The start of a new journey
In 2009 I competed in the USN body and lifestyle challenge and made it amongst the top four in the country. Next I had my sights set on getting into body building, which never came to be as the opportunity for me to study part time towards my BA in communication science presented itself. Not knowing what to expect I decided to focus on my studies whilst continuing to grow in the gym. Once I had my degree I would resume my attempt to get on stage again.
Soon my training became routine and shifted to the background. Although I saw an improvement in my lifts and gained muscle mass, I also saw in an increase in body fat. This in spite of a relatively healthy lifestyle that tend to go a little South during the weekends.
Studying part time whilst holding down a full time job is not easy. One can quickly lose sight of what’s important to you as your day only really ends at 22:00, not leaving room for much else. There are days when you just have no energy and either opt for a shorter training session or no training session at all. Excuses are easily justifiable, leading to bad habits.
By now I am used to the workload of my part time studies. Sure there are still many challenges, but I’m starting to fall into a groove. The decisionI had made in the beginning to stay fit and eat sensibly had become blurry as goals were shifted very easily.
To break the forming mould of bad habits, I would need to make some changes and challenge myself again.
But a fat loss challenge is something I had done already and attempting another one would not only be incredibly lame, it would be undoubtedly boring. This then brings me to my original plan of getting onto stage, which had me thinking and brainstorming with Johan.
Gareth Cliff interviewed a bunch of fitness athletes and body builders on his show a few weeks back and I will never forget what one of the ladies whom he interviewed said. Well it was not as much as what she said as I heard it before, it was how she put it into practice. She said something along the lines of “If you love something enough, you will find the time to make it work.” As far as I can remember, she was training hard to compete, whilst running two businesses and taking care of her family.
I knew right there and then what I wanted to do and made an appointment to talk to Johan.
PROJECT: BE INCREDIBLE.
I consider any person competing as a fitness athlete or as a bodybuilder as being incredible. Very few people truly understand the amount of dedication and sacrifice that goes into the sport. Instead people associate it with vanity, steroids and aggression as they are poorly informed. Those who rock up at a social event with their grilled chicken and steamed veggies are deemed unsociable. Even those bodybuilders, who are able to fit in socially without braking diet, find that they are not as well invited to gatherings as the rest of the social group they belong to. This because of ignorance…and a bit of jealousy
I’m not a body builder; I’m simply a bit of gym junkie. Sure I supplement and eat sensibly, but not as a body builder. I have a degree of size and masculinity, but don’t have a single digit body fat percentage.
IT ALL STARTS WITH A “WHAT IF?”
How long would it take for me to get into contestant shape and what would the process look like?
Johan and I became excited when we thought about this. As you can see from the before picture, I’m nowhere near being stage ready and to get there would mean loads of hard work and persistence. Johan had successfully coached and trained several athletes thus far and their placings at body building competitions are testament to this. He helped me, after all, to successfully compete in the USN body and lifestyle challenge. Most “challenges” have a before and after picture with the emphasis being on fat loss and the time it took to achieve it. Our focus will be on complete transformation and the detailed documentation thereof. There will be immediate results but all will not happen overnight – it is a long term project.
THE BOTTOM LINE
As from 1 August 2013 I started to behave like a body builder. That means training, feasting and supplementing like one based on Johan’s coaching and using Pro Nutrition supplements. The immediate goal is for me to get as lean as possible whilst attempting to add some muscle mass. Once I’m lean enough,my body composition will be evaluated and adjustments made. During the time it takes for me to get to into contestant shape I will post regular blogs with pictures, audio and video to document my journey. By doing this Johan and I hope to achieve the following:
- Show exactly what it is body builders and fitness athletes have to endure to get into contestant shape. You need not have an interest in the sport to share in the inspiration that may benefit your life in other ways. It is, after all, about the universal principals of hard work, dedication, will power and never giving up.
- Clear up any misconceptions people may have about the sport and try to do weed out some of the stigma’s associated.
- Prove that there is no other way other than a proper diet and training program to get a healthy, lean body.No quick fixes, no “magic potions” and no funny gimmics.
- Motivate those who are constantly finding excuses not to get into shape and live a healthier lifestyle, by proving that if you put your mind to it that anything is possible. Remember that I’m holding down a full time job and still study part time. I’m deviating from my original plan of waiting till my studies are completed by acting now to prove this point to myself.
- Prove how incredible the human body really is and how much potential it holds.
- Have fun of course!
By the time you read this I will be well into my third of fourth week of the program. The first progress blog will thus follow by the end of August with pictures of my progress and details of how much body fat I have lost and if I have gained muscle mass.
Johan and I therefore hope you will join us on this exciting journey. Hopefully it will inspire you to become incredible as well.
We started Bernard on a high Protein moderate Carb and low Fat diet i.e – 240grams of protein , 155grams of carbs and 30 grams of healthy fats – with one cheatmeal per week – we will do bodyfat evaluations every 2 weeks initially and will adjust his diet accordingly if relevant. He is currently doing 4-5 weight training sessions per week and 2-3 cardio sessions per week.He already showed improvement after 2 weeks although he had a bout of flu which was a temporary setback. His skinfold measurements came down with 5millimetres with not even a full 2 weeks of training .
MONTH ONE: ADAPTING TO CHANGE
The Journey so far.
I am a different person to what I was a month ago. 3Kg lighter, 1.2% leaner and rocking gym like never before. My muscles seem fuller, harder and thicker, whist my waist has become smaller. By looking at me you would think that I had lost more than 3kg.
But it wasn’t all fun and games. There were some challenges, as is the case with anything worth pursuing.
Challenge number one came during the first week when I came down with the flu. This meant no training which caused my appetite to dip, dragging my motivation and excitement with it. Johan suggested I keep my protein intake high and carb portions low, which was not easy as I was not hungry, but I managed. Cravings set in very quickly which was difficult to control as I felt very sorry for myself. Nothing was happening, so why suffer? Give in, get well and start over, right?
Lucky for me the voice of reason got the upper hand and I rode it out, knowing how illness messed with self control. My decision to skip the first two cheat meals because of my low activity made me very unpopular with myself, but it had to be done. There was no time for a bed rest day as deadlines were everywhere. Neither could I take any supplementation as I was on flu meds. For more than a week this went on, annoying me more than anything else.
The first gym session after that was very light and I was taken aback by the amount of premature fatigue I had experienced. The next day was a little better and things picked up relatively quickly after that, going full throttle in week three. I was excited again as I was sure to see greater results than what I did during my first follow up measurements, which wasn’t bad considering the little work I had done.
Week four was a bit of a disappointment for both me and Johan when my body fat remained the same than the previous measure, in spite of my increased activity. We sat down and made some adjustments to my diet, lowering my carb and protein intake. The results of this were evident the next week when Johan recorded a drop in my body fat.
Better gym sessions
In spite of the fact that I was taking less carbs, I found my gym sessions to be pretty awesome! This because of the increase in protein I was taking. The first difference I noticed was the prolonging of muscle fatigue, causing me to push harder. By the end of August I saw an increase of load in all my lifts, including the heavy ones. Logic prepared me for the opposite because of my lower calorie intake. Surprise indeed and what a nice one at that.
Sometimes getting started was hard because I was tired and sore. But then the Pump and Cut kicked in, leaving me stunned at how much I had achieved by the end of the gym session, which surprised me even more as I’m not a morning’s person. Getting up at 04:30 for training was (and still is) a mission, but was easier as I slept better at night due to my body’s desperate need for rest. A proper shut down, if you may.
90% diet and the rest will follow. Fact.
Now, more than ever, I believe this because of my productive gym sessions. My body is getting exactly what it needs. In the past I would have on and off days when it came to training. Now it is a case of more on than off. All because of my diet.
My colleagues still find it hard to believe that I am on diet, as I eat like an animal. Three full meals during my working day. Seven in total per day, including two protein shakes. What puzzles them even more is the fact that I’m shredding fat in spite of my constant feeding.
Getting around the fact that I had to eat so much and preparing all that food was another obstacle I managed to get over. It was odd measuring everything in the beginning, but I got used to it. My wife has been very supportive here so far, helping me to prepare everything and doing it herself during the times when I was pressurised by deadlines. I’m not going to lie, planning the meals can be painful, especially if you are planning a weekend away, but it is the only way. The diet works and I have gained great respect for it.
The best part is that I’m full most of the time. Sure, I still get cravings, but I am able to cope with them very effectively. I had expected a diet similar to the one I followed during the challenge and was quite shocked to see how much I had to eat. Don’t get me wrong, I have full confidence in Johan, but found it hard to grasp how I was going to shred body fat with all this food. But I have so far and I do get hungry at times, more so closer to feeding time.
TO CHEAT OR NOT TO CHEAT
This remains a topic of discussion for many and everyone seems to have an opinion on this. My view is that it all depends on the individual. Are you morbidly obese? Do you suffer from an eating disorder? Are you at a point in your life where you desperately need to make a change, but will be easily derailed by a cheat meal? It also depends on how you view a cheat meal. Is it a way of rewarding yourself for good behaviour?
For me it is nothing more than one meal where I can enjoy whatever I feel like and I do this on a Friday night. I love Fridays (oaky, so who doesn’t) and nothing blows my hair back more than taking a break from everything, including my diet, whilst enjoying the Friday night movie. It is like a reset button. For me it is not a reward – my reward is seeing results. It is why I do, what I do, after all.
Bear in mind that a cheat meal does not give you Carte Blanch and cleaning out your local KFC is sure to destroy all your hard work in one big chomp. There are limits, wheatear you like it or not. Personally for me and my wife fired foods in general are a no-no. So are cream cakes or anything else that is calorie dense. Both of us find fatty meats disgusting and only consume sugar free soft drinks.
For the time being I’m enjoying my cheat meals – guilt free – until such time when I’m not allowed them anymore
So, I’m well into month two, felling like a million bucks and looking better with my clothes on, but not quite yet like a body builder without.
In my next blog, during the first week in October, I will focus on how a diet such as this affects you socially. Believe me, it does.
Till then. Keep lifting!
After 1 month, Bernard has already shown good improvement – he has lost 7millimetres in skinfold measurements over the last month and his bodyfat came down from 14,4% to 13,2%.
We have adjusted his diet according to his results and made a decrease in his carbohydrate intake to about 110g as well as a slight decrease in his protein intake , but overall we are quite pleased with the results and project be incredible is going strong !
On the 26th of October his stats has improved as follow : He dropped another 4 millimetres of skin measuremant al the way down to 68mm from previous 72 millimetres and the initial 79 millimetres.
THAT WHICH IS IMPORTANT
September was an odd month.Rewarding in certain ways, but odd.If anything, it taught me the importance of re-evaluation which I would like to focus on in this blog. Yes, I was going to talk about surviving the social event whilst being on diet, but opportunity calls.
The Month so far.
The last of my assignments were due during the first week in September, which left the rest of the month open before I would start preparing for the exams in October. I had therefore planned to do those things I’ve been putting off and focusing on intensifying my training program.
Then things just started to happen and everything became a juggling act. A personal issue that lay dormant for a while now decided to surface and demanded my full attention. I’m not going to bore you with all the details, but the bottom line is that my corneas are failing me. When I got the news I was like “great, let’s get this over and done with so I can get new ones and see better!” Now it came to light (pardon the pun) that the chances of a successful transplant are not that great as I have other eye conditions that may cause complications. This is not to say that it will happen. However, I am slowly going blind and the chances of that being permanent is a reality.
Corneas are tricky things. First you have to deal with chance that the transplant might not be successful. If it is (and for me this is the worst part) the success could be short lived. There are cases where the body rejected the transplant only at a later stage after the procedure. This means that the new transplant may bring years of better vision only to be rejected by the body later on. I know, right!
I needed an outlet and decided that my training sessions would be it. An hour where I could forget about everything and direct my frustration and anger towards better lifts, leaving me too tired afterwards to worry about these issues. That was until I got sick…..again!
Living in George means having to put up with chronic sinusitis. Drs say that this is because of the fluctuating weather and constant berg wind conditions, which was the worst this year. On occasion (which had been frequent since May) it would cause upper airway infection, presentingitself in flue like symptoms.
It started to flare up again shortly before my wife and I took a planned “mini” break away, but subsided a day after we were out of the region. You can imagine my relief as the place we stayed at had a communal gym (which mainly catered for cardio junkies) and this meant that I could put in a session or two. As soon as we got back, so did the symptoms, which got worse. The Dr booked me off and gave me another dose of antibiotics. One more week of training was lost and it took me another two weeks to get back to where I was load wise.
Did I contemplate throwing in the towel? Yes, the thought did cross my mind a few times. Not because of the bouts of flue, but because of my deteriorating eyesight. I couldn’t stop my mind from reminding me of all the things I would be missing out on should I go blind. Instead of spending all that time preparing for next year I could do those things I might not fully benefit from in future. Things like going to the beach after work, followed by a long dinner and not having to worry about turning in early for gym the next morning. Going on more frequent trips, not having to worry about planning meals beforehand and missing out on gym sessions.Watching as MANY movies as I can, because God knows I’m going to miss watching moving pictures on wall the most.
I could do all those things, but then I would be giving up. Failing.Of all the things I’m not good at, failing has to be right up there with any of my attempts to either fix or build something. This is something I want to do, even if it means competing once off.
In spite of the setbacks, I still managed to shed another 3kgs. The best part is that most of it is happening around my waist. People are noticing and the first thing they usually comment on is my shrinking waistline. This is a big deal for me. With the challenge the scale moved quickly and I literally shrunk as the main goal was fat loss. Now fat loss is definitely happening, but I’m retaining muscle and one can argue that I’m adding mass as well, judging from the fat percentage to scale measurement ratio. Because I’m not completely glycogen depleted, my muscles seemfuller and healthier.
My metabolism is on fire as I’m hungrier more often. In the beginning I struggled to eat everything I was supposed to but now I cannot wait for the next meal. The best part of the day is just before I go to bed when I have some nuts and a protein shake. Not only does it help with preventing protein break down and promoting natural testosterone, it is also an instant mood lifter. This also helps with my cravings which have intensified with my appetite, testing my willpower and focus. Because there is progress and because my mind tells me that the stage lights are still some time into the future, I tend to get tempted more easily. During the challenge I chose to ignore it, because of time constraints. Now I’m forced to face them, which is prompting me towards gradual habit change. It is not happening overnight, but my attitude towards nutrition is definitely changing and my approach to bulking after all this will be a different one, meaning less carbs, more protein. Johan and I came to realize very early in the diet that my body needed little carbs. Even now, after an extended period on lower portions, I’m coping well. Maybe my tolerance will be better once I’m in contestant shape, but I will seriously rethink my portion sizes afterwards. I’m not planning on making the same mistakes I made after the challenge.
All of this will be tested during December when things wind down and I take some time off to spend with my wife and family. I’m curious to see how what I’ve learnt so far will affect my behaviour during the moth where all the wheels tend to come off at the same time. A safeguard that is likely to play an important role will be my desire to compete next year. I’m hoping it will shape the way I approach the silly season. Again, it is about tweaking certain habits and changing others.
The next two months.
Final exams are approaching fast and I’m sure you’ll forgive me for keeping the next two blogs short and sweet. You will, however, be updated on my progress.
Until next time.
Keep lifting. Keep improving.
MONTH THREE (and a half, if you will)
THE STRATEGY CHANGER
THE MONTH SO FAR
I just could not get enough sleep during the month of October. Work, exam preparations and one crazy week during which my wife had to help with hosting an international seminar kept me occupied for most of the time. At a drop of hat I had to help with taking photographs at the evening events, which never ended before midnight. I’m not complaining, it was great fun as I got to meet interesting people, but I did miss my sleep.
Training wise things started to get stale and the scale lingered at 84.5kgs for two weeks straight. There had been no noticeable differences as well and I had to do something. Tweaking my training program to include more aggressive finishers seemed like the right thing to do. A week and half later I managed to shed 1.5kg, along with my will to live. Sure, I looked better, leaner and fuller but was thrashed. Murphy was up to his old tricks again and got me in a choke hold a day before I wrote my first exam paper. At this stage I’m not able to say if my training fix or the exam stress was the problem. Chances are it could have been both, but I’ve made a decision not to diet during an exam period again as my body took one hell of a beating.
Because of this, I will have no other choice but to be stage ready by March next year if I want to compete. My progress so far has been good, but I have not reached my set goals because of the setbacks I have had. For me to even consider starting preparations for any show I need to be at 9.3% body fat. Even then, I will have to put in everything to be stage ready. Right now I am at 10.6%
ENTER THE SILLY SEASON
Yearend functions, a big birthday party, an anniversary, family over during December who love to feast – no really, with all due respect and lots of love, they can eat, Christmas day and of course New year’s eve. 9.3% Body fat (or less) after that or a nothing. You get the picture.
My wife and I will have some leave in December during which I thought it good to take a proper break, something which I haven’t had in a long time. My idea of taking a break has to involve breaking daily routine. This way I am able to disconnect from my busy lifestyle and give my body the rest it needs. Of course there will be workouts and a sensible diet, but they are scheduled around leisure activities. That was the idea I had for December, but with more sensible diet and workouts. Supplement brown rice and oats with variations now and then, such as full grain bread or fruit, for example. You know, moderation
Unfortunately that is something which is not going to stick.
Single digit body fat by 1 Jan 2014 requires a new strategy. One that requires me to be in shape, but to be rested at the same time as next year will be a huge challenge. For this to happen I will need a mind-set change. Now remember, this is not about losing a few kilos and keeping it off, this is about body building. The diet, compared to a normal fat loss diet, is 100% more strict and becomes insane closer to competition time. Eating healthy simply does not cut it on its own; it is all about eating what is right to get into contest shape. Believe me, it takes everything out of you.
One of the reasons for doing this project is that I want a lifestyle change. An opportunity to eliminate the mistakes I made after the challenge. Maybe the idea I had for this December had all the right intentions to make it work, but my method might have been flawed, layered with the same traps I got caught in before. The situation I’m in now not only reminds me of the goal I have for next year, it presents an immediate crucial must, forcing me to change my thinking.
Christmas day and New Year’s Eve will be the only two free days I will have until I have competed. For the rest of the time I will have to find a way to make my time off work without breaking routine. If I get this right, I will have successfully learnt to manage the food equation that supposedly has to be present during a good time. A lesson that will stand me in good stead for the rest of my life.
Now you know why my blog is so late this month and for this reason I will only post again by middle December. I have two more modules to write and cannot wait to get it over and done with.
To manage my progress more closely, Johan and I have decided to do weekly measurements. In the meantime I have added PRO Nutrition TestoBoost to my supplementation and have included additional Zinc as well to help with recovery. This seems to be working like a charm as I feel much better, adding my workouts and keeping me focused.
It is not easy, but the reward is great. If I can do it, so can you.
MONTH FOUR (AND FIVE)
Consistency is the only permanent change.
THE JOURNEY SO FAR
People still ask me why I call it ‘Project: Be Incredible’? My answer is still the same, although my journey so far has enforced my outlook tenfold.
Simply put, I think body builders and fitness athletes are incredible people. The amount of effort, agony, hard work, dedication and sacrifice that goes in almost does not justify the short time they have to show off what they’ve achieved. Yet, they still do this, because it is their passion. Crazy, perhaps, but a nice kind of crazy.
My journey so far has been eye opening and I’m still only at the starting line.
November was yet another difficult month as I had to deal with exam stress, work and push for single digit body fat.
Pass all modules for this semester – check and throw in a distinction as well.
Achieve single digit body fat – check. 9.8%. Not 9.3%, but I’m not complaining.
By now you would have figured that this is not one of those radical transformation programs. Shedding 4.8% body fat over a four and half month period is good, but not infomercial good. However, I achieved exactly what I wanted to, which is to lose the flab and pack on some muscle. The last time I weighed 82kg, I looked small and wimpy, like those Twilight characters, minus the stupid good looks of course . This time around things are different. I’m bigger, stronger and starting to look like a body builder. Right now I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been since high school.
You would have also noticed that the progress photographs are not the most flattering. This is deliberate and I will continue to do so to show real change happening. No lighting tricks, no tan and no gimmicks, just real progress. There are no quick fixes in life. No diet pill on its own will get you thin, no supplement will get you big and strong – you need to work at it for things to happen.
In a recent article posted by on T-Nation entitled ‘Find your fight’ (http://www.t-nation.com/powerful-words/find-your-fight) Nate Miyaki talks about identifying the reason for doing what you’re doing. In other words, figuring out what it is you are fighting for. Even if you are not into sports, you should read this as it will change your life. It made me look at things in a different light, which brings me to New Year’s resolutions.
It is nothing more than a setup for failure. You are caught up in the magic of the moment, your belly full of holiday food and your mind a haze because of the doctored fruit punch. It is then that you make promises to yourself (and friends) that are impossible to keep. When you can’t deliver, your end up hating yourself and your friends see you as untrustworthy and weak. The first part of the problem is that you have not done sufficient planning, or maybe the planning is unrealistic. The second part is the fact that you “are going on a diet and must therefore embrace your last moments of freedom”. For this reason you scoff down whatever you can lay your hands on without a care in the world.
Come the New Year, your lack of planning backfires on you putting you on the wrong side of square one. It sucks, badly.
People say that fat loss is impossible during December, which in a sense is true, but if your goal in the New Year is to get into shape, nothing is stopping you from starting now. I’m not saying you should dive into a training and weight loss program head first. Simply start by making some tweaks.
It is about not going for that second or third helping of Christmas pudding. Having a piece of fruit when you feel like something sweet instead of eating candy every time. Cutting down on junk food and replacing sugar drinks with alternatives.
If all of this sounds like too much effort, you need not bother making new year’s resolutions about losing weight and keeping it off, because you will fail. I’m qualified to say this, because I’ve been there. The only way you will succeed is to make lifestyle changes. Baby steps if you must. Make mistakes, but learn from them.
If you do this, January might not hold a promise of a thinner you, but chances are you won’t be heavier than you already are and no matter how you look at it, it is sure to be a win. Besides, if you have been able to successfully change a habit or two, January will be easier to face and your life will change for the better.
There are many articles floating around about how to save yourself from the silly season bulge – some good, others really silly. For me though, it is about not going back to where I came from. It’s not about obsessing over things, but understanding consequences. Appreciating the tremendous amount of hard work I have put in and not pissing it away to satisfy immediate needs.
Sure the silly season has many tricks up its sleeve and there will be times when you get caught up in the festivities. Trick is not to hate yourself too much. You are, after all, allowed to have a good time. The following seem to help for me and maybe they will benefit you too.
- Don’t break your eating patterns. If possible ever. You know how much you need to eat and need to do so. Compensate, whenever necessary, with meal replacements if need be, but try to minimise this. Solid food is king.
- Make sure you have eaten before going to a party and take food with you if you know it is going to be marathon. Eating beforehand is something many people recommends and it does help. Complex carbs, loads of protein and fibre. Game biltong, smoked chicken breasts or any other form of lean protein works fine during the party if people are not intending on eat early. Protein shakes work just as fine, although you will be admired more by your pot belly friends if you scoff down lumps of lean meat instead.
- If all else fails and the gates of hell cannot keep you, you need to get up, dust yourself off and go on with your life. Don’t obsess, but if a pattern forms you need to be honest with yourself and take steps.
- Enjoy yourself and don’t be wet blanket. Your choice, remember?
The next time you’ll hear from me will be by end of January. By then I will be in full preparation mode. Training wise I’m hoping to do more aggressive conditioning work and am working on getting some ropes and a truck tyre. Cheat meals will be replaced by carb cycling. Fat loss is sure to be more radical and I’m aiming for at least 5% body fat.
Until then. Have a very blessed festive season.
Keep on lifting.
A New Year brings new perspective.
2014 started with a bang and it is hard to believe that we are a month and half into it all ready, considering the amount of work done up till now. This is going to be a year where things happen at a fast pace, that’s for sure.
I did exactly what I said I wasn’t going to do over the festive season, which is to take a break. I had to and am glad I did. Competition prep wise it may have caused a setback but was a personal victory at the same time. Let me explain.
Usually I go ballistic over December. I’m ashamed to say it, but it is the truth. This time around, things were different. I partied, had a good time, but didn’t stuff myself…well, except for Christmas day. Yes, the desert was that good!
Even though my training was scaled down, I still trained on a regular basis, especially Christmas morning as I knew I was going to feast. Regular meals helped me not to overindulge and if food was a problem for some reason, I made sure I had a protein shake or bar.
Physically I could see that I wasn’t as lean but my work trousers still fit me perfectly. In the past I had to make adjustments to my belt, which wasn’t necessary at all this time. The bit I gained took me nothing more than three weeks to shed, which could have been less had I trained at the intensity level I do now. The funny thing is that fear for not being stage ready was not so much a motivator. Honestly, I was too tired to care really. Fear of going back again to where I came from dominated instead and I had to prove to myself that I could have a good time without going overboard, which I did.
That’s the one side of the coin. The other part being that I really want to try and compete in more than one competition and have my sights set on two more in June and one in July. If I pull this off, it will mean dieting and pushing myself in the gym for a full year. A short break was justified. My diet and training regime does not only affect me; it affects my wife as well. If we go out to dinner, which is more the exception than the rule, it has to be diet friendly. If we both had a stressful, hard day, the option of getting take away and enjoying a glass of wine together is not there anymore and she still helps me to prepare my meals. Now that I’m stuck in my books again and have looming assignment deadlines, she does that on her own. My wife needed the break just as much, if not more. Without her, I would not have been able to carry the load.
Question is, will I be ready for April? I don’t know. Physically I’m in the best shape I’ve been since school days. Heck, I haven’t seen my six-pack since the age of 16, so you can imagine my excitement when I saw traces of it starting to appear. However, this is not nearly enough for getting on stage. I know that and am putting everything in as I really want to compete in April. If not though, I will accept it. If I’m close to being ready I will compete to break the ice and focus on the rest of the shows.
Keep it in first gear. The month so far.
Throughout January I’ve systematically increased my cardiovascular activity. I managed to get my hands on a huge used Grader tyre which serves as finisher after a gym session for 2-3 times a week, doing tyre flips. Sometimes I replace these sessions with sprints and for a while included swimming as well, but had to stop since my right rotator cuff is at it and I’m trying to avoid injury. I combine this with weighted, body or resistance band complexes and spinning.
Nutrition wise things remain the same for now, except for two adjustments.
Cheat meals are a thing of the past. They have become carb up days, where I’m allowed a little bit of fruit, limited rice cakes, or simply more of the carbs allowed in my diet. With that I’m allowed some lean steak or pork.
The second tweak, which ties in with the first, is carb cycling. Two consecutive low carb days and one carb up day during the week. During carb depletion days I up my protein and healthy fat intake, which helps with hunger, but does nothing for the fatigue I experience. Believe me these two days are hell as I feel horrible. This is the reason why I have moved my training days around to make Friday, which is the second carb depletion day, my off day as I don’t get much done lifting wise. Thursdays consists of two cardio sessions – an overall HIT session with either resistance bands, body weight or weighted complexes in the morning and spinning work in the afternoon.
Carb up days are fun, until my metabolism reacts to the shock and has me hungry like a bear coming out of hibernation. I trick my metabolism even more by replacing regular carbs with other acceptable carbs, maintaining nutrient limits of course. Instead of oatmeal I will have Tasty wheat, for example. This seems to be working incredibly well for me and I will continue to do so until I see a measurement slow down.
Speaking of which. Currently I weigh 79kgs and my body fat is at 8.7%. At this stage I’m seeing an average of 3mm reduction every week. People are now really noticing that I’m getting leaner and compliment me on this. I accept it, but don’t bask in it as I have done the weight loss thing before. What really strikes me though is that people say that I look really healthy. Even my GP, whom I saw last week for yet another severe sinusitis infection, remarked that I looked very healthy. According to him my body does not bare any stress signs – something he seems to be seeing a lot when it comes to other athletes. Again, I firmly believe it is the diet I’m on. More solid food and less supplements.
Diet and socialising.
Took me a while, but I’m finally getting to this.
Imagine a big family get together. Food, drink and generally a good time. Then there’s you, the dieter – starved, tired and because you are carb depleted, a little grumpy. Yet, you want to be part of the occasion, but no matter how hard you try, you don’t seem to blend in completely. As silly as this seems, it is because you do not partake in the same “activities as they do. You have no other choice but to bring your own food, so you don’t eat what they eat. Usually you will enjoy a drink with the guys. Now you don’t and although it is not an issue, it does feel a little odd.
Everyone is having a good time and dinner is still only a thought because snacks are aplenty (Barry, ons gaan nou braai). Now, more than ever, feeding on schedule is crucial. You have no other choice but to do so without everyone, only to sit and watch people stuffing their faces with all sorts of treats much later, whilst you have to fight off endless cravings and the need to sleep. You try your utmost best not to be irritable, but your body language is a dead giveaway.
Some people feel guilty for indulging whilst you starve and others are threatened by your persistence. Sometimes the host tries to make compromises to accommodate you, whilst others are not familiar with the diet process and can simply not understand why you won’t eat their food – especially if they went out of their way to prepare “healthy” stuff.
Because of this some athletes embrace the principal of “you are the company that you keep” literally and tend to weed out “problem friends” so they don’t have to deal with issues like this. Personally I think choosing your friends wisely will stand you in good stead, but it has to be for the right reasons and this is not one of them. Life is way too short and there are too many interesting people out there to be doing something like this. How do you cope then? I’m no expert, but have found that the following works for me.
- I have learnt to accept the fact that I will be in an environment that isn’t diet friendly and move on. My choice, my goal, my problem. No one else’s.
- Feeding before I go is non-negotiable and will
- If at all possible, I make sure to get some rest in beforehand.
- If the host does not know me and my situation, I phone prior to the visit and explain that I will bring my own food.
- Before supper people will snack and there is no reason why I can’t as well. Carrots, cucumbers or venison biltong may not be as exciting as the cheese bites, but I’m engaging in the same activity, which is snacking. The same goes for drinking. Sometimes I’ll start off with an energy drink and move on to calorie free soft drinks.
- A braai is dead easy as your main source is protein and can you impress your mates by slapping a whopper of a venison (or beef if you are cheating) steak on the grill which is sure to be the biggest, overshadowing the side salad that is reason for mockery.
- Watching everyone enjoy pudding afterwards is just wrong. Up until now I had to endure this, but not anymore since discovering alternatives, such as calorie free jelly and muscle mouse (recopies are on the site). I make sure to bring mine with and am therefore able to enjoy desert with the rest of the crowd.
- If I see that dinner is going to be a midnight affair, I handle the situation according to the crowd and circumstance. A first time braai with new friends might call for an early, polite exit, blaming the morning’s squats or something. If it is people I know, my approach will be different, without upsetting proceedings or being a pain. Fortunately I haven’t had such a situation in a very long time. Most of our friends seem to be beyond the phase of boozing and braaing in the early morning hours.
Like I said, these are things that work for me. Maybe you have other ideas, but need to remember that is not all about you and if you act this way, you will lose friends. People should admire what you do and not be put off by it, because of your attitude. What you do may be extraordinary, but this does not make you superior and you will be perceived a tool if you act accordingly. Finally, remember that people dislike wet blankets and you don’t want to chronically fit that profile.
The next blog will be my second last one before the competition in April. Will I stay or will I go? Time is running out and things are about to get incredibly unreal. I promise to tell you all about it.