A Bodybuilder Is Born: Episode 51 - It's Always Darkest Before The Dawn!

At some point your progress grinds to a halt and at three weeks out from his contest, this is the nightmare Randy suddenly found himself living. Learn more.
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Article Summary:
  • There will come a point where your the diet and cardio results will plateau.
  • Have faith in your diet and keep up the work.
  • Try carb cycling to get your results back on track.

In many monumental struggles, victory came only after a period when defeat seemed certain and death tolls and misery reached a sickening pinnacle. Take World War II, for instance. Until things finally turned around for the Allies near the end, the Germans and Japanese were laying waste to Europe and Asia like a biblical plague, murdering and enslaving millions.

In the US Civil Rights movement of the 1960's, the final years before laws and amendments were passed witnessed widespread lynching, arson, hatred, and lawlessness. Even on every episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, either the USS Enterprise or the entire galaxy was bound for certain annihilation until the last five minutes of the show.

The solution was usually to reverse the polarity of the warp drive or something. If you have no idea what I am talking about, congratulations - you are probably not a total geek!

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Things Will Get Worse...
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You've no doubt heard the old cliché 'things will get worse before they get better.' When you're preparing for a bodybuilding contest, you can pretty much bet on this happening to you in regards to your condition.

Weeks will go by where your strict diet and cardio regimen are working like a charm. The body fat is melting away right on schedule, and every day you can discern a new striation, a new vein, or a separation between muscle groups that is deeper and clearer than it was the day before. It's a euphoric feeling, and it's why so many of us love to compete.

Watching your body change and respond is more thrilling than anything Playstation 2 or Xbox ever came out with (although those Grand Theft Auto games are sweet - who knew being a degenerate criminal was so fun?). This is probably the one time when virtually all bodybuilders fit into the narcissistic stereotype society holds of us; mesmerized by any reflective surface at our own creation of muscular perfection.

Mirrors are best, but a true narcissist can make do with car or store windows, a pool of water, or even the highly polished head of a bald man. I have even heard of bodybuilders nearly crashing their cars because they were flexing their left arm and checking it out in the side mirror as they drove. I would be particularly susceptible to this danger, as my left arm is a half-inch bigger than my right.

This Is Probably The One Time When Virtually All Bodybuilders Fit Into The Narcissistic Stereotype Society Holds Of Us; Mesmerized By Any Reflective Surface At Our Own Creation Of Muscular Perfection
+ Click To Enlarge.
This Is Probably The One Time When Virtually All Bodybuilders Fit Into
The Narcissistic Stereotype Society Holds Of Us; Mesmerized By Any
Reflective Surface At Our Own Creation Of Muscular Perfection.

Yes, you love the way you look more and more each day. But then it happens.

At some point around three to six weeks out from the date of the contest, your progress grinds to a halt. For some inexplicable reason, your fat loss comes to a standstill.

Worse, you might hold water from eating something with a bit more sodium than usual, and it can seem like you are actually getting fatter. If you are going really low on carbs, your muscles will be flat and appear to have shrunk. Yes, as the contest approaches, your physique is getting smaller and fatter - it's enough to drive even the most mentally tough bodybuilders insane with worry and self-doubt.

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Self Doubt Sets In
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At three weeks out from his contest, this is the nightmare Randy suddenly found himself living. I was working with him on his mandatory poses, forcing him to hold each one for a full sixty seconds, and doing my best to calm him down as he grew more and more alarmed.

"Look at that!" he shouted, causing a couple gym members on cardio machines close to the aerobics room door to look our way. Randy noticed them, and could not contain his irritation. "What?" he yelled at them.

"Randy, lower your voice, for God's sake. They are going to kick us out of here if you keep it up."

"Where did my intercostals go?" he demanded. "They were crystal-clear a couple days ago, now they're blurry. What the f**k?!"

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At Three Weeks Out From His Contest Randy Started To Face
Self Doubt About His Progress.

"You're probably just holding water," I assured him. "Unless you've been eating pizza and ice cream recently." I had my eye on the clock's second hand. "Relax. Front lat spread." He got into the next pose and continued his diatribe.

"Pizza and ice cream? I wish! Try chicken breasts, broccoli, salmon, lettuce, and other bland, boring crap."

"Wait, the frozen chicken breasts from Costco?" He grunted an affirmative. "Dude, those are loaded with sodium. No wonder you're holding more water than the Hoover Dam."

"Water or no water, I am looking worse, a lot worse. It doesn't make any sense. I haven't cheated on my diet, and I have been doing all my cardio. I should be getting leaner."

"You would think so, but it's not always so simple. It's very common to hit a sticking point in the diet where you don't make any progress for a while, but then it all starts moving right along again. Relax. Either side, side chest." He hit the shot.

"So what am I supposed to do? Just wait it out?"

"Your metabolism has probably slowed down a bit from all the low carbs. I would have a high-carb day tomorrow. Double your usual amount. Have some of those sweet potato fries you make in your toaster-oven, you have my blessing. That should help get things going again. You'll fill out and look pumped, too."

"Whole-wheat pancakes?" he perked up.

"Whatever you like. Just don't go too crazy." The look of doubt returned to his face.

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Keeping The Faith
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"I don't know, what about looking for another contest that's a few weeks later, wouldn't that be safer?" I shook my head vigorously.

"No, no, no. You're doing this one and that's that. I already got the day off work."

"But you're self-employed!"

"Don't argue with me. You'll be ready, just have faith in the diet."

"I don't get it, I got into shape faster last time."

"Yeah, but last time, you started the diet with less body fat, and you were lighter. Generally speaking, the bigger you get, the longer you will probably have to diet. Relax. Either side, side triceps." Talking while holding his poses was making it much more difficult, but that was good. It was the bodybuilding equivalent of running with a weighted backpack.

Generally Speaking, The Bigger You Get, The Longer You Will Probably Have To Diet
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Generally Speaking, The Bigger You Get, The Longer
You Will Probably Have To Diet.

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Hope On The Horizon
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We finished up the posing and Randy headed off to the locker room to change. I had been through this trying circumstance more than once, so I knew I wasn't just blowing smoke up his butt. He would get over this hump. A lot of guys freak out when this happens and back out of the contest, when they simply needed to stick it out.

Randy wasn't backing out. I wasn't going to stand for it. I also wasn't going to let him get us kicked out of the gym where we both trained, and where he made his living currently as a personal trainer. This gym is close to my house and I am far too lazy to drive more than ten minutes to train.

I approached the sweet old lady that was on the elliptical trainer nearest the door, moving at roughly the same pace she probably did when perusing the fine wares of Walmart. Which is to say, most common garden snails could outrun her. But she was at the gym and moving her limbs, which is more than most seniors of her advanced age could say. I thought she had looked shocked and horrified earlier when Randy was having his hissy fit.

"Hi, ma'am, I just wanted to say I'm sorry about the hollering," I said to her. "My friend was having a rough day."

"Oh no," the old lady laughed. "I was looking because he was in his underwear and I've never seen such a perfectly sculpted body before."

"In that case, hold on, I want to go get him so you can tell him that yourself." She blushed and giggled like she was sixteen instead of seventy. This was going to make both of their days. And hopefully it would get Randy's mind off how his body seemed to be changing for the worse, because that was about to turn around very soon. My protégé was going to look his best ever, whether he believed it now or not.

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