Thursday, February 9, 2012

Adelfo Cerame - Road to Wheelchair Nationals '12: Tweaks to Avoid Overtraining. Plus: 5 Staple Supplements and How to Effectively Combine them With Whole Foods.

Image 1: If you have followed the whole series you know that there are 6 months and tons of hard work and dedication between the pic on the left and the one on the right. Time and effort  not "the right genes" it what most people lack, or simply decide not to invest.
When I look back at the past couple of weeks, or, when I come to think about it, months, and the progress my friend Adelfo has made, it amazes me time and again how careful planning, constant tweaking and above all total dedication to training and diet can take your physique to another level - and that, on an almost weekly basis! In a way, it is unfortunate that all this will eventually not be part of the equation, when Adelfo will be showing off his totally shredded body on stage. And I am not referring exclusively to the issue of not being in form on a specific day. This is part of the sports! And in fact, I am not even thinking about the athletes, themselves. I am rather thinking of you, your friend, your son or daughter, who see bodybuilders, fitness athletes, bikini models or even "normal" celebrities on the net, magazine covers or TV and think to themselves: "I can never look like this guy/girl!" ... do the reality check, look at what it really took them to get there and realize that part of their secret is that they are well aware that you cannot "peak" 365 days a year! And now tell me: Do you really believe you cannot get there or is it rather that you do not want to invest all the efforts it would take you to get there? I suppose for most of you the latter is the case and you know what? As long as you are honest with yourself and others and don't lull yourself into believing that is it all just in your genes, that is perfectly ok! But enough of me being a smart ass, ... let's see how Adelfo is doing this week.

Six weeks out and still waiting for the brick to hit me

Image 2: I guess real foods like these are part of, if not the reason "the brick" has not yet hit me ;-)
I feel like I am sitting here, waiting... not so much for contest day, yet, but rather for that day, the day, when the brick wall is going to hit me... it is part of the game - part of the prep. That brick wall, people me (in my previous preps) included hit, whenever they diet to achieve that unnatural degree of leanness people are looking for on stage. It has not hit me yet and I cannot even tell if it will... but if it does, I will be prepared!

Looking back at the last week, I might even say that I probably barely got away from being struck. Probably not so much as a consequence of overdieting, but rather as a result of overtraining. As you will probably remember, I decided to revamp my training regimen by incorporating an intensified version of the reverse pyramid into my routine. After one week on the routine, I had to realize that as good as the idea of combining a heavy lifting and high volume approach may look on paper, doing that on four training days per week may be too much. While I was strong and felt pumped on the first two days, my strength and with it my focus began to fade on the subsequent two days: Fatigue, lack of motivation, moodiness, ... all that are pretty rare occurrences with me, especially when I just started on a new routine.

It could not get any more obvious my body was showing me the red flag!

Video 1: Wheelchair chin-ups (wheelchair = 25 lb. + 45 lb. plate = 70 lb. chins) - For a while I’ve been trying to figure out a way to stimulate my lower back and maybe even my lower trunk muscles in the back… I think I just found what stimulates them… I’ve made it a priority of mine to do weighted chins twice a week when I train my back (click here to watch).
Against that background, I decided to apply another twist to the routine and split the week into two heavy 5x5 (Mon-Tuesday) days early in the week, rest on Wednesday, and two reverse pyramid training (RPT) workouts on the following two training days (Thurs- Fri) later in the week... I think by setting it up like this, I can control the tempo, throughout the week, so I don't burn myself out to early in the week.

If I were one of my clients and not so close to competition, I would probably suggest to either take a de-load week or a complete week off from the gym, but at the moment I feel like I cannot afford doing either of these options. Although I am pretty sure a week off wouldn’t hurt me, as long as I kept my diet on point, it is precious time to make forward progress... so no, I will not take the week off! What I will do though, is start to control my training tempo from here on out to make sure that I’m not burning myself out (I mean… I have been prepping since October ;-)

Nutritional tweaks: Post-workout carbs? Yes, honey!

I made some minor adjustments with my nutrition, as well. Instead of having my carbs with my PWO meal, I switched to taking the lions share with my post-workout shake right after my workouts. I did that because sometimes, I takes me too long to get home and prepare my meal, with the insulinogenic effect of the whey potentially I sometimes felt somewhat hypoglycemic, and the subsequent surge in epinephrine and cortisol which will get my blood sugar back to normal is something I want to avoid at this time in my prep. When the whole purpose of the carbs is to refill muscle glycogen, I don't want my liver to do that by turning protein into glucose before I get home and have my carbs.

Image 3: Whey Protein + the combination of 2 ripe bananas + 1 Tbs. Raw Honey = PWO bliss!
The reason I decided to go for the ripe bananas + raw honey combi are manifold, but I would be lying if taste was not at least part of the equation. That being said, let's be honest, what better fast digesting PWO combi can you ask for, if we are talking about whole "real" foods? The combination of whey + 2 ripe bananas + one tbs. of raw honey do not only meet the macros, I am looking for in my post-workout shake, the bananas are also rich in potassium, which is necessary for muscle recovery and will help with the electrolyte balance that is so crucial to keep off unwanted water weight. And the raw honey, despite being a calorie dense high sugar food, is, unlike sugar, filled with nutrients like digestive enzymes and antioxidants. Plus, You don’t have to cough up $40- $50 as you would on other carb supplements like maltodextrin or waxymaize. An organic banana costs about 25- 35 cents, and a jar of raw honey costs around $8.

You don't need tons of supplements. Just select a few staples that work for you!

Since were on the topic of PWO nutrition and timing, I guess some of you may be interested if, how, which and when "real" supplements come into play. So here is a brief rundown on what I am currently taking and how I am timing those supps around my fasting and feeding windows.
  • Fat burner (meltdown by VPX): One of the only times I ever mess with fat burners is when I get closer to show time. I like to use fat burners for the last couple weeks to help me increase my metabolism and burn a little bit more body fat to tighten me up some more, and to help with the stubborn areas where subcutaneous water likes to cling on to (in my case lower abdominals). I take my fat burner once I wake, early in the a.m. during my fast, this way I can take maximal advantage of its lipolytic effects. It does not help to liberate the fat from the fat cells if your body does not need to burn it, so taking the fat burner within the feeding window would at best be a waste of money...
     
  • D-Aspartic Acid (D-Pol by PurusLabs): I was running test logs on this product a couple weeks ago, and really liked it, so when I ran out I actually decided to buy it. It worked well with improving my gains in strength and maybe size, but strength for sure! Probably due to the added nitrates, it also gave me a good pump, when I trained. I take this supplement early in the a.m. - probably like 3- 4 hours after I take my fat burner - for better absorption, so that the aspartic acid doesn't compete with other aminos and at least some of it does make it to the brain, where it is supposed to do its LH releasing magic.
    Image 4: I believe in selected a hand full of supplements only. My tried and proven staples are creatine monohydrate, BCAA’s, a pre-workout and a fat burner. Purus Labs' d-aspartic acid is the only real newcomer in this prep.
  • Pre-workout supp (Friction by VPX): I’m not much of a pre-workout supp junkie, but I do feel the benefits from taking them during contest prep, or cutting to help maintain strength and muscle. Most pre-workout supplements primary ingredients are creatine blends, with amino acids, and, or beta alanine. Usually each brand has its own proprietary blend and boasts of how unique it is... don't be fooled, the ingredients which actually work are the same for most of them. I take my pre-workout supplement about an hour after I ate my pre-workout meal, and about 30-45 minutes before I train. The whey + coconut oil for my pre-workout meal is digested by then, so if you will you can say, I take it on empty ;-) The main reason I chose friction was curiosity, I like to try new products once in a while and must say that I really enjoy this one.
     
  • BCAA’s (Power Shock by VPX): BCAA’s help with muscle recovery and growth, ... but I guess the well-read SuppVersity junkie you are, I don't have to give you the lowdown on their benefits ;-)  I take mine intra-workout, to minimize catabolism and promote the exercise induced increase in protein synthesis. I mix about 2 servings in a water bottle that will last me through my whole workout. I never tried VPX’s BCAA’s, I usually use Xtend, Recoup, or Anabolic Switch, but decided to try this because of the potential benefits of the added nitrates and, most of all, the price tag ;-)
     
  • Creatine monohydrate (Creapure by TrueProtein): I use to be real phobic about taking creatine while trying to cut or diet for a show, because of the “ol’ bro science” that taking creatine makes you retain water… then I thought to myself?... Well no shit!? That’s what creatine does! It draws water into your muscle tissues. Lol… As for the subcutaneous water, that people talk about they get when they supplement with Creatine? That probably has more to do with either their shitty diet, or their dump believe that creatine needs to be stacked with tons of sugary carbs to "push it into the cells". In view of the fact that my pre-workout supp already has some creatine in it, I mix 5g with my BCAA’s while I train, and take another 5g when I get home. I mix it with crystal light and drink it with my PWO-meal.

So far so good, but I still maintain that all supplement magic aside, my four whole food meals are the pillars I build my success on. And before you are bombarding me with questions in the comment area or on facebook, here is some more information on how these pillars look like:

 

Images 5-6: You know that I believe in a real food approach to dieting and this is how that could look like in the last weeks of your prep.
  • Pre- workout meal: I usually break my fast at 3pm and at the gym training by 4:30pm. I don’t want to have to wait 2 hours for my food to digest, so I prefer a fast digesting protein like whey + 1 Tbs. of coconut oil for that immediate energy that my body can use. Macros= 50g protein/15g fat
     
  • PWO shake + 2 ripe bananas & raw honey (cf. image 3): I eat this immediately after I train when I get into my car, because muscle tissues are primed for glucose and protein uptake right after training. Macros= 50g protein/ 75g carbs
     
  • PWO meal: Since I shifted most of my carb intake immediately after training, my PWO meal is now just a P+F meal, with about 10-20g of carbs coming from strawberries, papayas or pineapples. I eat this meal around 8:30pm when I get home from the gym. Macros= 50g protein/ 10-20g carbs (fruit)/ 20g fat
     
  • Last meal before fast: I like to do a shake for my last meal because my PWO meal usually gets me full, so I like to squeeze in a protein shake at around 10:40pm before I start my fast again at 11:00pm. Since I use whey protein for my shakes, I like to throw in 2 raw cage free eggs in with my shake, so the fats can slow down the digestion, since whey is a fast digesting protein. I’ll also eat about 1-2 tsp. of coconut oil to hit my macros. Macros= 50g protein/ 15g fat
That’s all I have for in stall for you, this week, but stay tuned for next week's update, when I start bringing back recipes! You're gonna love that one, I promise ;-)