The number one mistake I see in terms of “cutting” or fat loss is this –
Trying to make it happen overnight.
Guys and girls drastically increase training volume, take cardio or conditioning from 0 to 60 in one day, and cut food in half overnight. RECIPE FOR FAILURE.
Worst case scenario – you crash and burn feeling delpleted and zombie-like until you stuff your face in a binge that makes you regret things you didn’t even do.
Best case scenario – you’re mentally tough enough to suffer through your stupid plan and you wind up losing strength and hard-earned muscle.
Neither of which are why you started the plan to begin with.
Slow and steady wins the race.
Today, I’ve brought in my good friend and long-time training partner Cris Edmonds – or “Cris the Insane”.
Cris is a bodybuilder and he is about 1 1/2 weeks out from his first show in 2 years.
Cris started his diet nearly 6 months ago. Yes – 6 months! That’s the point of this post – to show you how to properly progress through a fat loss diet to get peeled to the bone and lose ZERO muscle. In fact, Cris is still incline benching 275 for sets of 6-8. ZERO loss of strength!
Cris, thanks for joining us today. Let’s get this rolling.
Q: Give us the outline – or general approach – when it comes to dieting, or contest prep for you.
A: Let me start by saying thanks for having me on your blog and being able to help all your readers out there get better at their chosen craft. First off this is by far the longest contest prep diet I have ever done totaling 25 weeks. I hesitate to use the word diet because even throughout my off-season I was on a strict diet. I’m gonna attempt to be brief becuase as you know Ryan, you and I could talk diet/training all day.
If I had to sum up my approach it would be start calories from carbohydrates and fats high and cardio low (3 sessions of 20 mins or less of moderate to low intensity for example) then slowly lower carbs and fats while increasing frequency and duration of cardio sessions. The one thing that stays pretty constant is the protein intake.
Typically I would always wrap up my last 8 weeks or so with some sort of carb cycle, rotating between high, medium and low carbohydrate days throughout the week based upon which body parts I was training that day. Now I said typically because this prep I have been working with IFBB Pro Shelby Starnes. Not only have we done this prep together, we worked together for an entire year of off-season mass gaining together as well.
For my prep starting at 25 weeks out we cut my meals from 9 per day to 6, eliminated peri-workout nutrition and reduced overall calories. And then based upon my progress we either stayed the course, increased cardio, lowered carbs or fats and here we are today almost 50lbs lighter.
Q: What has your experience been like this time around working with a coach as opposed to doing it yourself in the past?
A: Without a doubt Shelby is the man, he has removed a ton of stress because he does all the dirty work. By emailing back and forth and through pics that I send him every 5 days he shoots me an update and we are continually making progress. Since I make a living doing personal training with a specialty in contest athletes, many people ask, “Cris, why do you need a coach?” The truth……….I don’t believe I can objectively look in the mirror and make that call. He has pushed me to do things that in the past I would not have done, but my condition is at an all-time high and I have not lost one ounce of strength along the way. Take home message, find a reliable coach and hire them NOW.
Q: Great advice, and I couldn’t agree more. If I ever compete or do a shoot again, I’ll be doing the same thing. As I mentioned above, most people want to change everything instantly when they start a “cut”. Tell us how your training changed during your “fat loss” phase.
A: This is something that drives me crazy whenever I get a new client that wants to start a cut. They think high reps, super light weights and giant sets are what you have to do to get “shredded.” Such a myth. Truth is, we have to continue to do what helped us get the muscle in the first place – heavy ass weight. I use a second coach, John Meadows for workouts. He and Shelby work closely with each other to make sure my training and nutrition complement each other. And this evil genius has helped my gain quality muscle in the off-season and maintain all of it in the quest to rid my body of the dreaded fat.
John has not backed off one bit and I train exactly the same now at 176.6 as I did when I was 223.0. You would think that difference in scale weight would result in dramatic strength decrease, but you lifted with me the past few weeks, so you tell me Ryan.
Q: Hah, I can attest that the strength is just as high as it ever was! And this is exactly the message I wanted you to relay – perfect! Now, talk about how the calories and cardio progressed from where you started to where you are now.
A: Let’s start with what I finished my off-season at. On training days I consumed 6803 calories and on non-training days I was at 4310 calories. I know most people look at those number and think I’m lying but my metabolism is like a humming bird, so that’s what it took for me to gain solid muscle. It’s important to note that Shelby and gradually worked my numbers that high over the course of a few months.
I made pretty steady scale weight drops (2-3 pounds per week) for the first 8 weeks on just cutting down to 6 meals per day and I was only doing 3 cardio sessions of 20 mins on the StairMaster at level 5. It wasn’t until week 12 that we even adjusted carbs and even then I was still eating them in 5 out of my 6 meals. Once I approached the 14th week or so, my cardio eventually climbed to 7 days a week at 45 mins per session.
Eventually at 7 weeks to go did Shelby finally removed ALL carbs from 41 of my 42 weekly meals. At this point the only bodyparts that weren’t fully in yet were my glutes and low back, and that’s where I store most of my fat in the off-season.
With only a couple weeks till I step on stage and my current cardio is at 150 mins total per day. 60 mins on the stairs in the AM and 50 mins on the treadmill in the PM. Considering how little I did for the bulk of the this contest prep I can’t be too mad, plus it gives me lots of time to get my thoughts together for the day and watch tons of videos on my iPad.
Q: Again, I just want to highlight the progression. Out of a 6 month diet, you only went “no carb” for the final 7 weeks! And you said 41 of 42 meals – do you get some sort of carb reefed or cheat meal?
A: Hahahaha I would refer to it as a feast/glutton bowl!! Let me explain: I rarely ate cheat food in my off-season and I went for the first 9 weeks without anything except bodybuilder food. At week 9 Shelby allowed me to have one meal of my choice at a restaurant, nothing over the top. One entree, a side of my choice and 1 dessert. As my overall calories got lower he began to give me more food at that one meal per week. To give you an idea of the progression, here is what I ate last Saturday night: ½ a blooming union, 5 chicken quesadillas, a bacon cheese burger, French fries, a fully loaded sweet potato, 1 slice of carrot cake, 1 slice of chocolate cake, ice cream, and 2 chocolate chip cookies. Pretty intense huh???
Q: Sounds glorious! Talk about how you would implement cheat meals into your clients meal plans.
A: Let me talk about why I would give someone a cheat meal:
- To stoke a slow metabolism
- To refill glycogen stores if their muscles are extremely flat
- To fight off catabolism
By no means would I recommend them to someone who isn’t following a strict meal plan and has been achieving noticeable progress with it. When I say strict, I mean every once of every meal is accounted for. No food is skipped, added to, or substituted for. And I have certain clients who simply don’t respond favorably to them, whether that be physically or mentally.
Q: So we see that slow and steady changes – ones that your body barely notices are the best way to achieve LONG TERM success. The mind is a favorite topic of mine, and I know you and I see eye to eye of that one. Talk a little bit about your mindset during a fat loss or contest prep phase.
A: I am not a genetic freak by any means, so this is the one place where I feel like I can dominate my competition. I will diet and train harder and longer than anyone I will face on that stage and I believe that comes from my back ground in sports, in addition to developing it as I age.
Where most people fail in the dieting process is they get caught up in the fact that every meal is the same day after day or I have to do “x” amount of cardio instead of taking it one step at a time. Just simply focus on the next task at hand: Do fasted cardio, then on to Meal #1, train clients, eat meal 2, train more clients eat meal 3, workout, etc.
Bodybuilding is just like life, you must make short term sacrifices to achieve long term success. Would I love to not have to pack 5 meals to take to a tailgate to watch a football game, hell yes. But I realize that if I want my bodyfat under 3% I cant eat turkey legs and hot dogs or skip my cardio or quit 2 reps short of failure on the leg press.
Somedays I have to go to a very dark place in my mind to make it through whatever I have to accomplish in that very minute. It’s tough, but mentally you have to be strong every second of every day or you won’t make it.
- Don’t do the low weight, high reps BS when “cutting”. Keep doing what got you the muscle to begin with!
- Take your time! Plan to lose about 1-2 pounds per week at most. If you need to lose 30 pounds, you’ll need 15-30 weeks at that rate.
- Make SMALL changes. Always leave room for more when you hit a plateau. (More cardio, more food removed, etc.)
- Hire a coach. The outside perspective will save you agony, headache, and anxiety.
There’s more coming from Cris! Part II will run AFTER his show and we’ll talk about his results as well as how to come out of a diet/cut.