As appeared in the March 2007 issue of FLEX.
ÂFOR SOME REASON, BODYBUILDERS can be really silly when it comes to scales. It affects your thinking, because you can look absolutely perfect, but if you see the numbers are down on the scale, you may feel like you need to eat more. You start questioning things. By looking only at the mirror and trusting my instincts, IÂm staying true to my game.
ÂI know by looking in the mirror what my body is doing on a daily basis. At the beginning, itÂs really about feel. YouÂre not going to notice anything visually right away. If I feel right Â if I feel more energetic and IÂm getting good pumps when training Â then I know the diet is working the way I want it to. The first couple of weeks, itÂs feel. After that, you start to see things happening; from that point on, itÂs pretty much all visual. You might see something subtle, like little hints of striations or separations, and you know youÂre on the right track."
ÂPREPARING FOR THE 1998 NPC USA Championships, I wanted to try something different, because I had been doing what everyone else was doing: keeping carbs at a certain level and dropping them at the end. I wanted to see how my body responded to fat, so I went with a high-fat diet all the way through, eating foods such as steak, lean hamburger, chicken, cheese, olive oil, eggs with yolks, avocados and peanut butter.
ÂI had been competing for three or four years by that time. I was returning from my honeymoon and I was in good shape, so I thought I might as well jump on a six-week high-fat diet and do the show. I wanted to eat things that kept me feeling full longer and kept my muscles full at the same time. High fat did that for me. I always felt like I had a great pump; my muscles felt dense.
ÂUsually, IÂd have to worry about getting too lean too fast Â I weighed probably 210 pounds at most in the offseason. This diet kept my muscles full and hypertrophied. I didnÂt feel like I was shrinking; I had a ÂpoppedÂ look. It helped me finish first in the light-heavyweight division that year.Â
CARBS UP AND CARBS DOWN
ÂI STAYED WITH A HIGH-PROTEIN, high-fat diet for another couple of contests [after the 1998 USA], but as you grow, your body inevitably changes. I got tired of eating red meat.
ÂI stay pretty lean year-round and I have a fast metabolism, so I introduced more quality calories and balanced my intake of fats, protein and carbs. My body always worked well with carbs; it was just a matter of getting in enough protein to keep me full without eating as much red meat.
ÂDuring that time, I ate a lot of brown rice, potatoes, oatmeal or grits, chicken, turkey, fish and egg whites. I had a steak every other day. IÂd play with the carbs: go really low or really high. I went up to 350 grams of carbs per day for one diet and I still was in great condition. I have been on diets that included around 125-150 g of carbs daily. All of them have been successful for me.Â
ÂBEFORE I MADE THE DECISION TO manipulate my carbs and reduce my fat intake, I would eat junk food during the offseason, especially hamburgers and cheeseburgers. I finally woke up and realized that the more quality food you eat, the better your body is going to respond and utilize it. Once I started eating better in the offseason in 1999 and 2000, I was able to put on 14 pounds of quality muscle. I never got fat, and I saw exactly what my body was doing during the offseason based on the quality of food that I was eating. I got up to 228 before I did the 2000 USA, when I came in as a heavyweight, and that was the heaviest I had ever been. [He finished second to Tevita Aholelei.]
ÂI eat a lot of pasta for my carbs during the offseason now, but I didnÂt eat much pasta at that time. Potatoes, rice and oatmeal were my main sources of carbohydrates throughout the year. Of course, I would have junk food here and there, usually on a weekly cheat day, but it was chiefly those three carb sources at that time.Â
ÂMY GOAL IS TO GAIN SEVEN OR EIGHT more pounds of muscle in 2007 and get up to around 240 for the last two qualifying contests before the Olympia. I down a minimum of three oatmeal-protein drinks a day. My first one is two cups of dry oatmeal and three scoops of protein, so thatÂs about 75 g of protein and 100 g of carbs. Then I usually take in three more drinks with at least one cup of oatmeal and two scoops of protein, so my total, if I drink those four, is about 225 g of protein and 250 g of carbs. I also have three solid meals Â two of them are pasta and chicken or pasta and fish, and one of them may be steak strips with fruit and some carbs, such as a pancake.
ÂThis will be my year for big gains. People were impressed with how much I put on for the 2006 Mr. Olympia, but I believe my bodyÂs ready to go with a whole year of training properly, sticking to my plan and being totally consistent with my diet. ThereÂs no reason I shouldnÂt be able to gain eight to 10 pounds and still come in with a fuller physique with the same small waist and everything tapered and proportioned.Â