How Can A Bodybuilder Stay Lean In Their Off-Season?

How can a bodybuilder stay lean in their off-season? Learn what these forum members do to keep the fat gain to a minimum while trying to gain as much muscle as possible. Read on...

TOPIC: How Can A Bodybuilder Stay Lean In Their Off-Season?

The Question:

Bodybuilders tend to gain a lot of weight, both fat and muscle in the off-season. How can a bodybuilder stay lean during their off-season?

What should their cardiovascular routine consist of?

What supplements are essential for the off-season bodybuilder?

How should your diet differentiate?

Bonus Question: How much fat do you gain in your off-season? What action do you take to reduce the fat you gain in your off-season?

Show off your knowledge to the world!

The Winners:


        1st place - 75 in store credit.

        2nd place - 50 in store credit.

      3rd place - 25 in store credit.

1st Place - Aussie LTD

Bodybuilders have an off-season for a reason; it is an opportunity for them to pack some mass onto their frames for competition. On top of symmetry, definition and conditioning, having a good level of mass is probably the most important aspect for a bodybuilder can posses today.

But along with adding mass, comes the burden of adding fat. Due to the need for increased calories, gaining some fat is part of the bulking process; but if I was to tell you that there are many ways to minimize fat gains while on a bulk plan, so you can simultaneously gain muscle while maintaining your body fat, you would no doubt want to know more.

In this article, I hope I can inform you on the best ways to achieve this balance. I will discuss the best option for cardio in the off-season, the best supplements, as well as dieting strategies that should help you keep the fat off while bulking.

Staying Lean:
Bodybuilders tend to gain a lot of weight, both fat and muscle in the off-season. How can a bodybuilder stay lean during their off-season?

This largely comes down to 3 main factors: diet, cardio and supplementation, which I will be discussing throughout this article. Let's delve a little deeper into each:


Without any sense of control over calorie consumption, you can kiss your weight-loss, or size goals goodbye. Before any other changes are made to your diet or supplementation, you need to make sure you're eating the correct quantity of food.

If you goal is to pack on some serious mass, the most intense workouts and the heaviest weights won't make you grow if you're only eating 1,000 calories a day. On other hand, you can do as much cardio as you want in an attempt to loose weight, but if you are consuming an excessive amount of calories, then you'll get nowhere.

So, first off, we need to ensure we have calories under control, which I will provide a plan for this later on in the article. When we have set our caloric limit, we need to start creating a diet plan that is based around clean, wholesome food, rather than take-away and greasy muck.

Eat the standard 6 meals a day, with a good quantity of protein per meal, as well as moderate complex carbs and healthy fats. Later on in the article I have provided a "clean" sample bulking diet that adheres to your calorie needs.

Choose healthy sources of protein such as lean chicken, turkey and meats over deep-fried fish or fat-covered pork chops. Opt to reduce the amount of sodium you put on your foods and base your diet around foods that are in their natural state rather than overly-processed gunk such as packaged potato chips, candy or soft drinks.


Once you have your diet set, we can start thinking about supplementation. We should stick to a taking a good quality whey protein supplement to meet our high protein needs, we will take a good quality, complete multivitamin to give us what we may be missing from diet, as well as a B-complex formula.

On top of this, it's an idea to take a supplement such as CLA or L-Carnitine. These are both stimulant-free fat-burners that can be taken safely over extended period's (i.e. off-season). I will be discussing supplements more later in this article.


Often neglected is cardiovascular activity. This forms the final part of the puzzle towards finding that balance between bulking and staying lean.

Traditionally, cardio has been performed with an emphasis on low-intensity and higher frequency; but to get the most from cardio in the shortest amount of time, we have to switch gears into overdrive; high intensity cardio can burn twice the fat in half the time, as well as avoiding protein breakdown, the damaging affects of cortisol, or the problems associated with overtraining.

In the following section, I have developed a cardio plan that will go hand in hand with any bulking routine to help fight off the fat with minimal muscle tissue loss.

What should your cardiovascular routine consist of?

Most people who perform cardio usually perform it at a low-intensity, over a long duration. Frequency is also usually high. It's what comes naturally for most of us; being able to go at a slower pace, over an extended period of time is a lot easier. But what if I was to tell you that there was another approach that will cut your time in half, and double your results?

The High-Intensity, Low-Frequency Approach To Cardio:

The high-intensity, low frequency approach is almost the opposite of the above example; it is cardio that is performed over shorter durations, but at a much higher intensity.

This is also referred to high-intensity-interval-training, a method whereby your overall cardio duration and frequency are less, but your intensity is much higher.

Cardio performed in this fashion is very similar in essence to HIT weight training that Mike Mentzer made famous; the foundation of this form of cardio lies in getting the absolute most of each session and spending half the time doing it!

This is the type of cardio that is optimal for those looking to loose weight, while maintaining muscle mass. Why is that? Let me explain...

It Is Based On Intensity Principles:

Foremost, low-frequency, high intensity cardio is based on intensity principles. When you're training this way, you are training at your maximum intensity, and this is where results are gained. Training over longer durations, you never reach that same training intensity that is needed to make progress.

It Is Hormonally-Friendly:

It is a very hormonally-friendly way of doing cardio. Excess cardio, or even cardio done at a medium frequency, can create a catabolic hormonal environment. The body responds to medium-high frequency cardio by releasing high levels of cortisol to cope with the physical demands you place on your body.

As well as being dangerous to your health, cortisol is a hormone that can also eat away at your muscle tissue, and bring a halt to your growth. Cardio of a lower duration and frequency will prevent against this.

It Preserves Protein For Growth:

As well as being hormonally friendly, low-frequency but high intensity cardio also avoids the possibility that you are end up using protein as energy. During longer-duration cardio, your body begins to search for secondary energy when your carbohydrate stores become depleted.

As a result, protein that should be used for muscle growth and repair is being used to fuel you during cardio. When you limit cardio to 20 minutes, the way high-intensity is performed, you minimize the possibility of using the wrong stores of energy as fuel.

Recovery Friendly:

HIT is to be done just 3 days per week, for 20 minutes a session. What this means is that not only does it save time, but it is very recovery-friendly. With all the demands of heavy lifting needed in the average off-season weight-training program, you can very easily be placing your body under excess stress, and risking over-training.

Your Low-Frequency, High-Intensity Cardio Plan Of Attack!

It's time to bring together all this information into an off-season cardio routine. All your cardio sessions will be performed using interval-training. These will be intervals alternating between sprinting pace, and normal jogging pace.

The length of the intervals and the breaks between each will be determined by your level of fitness. Being an advanced HIIT'er, I like to alternate between one minute at sprinting pace, followed by one minute at jogging pace, but you might like to start with a 3 minute to 1 minute ratio and work your way up as you gain fitness.

High intensity interval training isn't only limited to using a treadmill; it can be done cycling, jumping rope, and even punching a bag. There are some cardio activities that do burn more fat than others, such as using a stepper or running, so I would choose these over others.

You should be doing HIT cardio 3 days per week, for 20 minutes a session. Here is a sample way you can split up your cardio and weight training:

      • Monday: Weight training
      • Tuesday: Weight training
      • Wednesday: Cardio
      • Thursday: Weight training
      • Friday: Cardio
      • Saturday: Weight training
      • Sunday: Cardio

This above approach ensures you are resting between both cardio and weight training sessions. Some may prefer doing all their weight lifting at the start of the week, followed by their cardio such as this.

  • Monday: Weight training
  • Tuesday: Weight training
  • Wednesday: Weight training
  • Thursday: Weight training
  • Friday: Cardio
  • Saturday: Cardio
  • Sunday: Cardio

See what works for you.

Always remember to continue increasing your intensity, while maintaining the same frequency. I would recommend monitoring your progress in a weight-loss log, along with your diet and daily calories to asses how you are going, and implement any changes you might need.

Other Cardio Notes:

  • Ensure you are properly fueled before, during and after cardio.
  • Drink up-to 750 mls. of water during your sessions to stay hydrated.
  • Variety is the essence of life; so continually switch things up to avoid boredom.

What supplements are essential for the off-season bodybuilder?

Training in the off-season is far from a break; packing on quality mass can be a very difficult task for many, even professional bodybuilders can find it difficult. A lot of the time nutrition alone isn't enough to cut it. Foods aren't magic formulas, so there isn't one food out there you can take that will specifically provide energy in the same way a supplement can.

A lot of people will disregard supplements, but I feel a balanced approach is the best bet. You don't need to blow your budget, just focus on the basics and getting good quality brands. Here are a few supplements that will help you achieve your bodybuilding goals during the off-season.

Whey Protein:

Whey is essential for anyone who lifts weights. It is particularly important for the off-season bodybuilder to ensure they are meeting their protein requirements at a time they are sky high.

When selecting a protein, I think its best to select one with a good reputation. Optimum won's protein supplement of the year, and was the store's highest selling product.

Amino Acids:

Amino Acids, especially Branched Chain Amino Acids, are vital for recovery. They will repair and re-grow muscle tissue, and counteract any chances of overtraining.

Some people would say amino acids are pointless if you are already supplementing with whey protein, but after training your body needs more amino acids than those that are available in protein alone. Tablets give you a fast-digesting form of amino acids that will reach muscles straight away.


L-Glutamine is one of the most important amino acids for muscle growth and recovery. Taken in high doses after training, it will ensure you recover and get the most from your workouts.


L-carnitine is an amino acid that plays a major role in the utilization of storing fats. It can be supplemented safely in the off-season for staying lean, as well as providing a general feeling of enhanced energy.

How does your diet differentiate in the off-season?

That's the thing; there shouldn't be any difference other than the amount of calories one consumes. Bodybuilders in the off-season tend to overindulge, and use the off-season as an excuse to eat what they want, rather than thinking about what their body needs.

What they need to do is increase calories slightly, but while keeping everything else the same; this means clean food, quality supplementation and plenty of rest.

Although some bodybuilders don't mind being over-weight in the off-season, if you want to maintain a fairly aesthetical physique, you have to know your limits. There are a few things I will go over in this section that will help you with your off-season bulking and weight-management goals.

Eating Clean:

The first rule to a healthy bulk is to eat "clean." A lot of bodybuilders choose to overindulge, thinking this isn't doing them any harm. But what a lot of bodybuilders forget is that eating healthy in the off-season not only affects body fat levels, but the enhanced nutrition will also aid in muscle growth and repair.

To eat clean simply means to eat healthy. Someone who makes the commitment to eat clean should eat:


Protein is essential for bodybuilders. It builds strong teeth, bones and healthy hair, as well as give us strength, and big muscles. Protein can broken down into amino acids that the building blocks of protein.

Food Sources:

        • Lean chicken
        • Lean beef
        • Fish
        • Seafood
        • Egg whites
        • Nuts


The body's main source of energy; carbohydrates turns into glucose once ingested, which the body then uses during strenuous activity.

Food Sources:

        • Oats
        • Brown rice
        • Wholegrain bread
        • Muesli
        • Fruits
        • Vegetables

Unsaturated Fats (Omega 3, 6 and 9):

These are the "healthy" fats that are associated with heart health, energy and cognitive function. They are separated into three categories:

        • Omega 3:Flaxseed oil
              Pumpkin seeds


        • Omega 6:



            Sunflower seeds
        • Omega 9:
              Olive Oil


Now you know what to eat, let's go over what not to eat:

Avoid Too Much Saturated Fats & Cholesterol:

Saturated fats are associated with so many health problems from clogged arteries to a bad heart. As well as being unhealthy, too much saturated fat can throw off your balance of healthy fats and rob you of their benefits. Cholesterol should monitored to preserve health.

Saturated Fat Food Sources:

        • Palm and coconut oil
        • Butter
        • Margarine
        • Full-fat Dairy
        • Full-fat Meat

Cholesterol Food Sources:

        • Seafood
        • Butter
        • Animal fats
        • Egg yolks

Avoid Too Much Sodium:

Although sodium is an essential mineral, sodium through salt is added to almost foods these days. Levels should be kept at a minimum because most foods naturally contain enough sodium for you to never become deficient.

Food Sources:

        • Most processed and take-away foods.

Avoid Overly Processed Foods:

These tend to be robbed of any nutritional value, and generally are high in both saturated fats and sodium, as well an assortment of additives such as preservatives.

Monitoring Calories:

Although you don't have to be as strict as you would be pre-competition, it's an idea to have a rough idea of how many calories you're consuming daily.

Everyone is different in terms of how many they need to maintain their optimal bodyweight, so finding a caloric level will have to be a trail-and-error thing.

The 40:30:30 Approach:

Regardless of the amount of calories you consume, you still should find the right caloric balance. A 40/30/30 works well for gaining muscle while keeping body fat low; 40 percent carbs, 30 percent protein and 30 percent fats.

Carbohydrates spike a hormone called insulin that is largely responsible for fat-gain, and by monitoring carbohydrates to a moderate, rather than extremely high level, we are able to avoid the negative affects of unstable insulin levels.

Too much insulin can lead to food cravings and a cycle of weight gain, as well as a predisposition to storing body fat. On top of this, unstable insulin levels can wreak havoc on your sugar levels, and cause your energy levels to be highly unpredictable.

Another reason this approach to calorie control works is because a large portion of your calories will come from protein. The 40:30:30: approach for a person who is on a 3,000 calorie-bulk would look something like this:

      • Protein: 225 grams
      • Fat: 110 Grams
      • Carbohydrates: 300 grams

Sample Daily Meal Plan Using The 40:30:30 Approach:


        • 250 grams of natural, low fat yogurt
        • 1 tbsp flaxseed oil
        • 1 1/2 cup of oats with 1 tbsp of wheat germ and 1 tbsp of bran
        • 1 tbsp of honey

Meal 2:

        • 50 grams of mixed raw nuts with one large banana
        • 1 serving of fruit


        • 1 Salmon sandwhich with salad and wholegrain bread

Meal 4: (possibly before training)

          Protein shake:
          • 500ml skim milk
          • Ion Exchange Whey Protein
          • Cocoa
          • 1/2 tbsp honey
          • 1 tsp. molasses
          • Optional brewers yeast


        • 150 grams of lean beef with salad
        • 2 tbsp olive oil and wholegrain bread (3 slices)

Meal 6:

          Protein Shake:
          • 500ml skim milk
          • Ion Exchange Whey Protein
          • Cocoa
          • 1 tsp. honey
          • 1 tsp. molasses
          • Optional brewers yeast

The above diet is an example of a 3,000 calorie diet. Feel free to make any alterations to the diet to suit your own caloric needs. If you believe you need lower than 3,000 calories then reduce serving size, or if you are above then increase serves.

Eat Low G.I:

Low G.I. foods are slowly digesting carbohydrates that provide sustained energy. Unlike fast-digesting carbohydrates they don't cause a crash in energy levels. As well as maintaining energy, they keep you away from cravings.

To maintain healthy sugar levels, ensure you are combing both fats/proteins with slow digesting carbs at each meal. This way, the protein and fat will slow the absorption of carbohydrates into the body.

Ensure you are eating smaller meals more frequency as well, which will keep sugar-levels from crashing, while simultaneously speeding up your metabolism.

Low GI Choices:

      • Oat meal
      • Whole grain bread
      • Beans
      • Peas
      • Fruits
      • Vegetables

High GI Choices:

      • White bread and white rice
      • Highly processed foods
      • Simple sugars

Other Off-Season Diet Tips:

  • Eat Smaller Meals At Regular Intervals: This will keep your body anabolic, and you're metabolism high.

  • Eat More Around Exercise: It makes sense to do this because this is a time your body is overly sensitive to nutrients and will use them for recovery and fuel, rather than storing them as fat.

  • Eat Nutrient Rich Foods: These foods are usually both very filling, and low in calories.

  • Don't Neglect Fruits & Vegetables: Just one serve of vegetables at each meal is enough to provide good serving of fiber, as well as slow down the rate at which the meal is absorbed.

Bonus Question:
How much fat do you gain in your off-season? What action do you take to reduce the fat you gain in your off-season?

I follow the approaches I've outlined in this article such as eating clean and doing high intensity cardio, and stay at 11-12% body fat in the off-season. I follow approximately a 3,000 calorie per day diet at a weight of 190lbs.

I find this approach has worked spot on. Everyone is different though; and I urge you give different approaches a try; just because it worked for me, doesn't necessarily mean you'll get the same results.

If I want to further reduce body fat I will reduce the amount of carbohydrates I consume, but keep my cardio the same. I believe in the benefits of high-intensity, low frequency cardio, so regardless of my weight, my cardio won't ever change.

I hope you have learned some of the tricks to loosing weight while getting big. Give a few of these things a try, and see for yourself that it is possible to gain muscle and simultaneously maintain body fat levels.

Good luck bulking!

2nd Place - Eggwhites

Bodybuilders tend to gain a lot of weight, both fat and muscle in the off-season. How can a bodybuilder stay lean during their off-season?

Most bodybuilders have the "bulk and cut" mindset. To them, bulking is all about gaining a huge amount of weight, even if a big proportion of that weight is fat mass. They find every excuse to pig out, telling themselves and others, "it's ok, I'm bulking!" Then, a few months later, they cut, dropping pounds of fat while trying to hold on to as much muscle as possible.

This is far from the best way to body build. Why would you want to look like a fat slob most of the year just to be cut up a couple of months at a time? Why would you want to gain pounds of fat in the off-season only to take a step backwards when cutting?

Three components need to be met in order to reduce fat gains in the off-season.

  1. First and foremost, your diet will need to be adjusted so that it is spread out in many clean meals throughout the day.

  2. Second, you will need to adjust your cardiovascular routine by incorporating low-to-moderate intensity cardio instead of the usual HIIT.

  3. Finally, you can incorporate a few "core" supplements to help you if your budget allows it.

With the proper nutrition, cardiovascular/resistance training, and supplement plan, any bodybuilder can stay lean in the off-season while still packing on pounds of muscle mass.

What should their cardiovascular routine consist of?

Many bodybuilders who try to add muscle mass quickly during the off-season stop doing cardiovascular exercise fearing that it will slow their muscle-building progress down. They believe that cardio is only beneficial when trying to burn fat and that any activity other than weight training will burn too many calories, thereby reducing the gap between energy in and energy out.

However, cardiovascular activity such as jogging, walking, or using any decent gym cardio machine is very beneficial to any bodybuilder. One of the most important roles of cardio in the off-season is to boost appetite, thus allowing for more calories to be taken in while keeping fat gains at bay.

Also, keeping your heart and lungs powerful through cardio will definitely help you in your weight training. Try discontinuing cardio for a long time and see how you handle 20-rep squats or lunges. Keeping your heart and lungs strong will keep you from huffing and puffing when lifting, thus allowing you to push with more intensity.

The frequency, intensity, duration, and the time at which you perform your cardiovascular training in the off-season will be determined below.


I personally only need two cardio sessions per week to stay lean. Some people with slower metabolisms may need to do cardio almost every day. At first, I recommend trying cardio two to three times a week and adjusting as you assess your progress.

Try to keep your cardio and weight-training sessions separated. If you only need a couple of cardio sessions per week, do them on the days you do not lift. If you need to perform more sessions, try to separate your cardio and weight-training sessions by a few hours and a couple of meals (at least).

Whether you decide to perform cardio in the morning, afternoon, or evening is up to you, although many people believe morning cardio is more effective than afternoon or evening cardio. If you opt to do morning cardio, I strongly recommend you consume a plain protein shake and/or some BCAA's prior to the session.


As far as intensity goes, try to stay between 65% and 75% of your max heart rate the whole time. This should not be difficult at all, but you cannot afford to be too intense as you will not be able to sustain your energy long enough. Higher intensities will also lead your body to metabolize more glucose and protein for energy and less fat (1).

This is why I strongly recommend low-to-moderate intensity cardio over HIIT cardio. HIIT is a great choice when trying to improve cardiovascular health and endurance, but it will not help much when trying to block/burn fat. Performing HIIT will also put you at greater risk for catabolizing muscle.

On the other hand, low-to-moderate intensity cardio works wonders for our purposes. It is great for slowing fat storage down while preserving muscle, and is also beneficial for cardiovascular health and endurance.

Your Max Heart Rate:

To figure out your max heart, use this basic rule: MHR (per minute) = 220-age. If you are 18 years old, your max heart rate will be about 202 beats per minute. In order to figure your range out, multiply your MHR by .65 and .75. Thus, an 18 year old bodybuilder will want to keep his heart rate between 131 BPM and 151 BPM, the average being around 141 BPM.

In order to monitor your heart rate, you can use the sensors that some machines have or simply bring your index and middle fingers to the side of your jaw, count the beats for 30 seconds, and multiply the number by 2. If your heart rate is below your target, increase the intensity and measure again. The opposite holds if your heart rate is too high.


The duration of your sessions should last between 30 minutes and an hour, with an average of 45 minutes. Your body does not start to metabolize fat until 20 minutes after you start the activity, so it is important to keep working for longer than 20 minutes (1). Of course, do not go overboard with this, and get off the treadmill before an hour has passed.

Form Of Cardio (Equipment-wise):

The kind or cardio you choose is totally up to you-as long as you meet the guidelines mentioned above-and some activities are better suited for our purposes than others.

I Personally Recommend The Following:

The treadmill on a 10% incline at about 3.2 miles an hour (adjusted as necessary), the stair stepper at a medium intensity, the stepmill, or the elliptical machine at medium intensity (don't be embarrassed about the elliptical; Chris Cormier Jay Cutler use it).

Also, try to alternate your cardio choices to keep things fresh. I usually don't recommend jogging, as it is very stressful on the joints. Keep in mind that those 45 minutes will be very boring so bring a magazine or a music player (I personally cannot do cardio without listening to the radio show Pro Bodybuilding weekly).


Whether you perform your cardio in the morning, afternoon, or night is up to you, although many people swear by morning cardio. The claim is that since glycogen stores are low upon waking, your body will begin burning fat as soon you start. There is nothing wrong with this mentality, but I believe above all that you should choose a time that you will be consistent with.

What supplements are essential for the off-season bodybuilder?

Many people misuse supplements, believing they are miracle products that will help them build muscle and burn fat without effort. Most novice bodybuilders start supplementing before worrying about their diets, which is absolutely useless. Once your diet is somewhat in check, you can start adding supplements to the mix.

Some supplements are considered "core supplements" and are taken by most successful bodybuilders. They include multi-vitamins/minerals, protein powders, creatine, and BCAA's. Other supplements can be added to the mix and are especially helpful when trying to stay lean in the off-season. These include fat burners, caffeine, and green tea extract.


Since bodybuilders' diets usually lack variety, some vitamin and mineral deficiencies may occur. Also, intense training can deplete the body's stores of vitamins and minerals.

As a result, multi-vitamins can be especially helpful for bodybuilders as they will ensure vitamin deficiencies do not develop. I recommend AST's Multi Pro 32X or Higher Power's One-a-day.

Protein Powders:

Although most of your protein should come from real-food sources, protein powders can help bodybuilders meet their protein needs as they offer a concentrated source of protein in a convenient form. There are several forms of protein, and each has its advantages and drawbacks.

Whey Protein is digested very fast and has one of the highest biological values of any protein source. As a result, whey protein is best taken first thing in the morning after a long night of fasting, before workouts to ensure your body does not draw on muscle protein for energy.

You will also want to consume whey protein immediately after workouts to take advantage for the "window of opportunity" where protein synthesis is highest. If you perform cardio first thing in the morning, it is recommended that you consume some whey protein right before to spare muscle catabolism.

The second most common protein form is casein protein, the main protein found in dairy. Casein protein digested very slowly, thus making it ideal to consume right before bed to give your body a sustained supply of amino acids. Shoot for 40-60 grams of casein protein right before hitting the sack.

There are a ton of different whey proteins out there. Choose one that fits your budget and shoot for a protein that is at least 70% protein. To find this number, simply divide the amount of protein by the serving size. For example, if the serving size is 34 grams and has 25 grams of protein, the percentage of protein is 25/34, which amounts to about 74% protein.


Creatine is a naturally occurring compound used to improve athletic performance by facilitating the production of adenosine triphosphate, also known as ATP, the fuel that muscles use for energy (2).

Creatine has been attacked by the media as a dangerous substance lately, but the short-term use of creatine has not been linked to any serious health risks (3). Many forms of creatine are available and are relatively inexpensive. The two most common are creatine monohydrate and creatine ethyl ester. The choice is up to you.

Creatine monohydrate is tasteless and does not dissolve while creatine ethyl ester tastes very bitter but dissolves. Some people believe creatine ethyl ester is more effective, but studies still need to be conducted to verify this claim.

On a personal note, creatine monohydrate has made me feel nauseated while creatine ethyl ester has not. This is an individual reaction, but if you feel nauseated from monohydrate give ethyl ester a try. I recommend taking between 2 and 5 grams of creatine before and after workouts.

If you must only choose one time, go with post-workout. At that time, try to consume your creatine with a high-glycemic carb such as grape juice, dextrose, and/or maltodextrin. High-glycemic carbohydrates cause insulin to spike, a hormone that causes nutrient uptake in the cells. If creatine consumption is paired with an insulin spike, it will be driven right to the muscle, thus accelerating the muscle synthesis process (4).


Branched chain amino acids are composed of the essential amino acids leucine, isoleucine, and valine. BCAA's have been used by bodybuilders for their anabolic (muscle building) properties.

The best times to take BCAA's are first thing in the morning, pre-workout, during-workout, post-workout, and before bed. The recommended dosage is between 2 and 10 grams at everyone of the times mentioned above. You will have to adjust the frequency and dosage based on your budget.

Fat Burners:

Most bodybuilders only consider taking fat burners when cutting (reducing body fat). However, when trying to stay lean in the off-season, fat burners can be very helpful. I recommend taking a fat burner before your cardio and weight-training workouts. Taking them before each cardio session will improve your ability to burn fat or keep fat storage at bay.

When taken before your weight workouts, they can do the same in addition to improving your mental focus. Keep in mind that most fat burners contain stimulants. I personally enjoy the effects of stimulants, but if you cannot handle them, try to obtain a stimulant-free fat burner like Avant Labs' Sesathin or Syntrax's MM4.

If you do not mind stimulants, many fat burners are available to you. I recommend either SAN Tight (which I've had great results with) or Lipo 6 from Nutrex. These two products contain similar ingredients, including synephrine, Guggulsterones, and green tea extract.

Green Tea & Green Tea Extract:

Green Tea and Green Tea extract have been shown to increase fat oxidation and has thermogenic effects in the human body (5). Whether you decide to drink green tea or take green tea extract pills depends on your personal preferences.

I personally enjoy drinking regular old-fashioned green tea. If you opt to do the same, I recommend drinking around three cups a day. Green tea is an effective fat-burner in part because it contains caffeine.


Like Green Tea, caffeine has thermogenic abilities and thus helps with fat oxidation. Caffeine can also improve mental alertness, which can help with your workouts (6).

You can either drink coffee or take caffeine pills (250mg recommended daily), but keep in mind that these can get addictive. Also, since most fat burners and green tea already contain caffeine, additional intake may be unnecessary and potentially harmful. Caffeine will be most beneficial if you are not taking a fat burner or if you are not consuming green tea already.

How should your diet differentiate?

To the type of bodybuilder described in the introduction (the "bulk/cut" bodybuilders), their diet change considerably from the off-season to when they are cutting up for the summer or for a contest. However, in order to stay lean, bodybuilders should stay on a diet similar to their "cutting" diet year-round.

Of course, some people will have to be stricter than others, depending on genetic predispositions, but the idea is simple: eat more or less clean year round. This is a hard to concept for many bodybuilders to get used to, but nothing will work better.

Eating clean does not mean eating like professional bodybuilders two weeks out from the Arnold classic, however. You will just need to pay close attention to what you are feeding your body.

1. Protein:

You will want to consume huge amounts of protein. This means as much as 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight, every single day, spaced out in 5 to 7 meals.

For a 180 pound bodybuilder, this will mean over 350 grams of high quality protein a day, and roughly 50 to 70 grams per meal, depending on how many times you eat in a day. It is very important that your protein come from lean, high quality sourced.

Protein Sources:

Some of the best choices will include:

        • Top round/top sirloin/or eye of round steak
        • Extra lean ground beef and ground turkey
        • Fish
        • Egg whites
        • Whey protein
        • Casein protein
        • Milk protein concentrate
        • Chicken breast
        • Turkey breast
        • Tuna
        • Pork loin
        • And more...

2. Carbohydrate/Fiber:

Carbohydrates are one of the most important nutrients to pay attention to when trying to stay lean in the off-season. I know a lot of people hate the phrase "everyone's body is different," but this is especially true when it comes to carbs. Some people can handle them better than others.

As a rule of thumb, carb consumption should not exceed 2.5 grams per pound of bodyweight per day. This will come out to 450 grams per day at the most. Notice that I said, make sure not to exceed this point. Many people will be able to gain mass with much less carbs. But when it comes to carbohydrates, the timing of their consumption is as important, if not more important, than the overall amount consumed.

Carbohydrates are the body's main energy source (especially anaerobic activity such as weight training) and as a result, are best to consume at breakfast and/or before a workout, depending on when you workout. You will also want to consume carbohydrates high on the glycemic index right after your workout, which we covered earlier in the supplement section.

Beyond these three times, consuming carbs at other points of the day are purely up to the individual. If you can handle eating carbs at other meals and are not gaining fat, go ahead and do so. However, a very important thing to note is that you will need to stop consuming carbs close to bed time.

The only exception to this rule is if you workout at night, in which case you will need carbs pre and post workout. If you do not workout in the evening, it is VERY important that you follow the carb-cutoff rule. If you go to sleep at around 10:00PM, I'd suggest cutting carbs at around 6 or 7, thus leaving your last one or two meals carb-free.

The only forms of carbs that are allowed past this point are fiber-rich vegetables such as broccoli or asparagus. The reason for carb-cutoffs is simply that later in the evening, you are usually much less active. As a result, if carbs are consumed late at night, they will very likely be stored as fat.

In order to illustrate my point, I will draw attention to sumo wrestlers. One of the main techniques they use to accumulate so much fat is to eat large quantities of carbs (mostly rice) right before bed. I think this is enough to demonstrate the value of carb-cutoffs.

Note that fruits, while not the best things to consume when trying to stay lean, are still acceptable, especially at breakfast and around workout time. Apples, bananas, strawberries, and blueberries are all acceptable, and can make protein shakes taste better.

Carbohydrate Sources:

The best choices of carbohydrates will comes from low-to-moderate glycemic index sources such as:

  • Brown rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Whole wheat spaghetti
  • Yams and sweet potatoes
  • Beans




Fibrous Carb Choices:

You will also want to consume fibrous carbs throughout the day and even late at night. Great choices include:

      • Broccoli
      • Asparagus
      • Spinach
      • Bell peppers
      • Celery
      • Green leafy lettuce
            green leaf

            red leaf


3. Fat:

When trying to stay lean in the off-season, fats are not off limits, but three key concepts must be applied: moderation, choice, and compatibility. The first concept, moderation, is self explanatory. Fat should not consist of more than 20% of your caloric intake.

The second concept is choice, meaning your choice of fat. While saturated fat is still needed for proper hormone production, you will want most of your fats to be unsaturated (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated). Of course, trans fat need to be kept at zero, which will not be hard if you do not consume any processed food.

The small amount of saturated fat that you need will be found in the animal protein sources that you will consume (lean beef and other lean animal proteins). The final and least talked-about concept is compatibility.

In a nut shell, you need to understand that fat and carbohydrates should not be eaten in large quantities together. The reason for this is complicated but in simple terms, carbs cause the hormone insulin to be released. Insulin causes nutrient uptake in cells.

If a lot of fat is present when insulin spikes, that fat will easily get "uptook" and stored. As a result, when eating a carbohydrate-rich meal, try to limit your fat intake to less than 10 grams at that meal. In order to get all the fat you need in your diet, you will need to consume some meals that only contain protein and fat.

With those meals, you can consume as much as 20 grams of fat. I recommend consuming one to three low-carb meals every day. One or two of these will inevitably be before bed. The others will be whenever you choose.

Fat Sources:

For your fat needs, you will want to consume things such as:

        • Olive oil
        • Canola oil
        • Soybean oil
        • Fatty fish such as salmon
        • Almonds
        • Walnuts
        • Avocadoes
        • Natural peanut butter
        • Flaxseed oil (not flaxseeds, they are too hard for your body to absorb)

Sample Diet:

The following sample diet is high in very clean calories and is consistent with all of the recommendations mentioned above. This particular plan was designed for a workout day without cardio. If you were to perform cardio first thing in the morning, add a protein shake with BCAA's before the session and go on with meal 1.

Meal 1 - 9:00AM

      • 35g Optimum Nutrition Whey Protein isolate/concentrate
      • 6 egg whites
      • 100g oatmeal (+Splenda if necessary)
      • Whole wheat toast + half teaspoon natural peanut butter
      • Multi-vitamins

Meal 2 - 12:00AM

      • 1 cup brown rice
      • 200g chicken breast
      • 1 cup asparagus

Meal 3 - 2:00PM (1 Hour Pre-Workout)

      • 45g whey protein isolate/concentrate + BCAA's
      • 100g oatmeal
      • 1 or 2 frozen strawberries
      • 4g creatine
      • Fat burner/green tea/caffeine

Meal 4 - 4:00PM (Immediately Post-Workout)

      • 50g whey protein isolate/concentrate
      • 8 oz dark grape juice (No sugar added)
      • 35g maltodextrin
      • Handful of dry raisins

Meal 5 - 5:30PM

      • 200g top round steak
      • 1 or 2 sweet potatoes
      • 1 cup broccoli

Meal 6 - 8:00PM

      • 250g turkey breast
      • 1 tablespoon flaxseed oil

Meal 7 - 10:00PM

      • 50g casein protein
      • handful of almonds

Bonus Question:
How much fat do you gain in your off-season? What action do you take to reduce the fat you gain in your off-season?

I personally gain around 6% body fat in the off-season. I do not let myself get higher than 14% or 15% body fat, so it very important that I take the necessary steps to stay as lean as I can in the off-season. The faster I get fat, the sooner I have to cut and I see cutting as a waste of time.

The time I spend cutting could be spent packing on more mass. Of course, cutting is necessary when competing for a contest or posing for a photo shoot, but those will not happen for a while. The last time I bulked the wrong way, I got to around 15% body fat.

By reading a lot and learning about my body, I realized I was making tons of mistakes. I was eating too much, cheating every weekend, had stopped doing cardio, was mixing carbs with fat, and was eating tons of carbs before bed. I then decided to cut in order to give myself a good base to start from scratch and start a clean bulk.

In order to reduce the fat I gain in the off-season, I follow the guidelines I wrote above, give or take a few things. For example, I do low-to-moderate cardio twice a week, I drink plenty of green tea, I have 7 extremely clean meals a day, and I use the supplements I listed above.

I started my clean bulk about 6 months ago, and I have gained VERY minimal fat while gaining muscle. My abs are still visible and my waist has increased by less than half an inch! If you are accumulating more fat than you want in the off-season, follow the guidelines laid out in this article and you will not be disappointed.


  1. "Understanding Nutrition." Whitney, Rolfes, Pinna. 2006.
  2. "Creatine use Among Young Athletes." Metzl, Jordan., Eric Small, Steven R. Levine, and Jeffrey C. Gershel. Pediatrics 108.2 (August 2001): 421.
  3. "Current popular ergogenic aids used in sports: a critical review." Beduschi, Graziela. Nutrition & Dietetics: The Journal of the Dieticians Association of Australia 60.2 (June 2003): 104(15).
  4. "Muscle Building." May 2003. Accessed on 02/19/06.
  5. "Green tea extract, energy expenditure, and fat oxidation." Journal of the American Dietetic Association 100.5 (May 2000): 597.
  6. "Caffeine Info and Products," [ online ] Accessed on 02/21/06.

3rd Place - ho_124

How Can A Bodybuilder Stay Lean In Their off-season?

Almost every sport has an off-season where athletes train extremely hard to get ready for the competitions and tournaments that are months down the road. Even though these competitions may seem far off, it doesn't mean it's time to slack, as a matter of fact it's probably the time where you have to work the hardest, especially in bodybuilding.

During the off-season in bodybuilding you have to work your hardest and there's no time for slacking or screw ups, or else your whole in-season will be screwed over. Unlike some other sports where you can start picking up the slack later on, bodybuilding is way different from that.

The off-season is the one and only time to put on as much muscle as possible to compete. Competitions in bodybuilding judge mainly on how much muscle mass a competitor has, so therefore it is essential that everything is planned and done right so that muscular gain is maximized.

If you wait too long to pick up slack, then you will only have a few months before a competition or the summer to put on muscle. This is the worst situation because you might be spending some of your in-season which is competition time to bulk up and you might not have enough time to cut down your fat, or you just won't put on as much muscle and therefore not look as good.

However considering you have all this down and planned out, it is important to know how to stay as lean as possible during your off-season, because as you know, muscular gains come along with fat too. If you don't try to stay as lean as possible then you might be spending too long cutting down fat which could be time used to bulk up even more.

So keeping fat levels low ensures you won't have to work too hard at cutting to get ready for the competition you want to be going to or the beach or whatever. It's also great because if you for any reason need more time to cut down maybe because of your body type, you can afford to do that because you've kept your fat levels as low as possible.

Now when people hear this they often think doing godly amounts of cardio will keep the fat levels down. This is a huge and common mistake, because doing that much cardio will probably burn all the muscle they try to gain, increase the amount of calories they need so therefore they don't reach the amount or they just end up overtraining the legs which is horrible.

I've seen it before and I've done it and I'm sure a lot of people have done it, but you never want to overtrain on cardio. If you do way too much cardio and your not prepared for it then you probably will end up doing more than your body can handle for a few months and that's when you realize you've overtrained on cardio for a few months.

Then the bad news is you probably won't be able to train for 6 months to maybe even a year because your legs are fried. So before getting into all this, GO EASY on the cardio, you won't be losing that much fat by doing it anyway because during the off-season the main focus is gaining muscle and not cutting; fat loss won't be significant. The main thing to remember is don't overdo anything especially cardio or your training.

Staying Lean:
Bodybuilders tend to gain a lot of weight, both fat and muscle in the off-season. How can a bodybuilder stay lean during their off-season?

There are many ways to stay lean during the off-season, some are significant ways but others are small ways. The thing is to keep everything in mind because if you do all the small things right rather than ignoring them, it will pay off in the end since all the small things make a difference.

One thing I want to say here is what is done during the off-season that requires bodybuilders to be so careful about watching their fat levels. While on the off-season basically the only thing that changes is the diet and this is where fat levels have to be watched closely.

During the off-season the bodybuilder takes on a bulking diet which is used to try to put on muscle and basically they try to get more calories than their maintenance level to put on muscle (Excess calories are required to build muscle effectively). But also when they do this they put on fat because of the excess calories, that's the main reason why bodybuilders have to find ways to minimize fat gain or to keep it at bay. So the following are things to do to minimize your fat gains.

1. It's All About Calories:

  • The biggest change you will be making in the off-season is the calories. Everything depends on calories and it can be the difference between gaining muscle and minimal fat or gaining muscle and more fat than you want. The rule of thumb everyone goes by is getting 500 calories above your maintenance level to gain muscle, but this isn't true for everyone.

    If you're taking too much calories then you might be putting on unnecessary fat, and this scares some people so they don't get enough calories and they end up not gaining enough muscle. This is where you have to determine how many calories you need; it's not that hard at all.

    The main thing that you should take into consideration is what body type you have, this is essential. I won't get into all of it in detail, but basically there's the mesomorph, ectomorph, and endomorph, and calorie consumption should vary between these body types. Remember there are combinations, not everyone is purely ectomorph, someone might be a mix between an ectomorph and a mesomorph.

  • Basically the ectomorph is the kind of body type that doesn't gain muscle or fat very easily. These people can probably go above the 500 calorie limit without gaining significant amounts of fat. Depending on how much of an ectomorph you are, you want to up your calorie intake according to what degree your body is an ectomorph.

    Some people would probably be safe with 1000 calories over their maintenance level. The endomorph is a body type that gains muscle and fat easier. Because fat gains come with the increased calorie level, endomorphs might want to go lower than 500 calories depending on how much they are an endomorph.

    The mesomorph is where everyone wants to be. They gain muscle easily or easier and can keep fat levels lower. Because of this they usually stick with the 500 calorie over the maintenance level rule, because they might gain unnecessary fat if they go too high. So remember, the main thing is to alter your calorie intake depending on what body type you are and what mixes of body types you have.

2. Bulk On Healthy Foods:

  • Bulking on healthy foods is super important to staying lean. If someone cheats all the time when they bulk, meaning they eat unhealthy foods such as things loaded with sugar and fat, then they not only will limit their muscular gains, but accelerate their fat gains. Eating foods loaded with fat, sugar, and unhealthy ingredients has many negative effects on the body.

    First of all as you know it affects your health and if you have poor health it will affect your performance in the gym. Also eating those kinds of foods will result in unwanted fat gain, for example sugar spikes insulin resulting in fat gain. So stay away from the foods loaded with simple sugars and fat, that will be a huge factor in staying lean, especially if you susceptible to gaining fat.

3. Eat 6 Meals A Day:

  • Eating six meals a day ensures that not only will you get a constant flow of nutrients for your body to build muscle, but also so you won't gain fat. That's right; eating that many meals a day keeps your body from storing fat as a defense against starvation.

    So if you only eat three meals a day, your body might store fat because it's afraid it will starve, that's why anorexic people initially store fat when they stop eating. Also eating more meals a day speeds up your metabolism so you won't likely store other meals as fat, which is good if you have a slow metabolism which results in fat gain.

4. Drink Enough Water:

  • Drinking water is, believe it or not, a way to keep lean. If you don't drink enough water your liver will have to come into play to help your kidneys pick up slack. When this happens, you can't metabolize food as fast and your body will likely store some as fat. So drink lots of water but not so much so you're bloated all the time.

5. Do Cardio & Time It:

  • Doing cardio will help you keep fat at bay, plain and simple. Everyone knows that. But the thing is how much to do and when to do it. The thing with cardio during bulking is that you don't want to do too much, because it's not like you will be losing tons of fat by doing it, because your body is currently building muscle, and it's hard for it to drop fat.

    Rarely are there cases where someone gains a lot of muscle and loses quite a bit of fat at the same time. So don't go crazy on the cardio and do godly amounts of it because you will just end up overtraining your legs or burning muscle. So you only want to do cardio about 3 times a week during bulking.

    I wouldn't do any more than that because if you do too much you might end up breaking down the muscle you build in the gym. There are different kinds of cardio that can be done which I will cover later but now the question is when to do it. One thing that burns fat quite effectively is doing cardio in the morning.

    I used to think this was bad for the system, but the point here isn't to become cardiovascularly fit, the point is to gain muscle. Doing cardio in the morning is good because your carb levels are low, so your body will use fat for energy which is good.

    However your body might also use muscle for energy which is bad. So that's why you might want to drink a protein shake before going for a run to minimize muscle breakdown for energy.

    If you don't want to do this then fit it into your own schedule, just make sure not to do it before a workout or else you won't maximize your results in the gym because your glycogen levels are depleted and you've already started muscle breakdown in your cardio session.

6. Use A Fat Burner:

  • I don't like using fat burners but a lot of people like using to burn off some fat and speed up metabolism. It also provides energy for people which might be a good thing to boost performance in the gym. However some fat burners suppresses the appetite which you don't want because you're going to need to eat a lot of food.

What should their cardiovascular routine consist of?

There are many different ways of doing cardio. Some have weak and strong points and some kinds of cardio people choose because they like that kind the best. You don't have to be all worried about when to do cardio or what kind to do because the goal here isn't cardio, its gaining muscle and keeping fat away.

So all that really matters is that you're doing cardio decently correct. Basically like I said above three cardio sessions is good enough a week. As a matter of fact doing cardio for three sessions a week for 30 minutes each time will result in near zero muscle loss.

For those guys who are afraid to even walk to the store because they think cardio is bad, your wrong. Basically I will list two kinds of cardio that are good enough for the needs of bodybuilders while on the off-season. One thing you should always remember is to put cardio as far away from legs as possible and not to do cardio on a leg day.

1. HIIT - High Intensity Interval Training:

  • This is kind of a new thing that a lot of bodybuilders like to do for cardio. It basically consists of high intensity intervals followed by low intensity ones. The whole session last for about 20-30 minutes which is great because it saves time. There are great benefits from it.

  • A sample routine would look like this. Keep it simple, that's the best thing. You don't need a super complicated schedule for great results that's a common mistake that will just confuse you.

    • Monday - HIIT in the morning or whenever possible
    • Tuesday
    • Wednesday - HIIT in the morning or whenever possible
    • Thursday
    • Friday - HIIT in the morning or whenever possible
    • Saturday
    • Sunday

2. Regular Cardio 3x A Week For 30 Minutes:

    • Remember doing cardio three times a week for thirty minutes will result in virtually no muscle loss so don't be afraid. You shouldn't be going all out in these runs, just enough so that your decently tired in the end, not dead tired.

      Go at about 75% of your max heart rate and that will be good enough. You can do running, rowing, cycling, skipping or even play a sport. Just don't run on the treadmill for thirty minutes because it tends to get boring.

    • Here's a sample schedule, and again keeping it simple, no need to get complicated. That's for people who get tricked into paying lots of money for some personal trainer to make them an ultra complicated schedule that works the same as a simple one.

      • Monday - Run for 30 minutes
      • Tuesday
      • Wednesday - Cycle for 30 minutes
      • Thursday
      • Friday - Swim for 30 minutes
      • Saturday
      • Sunday

What supplements are essential for the off-season bodybuilder?

1. Whey Protein: (Add Simple Sugars Into Your Shake After A Workout)

  • Whey protein is probably the number one supplement for gaining muscle. Not only does it stop muscle breakdown but it also helps repair muscle right after a workout and starts recovery practically right when you drink it since its fast absorbing.

    That means your body will start building muscle back faster than if you ate a slow absorbing protein or if you just didn't eat anything. Also it works with simple sugars to boost insulin which helps build muscle and stop muscle breakdown. Simple sugars not only help recovery by replacing glycogen stores, but also spikes insulin which stops muscle breakdown and builds muscle.

2. Creatine:

  • Creatine is a great supplement for gaining muscle since some people can gain up to 10 pounds within the first few weeks of using it. It's also great for post workout and good to boost ATP which is good for short bursts of energy. You also have to cycle on and off it so you don't get too used to it. So you might want to try 3 weeks on and 1 week off. It won't do too much if you go off it for a week.

3. Multi-vitamin:

  • Multivitamins are important to provide nutrients for your body to be in an anabolic state. Trying to get all the vitamins and minerals just from diet is super hard, that's why multi-vitamins are great.

    Any lack of a certain vitamin can cause some trouble but with a multivitamin you don't have to worry about that. There are also great things such as anti-oxidants in them and also things like Vitamin-C which help in reducing muscle stress.

4. Sesamin:

  • Sesamin is kind of a new product that helps people burn fat and is suppose to be very good at doing that. I don't really know much about it but it is something to consider during the off-season especially if you tend to gain a lot of fat. This isn't really a must have but rather something to try out if your interested.

5. EFA Supplements:

  • EFA supplements are great for loads of benefits and two which are really good for the off-season which are hormonal maintenance and keeping fat levels low.

    You need hormonal maintenance because if your testosterone levels were low, you wouldn't be able to build that much muscle, and also keeping the fat low is a good benefit. You need the essential fats omega 3-6-9 because those are the ones your body can't synthesize, so it's important to get all of those.

6. Fat Burner:

Fat burners again aren't a must have but something someone might want to consider if they tend to gain too much fat in the off-season. Someone shouldn't rely on a fat burner and also you should stay away from ones that suppress appetite.

How should your diet differentiate?

Compared to the in season the diet is way different. There are a number of things that are different such as:

1. Calories:

  • Calories are way different. During the off-season you want to get an excess of calories so that your body uses the extra energy to build muscle. This isn't true in the in-season. While in this stage you have to cut fat so then your calories drop below your maintenance level which results in fat loss.

2. Carb Intake:

  • Carb intake during the off-season should be more than the in season. Carb intake is essential for the off-season to provide enough carbs to refuel your body for the next workout. But during the in-season the main goal is dropping fat which can be accelerated if you lower carbs.

    Lowering carbs which doesn't mean Atkins style, helps your body burn more fat because once carb levels are low, your body uses fat to burn as energy.

3. Protein Intake:

  • Protein intake is also different and is opposite from carbs. During the off-season about you need at least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight. But during the in-season you need more because for people that lower their carbs they need protein or else their body might burn muscle for energy because carb levels are low.

4. Different Kinds Of Foods:

  • During the in season bodybuilders have to carefully watch what kinds of foods they eat, not only because it's near a competition and they don't want to gain fat, but also because certain foods can have adverse effects on their appearance.

    For example too much salt even from healthy foods might result in water retention resulting in less definition. Also bodybuilders cut dairy products before the competition and also other foods to look their best.

Bonus Question:
How much fat do you gain in your off-season? What action do you take to reduce the fat you gain in your off-season?

Since I'm sort of a mix between an ectomorph and a mesomorph I tend to gain only a little fat in the off-season. This is great but also my muscle gains tend to come slower also. I tend to gain about 2-4% body fat. Because of this I don't really have to worry about getting the exact amount of calories and I can afford to go over what I'm supposed to eat.

Also because I don't gain fat as much I don't usually do cardio because that isn't really my focus. And also fitting in cardio jumbles up your training split because you don't want it near leg days and not before weight lifting sessions, so I just cut it out all together.

However in some cases I might do cardio for example when it's nearing the in-season to get a little bit of a start, or maybe if I'm gaining more fat than expected.

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