T Nation

Precontest Suffering


#1

Ok so im trying to be more active on the forums now that i have a lot of free at the moment

question to all competitors about getting down and dirty in the later stages of contest prep

1- How much suffering is acceptable for you precontest? I definitely have to diet pretty hard to get in shape(like most do) and it really made school about 3x times harder while i was going through the last 3 weeks of prep, and to be honest, it was almost enough to make me flunk out and it took me FOREVER to catch up. Starting my professional life soon, i dont know if that will be acceptable anymore. Even if it is for just a few weeks.

2- Has precontest ever negatively affected your Work/School/professional life? My biggest problem with the end stages of prep is i seem to loose all sense of humour and everything becomes very serious to me, people make jokes i would normally laugh at, or brush off but it pisses me off if im in suffering mode.

3- Care to share your worst precontest story? for me, getting put on academic probation because i failed a test that everyone else in the class passed easily- had to pay 200 dollars to take the course over again. I definitely cant blame this on precontest, but prior to this i had never failed a course in my life, and i have an bachelors degree in music.

4-What are some ways to mitigate these effects?
Im thinking taking a longer prep and dieting slower and staying closer to contest shape in the offseason may help this, i plan to prep for way longer than 16 weeks next time i decide to step on stage.

share your thoughts, stories, questions, experiences


#2

Great thread Grind! This is actually a topic I’ve put a lot of thought into myself. I had a very smooth prep compared to what I see many competitors on these forums go through. Personally, going to zero carbs would never be acceptable to me under any circumstance. My mental focus and energy would be worthless, and I wouldn’t get any kind of pump in the gym. For several of my peak weeks this season I had a depletion phase prior to rapid backloading, where all of my carbs (around 70) would come from green veggies from Monday through Thursday, and by Wednesday I felt like a zombie. I’d get dizzy and my vision go black almost every time I’d stand up and have to grab onto the chair or wall for a few seconds until the feeling passed.

I would imagine my body would adjust to this, but I think going zero carb or using ketosis for an extended period of prep is a bad idea for most. My coach (IFPA pro Brian Ahlstrom) has told me that in his experience, once a competitor drops their carbs that low for an extended period of time, they are often never able to get contest ready or as lean as possible without dropping carbs that low again; their carb ceiling/sensitivity is significantly damaged and this often never recovers completely.

I always cringe when a poster on this site (often times not even someone looking to get contest lean, just to go from something like 15 to 10% bf) will post asking for advice on how to begin a cut, and multiple posters will respond with advice about going to zero or very low carb (less than 150-200) g per day. To me, this is completely asinine. There’s no reason anyone should have to drop their carbs that low to get moderately lean. If you truly can’t lose fat at 200 c a day, you’re either overconsuming protein/fat, or your metabolism is simply not in a good position to diet down. You need to take the time to build up your metabolic capacity by slowly increasing carb intake over an extended period of time before beginning a serious cut.

My advice to anyone considering competing for the first time is to make sure you have a structured offseason of at least 6 months to a year before beginning prep where you track macros pretty meticulously, and push them as high as you can without excessive fat gain. Brian calls this “prepping for prep.” I was able to get to the point before my prep where I was maintaining my weight at 193 lbs on 470 c, 110 f, and 260 p per day, with 2 or 3 untracked meals per week. This allowed me to get my metabolism functioning very well and gave me a lot of room to play with as far as moves to make during prep. The lowest I got during my prep on a “low” day was 210 c, 35 f, and 240 p.

Long post, hopefully there’s something of value here! I realize that everyone is different and some people truly will have to grind harder than others to get contest ready. There’s always going to be a degree of suffering involved if you want to reach your leanest possible conditioning, but I think that too many coaches and competitors make drastic drops in food and use too much cardio almost as a tradition, believing that you have to get to zero carb and cardio daily to get stage ready.

I think you’ll have a much better prep experience working with Jeff and 3DMJ than with your previous coach (a well known guy). No offense to anyone, but in my opinion, coaches like Brian Ahlstrom, the entire 3DMJ coaching staff, Cliff Wilson, Eric Scott, The Strength Guys coaching staff, all of whom work primarily if not entirely with natural athletes, are better coaches than those who work primarily with NPC/IFBB competitors. Getting a natural competitor into contest shape without damaging their metabolism long term requires a much smarter and well thought out approach, and the NPC is absolutely saturated with bro science in regards to peaking and other dieting protocols


#3

I’ve got a prep thread on this page still, but here’s a side by side from the start of my prep to my first bb’ing contest this spring in case anyone hasn’t checked out my thread. Just wanted to show that I’m not some naturally lean or skinny guy with a hummingbird metabolism, it takes time and effort to build up your metabolic capacity.


#4

pwolves that was a really interesting post!

I don’t know how you guys do it. I always tell myself that once I’m happy with how big I am I’ll do a mega, contest prep-esque cut to see if I’ve got the cojones for it, but I keep saying to myself I’m still not big enough.


#5

[quote]Yogi wrote:
pwolves that was a really interesting post!

I don’t know how you guys do it. I always tell myself that once I’m happy with how big I am I’ll do a mega, contest prep-esque cut to see if I’ve got the cojones for it, but I keep saying to myself I’m still not big enough.[/quote]

rds63799, is that you?


#6

[quote]RATTLEHEAD wrote:

[quote]Yogi wrote:
pwolves that was a really interesting post!

I don’t know how you guys do it. I always tell myself that once I’m happy with how big I am I’ll do a mega, contest prep-esque cut to see if I’ve got the cojones for it, but I keep saying to myself I’m still not big enough.[/quote]

rds63799, is that you?[/quote]

Ohh damn i hope so lol


#7

[quote]Spidey22 wrote:

[quote]RATTLEHEAD wrote:

[quote]Yogi wrote:
pwolves that was a really interesting post!

I don’t know how you guys do it. I always tell myself that once I’m happy with how big I am I’ll do a mega, contest prep-esque cut to see if I’ve got the cojones for it, but I keep saying to myself I’m still not big enough.[/quote]

rds63799, is that you?[/quote]

Ohh damn i hope so lol[/quote]

looks like the cat’s out the bag now…

Try to contain your excitement, eh folks?


#8

[quote]Yogi wrote:

[quote]Spidey22 wrote:

[quote]RATTLEHEAD wrote:

[quote]Yogi wrote:
pwolves that was a really interesting post!

I don’t know how you guys do it. I always tell myself that once I’m happy with how big I am I’ll do a mega, contest prep-esque cut to see if I’ve got the cojones for it, but I keep saying to myself I’m still not big enough.[/quote]
Lol, missed you man!
rds63799, is that you?[/quote]

Ohh damn i hope so lol[/quote]

looks like the cat’s out the bag now…

Try to contain your excitement, eh folks?[/quote]


#9

[quote]Yogi wrote:

[quote]Spidey22 wrote:

[quote]RATTLEHEAD wrote:

[quote]Yogi wrote:
pwolves that was a really interesting post!

I don’t know how you guys do it. I always tell myself that once I’m happy with how big I am I’ll do a mega, contest prep-esque cut to see if I’ve got the cojones for it, but I keep saying to myself I’m still not big enough.[/quote]

rds63799, is that you?[/quote]

Ohh damn i hope so lol[/quote]

looks like the cat’s out the bag now…

Try to contain your excitement, eh folks?[/quote]

yas, was I the first to figure it out lol?


#10

[quote]RATTLEHEAD wrote:

[quote]Yogi wrote:

[quote]Spidey22 wrote:

[quote]RATTLEHEAD wrote:

[quote]Yogi wrote:
pwolves that was a really interesting post!

I don’t know how you guys do it. I always tell myself that once I’m happy with how big I am I’ll do a mega, contest prep-esque cut to see if I’ve got the cojones for it, but I keep saying to myself I’m still not big enough.[/quote]

rds63799, is that you?[/quote]

Ohh damn i hope so lol[/quote]

looks like the cat’s out the bag now…

Try to contain your excitement, eh folks?[/quote]

yas, was I the first to figure it out lol?
[/quote]

Haha, yeah, I tried to keep it quiet as long as I could.

What gave me away?

Had to leave last time through disagreements (which I have to admit I was actually in the wrong over - don’t really want to get into it in case I piss anybody off), but I’m back now for as long as the powers that be are happy for me to be here.

Nice to see old faces doing so well. You and Spidey in particular have made great progress!

Sorry Pwolves for the hijack! Haha


#11

[quote]Yogi wrote:

[quote]RATTLEHEAD wrote:

[quote]Yogi wrote:

[quote]Spidey22 wrote:

[quote]RATTLEHEAD wrote:

[quote]Yogi wrote:
pwolves that was a really interesting post!

I don’t know how you guys do it. I always tell myself that once I’m happy with how big I am I’ll do a mega, contest prep-esque cut to see if I’ve got the cojones for it, but I keep saying to myself I’m still not big enough.[/quote]

rds63799, is that you?[/quote]

Ohh damn i hope so lol[/quote]

looks like the cat’s out the bag now…

Try to contain your excitement, eh folks?[/quote]

yas, was I the first to figure it out lol?
[/quote]

Haha, yeah, I tried to keep it quiet as long as I could.

What gave me away?

Had to leave last time through disagreements (which I have to admit I was actually in the wrong over - don’t really want to get into it in case I piss anybody off), but I’m back now for as long as the powers that be are happy for me to be here.

Nice to see old faces doing so well. You and Spidey in particular have made great progress!

Sorry Pwolves for the hijack! Haha[/quote]

PI RATTLEHEAD!! It must be the Scottish connection! I would never have guessed.


#12

[quote]Yogi wrote:

[quote]RATTLEHEAD wrote:

[quote]Yogi wrote:

[quote]Spidey22 wrote:

[quote]RATTLEHEAD wrote:

[quote]Yogi wrote:
pwolves that was a really interesting post!

I don’t know how you guys do it. I always tell myself that once I’m happy with how big I am I’ll do a mega, contest prep-esque cut to see if I’ve got the cojones for it, but I keep saying to myself I’m still not big enough.[/quote]

rds63799, is that you?[/quote]

Ohh damn i hope so lol[/quote]

looks like the cat’s out the bag now…

Try to contain your excitement, eh folks?[/quote]

yas, was I the first to figure it out lol?
[/quote]

Haha, yeah, I tried to keep it quiet as long as I could.

What gave me away?

Had to leave last time through disagreements (which I have to admit I was actually in the wrong over - don’t really want to get into it in case I piss anybody off), but I’m back now for as long as the powers that be are happy for me to be here.

Nice to see old faces doing so well. You and Spidey in particular have made great progress!

Sorry Pwolves for the hijack! Haha[/quote]

Your central belters comment gave me deja vu, as did your posts in general!


#13

Great idea for a thread topic. I think a lot of people go back and forth about whether they want to compete, and even with those that do, there is a lot of differing opinions on what amount of suffering is acceptable, or even neccesary. With the current state of 'net affairs, every coach dismissing other coach’s approaches, it’s very easy to forget that preparing for a physique contest pretty much goes against what the human body actually wants to do in terms of survival -lol.

[quote]GrindOverMatter wrote:
1- How much suffering is acceptable for you precontest? [/quote]

The ultimate answer will be depending on what sort of shape you’re staring out in, and if you’ve got a certain time frame. I’ve had people come to me for help with an easy 30+ lbs to lose, while telling me the show they already signed up for is in 10 weeks’ time.

Personally, the early stages of my preps were always pretty easy. I found that I dieted on much higher calories than a lot of other competitors I knew, and because I never really did much cardio in the off season, I was able to get away with very little the first several weeks.

Of course suffering also can entail how much your social life (and work, school etc) is negatively affected. I started dating my (now) wife during a prep, and I put a lot of effort into essentially hiding what I was doing. So if pretending you’re not hungry, not tired, definitely want to go hang out late with her friends instead of sleeping, and don’t have plans to go to the gym no matter how late it is when she finally goes home constitutes suffering,… then yeah, I dealt with a bit of that -lol.

[quote]
2- Has precontest ever negatively affected your Work/School/professional life? [/quote]

With my career, it’s always been a very simple task to bring my meals, so in that respect, preps never really intruded in any way. Most of my co-workers had no clue that I was a competitive boybuilder at all, and in hindsight, it was a good move that I kept things to myself. I already dealt with enough ridiculous questions about training and dieting from people who I knew wouldn’t listen without having to explain mjy weekly changes and the rationalizations for them.

[quote]
3- Care to share your worst precontest story? [/quote]

I don’t know if I have a “worst”, but there were definitely moments where I questioned what I was doing, and if anyone else would go to such lengths.

In 2011, my brother was doing a contest as well. It was in Jersey so we were going to have to stay in a hotel. I was mid-prep for the America at the time, so in addition to bringing two coolers worth of food for myself (Friday and Saturday), I found myself running on the beach at 5am for my morning cardio, had to find a gym nearby to get my training sessions in, and found myself eating cold fish, few day old omelets, cold previously cooked broccoli, tupperwares of cold oatmeal with protein powder mixed in… just really not fun days of eating. Then, of course, he won his class and we had a victory dinner while I gnawed on 3 day old chicken breasts from my cooler. Good times! -lol

[quote]
4-What are some ways to mitigate these effects?[/quote]

Well, I think better food choices would have been much smarter in my case, but at the end of it all, I don’t think I experienced anything that any other serious competitor wouldn’t have gone through. The toll the entire process takes on your life outside the gym is the biggest issue IMO.

As far as learning from each prep, I think all competitors come to some basic conclusions:

-Don’t gain too much weight between contests

-Give yourself enough time, and the “suffering” will be less

-Expect ‘hiccups’ in progress

-Hope for understanding family and friends - my friends knew I wouldn’t be hanging out Friday nights when dieting.

-Don’t expect co-workers (or anyone else really) to accept your choice to compete as an excuse for anything. You chose to do this.

S


#14

I will not write a big ass post but I will say this, having done 3 shows now

If your prep feels easy, you could’ve pushed harder

My first two preps were smooth sailing for the most part… I thought I was pretty lean both times…

My 3rd prep I almost cried a few times, I literally felt like death, but I also came in looking better than ever before…

My point? When you think you are “good to go” and the prep starts to get rough but you are near the end of it all (I think most ppl have a harder time from the ~2weeks out mark no matter what) well then you still have a good 2-4weeks that you couldve used to push things further…

During last prep I talked A LOT with aaron (pwrbarboy) about this as I knew he pushes things really far and he felt exactly like I did

So yeah you can have a good smooth prep and come in looking great, but you couldve come in looking even better


#15

[quote]Yogi wrote:

[quote]Spidey22 wrote:

[quote]RATTLEHEAD wrote:

[quote]Yogi wrote:
pwolves that was a really interesting post!

I don’t know how you guys do it. I always tell myself that once I’m happy with how big I am I’ll do a mega, contest prep-esque cut to see if I’ve got the cojones for it, but I keep saying to myself I’m still not big enough.[/quote]

rds63799, is that you?[/quote]

Ohh damn i hope so lol[/quote]

looks like the cat’s out the bag now…

Try to contain your excitement, eh folks?[/quote]

Awesome! Glad to have you back.

Anyway, good info in this thread. The level of dedication to compete is crazy.


#16

My prep was relatively painless, although the last two weeks were a grind. I remember just wanting the whole thing to be over with, questioning why I was even doing it, and generally just wanting to get back to “regular” life where EVERYTHING had to take the prep into account (travel, going out, etc…). The pages in my Indigo log leading up to the contest show some signs of burn out and strength loss, but up until the final 2-3 weeks everything was great.

Having said that I was single, only work 3 days a week, and was taking 60-90 minute naps basically every day and getting 9-10 hours of sleep. The contest was essentially my main focus during that time in my life, I suspect it would be different these days.


#17

[quote]zraw wrote:
I will not write a big ass post but I will say this, having done 3 shows now

If your prep feels easy, you could’ve pushed harder

My first two preps were smooth sailing for the most part… I thought I was pretty lean both times…

My 3rd prep I almost cried a few times, I literally felt like death, but I also came in looking better than ever before…

My point? When you think you are “good to go” and the prep starts to get rough but you are near the end of it all (I think most ppl have a harder time from the ~2weeks out mark no matter what) well then you still have a good 2-4weeks that you couldve used to push things further…

During last prep I talked A LOT with aaron (pwrbarboy) about this as I knew he pushes things really far and he felt exactly like I did

So yeah you can have a good smooth prep and come in looking great, but you couldve come in looking even better[/quote]

Good post Z. I agree with you, if you want to look your absolute best it is going to suck. To clarify/expand on my previous post relating to my own prep experience, I could have pushed my conditioning further than I did. My coach and I made the decision however that at my current level of size/muscularity, pushing to my absolute potential in terms of leannest would have hurt my overall look and cost me size, giving me sort of an “overdieted” or stringy look. To be honest, I think I was getting to that point by my last show of the year. For a guy like you though who’s got 200 plus lbs of muscle, I definitely agree that you should grind it out. When I compete again in a few years, I hope to have added enough size that I can afford to really push the envelope on conditioning.

One question I never asked you and was curious about hearing your opinion on during your prep is in relation to your macronutrient breakdown, mainly your protein intake. I know JM ran your prep and is doing your offseason, and your protein seems super high man! It’s over 400 g a day currently if I remember reading that correctly in your new thread. Obviously you’ve got a lot of muscle to hold onto during prep and will require a higher intake than a less advanced competitor. However, I was curious as to what your philosophy/beliefs on protein requirements are.

Do you think that if you had lowered your protein a little more during your prep it could have allowed you to distribute those calories to more carbs or fat, possibly keeping you feeling a little better or more energized? I hope you don’t take my question as disagreeing with or questioning your and JM’s approach, as your results speak for themselves!


#18

1- How much suffering is acceptable for you precontest?

Hmm, I didn’t suffer much because my calories and carbs started so high that I was able to get lean while still eating a good amount. I think carb intake has a large impact on how crappy people feel. That said, I was willing to suffer if need be and some days definitely weren’t easy, to be cliche, those days are what separates the men from the boys.

2- Has precontest ever negatively affected your Work/School/professional life?

Luckily no, my wife was supportive and I didn’t really ask for any dietary favors from her (she is the main cook for dinner meals) until the final week of prep. I do my own meals for breakfast, lunch, snacks, so as long as I was hitting my macros for those meals, I just enjoyed what my wife made for dinner. I have a desk job so no impact there.

3- Care to share your worst precontest story?

Don’t really have one.

4-What are some ways to mitigate these effects?

I think drinking tons of water can help you feel good even on very low carb days.


#19

Tim I just can’t get over how peeled you are in that avatar!


#20

[quote]Yogi wrote:
Tim I just can’t get over how peeled you are in that avatar![/quote]

Thanks, but I’d gladly give up some of the leanness for more size!