The purpose of this article is to be able to understand, in practice, what lies behind the competitive training of a 100% “drug free” athlete.
I’ll take what has been my experience, my first real experience as an athlete in natural bodybuilding, without a trainer behind but simply facing the path with what you have learned up to now and with the knowledge of myself matured after about 7 years of training.
I will write to you about what I did, but above all in the light of everything I would not do again. What were the mistakes that to date I realized I had committed, with the aim of ensuring that you do not commit them in your turn?
Who I am?
I first set foot in the gym in the summer of 2010.
After playing basketball for years, I stopped seeing that my body structure and height would probably never lead me to compete at who knows what level (I was very passionate and competitive a bit like now in bodybuilding) and therefore I started looking for something that could give me a similar sense of gratification, and in which at the same time I could grow exponentially, to try to become a competitive figure over time.
I found all this in the XBOX and then I became an inveterate online nerd … .. Seriously (in reality I have been nerd bad for years but this does not fit anything), one day I joined the gym a bit as many do at the beginning, for pastime.
That pastime briefly became a real pleasure and daily stimulus and without many schemes, programs, calorie counts, etc. I went from 59kg x 177cm tall to 72-73kg within a year.
I had literally transformed my body (” noobie gains ” as they would say overseas).
So I continued, starting to deepen more and more everything that revolved around training in the gym and nutrition, totry to achieve the best possible result without using doping drugs.
Now I don’t want to tell you in detail all my years passed since I started training, it is absolutely not the point of this article so let’s bypass everything and arrive at the beginning of September 2017, when I decided to start my preparation in view of competitions months away.
The beginning of the path
I post some photos of my starting condition, after a bulk of about a year and a half (between ups and downs with a few too many tricks in a certain period but all in all quite linear and structured).
The weight was about 85.5 kg, I am 178 cm tall, as% of bf honestly I think I was around 12-13% but it is a visual estimate, I have never been a big proponent of the various composition evaluation tests bodily because basically, I do not consider them so necessary. They can be useful for having traceable feedback over time, but they are full of errors and therefore the simple fact of taking body measurements and keeping track of the weight by making the weekly average every week, I believe they are affordable tools by anyone and that reflects in a way the course of things is realistic.
Now from this condition, there was a lot of kgs to lose, exactly I was not able to quantify them since it was my first real preparation, and therefore my competition weight was still unknown.
However, I knew that the path was long and in fact I decided to start as early as September, counting that the first hypothetical race would not have been before May. It could help me that in 2015 I did an extreme cut and reached a stage condition in just over 14 weeks (obviously I started from a very different condition from the one in the picture, so it took me much less).
This was undoubtedly my best condition ever in terms of pull and muscle quality; which I have not been able to replicate during this preparation.
It must be said, however, that in these photos I weighed about 68 kg (HP -10), I was more dead than alive and it was not a condition that I honestly believe is possible to maintain for a prolonged period of time (from a competitive perspective, however, with a draft of the generally some points I could also take but as muscle volumes I was absolutely not up to the current standards).
Now knowing that I had reached an “apocalyptic” draw at 68 kg, and wanting to get closer to that level of condition but with “many” kg more (this is what I initially thought and fired), I had set myself that I had to lose a ten kg from the starting 85 kg , to go on stage in conditions if not the same at least similar. We are therefore talking about an extra 7 kg of lean mass from this condition in the space of a couple of years, which for a person who was already 5 years old (in 2015) who trained constantly and I would say also intense, it was certainly a far too optimistic forecast.
Mistake number 1
Here was the first mistake, even if not marginal, that I made, namely the overestimation of my race weight (overestimates if we are talking about a level of a condition like the one in the picture).
The first step at the beginning of September was to establish a caloric deficit through a reduction of 250 kcal, from what I knew with relative certainty, to be my maintenance caloric quota at the time, or about 3300kcal. I, therefore, passed to an average of about 3050kcal, introducing at the same time at the training level, more antacids, thus increasing the total weekly volume in conjunction with a caloric reduction.
Mistake number 2
This was my second mistake. The choice made was not very fruitful, and I realized it early on.
I want to emphasize how it is always good to think about one variable at a time.
If you have to make a change, do not do it on several fronts simultaneously but work individually on one thing at a time, otherwise, the tracking will also become more difficult and you will not know if the changes were actually dictated by one factor rather than the other.
I found myself getting very marginal weight loss after the first 5 weeks.
1 kg or a little more, which at the beginning of the cut is a non-zero, counting that it is not so rare to see weight losses of even 2-3 kg during the first 2 weeks (almost exclusively due to liquids and glycogen but they are still 2- 3 kg).
Besides, I already felt tired at the systemic level for the greatest volume of work, therefore, decided to make a diet of 7-10 days break to re-balance the situation and then start again with a calorie deficit a little ‘more’ without substantial increases in volume, however, in training terms.
Mistake number 3
Here I could already introduce what I personally consider the third mistake I made, namely that of starting with a very mild initial calorie deficit . This is because despite having a lot of time available (and it was then the reason why I had decided to start with a low deficit), during the initial phases I think it is more intelligent to push more on the accelerator (also in relation to the starting condition, and in my case there was enough margin).
This basically for two reasons:
- the first is that there is more margin for fat loss by having more than in more advanced phases when instead the ratio of bf and lean mass shrinks more. Fat has a sparing effect on lean mass.
- The second is for a matter of performance, and when you have returned from months of high-calorie nutrition, suffering an acute decline in performance despite a significant caloric reduction, is certainly more unlikely than this occurs in more advanced stages.
What did I track and how did I track?
Before continuing with the discussion, however, I want to talk about my method of tracking data, an aspect that I believe is absolutely important to have a clearer picture of the situation as possible.
Many rely on Excel, the famous “spreedsheet” where they track the trend of all the various variables over the weeks and months.
As a good nerd as I am, I simply relied on very classic and very simple notebooks, in which I wrote day by day everything I did, what I ate, how I felt, my physical condition and my training. The data I tracked were:
- Physical and general condition in the morning as soon as you wake up
- Weight in the morning as soon as you wake up
- Meals made (time, food consumed and any supplements used in each of them)
- Calories and macros per day and of the individual meals consumed
- Amount of water and salt consumed each day
- Training done, including exercises done, sets, reps, loads, RPE
- Any cardio activity carried out in the gym
- Amount of steps taken at the end of the day (estimated through the app on the peacer mobile phone, certainly not 100% accurate since, moreover, I did not have the mobile phone always on in the first place).
So at the weekend I wrote an account of everything, with a scheme that allowed me to have a realistic and above all comparable picture from week to week; to realize if the trend was actually what was expected or not and in the second case I reasoned if it was necessary to make some changes (even if many times a single week does not really say anything and can only be misleading, for that it is useful to have a general framework of longer duration).