As you may or may not know, I am preparing for my first Bodybuilding competition since 2016. We are exactly 90 days/3 months/12 weeks out and I’m very excited.
In this article I’ll be going through my plan on how I’m going to get shredded beyond reality.
Now, as a disclaimer, this is my plan; it’s suited to my personal preferences. But I’m sure you’ll find a lot of tips, gems and guidelines that will be very useful to your fat loss efforts. So let’s get into it.
For a little background, I’ve competed twice before in my life. The first time I competed, I didn’t even place. I wasn’t ready and I learned a lot from that.
Second time, I came first in my class and top 4 in the overall. So this time I’m super motivated and really looking forward to bringing my best physique to date.
So here’s an index of what we’re going to discuss:
DIET & NUTRITION
Strength Loss on a Cut
Drinking Alcohol and Going Out
DIET & NUTRITION
This is probably the most important factor when it comes to fat loss efforts. Specifically..
The main thing when it comes to losing body fat.. is being in a CALORIE DEFICIT.
It’s literally all that matters.
You can go vegan, you can go Keto; you can go six meals a day; you can go IIFYM; you can go Intermittent Fasting; you can go all of them at the same time! It doesn’t matter if you’re not in a caloric deficit.
All these ways I just mentioned are just fancy, different ways of achieving the same thing: getting a caloric deficit.
What is a Caloric Deficit?
Before we know how to get into a calorie deficit, we need to know what our maintenance calories are. This is the level of calories we need to consume to stay the same weight/fat loss levels. Everyone has a different maintenance as it depends on your current weight, height, activity level etc.
My maintenance calories are around 2,900-3,000 calories. If I eat that per day, my physique will stay the same.
If you’re a pro athlete or construction worker who trains 5 times a week, you’ll have a higher maintenance than someone who sits on an office desk who trains 5 times per week.
Activity levels change so much person to person. So you need to figure out your own, individual maintenance levels. I’ve done tonnes of stuff on this. But quickly, if you go here you can figure it out easily and for free.
This will give you a pretty accurate estimate. But if you really wanna be 100%, trial and error is the best way – you can track your calories around this mark, and see whether your weight goes up or down.
When you have your maintenance calories you can figure out how many calories you need to consume to be in a calorie deficit.
But how much should the deficit be? What’s a good amount? 1,000? A bit too much. 200? Not enough, you’re gonna see very slow results.
I’d like to recommend -500 calories. So like I said, my maintenance levels are around 2,900-3,000, which means gonna start off at 2,400. Simple.
Now. This is where things get a bit more advanced. So get ready.
During my cut, I’m gonna have a GREEN ZONE, an AMBER ZONE and the RED ZONE.
As you can see, the calorie consumption goes down each time.
In the Green Zone, my starting zone, 2,400 will be my calories. I am going to stick to these calories FOR AS LONG AS POSSIBLE, until I plateau or stop losing weight.
So this is important. People often change up their training or diet for no reason at all. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
So if you’re losing weight, there’s no need to keep dropping your calories. Only do it when there is a sustained period (maybe consistently over a week, if you weigh yourself daily) where you do not lose weight.
Now, when I do stop losing weight. I plateau. What’s the reason for this?
Let’s say I’ve lost 10lbs. I am now ceasing to carry this extra weight during day-to-day activities. Imagine you were carrying a 10lbs dumbbell around with you all day, but now you’ve lost it.
You don’t have to carry it to work. You don’t have to carry it around the gym. You don’t have to carry every time you stand up, or sit down. So you’re gonna burn less calories because your body is gonna need less energy, because it doesn’t have to provide for that extra 10lbs.
So when we start to lose significant amounts of weight, our calorie requirements go down. On top of that, our body is saying ‘oh jesus christ, rob is starving himself, we need to preserve some energy’. This is an evolutionary trait we have developed to protect us from food droughts, so in prehistoric times we could avoid starvation, be less vulnerable to predators and survive.
So now you’re in a fat loss plateau. Therefore, you need to increase the calorie deficit. For me, this will be down to 2,200 (AMBER ZONE).
In the past I’ve gotten very lean when I’ve gone down to 2,200. I’m not sure if I’ll even have to go lower than that, but we’ll just have to see how things go (if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it).
Going back to my previous competition prep, I got super lean. I remember having to go all the way down to 2,000 calories (poverty calories as some people like to call it). I was on this for about 2-3 weeks, it was very difficult. For a lot of people in the bodybuilding community it’s called the ‘digging phase’. It’s not sustainable, and I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re prepping for a competition like me. If you’re just doing a normal cut, there’s really no need to go down this far.
So yeah, these are my planned calories for this prep:
2,400 – first phase. 4-6 weeks.
2,200 – second phase, when I plateau 5-9/10 weeks.
2,000 – digging phase, last couple weeks before competition, depending on state.
How many times will I eat throughout the day? Am I gonna do intermittent fasting? Am I gonna do 6 meals per day? Does it even matter
The answer is NO, it actually doesn’t fucking matter at all. Meal frequency is one of the most overhyped things that I’ve seen in the fitness industry. People who work full-time jobs are there packing 6 tupperware boxes, going to work. You don’t have to do it. You don’t go catabolic after 3 hours, it’s complete bullshit.
Your meal frequency should be tapered toward your preferences.
So whatever you wanna do, whether it be 6 meals or 3 big meals: do whatever is gonna help you sustain your calorie deficit. Personally, I’m gonna go for 3 big meals a day and 2 snacks.
One thing to consider, however, is to make sure you keep your muscle protein synthesis elevated. For bodybuilding and stimulation maximal amounts of muscle building, you do wanna space your protein feedings out throughout the day, to at least 3-4 times.
There’s a study on why this is important here.‘Leucine [type of protein] rich meals should be consumed multiple times per day.. with essential amino acids ingested between whole protein meals may further optimise Muscle Protein Synthesis’
Norton & Wilson, 2009
So by having 3 big meals a day and a protein shake and a protein bar on either side, that is gonna keep my protein synthesis elevated throughout the day.
Refeeds are basically when you decrease your protein intake a little bit, keep fat as low as possible and then double your carbs intake. This is to replenish lost glycogen that often occurs when cutting.
These aren’t actually necessary, but some people do like to include them and see good results from them. When done properly, they can be quite beneficial, and I will be incorporating them
How often should you incorporate refeeds?
When you’re first starting off a cut, general guidelines are about once per month. And then when you’re further into a cut, maybe twice per month. In the final stages, when you’re really lean and have sub-10% body fat, you can do them even more regularly.
My rule of thumb is just to do them when you feel really really depleted. It’s important not to look at them as a cheat day, as you still have to control your calories. Just double your carbs intake.
Here are the macro-nutrients that I’ll be following:
Carbs: 265g, 215g, 165g
Macronutrients are the Protein, Carbs and Fats that make up your calories.
1g Protein = 4 cals, 1g Carbs = 4 cals, 1g of Fat = 9 cals.
With Protein intake, I like to set that at around 1g per 1lbs of weight. A lot of people say you need less, but I think this is just a good general recommendation.
I’ve actually set it at about 30g more than it needs to be (I weigh around 170lbs).
Why have I done that?
Because I love protein. It makes my diet a lot more satisfying. It’s satiating. It stops me from getting hungry. It makes me feel good. I just love protein, who the hell doesn’t love chicken breast, beef and steak? (Vegans are backing out of this right now).
Beans, tofu, nuts.. I love protein!
So, I’ve set my fat at 60g. We all need fat in our diet for general health and bodily functions. Fat is an essential part of our diet. They support cell growth, help protect your organs and help your body absorb some nutrients and produce important hormones.
General fat intake recommendations: an intake of 20-40% of total calories.
Some people like to go high fat (Keto), but ultimately it doesn’t matter.
The main thing is Protein and Total Calories. Your Macros are not actually that important, and you can play around with them a little bit. But me, personally I like to set my Protein and Fat intake, and keep them consistent.
So, if protein and fat are set, how am I gonna reduce my calories when I need to?
We got carbs to play around with.
265g, 215g, 165g. Everytime 50g comes out, this takes away 200 calories (because each 1g of Carbs is 4 cals, and 50×4=200).
I’m starting off at 265g and when fat loss stalls, I’ll drop it down to 215g (2,200 cals) and if it stalls again, I’ll drop it down to 165g (2,000).
165g will absolutely suck, but it’s gotta be done for the shreds.. For the Glory.. For the LF Army.
Before we move onto Training, here’s a summary of diet:
TOTAL CALORIES are so much more important than MACROS
The main thing in your diet for body composition is total protein intake and total calorie intake. So if one day you’ve fucked it on fats, you can just go lower in carbs on that day or vice versa.
As long as your protein is consistent and you hit your calorie goal, that’s the main thing. Calorie goal is even more important than protein.
You’ve probably heard it before.. CALORIES IN VS CALORIES OUT, that’s the “secret” to fat loss! That’s the secret to weight loss and weight gain.. So crazy right? Who woulda thought it would be that simple? Ma
So that’s.. done. Diet is done.
Let’s move on.. ‘cause I know you don’t got all day.
This is my favourite split: Legs, Push, Pull.
Day 1: Legs
Day 2: Push
Day 3: Pull
Day 4: Rest
Day 5: Legs
Day 6: Push
Day 7: Pull
If you want a more detailed LPP, you can get one in eBook form here
But I’m not biased, I don’t think this is the best split. The best split is the one you will enjoy the most; the one you’ll actually follow, sustain and adhere to.
I’m NOT saying everyone has to go to the gym 6 days per week. Hardly anyone needs to do that. You can see amazing results lifting weight 3-4 times per week, and if that is the case, I recommend people going 3 times per week to do a full-body programme.
And if you’re going 4 days per week, I’d recommend an Upper-Lower-Upper-Lower split. And 5 per week, which I’m sure will be the case for me some weeks, I’ll actually do Legs-Push-Pull-Upper-Lower.
So, again, this LLP split is just the one I’m gonna set for myself , but who knows it may change a little bit. But either way, I’m gonna be hitting every body part twice per week to get in enough frequency and volume.
Now let’s get into the most common question I get, which is about..
Strength Loss on a Cut
Now, I’m about to go into a rant here..
People have this mindset that, ‘oh, i’m cutting and i’m going to lose loads of strength!’.
This is a BULLSHIT, QUITTERS MINDSET. This is weak.
If you’ve got everything else we’ve discussed on point, you can not only maintain your strength, some people (especially beginners and intermediates) can actually increase their strength.
There’s so many other factors that come into play, and if you nail everything – your nutrition, your training, your protein intake – then there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to maintain your strength!
Now, perhaps in the latter stages (the red zone), am I going to increase strength? Most likely not, no. But in the first two stages I’ll definitely be looking to maintain strength. I’m really motivated with my training right now, and it’s going amazing.
So don’t expect strength loss. That’s a terrible way to go into your training. You should be focusing on maintaining your strength at the very least.
If you start off benching 100kg at the start of your cut, and you lose a tonne of fat, and at the end of it you’re still benching 100kg, that’s a SUCCESSFUL cut
So your main focus on a fat loss diet is MAINTAINING STRENGTH. Mark down your lifts at the beginning of the cut, and say ‘I will do my very best to not go lower than this level of strength’.
That’s the take away point for training. Maintaining your strength during a cut is how you get that full look of having muscle and a low body fat percentage.
The physiques you see on social media and in movies were made from resistance training, not 80s aerobics classes marketed to ‘Get a beach body’ or ‘Get a booty’. You need good old classic weight training that’s been proven and around for years. Hit the gym, keep lifting weights. Maintain your strength.
Right, so let’s HIIT vs LIIT (High intensity interval training vs low intensity interval training). There’s pros and cons to both of them. But which one should you do?
Do whichever one you’re going to sustain and stick to and enjoy the most.
Are you seeing the pattern here? Your plan needs to be personalised: there’s no one-size-fits-all. This is why I also do personalised coaching, so people have a plan that is tailor-made for them and their preferences.
So yeah, just go with whichever form of cardio you enjoy the most. I know some people that love HIIT and they like just getting their cardio sessions over and done with.
But me personally, I prefer LIIT because you can put on a podcast, watch a video, get some emails done and even do a Skype call. I can do all this whilst knocking out 40 mins on a stairmaster, or going for a big, long walk.
I’m gonna start off with 3 cardio sessions per week, then up to 4 in the Amber Zone, and 5 in the ‘digging phase’.
You should also consider NEAT (Non-Exercise-Activity-Thermogenesis). This is a really good fat loss ‘hack’.
So basically, NEAT is the calories you burn when not exercising and working out. And the reason why this is so good, is because you’re burning calories without even realising it. It’s not formal exercise.
It includes things like going for a walk, taking the stairs: just moving in general. Being conscious of NEAT is a really good way to get your Total Daily Energy Expenditure up without even putting in much more effort.
Recently I moved to London and I am literally walking everywhere (within reason). The city is amazing. I can walk to like Buckingham Palace, around Hyde Park: it’s all great for NEAT. And I’ll be making a conscious effort to get my NEAT high.
It’s also very relaxing to go for walks, and that actually perfectly brings us into…
It’s only in the last year that I’ve realised how important sleep actually is. My mind was absolutely blown by a Joe Rogan podcast with Matthew Walker.
Sleep is huge. It literally impacts our performance in the gym so much. It also had a huge impact on our diet – when we’re sleep deprived were more likely to cheat on a diet, eat highly palatable foods like pizza and donuts and all that delicious shit. This is because when we’re tired, our inhibitions are lower.
It also had an impact on your hormones, your stress. You’re more irritable and snappy when sleep-deprived. And you’re gonna be irritable anyway when you’re in a calorie deficit. So the last thing you need is to be more aggro and more annoyed.
You’re gonna be putting your body under a lot of stress, so you need to be conscious of that and set aside time to do things that relaxes you.
One thing I’m trying to do, something I’m so bad at, is meditation. Or even just some mindful thinking can help a lot. Just go for a walk, watch a movie, read a book. Have sex. Seriously, it’s a very important function that helps alleviate stress.
‘Sex is a great way to relieve stress. The benefits include release of endorphins and other hormones that elevate mood. It’s also a great exercise, which itself is an effective stress reliever’.
Drinking Alcohol and Going Out
In general fat loss diets where you’re looking to get a six-pack or whatever,I recommend keeping your social life as active as possible. You need to adopt a lifestyle that you can sustain. Just because you’re cutting that doesn’t mean you can never eat out or go for a beer with friends. It’s not true.
There’s actually a full chapter in my book on incorporating alcohol into your plan. Name another fitness YouTuber who does that! This is the fun fitness channel. It’s where the party’s at.
But for me, I’m putting 100% into this competition prep over the next 90 days. So I won’t be drinking a drop. This is not meant to be a sustainable diet for me, it’s an extreme cut for a Bodybuilding competition. Therefore, I will not be drinking any alcohol over the next 90 days.
Going out also affects sleep. If I were to go out on a saturday my sleep pattern will get thrown off. Alcohol is very high in calories, and often creates inhibitions that mean you could end up eating a pizza that you don’t even remember. There’s really no room for that in competition prep.
If you’re cutting normally, I think you can have the odd drink here and there, but going out every weekend and getting wasted screws up a lot of people’s results.
So no more whiskey sours until the 17th of May, but as soon as competitions are over, I will see you ALL for a whiskey sour. And we will toast. And it’s gonna be a great time. But until then, no alcohol and very minimal going out. It will be just going out and meeting friends for a coffee or whatever.
This is kind of like what I said while drinking alcohol. If you’re just doing a normal cut, eating out is fine as long as you find a way to track it. That is no problem.
On competition prep, it’s more extreme and I’m gonna really have to know exactly what I’m eating. And I’ll probably have to go to a place that is more a fitness orientated place. Some places will have the calories on the menu, but realistically they’re not accurate – they’re just there for show.
So you really gotta make sure that what you’re getting is what you’re ACTUALLY getting. Because I’m on prep, I will be doing very very little eating out. Instead I’ll be preparing at least 90% of my meals at home, or getting meal prep.
But yeah, on a normal fat loss phase, you can eat out for sure. Just remember to track it and add it to your Total Calorie Count for the day.
Your environment dictates performance, whether it’s your home, your friends or your city. If you’ve seen my apartment tours or kitchen tours, you’ll understand why a lot of people are like, ‘Is he a serial killer? Is he Patrick Bateman?’
I’m very neat and very clean. And this helps a lot when you’re dieting. If you go into your kitchen and there’s pots and pans everywhere, and it’s a complete mess, you’re not gonna wanna cook a meal.
So keep your environment clean. Keep it organised. Being neat and organised will also help every other aspect of your life. A wise man once said, “Clean your room”.
This is very important, especially if you work a strenuous job. If you are working a job like this, I recommend placing your training sessions either first thing in the morning, get it over and done with, or at lunch time.
If you leave it later in the day, there’s just so much stuff that can go wrong that could make you go, ‘ah screw it, I’ll skip the gym today’. Prepare and use common sense. Tailor your training around when you perform best.
Getting into a consistent routine is so important. If you’ve read the book, ‘The Power of Habit’ (or seen my article), you’ll know that once you’ve built up habits, it makes things that once seemed difficult, effortless.
Habit is so powerful that, even when I’m deep into my cut and my calorie deficit gets to the Red Zone, by this time I’ve solidified my habits so much that I actually find it easier than at the start. Even though I’m low on calories and my training is more intense, things are easier because of the habits and momentum I’ve built.
This tends to happen to me every time I do a competition prep or serious fat loss diet, like for a magazine cover. After a while, once you build up these habits and you get into a routine, things will just start to flow. Routines form habits, and habits are your friend.
This obviously relates to diet, but is something that has to be ingrained into your day-to-day lifestyle. However, for most people I wouldn’t actually recommend tracking extremely rigidly.
For most of my clients what I recommend is to track really rigidly for about a week, maybe 2 weeks. And then once you kinda get a feel for what certain foods look like, for example, a fist-size of chicken breast is about 30g of protein. Once you get the hang of it, you don’t need to track so rigidly: you don’t need to weigh out absolutely everything.
But again, what I’m doing is competition prep. I’m trying to get shredded beyond reality. So I’m gonna be tracking EVERYTHING for the next 90 days. It’s gonna be very difficult, but once I get into the habit, it gets easier and easier
And it’s kinda enjoyable. Like, if people are scrolling through Instagram, scrolling through Facebook. Why can’t you have a little scroll through Myfitnesspal? I kinda look at tracking as a fun little game on my app. A game that gets your shredded.
(The way I track my food is through an app called Myfitnesspal and I use a digital food scale to weigh everything I eat).
The whole competition prep is like one big goal that I’ve set, but in general on a fat loss diet, goal setting is gonna help you a lot. Little goals like, ‘I aim to lose 2lbs per week’, are very helpful.
Set short-term goals, and the medium-term goals that contribute to your long term goals. They’re gonna keep you motivated and they’re gonna help a lot with your routine and your consistency.
I cannot wait to absolutely kill this prep and take you guys along with me. Make sure you check out my frequent YouTube series where you guys can follow along this prep with me.
If anyone’s looking for online coaching to give some accountability, or even an ebook to tell you exactly how to create your own plan, I’ve made this available for you.
If you purchase the eBook and read the whole thing through and through, and you still can’t put together your own plan, I will personally refund you. It’s fool-proof.
Let’s get shredded.
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