T Nation

Rob's 2017 Contest Prep Thread


Props to you for the dedication! Knowing only that you’re training so early 3x a week, if that were my schedule, I’d do a full body routine, and have a rest day between each session. At the very least I would slug a Metabolic Drive protein shake on the way to the gym. If you’re able to have a Mag-10 or Plazma, even better. Training fasted isn’t the worst thing, and if you at least have BCAA or a protein shake before the gym will help preserve muscle. Everyone is different, some people can train fasted and have good strength and performance. Personally, I perform much better with some fuel in me.


I was just recently looking for this answer. John recommended moving more calories to dinner and an intraworkout with carbs and protein (big shocker there) if you’re going to train fasted AM.


About the only thing I really notice at this point is whether or not I have a good meal before going to bed, I don’t lack for energy if I have a good sized, well rounded meal, other than that it is simply getting used to it, once that happens your golden. The body will adapt to whatever you tell it to and will do its best to perform for you. One warning, it is tough to go back to training in the afternoon after doing it early for awhile haha feel like you waste a whole day waiting to train.

Edit: Appreciate the tag, and hope that you enjoy the morning routine!


Carby drink pre- or intra- workout? Something like 30g carbs, 10g EAAs or whatever.

If you don’t feel like you need it then I wouldn’t worry too much about it.


General reply - I’ve been doing IF as well, so that makes the BCAA discussion moot.

But, I think I am going to go back to hitting the gym after work so I can do IF, work out fed, and start living a normal life - something other than going to bed at seven at night.


I will never train fasted. I may not always get to eat what or as many meals as I’d like, but if I’m not feeling strong and focused it won’t be a decent session no matter how many pre-workout supplements or protocols I take.



How long do you feel it takes you to hit a “fasted” state? My schedule typically has me eating a solid meal at about 8-8:30 and then hitting the rack, training again at 0330-0345. I’ve felt good energy and good weights have been moved, I’m simply curious.


Had appointments with two specialists this week. Got bloodwork done already focusing on my thyroid, and a more extensive testosterone panel coming up next week that’ll check LH, FSH, Prolactin, etc. Got a call from the endo today who got my thyroid panel back and wants to talk about thyroid therapy as my TSH levels came back at the same 3.8. Based on my morning testosterone numbers, both specialists feel test isn’t the issue. Since hypothyroidism and low testosterone symptoms are very similar, seems so far like thyroid is the culprit, but will know definitively after the next test panel. Small steps forward and hopefully will get it all figured out soon!


This is discussed ad nauseam in the TRT thread - most docs miss it. There’s a bunch of threads about using iodized salt, taking your temperature throughout the day, etc…

Keep being Rob!


Thanks for the input! I’ve been reading more of those lately. Last year I switched to using iodized salt and noticed a difference. Couple weeks ago I also started a 250mcg daily iodine supplement and notice a positive change in energy levels. I haven’t taken my temp daily though, I do notice that anytime I get it checked at the doctor it’s usually a little low.


Been a busy couple weeks here. Two weeks ago my oldest dog, my golden girl, who often liked to make a cameo in my prep update pics, passed. She was 13 and a few months, lived a wonderfully full and happy life. Still sucks. Last week I chaperoned a trip with my wife and her middle school to Hershey Park for an overnight, lots of fun, and this weekend recorded an album with the swing I play with. Back to business!

Training and nutrition has been going well. Since I started going to the doctors to see what’s up with my hormones, I’ve been eating at what I roughly calculate to be maintenance calories. I’m not counting cals or macros, but after enough years of it, I know about where I’m at. Typically 2300-2500 cals a day, around 250g carbs and 80g fats, the rest protein. I made a conscious effort to raise saturated and heathy fats, and get more carbs as well, and have been feeling better. Additionally, what’s interesting to note, is my weight hasn’t changed. I am 155lbs this morning, looking tight and the usual bloating I notice is gone. I’ve been doing everything I can naturally to increase my thyroid and testosterone, including:

-Supplementing with iodine
-Switching from ZMA to Elite Pro Minerals
-Started a bottle of Tribex I had in the cabinet
-Raising saturated and healthy fats, and carbs
-Less cruciferous veggies, as too many can hinder thyroid hormone.
-Gluten free, with the exception of Ezekiel bread as it’s too healthy and delicious to eliminate. I usually only have 2 pieces of Ezekiel bread or an Ezekiel English muffin with breakfast, the rest of my carbs are fruit, rice, potato, Finibars, and incidentals from veggies and nuts. I don’t have IBS, but it is very rampant in my immediate family, and I noticed last year when I went gluten free, with the exception of Ezekiel bread in the morning, and also eliminated dairy, I was tight consistency and didn’t have bloating. I still eat dairy, but only in the form of grass fed cheese which has no lactose, no more cottage cheese.

I’m going back to cutting this week in an effort to lose just a few more pounds for summer, but will not be going as hard as I have in the past with cutting, and am not sticking to a hard meal plan. I’m auto regulating, doing cardio a few days a week, and I’ll see where that gets me.

Hormone update - last week I saw an endo and urologist. Both feel that testosterone is not an issue, after seeing my morning total and free testosterone. To be sure, the urologist ordered a more extensive panel which I had done this morning, including LH, FSH, Estradiol, Prolactin, Free and Total test.

The endo thinks it might be thyroid related, and I had thyroid blood work done last week, including TSH, TPO, T4, and vitamin D. Everything came back normal, with the exception of my TSH again, which came back at 3.55, the week before it was 3.8. After seeing that, I received a call last week from the endo for me to come in this week, and talk about thyroid therapy. That appointment is tomorrow morning, interested to hear what she thinks.

Another interesting note - I’ve mentioned earlier than I wonder if prepping has any long term negative effects on hormones. I will preface this by saying I believe this is highly individualized, as some folks feel the effects of prepping more than others. But, I looked up earlier blood work records from late 2013, 3 years before I started competing, my TSH was normal at 1.8, and my testosterone was the same as it is now based on my morning labs. Fast forward to 2016, my first year competing, my TSH was up to 2.8. Now, a year out of competing, it’s at 3.8, without prepping. Is 2 years of prepping and competing a cause of this? Who knows, there’s no way to know. I do find it odd that there’s been such a drastic change in thyroid production in a relatively short amount of time in a healthy, non-obese male of my age.


Extreme calorie restriction and/or sustained high stress can unearth previously dormant disease.

Knew a woman with all normal thyroid numbers losing weight at a moderate deficit. Then her husband left her, like disappeared in the middle of the night. Needless to say she was stressed about it for months. Next checkup she had crazy numbers and ended up being diagnosed with Graves and Hashimotos.


@Robstein, wondering if you experienced this and why it happens. Using refeeds as a way to help with water retention. I was listening to a podcast and it was mentioned how with some clients this coach implements different refeed set ups, water retention issues being one of them. @The_Mighty_Stu care to weigh in?


The rationale behind refeeds can be an attempt to prevent hormonal downshift, metabolic slow down, or in the case of water retention (and the whole insulin vs cortisol angle), sometimes coax the body into flushing the bit of water that may be masking true fat loss.

Now, everyone is slightly different, and as I’ve mentioned somewhere (another thread? I lose track -lol) when Rob was prepping, he was a very busy individual. Constantly juggling a lot of concerns and commitments can be stressful, and as we’ve all most likely heard, Cortisol is a “stress hormone”. What that means is that high cortisol levels can prompt higher than normal water retention… See where I’m going here?

I was fortunate enough to get to see how Rob’s body responded to his first season competing, so that during his second, we had some very good ideas of what worked, what didn’t, and hopefully, why. This was around the time I started calling Rob AQUA-MAN, because he was very susceptible to water retention, which was the topic of many of our daily pow-wows during his preps.

What we realized was that we needed to manage his stress (hence his cortisol levels). So we leaned more on LISS than HIT cardio, and paid careful attention to various dietary factors as well (I’d detail everything, but then I’d have to charge you -lol).



Thanks for sharing this story. I’m concerned that’s what happened here, especially after seeing my previous TSH numbers from 2013.


While we’re on the subject of refeeds, I heard something on a podcast by Dr Scott Stevenson (whom I love! The man is a genius in the literal sense) on the subject. He was talking about Skiploading’s (which is a very high carb, practically zero-fat carb refeed popularised by Ken “Skip” Hill - hence “Skiploading”) effect on hormones.

He was saying that the science suggests that it is very unlikely that a day, or even 2 days, of refeeding carbs will have any effect on the hormones (leptin, etc) that a short carb refeed is supposed to improve. That said, we know, because we’ve seen it five thousand million times, that refeeds can be used to get someone well and truly shredded.

The interesting thing about it is that this means that there’s some mechanism we don’t understand going on. While we thought we were fixing out hormones, turns out we were wrong and we don’t know why the hell refeeding works so well - it just does.

And we’ll probably never know why, because no institution is ever going to fund a study where they put people through a contest prep diet complete with a refeed of massive amounts of carbs in order to study how refeeds can get people into the low single-digits of body fat.

I just thought it was interesting, not that there’s any real practical value to the info…


Good question. As Stu mentioned, we approached my second year of competing much differently than my first. Aside from putting less stress on my body from reducing HITT and utilizing more LISS, one big difference was a significantly higher carb intake during my second year of competing, and also making different dietary choices. Once my prep started, I eliminated dairy, and only had 2 slices of EZ bread in the morning and was otherwise gluten free. This helped big time with water retention, I was not “Aqua Man” by any means the way I was the first year. I always notice I seem puffier on a low-carb diet, which could be due to low muscle glycogen, but I didn’t really have any water retaining issues in year 2. I believe this was a combination of higher carbs, and less cortisol (stress.) This is all in my prep log earlier in the thread as well.

Regarding refeeds specifically for water retention, refeeds might react in a couple ways and depends highly on the individual. Some folks with a faster metabolism might look tighter, sooner, than someone else. For example, the morning after a high day or refeed day, my weight would usually be slightly higher than average and I’d hold a little more water, but by the time I got to the gym I’d look much tighter, probably the result of having more muscle glycogen from the carbs. One guy I used to compete with would eat a donut back stage and within 15 minutes I swear he looked bigger and way more vascular, where as I would get puffy from something like that. If your body has high cortisol and has been holding onto some water, a refeed might send a temporary signal that you’re not actually going to die, and you may get rid of some excess water. You’ll really only notice when you’re very lean, or if water retention is an issue for you. The last guy I trained for a show never had water issues, ever (lucky bastard.)

Often times water retention might also be from food choices. Even if someone doesn’t have an allergy to dairy or wheat, I’ve often heard from folks that when they cut those things out, they seem tighter. I don’t have a dairy or wheat issue, but always seem tighter when I don’t consume those items.

And here lies the conundrum! Well said @Yogi1. Ultimately there are a lot of things that we know to be valid based on large amounts of anecdotal evidence, but little scientific evidence because these things aren’t studied. But again, varies quite a bit by individual. Some people need low carb to get lean, some swear by keto. I’m pretty sure my low carbs and keto is what screwed up my thyroid, and if I go too low carb it works against me and I stop leaning out and feel like complete garbage. One very good friend of mine who won the Hercules a few years ago always goes keto about 8 weeks out and gets peeled like an onion.

I think anyone can get down to 8-10% body fat on generally the same principles. After that, you really gotta experiment and see what works.


Hormone Update: Well this is super, DUPER frustrating! Just got my morning labs back from a couple days ago, test was 335, the lowest reading yet.

Afternoon Lab 1 - 383
Morning Lab 2 - 543
Morning Lab 3 - 335

Rest of my numbers:
LH - 3.8 (range 1.7-8.6)
FSH - 3.3 (range 1.5-12.4)
Prolactin - 9.6 (range 4.0-15.2)
Estradiol - 8.3 (range 7.6 - 42.6)

My endo is putting me on a small trial dose of Synthroid. Standard pill is 25mcg, I cut it in half and take 12.5mcg in the morning, for 8 weeks, and we’ll re-evaluate. After this last morning test reading, I made an appointment with the urologist to get this thoughts early next week.


are you sad to be giving up your natty status?


A very interesting question, as I’m consistently wondering lately if I would need to be on any meds in the first place if I never competed, and just stayed in the gym. Although, ultimately, I wouldn’t trade my competitive experience. I’ve learned so much about myself, nutrition, training, balancing life with other obligations, the journey was absolutely incredible and priceless. Keeping in mind I say this currently, where my only tentative medication is a half dose of prescription thyroid meds. If I was seriously injured after years of competing and needed surgery, or multiple prescriptions, I might not feel the same lol.

Anyway, back to your question. Technically, according to WNBF rules, prescription thyroid meds “when used for bodybuilding purposes” are prohibited. I’m not exactly sure how they’d discern what purpose they’re used for. But, if I have a history of documented symptoms with my primary care physician and endo, along with doctor’s notes stating why I’m taking synthroid, I would imagine it would be ok for me to compete. If it turns out I do need to start taking a small dose of testosterone to achieve normal levels, then I’d be officially out of “natty” status, which would not bother me, for a couple reasons.

-As of now, I’m not planning on competing again. Might change in the future, however, I can’t imagine being in a position where I want to put real life responsibilities and family on the back burner for 6 months to get on stage and make myself feel terrible. I’ve become completely content with being lean, not shredded, and after a year in the off season, have very much enjoyed living normally. I still live the lifestyle, which is what I love the most. Consistency in training 5-6 days a week, eating healthy and knowing what and how much I’m eating, and knowing how to eat at family events, have a pizza or drinks or whatever, without deterring me from my goals. Ultimately, it is a priority for me to maintain a lean physique and always look like I train, and I don’t think that’ll change anytime soon.

Disclaimer - no judgement against any assisted readers, I’m just talking about for me!
-I’m taking my trial dose of synthroid because of the symptoms I’ve been feeling that make me feel like I’m still prepping, even though I’m not. My quality of life is not optimal. If the doc feels testosterone is necessary, then I’ll be losing my “natty” status out of necessity for my health and quality of life, not because I want to take a short cut, get bigger, etc. Health is absolutely a number one priority. I’ve put myself through the gauntlet of preps, and I know everything I’ve achieved from my former fat boy days has been 100% hard work and discipline.

So, as I’d officially out of the “natty” world on a low dose of essential hormones to get to normal levels, and to have better health and quality of life, that would not upset me. I’d be quite content as long as I feel better :slight_smile: