Building In The Off-Season!

Mass, mass, mass, and more mass! That is our goal right? We want to pack on as much mass as possible and as soon as possible. The problem with packing on mass is, can it be done without adding too much body fat?
Mass, mass, mass, and more mass! That is our goal right? We want to pack on as much mass as possible and as soon as possible. The problem with packing on mass is, can it be done without adding too much body fat? If so, how do we do it? Most of us have seen it time and time again in all the popular magazines. The "generic" mass building diet or supplementation plan that is supposed to give you the lean mass gains you desire. Does it really work? Have the gains you achieved been exactly what you wanted? In most cases the answer is "no". I can say from experience that following such plans can increase your weight, however, they can also increase your body fat percentage as well! The honest truth in it is, you are unique and that means there are several different factors that will impact your progress towards obtaining "pure" lean mass gains. My experience, while searching for the lean mass gains, started about a year and a half ago. Weighing 221 lbs and at 5'8", I thought I was carrying around plenty of mass. Actually, I was. Unfortunately, it was not quality mass.
Natural Bodybuilder Skip La'Cour

My percentage of body fat, in relation to lean mass, was extremely high. When I finally discovered the truth. The truth was that I needed to pay more attention to the "quality" of the foods I ate and not so much the quantity. Depending on "my" level of conditioning, I would need to manipulate my diet periodically in order to continue towards my goal. I emphasize "my" because it is important to realize that only you can know what works for you. I've said it before and I'll say it again! I am currently a competitive bodybuilder and what I do is much different than most people would need to do. As you read on, I will detail my off-season diet plan that I follow all the way up to a contest. This has worked for "me". It took several attempts to find it, however, I am still finding out more and trying different diets. There are several theories on how to diet. We read it everywhere. The best I can do is give you what knowledge I have gained from experience and here it is...

Phase 1 - During the off-season (Usually 16-12 weeks from a show)

In the off-season, which usually occurs shortly after a competition, I will have a more relaxed attitude about eating. I feel that it is important, psychologically, to enjoy eating without losing site of "balance". Balance means that, out of 5-7 meals during that time, I may indulge during one. Or, during a week of eating properly, one of those days I will indulge in something out of the norm (ie. pizza, ice cream etc...). This can be beneficial in a way since it can result in a significant increase in your metabolic rate. The key is BALANCE. It's easy to "fall off the wagon" if your not careful. This is why it is, as I mentioned in a previous article, crucial to be very strict at the beginning in order to lower your threshold of gratification. So, as I was saying, my off-season "good" diet will consist of the following:

Meal 1:
Protein pancakes (I use a protein supplement by Beverly International called Ultra Size). I use 3 scoops of the Ultra Size. Mix this with 4 servings egg beaters (or 2 whole eggs) and a little water. Pour onto a griddle and voila!! I will top it with Molly McButter and Atkins pancake syrup!! Tastes great! I'm not just pitching this either. They honestly taste good. It makes about 6-8 cakes for the cost of only 480 calories (120 from the egg beaters), 12 grams fat (most of which are the "good" fat!), 15 grams carbohydrates (most of which are complex), and 51 grams protein. Great and nutritious way to start off the day.

Meal 2:
10 oz. Tuna, 4 cups salad (with olive oil as dressing), 1 apple or grapefruit.

Meal 3:
10 oz. Salmon, 1 medium sweet potato (8-10 oz), 2 cups vegetables (broccoli, green beans, or spinach).

Meal 4:
9 oz. lean beef (eye of round is my choice), 4 cups salad (with red wine vinegar).

Meal 5:
9 oz. Chicken Breast, 2 cups vegetables, 1 cup sugar-free Jell-O or repeat meal 1.

Meal 6:
6 oz Chicken breast, 4 servings scrambled egg beaters

Meal 7 (if hungry):
6 oz. Whiting fish or Orange Roughy, 2 cups salad (with red wine vinegar).

Every 3rd and 4th day, I will add/replace meal 7 which is all carbs. Usually amounts to about 150-175 grams of complex carbohydrates (i.e. large 12 oz. sweet potato, 2 cups brown rice, grapefruit, 1 bag popcorn!!!...). This is intended to restore depleted glycogen stores due to the low carbohydrate count during the previous days.

Phase 2 - Usually 8-12 weeks before a show.

During phase 2, I begin to reduce my meat portions by a small amount. Everything else is pretty much consistent. The most important thing at this point is "the past". If I have been consistent with phase 1, I will only need to slightly adjust for phase 2.

Meal 1:
Protein pancakes (same content as Phase 1 - Meal 1).

Meal 2:
9 oz. Tuna, 4 cups salad (with olive oil as dressing), 1 apple or grapefruit.

Meal 3:
8 oz. Salmon, 1 medium sweet potato (8-10 oz), 2 cups vegetables (broccoli, green beans, or spinach).

Meal 4:
8 oz. lean beef (eye of round is my choice), 4 cups salad (with red wine vinegar).

Meal 5:
8 oz. Chicken Breast, 2 cups vegetables, 1 cup sugar-free Jell-O or repeat meal 1.

Meal 6:
6 oz Chicken breast, 4 servings scrambled egg beaters

Meal 7 (if hungry):
6 oz. Whiting fish or Orange Roughy, 2 cups salad (with red wine vinegar).

Again, every 3rd and 4th day, I will add/replace meal 7 which is all carbs. Usually amounts to about ~150-175 grams of complex carbohydrates (i.e. large 12 oz. sweet potato, 2 cups brown rice, grapefruit, 1 bag popcorn!!!...). Again, the intent is to restore depleted glycogen stores due to the low carbohydrate count during the previous days.

Phase 3 - Usually 8-3 weeks before a show.

This is crunch time! If I have been committed to my diet for the previous 8 weeks, I will not feel too much of a change during Phase 3. Basically, during this time, I cut calories by reducing meat portions and fat. I also will drop the 7th meal. Here's the specifics:

Meal 1:
Protein pancakes (same content as Phase 1 - Meal 1).

Meal 2:
8 oz. Chicken Breast, 4 cups salad (with olive oil as dressing), 1 grapefruit.

Meal 3:
8 oz. Chicken Breast, 2 cups vegetables (broccoli, green beans, or spinach).

Meal 4:
8 oz. lean beef (eye of round is my choice), 4 cups salad (with red wine vinegar).

Meal 5:
8 oz. Whiting Fish, 2 cups vegetables

Meal 6:
6 oz Chicken breast, 2 cups salad (with red wine vinegar).

Now every 3rd and 4th day, I will replace meal 6 with a meal of all carbs. Usually amounts to about ~120-130 grams of complex carbohydrates (i.e. large 8-10 oz. sweet potato, 1.5 cups brown rice, 1 grapefruit).

As you can see, the changes are very slight due to consistent past dieting and are helping to reduce my body fat.

Phase 4 - Duration is 2 weeks or 1 week prior to show

This is where I believe the difference is made. The cravings felt during this time are constant and noticeable. If I succeed here, I will surely reap great reward. I know from experience that it is the hardest point to overcome during competition dieting. As I look back each and every time I ask myself, "How in the HELL did I survive?". I cut calories more even by reducing portions slightly and substituting whiting fish. The whiting fish I buy has, per 4 oz. serving, a mere 70 calories, 0 grams fat, 0 grams carbs, and 16 grams protein. Who could ask for anything more? I further cut calories buy removing the 6th meal! Here is the diet from "Hell".

Meal 1:
Protein shake: At this point, I also switch to using another product from Beverly International called Muscle Provider. It makes a tasty protein shake with less calories from fat and carbohydrates. Each scoop contains, 80 calories, 1 grams fat, 2 grams carbohydrates, 16 grams protein. I mix 3-4 scoops with water and add 4 strawberries.

Meal 2:
8 oz. Chicken Breast, 2 cups salad (with red wine vinegar), 1/2 grapefruit.

Meal 3:
8 oz. Whiting Fish, 2 cups vegetables (broccoli, green beans, or spinach).

Meal 4:
8 oz. lean beef (eye of round is my choice), 4 cups salad (with red wine vinegar).

Meal 5:
8 oz. Whiting Fish, 4 servings scrambled egg beaters.

I maintain my carb days and continue the 3rd and 4th day with the exception that I will now replace meal 5 with a meal of all carbs. Still amounting to about ~120-130 grams of complex carbohydrates (i.e. large 8-10 oz. sweet potato, 1.5 cups brown rice, 1 grapefruit).

Phase 5 - No man or woman's land. 1 week to go.

If I don't thoroughly believe in my dedication by now, I never will. At this point, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Don't get me wrong, it is still a difficult experience, however, I'm consoled by the fact that I can see the results of the previous phases and I know I'm on track for peaking perfectly. At this time, I rely heavily on my appearance. Depending on my leanness, I will need to adjust my diet accordingly. If I'm very lean, I may add additional calories (i.e. a meal) or increase my meat portioning, or substitute beef for a serving of whiting. It is purely and solely dependent on how I look the last week. The following depicts two diets. The first assumes I see that I need to lose a bit more body fat. The second assumes I'm extremely lean and my glutes are striated!

If I need to lose more body fat...

Meal 1:
Protein shake: At this point, I also switch to using another product from Beverly International called Muscle Provider. It makes a tasty protein shake with less calories from fat and carbohydrates. Each scoop contains, 80 calories, 1 grams fat, 2 grams carbohydrates, 16 grams protein. I mix 3 scoops with water and add 4 strawberries.

Meal 2:
8 oz. Whiting, 2 cups salad (with red wine vinegar).

Meal 3:
8 oz. Whiting Fish, 2 cups salad.

Meal 4:
8 oz. Chicken Breast, 4 cups salad (with red wine vinegar).

Meal 5:
8 oz. Whiting Fish, 2 cups salad.

If I need to lose more body fat, I will eat a carb meal as detailed in the previous phase on Monday. On Thursday I will skip the carb meal and eat a regular meal. On Friday, my first meal of the day will be carb meal and doubling the carb count. After which, I will eat strictly 6-8 oz lean beef with 1/2 grapefruit for 5 additional meals. I continue the 6-8 oz beef

and 1/2 grapefruit the day of the show, Saturday.

If I'm ripped!!...

Meal 1:
Protein shake: At this point, I also switch to using another product from Beverly International called Muscle Provider. It makes a tasty protein shake with less calories from fat and carbohydrates. Each scoop contains, 80 calories, 1 grams fat, 2 grams carbohydrates, 16 grams protein. I mix 4 scoops with water and add 4 strawberries.

Meal 2:
8 oz. Whiting, 2 cups salad (with red wine vinegar). 1 scoop Muscle Provider protein shake with water.

Meal 3:
8 oz. Whiting Fish, 2 cups salad. 1 scoop Muscle Provider protein shake with water.

Meal 4:
8 oz. Chicken Breast, 4 cups salad (with red wine vinegar). 1 scoop Muscle Provider protein shake with water.

Meal 5:
8 oz. Whiting Fish, 2 cups salad. 1 scoop Muscle Provider protein shake with water.

Meal 6:
1 scoop Muscle Provider protein shake with water.

If ripped, I will eat a carb meal as detailed in the previous phase on Monday. On Thursday for my last meal, I will eat a carb meal and double the carb count. On Friday, my first meal of the day will be a double carb meal. After which, I will eat strictly 6-8 oz lean beef with 1/2 grapefruit for 5 additional meals. I continue the 6-8 oz beef and 1/2 grapefruit the day of the show, Saturday.

So there it is in all its splendor. The diet that has worked wonders for me. It is as detailed as it gets. I know for certain, I still have much to learn and as I said before, you MUST find what works for you and you alone! My last competition using this plan enabled me to weigh in at 174 lbs. with less than 4 percent body fat. What is important to note is that, I did absolutely no cardio! That was the greatest reward for my off-season commitment.

A suggestion to anyone needing help and hoping to use this plan, please use the concepts to design your own plan based on your goals and personal body type. I only ask that since that was one of my own pitfalls. I believed in the "one size fits all" diet program. It does not exist! Trust me.

Well, another great experience and before I go, I'd like to again, thank the Bodybuilding.com staff for being here and doing such a great thing for bodybuilding. Also, I want to thank the Beverly International staff for helping me find my way out of the darkness!

Thanks again for your time!