T Nation

Leaning Out/Contest Prep Thread


Seems like it dropped a bit on the day, right?? I remember doing the “shredded in 6 days” from this website and it cuts off all water the night before the show AND has you do a hot bath/sauna. The progress pics were pretty crazy to see the “drying out” process happen in real time. Although I dont know how much of that survived into the next day


Right. Me, I was dried out like crazy even while taking in tons of water.


Yeah, I tried that my first show, and in hindight (and as I learned much more), there were some seriously incorrect suggestions in there. Cutting water (as in stopping, completely) is one of the worst things you can do, because your body will backlash and you’ll end up holding water. As you can imagine that can ruin your conditioning. Everyone throws out the hormone Aldosterone, but few realize how quickly the body mobilizes and doesn’t give two craps about your bodybuilding contest, just that it seems that you’re trying to cause it harm by witholding water. I had Brad limit his intake because we didn’t want any stomach distention, but he was drinking liquids with every carb feeding, and we were counting on the water, sodium and carbs to all go into his muscles and make his skin stretch even more as he pumped up. (Arash pulled me aside to ask just “what the hell I was feeding Brasd backstage” -lol)

Cutting sodium? Another bad idea. Just try getting a good pump, or even carbing up backstage for a contest without sodium in your plan. When you look flat and can’t understand what happened, it won’t be because you didn’t eat enough carbs, it’s usually because you didn’t ingest enough sodium and water.

Training legs or even doing high intensity cardio the week of a contest? Again, bad idea because of the possibility of extended inflammation which can last for a week or more in some individuals. I know that my quads were smooth as a baby’s bottom after any bout of inervals or heavy leg training, eventually I realized that I needed a good week and a half to two weeks out from a show to do nothing for my quads if I truly wanted those deep cuts onstage.


Maple Syrup Strength (littlesleeper)

Ive posted this here before but it shows how dry I was the morning of the day before the show.

I was drinking tons of water.


And flat! You literally grew and inflated as the day went on!



I see this thread is still growing in views, by about 100 or so every other day, if I can estimate correctly by seeing the metrics daily.

So, being that some are still returning to it or visiting it for the first time, I think it might be fitting for me to give an update, though the update is far less exciting as I’d like it to be.

As I’ve said in several previous posts, I am recovering from two herniated discs. And finally–FINALLY–I am having some relief with my sciatic pain. I’ve gone for three months or so of physical therapy and I am now doing physical therapy workouts for my lower body twice per week on my own but will be seeing my physical therapist once per month to assess my progress and to instruct me on going forward.

I know that herniated discs can take up to a year to resorb and in some cases, even more time. I do not want surgery, nor do my PT and orthopedist think I am a candidate for surgery considering I have no strength deficit between legs and can do all of my normal daily activities, despite being uncomfortable much of the time.

Actually I think despite the fact that I have symptoms, I can return to normal leg workouts, but to be on the safe side, we are avoiding highly compressive exercises like standard barbell deadlifts (which I shitcanned more than two years ago anyway) and rotation and flexion of the spine.

So my two workouts lower body workouts last week went like this:
Leg workout A:
Palloff press
Bulgarian split squat
Hip thrust on floor with barbell
Lateral side steps with mini band (30 second sets)
Side and prone planks

Leg workout B
Pilates arm flutter on back
Hip thrusts on floor
One-legged cable Romanian deadlifts
Kneeling squats
One-legged squats on box
Renegade rows

My two other upper body workouts are very simple, with one exercise per muscle group.

I low intensity cardio three times per week.

After my symptoms go away, I plan other leg exercises like safety bar, back, or front squats and Romanian deadlifts with a barbell or dumbbells.

Though it likely sounds boring and ordinary, I plan on weight training three times per week and doing cardio three times per week or whatever games at the park I want to play. Pretty much, I want to do the bare minimum for health and to keep in shape, as my life is going to become very busy this summer. I plan on moving and my kid is expected on August 3rd. Like I’ve said over and over, I’d love to compete again, but my life will no longer be suitable for it, and I am very glad I got one show out of my system.

By competing and lifting all these years, I have learned that exercising for health, and health only, is a world apart from competing in anything!


Great update Brad, and congratulations on your first child. I’m glad to hear you’re on the mend.

Also, interesting to hear that you, as well as Rob, ditched deadlifts some time ago…


Mic drop, lol. Congrats!

FWIW, I was 40 when I had my first. Very happy for you!


Not that there is anything odd or crazy about still competing once you have a child, but something that Brad and I have discussed many times, is the moment of “growing up” if you will, when your priorities change.
Suddenly, The idea of getting home from work and then spending two hours in a gym when you could be spending time with your child seems a little less important.



That, and leaving nearly all of the heavy lifting and grunt work, literally and figuratively, to a wife and other family members is just not for me. I don’t think it’s odd to compete while having a kid; I just don’t see how I personally could do it, even though I’d love to compete again. Being unavailable for three to four months of the year, that just seems inappropriate to me. I’m not judging anyone else in saying this; it’s just that stuff like that would make me feel very guilty and the dynamics of my personal situation would create many problems if I were to do that. You know, like… serious family problems! :wink:


Thank you!



EVERYONE: HELP ME WIN T-RANSFORMATION CHALLENGE!! (huge prizes…bragging rights!)

Weigh 91.9kg 5’10" probably ~10% BF (wanted to come in lower but next time)

I did this plan and looks like I hit most of what you said. I was hoping to keep the oats preworkout a couple of days because otherwise I am a tired mess.

I am walking a ton…is that cardio?

How to you avoid bloat? or it just holding it in?

I had an extra carb up day to help gauge what was happening.

I had 1 more pump up day too. I wanted to stop heavy stuff a few days out so nothing would be sore day of.

Dropped them per your post.


Soooooo extreme low cals the last few days, stopping all water 20+ hours before your contest… Not great advice you’ve gotten there.



ok what do you suggest and let me rework it

when would you drop water, if at all?

this was the original before dropping some cals and carb up days…


That’s the thing, if you’ve gotten yourself down to this low calories, you can’t really just jump 'em back up that last week. Even when I am able to feed someone into a show (adding cals and carbs in the weeks leading up), it’s a small incremental thing, always done in a cyclical and methodical manner.

Water? Unless you’re assisted and relying on RX diuretics I would never completely cut water. Your muscles are full of water, and with carbs and sodium it’s how you’re able to get all pumped up and tighter backstage.



Thank you, so it sounds like you incrementally lower calories to a certain point in physique then reverse diet into the show a bit?

This is probably impossibly individually dependent but how low and how high do cals get in middle ish to prep week?

And for this one I will keep the cals where they are or maybe add a few and drink water normal up until day of and just drink when thirsty day of. Photos are being taken around 11am.


I am speaking from my experience with Stu, which, out of respect, will contain no details. I plan on using what I learned from the prep with him to help others. But being this is a forum and not coaching, and I’m in the thread and want to help point you in the right direction, I’ll share some stuff.

We didn’t do that with me, and would only be necessary for someone who is losing weight too quickly or losing muscle mass and there is appreciable amount of time til the show. Remember, it’s called a peak for a reason, and you can’t hold 5-7% body fat for long without negative effects. It is unsustainable.

That reverse dieting you speak of here is not planned or intended upon. It’s done if needed.

You’re right. It is all individual and some people need more adjustments more than others. You can’t generally say how high or low calories get during the middle of a prep because everyone responds differently and what is done during the middle is dependent upon what the then-current condition is, how much time is left, and how much more there is to lose in a given time frame. When I reached 185, the fat literally melted off of me from then on, and if I recall correctly, there were only two more adjustments made til the peak week. But some people don’t work like that all the time, for whatever reason, and more adjustments need to be made.

As I said above, the peak week was VERY simple: three depletion workouts, one compensation workout day before show, ketogenic diet, NO cutting water. I also carbed up the day before the show with a shit ton of carbs.

A ton of carbs were eaten the day of the show. Part of all that was nearly two bags of candy corn.

Actually I was drinking tons of water and was urinating very frequently. Come to think of it, when the fat loss really turned on from the 185# pound mark, I was urinating quite frequently for weeks!

The only reason water was taken in small amounts on the day of the show as not to bloat my mid-section and to avoid difficulty posing. That’s it–not because water somehow does something wrong to a natural bodybuilder physiologically for appearance.


For a natural, never.


How lean do you want to be for this? I ask because being a tired mess is part of getting to and being 5-7% body fat! Actually, a great deal of a prep is being a tired mess. That is, being a tired mess for weeks, while living and training on three to four hours of broken sleep.


I was aiming for 5-7% and the way that Stu said 1900 calories were really low I felt like I shouldnt be feeling like this.

Just the 100g of oats added makes me feel infinitely better for most of the day.

And thank you guys for the help, it means a lot. This is you guys doing your job for free and that isnt so fair so wish me luck!!

Not sure exactly what is going to happen the next few days (rev diet to maintain or cont cut) but I will be much better prepared for everything.