper/Lower/Push+Arms/Legs+Back. Two sessions are completed at a commercial gym utilizing more machine/cable options with higher volume and lower relative intensity. The remaining two sessions are completed in my garage gym and implement mainly barbell and dumbbell-based training with lower overall volume and higher relative intensity.
Currently utilizing a reverse pyramid scheme for the majority of primary compound movements, linear progression of load as tolerated with some level of autoregulation for fatigue management, progressive volume as tolerated throughout the mesocycle.
Initial deficit established at a weekly goal intake of 2440 calories (200P 275C 60F).
Week 1 actual average intake: 2390 cal (201P 260C 60F).
Slightly low on my carbohydrate intake, which I correlate with not meal prepping this week and going full throttle IIFYM. Parents were in town visiting which threw off my normal routine and made me get flexible and creative. Meals for breakfast and lunch stayed the same, ditched most snacks other than protein sources to create a budget of calories for dinner, and then volunteered to cook dinner a few nights to give myself some increased control.
No refeeds scheduled or utilized this early in prep.
Attempting to keep caffeine intake at sub 300mg/day for the next 4 weeks to desensitize after several months of chronically high intake (400-800mg daily on average, I had a child ya’ll gimme a break). This comes out to be 1-2 cups of coffee to start my work day and a low stim preworkout prior to lifting on workout days.
Fluid intake of 1 gallon per day on average, will lock this down to an exact number once shows start getting nearer.
Sodium intake of 2816 on average this week. Not strictly adhering to a specific goal, simply watching the NA:K ratio for tracking purposes to utilize in peak week.
Fiber intake of 12g on average this week, definitely low and something that has always been an issue with me due to my schedule – this needs to be a priority going forward. Goal of 30g daily.
ZERO traditional cardio, no hamster wheel this prep. This is where my prep will absolutely differ from the norm. In recent years cardio has become a topic of contention. The HIIT crowd has been drowned out with LISS fans due to a handful of articles demonstrating muscle retention and improved fatigue management when comparing high frequency HITT and LISS for fat loss purposes. As the pendulum continues to swing there is now a further trend to abandon the treadmill/stairmill/elliptical/bike in favor of tracking steps as a factor of increasing TDEE.
My own prep will attempt to utilize a weekly average step count as the sole mode of cardio, however with a twist to be discussed in the special topics section.
Goal step count: 9-10k daily
Realized step count: 6,600
If the name Eric Salazar means anything to you, definitely keep an eye on this blog and my prep as I will be treating my own 2021 season as a case study in the attempt to replicate the Salazar weight vest prep.
For those that are unaware, Eric Salazar successfully completed a competition prep and earned his IFBB pro status while implementing no traditional cardio and never altering his caloric intake past one initial deficit – the secret? Application of a weighted vest to augment and offset body weight lost.
The science behind the case study is actually quite remarkable, but the key aspects of a weight vest prep are:
- The ability to maintain a high energy flux state, potentially reducing the negative
consequences of low energy flux (hormonal and metabolic adaptations) (ie.
Improved libido and reduced stress).
- Maintain initial higher NEAT and TDEE levels offsetting the need to systematically
reduce caloric intake for weight loss progression (ie. No more 1300 calorie
- Potentially improve lean mass retention, specifically in the lower body (ie. Get rid of
that natty, stringy, overly-dieted look).
The article itself is linked below where Eric’s coach, James Krieger, discusses in much more detail:
Personally I have begun this prep by adding 9lbs of vest weight to my frame to offset that which was lost on average during my “prep before the prep.”
First week of prep is always exciting, and as it seems that I often end up prepping for Spring shows, the Holidays often are a bit of a springboard to drive me forward with a bit more motivation. Sleep was improved this week from prior weeks mainly due to improved time management and reduced caffeine intake. No current aches or pains which is a blessing as the past year has brought me chronic, nagging shoulder and lower extremity neural issues. All green lights and full steam ahead into a prep season.
I vastly overestimated how many steps I would average with my work as a Physical Therapist. While I am on my feet for 8-12 hour shifts, it seems that I am more stationary than mobile throughout that time. To hit my weekly average step count I will most likely have to get smart about my activity and might implement walks on non-training days for added steps.
If you have any thoughts, considerations, or questions please let me know in the comments section or reach out directly. As stated above I wish for this blog to serve as educational content and drive further discussion as to the nuance of natural bodybuilding prep.