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It was getting to be that time of the year. All the contests were over. My wife and I had returned from the Olympia Weekend in Las Vegas a couple weeks before, which for us marks the end of the bodybuilding season. A couple hundred poor souls were still dieting for the NPC Nationals in late November, but that was none of our concern. I would toast their discipline with a slice of pizza in one hand and a Diet Coke in the other (hey, at least it's diet!).
Fall was in full swing in old New England. The leaves blazed with vibrant hues of red, rust, orange, and yellow, and the sweet, pungent aroma of leaf piles being illegally burned permeated the brisk air. I always loved that smell.
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Fall Was In Full Swing And The Leaves Blazed With
Vibrant Hues Of Red, Rust, Orange, And Yellow.
Lax Nutrition During The Off-Season
Like many bodybuilders, and especially those of us on the East Coast, my wife and I stayed in fairly lean condition throughout the warm months of the year, and eased up on our diets in the off-season. Since the colder temperatures demanded a far more concealing style of dress than tank tops and shorts, no one would be the wiser if we accumulated just a little bit of extra body fat.
If I really wanted to be deceitful, I could recycle pictures of me in contest condition all fall and winter long on my web site and feel like a fraud when people e-mailed me in awe of how I was able to avoid all the typical holiday desserts and stay ripped.
The guilt might even be bad enough to dissuade me from that second hunk of chocolate cake and pile of white chocolate macadamia nut cookies. Don't get me wrong. I don't subsist entirely on junk for a few months. Most of my meals are still made up of chicken, ground turkey, lean red meat, moderate amounts of starchy carbs pre and post-workout, and fibrous carbs in the form of raw broccoli, snap peas, carrots, and salads.
I am always sure to get plenty of good food in every day before I even think about anything like ice cream. Well okay, I still think about it, but I never let myself have it unless my nutritional needs have been met. As for trying to stay 'in shape' in bodybuilding terms, I allow myself to not worry about it for approximately the last eight or nine weeks of the year.
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I'm Always Sure To Get Plenty Of Good Food Before
I Even Think About Things Like Ice Cream.
Trick Or Treat
Randy, on the other hand, was doing a good job of maintaining his cuts since he had competed back in May - too good a job, actually. He had taken my advice and made the most of the optimal metabolic environment to grow, but then freaked out as soon as he got up to 221 pounds by late June and decided that he was too fat. I could certainly understand why he stayed lean throughout the brief Boston summer, sharing a similar vanity, but summer was now just a sticky, humid memory.
We were now at the very end of October. That meant my favorite holiday of the year, Halloween, was just a couple days away. For the big night, I was going to be not Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but The Buff Vampire.
I only regretted letting my wife Janet toss out the collection of black spandex T-shirts I had once worn with pride, the sleeves were so tight they actually had a tourniquet effect and cut off a bit of blood flow to my arms. Ah, but if you pumped them up first, the blood couldn't escape, and your guns looked big for hours! So what if your fingers went numb and eventually your arms fell asleep?
My son was being a dinosaur for the third year running in a costume that was now almost too tight to close the zipper on. My 11-year-old daughter was going as something called a 'Midnight Fairy' (I didn't ask, but I do know the costume wasn't purchased from Frederick's of Hollywood or the Flirt catalog, so it should be okay), and Janet is simply being her beautiful self, acting as mom to two young kids and one very goofy, overgrown kid.
I usually hung back a good ten paces back from the front door when the kids approach to ring the bell and screech "Trick or treat!" I have found that otherwise, the occupants within often peek out the window, get a good look at me, and never open the door. And that's without a costume.
Randy was going to a costume party that night at a local nightclub, dressed as Tarzan. I only hoped the girl he was dating would still be around in two days to be his Jane.
Lately he hadn't been hanging on to women for very long, and I am pretty sure he wasn't the one making those calls. I wondered if it had something to do with his decision to go back on what was essentially a contest diet earlier in the summer, and was now on it six months after his contest had come and gone. Related to such a diet is the amount of gas that eating every two hours, with a high fiber content to your diet, can and will produce.
A wife can get used to something like that and tolerate it (I love you, babe!), but a brand new girl you are merely dating probably won't be as understanding. There needs to be some bond first before you start revealing your disgusting habits.
He was also doing a lot of cardio still. It was while getting ready to go trick or treating with the kids that Randy stopped over and I let him know what I thought about his extended contest diet.
Keep in mind that this conversation took place while I painted my face up in ghoulish black and white vampire tones. Luckily, Randy wouldn't be donning his tiger-stripe loincloth and black shoulder-length wig for a couple more hours. I can only take so much surrealism at once.
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A Wife Will Put Up With Your Disgusting Habits,
But A New Girl Probably Won't Be So Understanding.
Who Are You Kidding?
"What are you weighing these days, kid?" I knew how to get things rolling innocently enough.
"Um, about 210," he stammered. I gave him the look - the look that says I know he's full of crap.
"You were 190 when you competed, and you look like you're about ten pounds over that, if that. Who are you kidding?" He shuffled around a little.
"Well, with clothes and shoes on and a few meals, I'm almost 210."
"Yeah, and what else, when you haven't had a bowel movement in five days and you have ten bucks in change in your pockets? Please! Weren't you supposed to be improving and adding size? Do you forget how those other light-heavies made you look like a swimmer back in May?" He winced.
"I'm not ragging on you, I just want to know why you are doing this. You were up to 221 about five weeks after the contest, starting to get a little sloppy, but still. You had gained a little fat, but most of that was pure muscle. Now look at you. You've lost at least half of the muscle you put on because you just had to get lean again and stay that way."
"The women really like the lean look, and I feel more confident like this too," he rationalized.
"Do you plan on competing again, or are you all done with the goals you had as a bodybuilder? Because trust me, if you keep this up, you really are all done competing. You got last place at your first contest, and I don't see you moving up the ranks at all if you keep this up. Did I ever tell you about Mr. Stay-Lean?"
"I don't think so."
"He was a bodybuilder that trained in my gym out in California, and he trained pretty hard and heavy considering he was a small guy. The reason he was a small guy was because he was obsessed with staying in contest condition all the time. He didn't take in enough food and overall calories to grow, and he did tons of cardio.
His body never had a chance to grow new muscle tissue because it was struggling so hard to maintain his bodyweight. Mr. Stay-Lean did okay in a couple natural bodybuilding contests in the area, but he never had enough size to be competitive for the top spots. He thought everyone that beat him was using steroids, but the real cheating going on was that he was cheating his body out of the muscle it should have put on."
"And?" Randy asked. I was just about done, and put in my fangs. I snarled at him.
"And now you are the reincarnation of Mr. Stay-Lean, jack@ss!" I hissed for emphasis and he busted out laughing.
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His Body Never Had A Chance To Grow New Muscle Because
It Was Struggling So Hard To Maintain His Bodyweight.
Sharing The Off-Season
We talked a little more, and it didn't take much to convince Randy that he needed to start eating a lot more food, and to allow himself a treat here and there. I even offered him a few Reese's peanut butter cups and a bag of candy corn to get him started, but he politely declined. He did take one of the pizza coupons on my refrigerator that I handed him.
From now until the spring thaw, Randy will share the off-season with me, getting bigger and stronger and not giving a rat's @ss about seeing veins on our abs or having chiseled cheekbones. His goal is to get up to 225 while still maintaining a body fat level he can be comfortable with, which for him is about 10-12 percent.
The epilogue to our Halloween tale? Janet sent me home after the first five homes refused to open the door for our poor kids. And having inadvertently scared away most of the trick-or-treaters that came to my door, I wound up eating about a pound of miniature chocolate bars myself.
I can't say how many times I told myself, 'just one more, that's it,' but I am estimating about a dozen. I don't advocate gluttony like this to anyone, but if you're going to do it, this would be the time - grow time.
About The Author:
Ron Harris is the author of "Real Bodybuilding: Muscle Truth from 25 Years in the Trenches," available at www.ronharrismuscle.com.
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