Thursday, March 15, 2012

Adelfo Cerame Jr. - On the Flight to the NPC Wheelchair Nationals '12: Dr. Andro Betrays His Secret To Success ;-)

Image 1: It's certainly difficult to sell and thusly few people will tell you this, but the "secret" behind this amazing physique is hard work, consistency and patience!
It's Thursday and at least some of you know what this means, today: No update from the one and only Adelfo Cerame Jr. the SuppVersity's (hopefully) future pro at the Wheelchair Nationals in Florida, who is probably just boarding his flight to Florida, where the pro-card is already waiting for him ;-) At first I wanted to go on with "the regular business" and post some random science stuff, today, but I just realized that I could just as well take this chance and discuss the unspectacular, but enormously effective "tricks" Adelfo used in the course of his prep; techniques, by the way, of which I believe everyone, from hardcore bodybuilder to health enthusiast can benefit.

Transformations are Triggered in the Gym, but Happen in the Kitchen and Beneath the Sheets

If we look at Adelfo's contest prep as if it was just an amazing "transformation", his understanding of the individual contribution and weighting of training, diet, sleep and recovery constitute the underpinnings of his success. Therefore anyone who wants to mimic his success, has to understand the following three foundations of Adelfo's regimen:
Image 2: The transformation was still in progress at the very moment this photo was taken. Building muscle and losing fat is a 24/7 job - unless you acknowledge that, train, eat and most importantly sleep accordingly, it won't work out for you.
  1. Exercise as repartitioning agent: You are not in the gym to burn calories. You are there put your body in a state in which he will use both the energy you ingest, as well as the energy he stashed away in the weeks before to a) fuel your workouts and everyday activity and b) build and maintain muscle.
  2. Diet as trigger and substrate: You are not dieting to lose weight. You are dieting to allow your body to burn stored body fat and maintain (or even build) skeletal muscle tissue.
  3. Sleep and recovery to reap the fruits of your labor: You are not sleeping or taking a day off, because you would otherwise pass out in the gym. You are sleeping, resting and taking as much time off as it takes your body to fully recover, because it is during these phases where the actual transformation takes place!
It sounds simple and I guess you will have heard all that before, but in the end, these three simple principles and the ability to incorporate them into an individualized and ever-evolving workout-diet-recovery plan were the cornerstones of Adelfo's success.

Intermittent Fasting, Whole (raw) Foods Eating and Macronutrient and Supplement Timing

If Martin Berkhan will ever finish the book he is supposed to be writing on intermittent fasting, I guess using Adelfo as a "success story" would be a clever marketing gig... it would yet be totally misleading to ascribe all his access to the use of a "Berkhan-ish" dietary regimen - let alone the simple notion of "not eating for 16h à day". The reasons the IF approach, as Adelfo usually labels it, worked for him so exceptionally well are manifold - in fact, they are so numerous that I will only recite those of which I believe that they are the most fundamental ones:
  1. Toughing & tweaking out initial problems: Although Adelfo truthfully and repeatedly said that this was "the easiest prep" he has ever done, he tends to push the initial adaptation period to the back of his mind. Those of you who have followed all his blogposts religiously will remember that he had already been following an IF regimen for a couple of weeks when he "officially" started this prep: a phase in the course of which he sometimes had his doubts about the effectiveness and practicability of this regimen; and a phase during which he constantly tweaked the quantity, quality and timing of his meals.
  2. Building his diet around real foods: Contrary to the long-standing trend to "optimize" your diet by replacing real foods with shakes, bars and pills, Adelfo has always been eating at least three whole food meals a day. Even in the last week before the show his pre-workout meal was a shake based on real food ingredients. And while it would suffice to look at his pictures to see that this paid off, it is imperative to understand that the physical effects of milk, eggs, butter, cream, coconut oil, bananas, carrots, papaya, pineapple, sweet potatoes and tons of green vegetables lies are all unique and cannot be copied by other foodstuffs, let alone supplements with the same macro- and micronutrient composition.
  3. Eating the right foods at the right time in a <8h feeding window: Some carbs, protein and fat before; carbs and protein immediately after, some carbs; protein and fat in the main meal of the day and another protein and fat meal before bed. If you want the elevator pitch to Adelfo's macronutrient plan - this would be it. If you want the "science" behind it in a similar concise manner, it would be: Fuel your workout, provide substrate for protein synthesis; replenish glycogen and max out protein synthesis; sustain protein synthesis and trigger satiety signal; and stave off catabolism and allow restorative sleep.
  4. Following the three simple rules of smart supplementation: Although I must admit that I had a tough time from keeping our friend Adelfo from wasting his money on tons of junk, initially, he has meanwhile internalized the most important rule of smart supplementation: limitation! While he has been experimenting with some additional supps in the course of his prep - none of those was a "game changer" and must be filed under rule 3, i.e. nice experiment, but not worth trying again. The ones that stood the test of rule 2, though, were a cheap but tasty protein (blend without soy), a whey concentrate, BCAAs, taurine, baking soda, glutamine, a stimulant pre-workout product and a standard stimulant-based fat burner - cheap effective and selected exactly according to his needs: Burn fat, maintain - if possible even build - muscle!
  5. Not getting too restrictive: "I have never been eating so much at this time in my prep before!" I have heard this sentence over and over again. Just like, "Do you think I should cut back on..." and my answer has always been: "You keep rolling!" And I guess, Adelfo is not going to complain that he has been "hungry", as in ravenously hungry, only once in the course of this prep, which was when he switched off his own brain and followed the current trend to "no-carbing + beating the carp out of yourself" in the first week of his reverse pyramid training. Contrary, to the average bulletin-board poster, Adelfo did yet acknowledge to himself that this was a mistake and that it were not his "whacky adrenals" that were responsible for the onset of "sudden adrenal fatique" and subsequent "chronic fatigue syndrome". A serious re-feed and a few days on his "old" higher calorie + post-workout carb regimen later, he was back on track and learned the lesson that you don't have to suffer miserably to get disgustingly ripped ;-)
Those of you who are disappointed now, because they "knew" all that already should ask themselves, whether what they "know" is also what they do. And whether or not they are hampering the beneficial effects of their "perfect" diet by a lack of sleep or a crappy exercise regimen.

Exercise to Light the Fire, Eat and Sleep to Keep it Burning

Image 3: Following the rule of specificity Adelfo actually got more muscular while dieting.
Do you know the movie "Groundhog Day"? If not, just imagine, you wake one day and realize that the same things happen over and over again... this is the life of a successful bodybuilder: Sleep, Eat, Train, Eat, Eat and repeat. Sounds boring? Well it is, and you really got to love it to make it not only on stage, but also to the top and if you are just dragging yourself to the gym to move weights to grow, you are lost. In as much as "loving it" is a prerequisite to success, it may also turn out to be a major obstacle. If "one set more" and "ah, f*** it, 24h rest must be enough, I want to train" is what the little man in your ear is telling you, you better make sure you have a plan. A good one and one that follows three principles that may sound familiar:
  1. Restriction: More is never more when it comes to working out - I mean, how often did you press the "on" button on your laptop, computer or iPad, when you just logged on to the SuppVersity? Two times? Probably not, right?
  2. Specificity: This means selecting the "right" workout style and picking the right exercises, as well as sticking to them as long as you see the results coming, if you re-read through Adelfo's blogposts, you will realize that he has been cycling back and force between a standard high intensity low volume 5x5 regimen, metabolically very demanding escalating density (EDT) sessions and his latest "innovation" the high volume reverse pyramid training. Does that mean that you can't be successful with a German Volume 10x10 approach (something I personally like to do from time to time, by the way)? No, because specificity equals individuality. This is all the more true with regard to the exercises you select. Adelfo's week lower lat for example, literally cried for underhand pull-ups. Your skinny legs, and your hunched over upper body, on the other hand tell me that you better start deadlifting and squatting and forget about your "bench" for some time ;-)
  3. Experimentation: When it comes to training, experimenting is probably even more important than in the context of finding the right supplements. Not only are we all build different - think of Michael Jordan doing deadlifts and squats - we also perform the movement slightly different. "Experimentation", with regard to exercises, does thusly go beyond "trying squats", it is initially and more importantly about "learning to squat"... yeah, I know: Put a bar on your back and squat down, stand back up,... but that's not it, that's simply sh*t! If this is the way you train, it's almost a miracle that you did not yet hurt yourself. It is however no wonder that your arms still look like matchsticks, while your neck is growing like crazy "although" you are doing "heavy dumbbell curls every day".
If you are not sure, where to begin trainingwise, I suggest you spend the rest of the day studying the SuppVersity EMG Series - always keeping in mind that the information on the "effectiveness" of the individual exercises is highly individual and that both the rankings, as well as my suggestions for respective body part split workouts are nothing but an inspiration for experimentation...

Navigate the SuppVersity EMG Series - Click on the desired body part to see the optimal exercises.
...and when you are done with that, think of our common friend who is probably just sitting on his plane to Florida! Don't forget to keep your finger's crossed, folks!