Thursday, April 19, 2012

Adelfo Cerame Road to Wheelchair Championships: Six Diet Tips to (Six-)Pack on Lean Mass Between Two Shows

Image 1: The drafter, he is, Adelfo is probably enjoying the increased workload inside and outside of the gym.
Time is, and I am probably not writing this for the first time, flying by, these days. It is yet another Thursday and once more, I am about as intrigued about Adelfo's progress in the past seven days, as you (probably?) are. We have been talking quite a lot, actually, but not so much about his own regimen, as about other stuff, such as the first boydbuilding seminar, Adelfo attended as an official Myotropics Physique athlete. Kind of amazing how things are taking off for him and I am truly happy that all the hard work he has and still is putting not only in his physique, but also in his education is starting to pay off. That being said, you are lucky that he has found some time to compile his weekly blogposts in-between his homework assignments at school, his training and the marketing events for Myotropics, who are just about to release their first product, Physique 2.0. So, let's get right to the grind, as Adelfo would probably say...

Three weeks of training: Time to (re-)evaluate the plan

Six weeks, since the Florida show and another 11 weeks to go until my next show, the USA's in New Orleans. In the past three weeks I have really stepped up my training. Not just because I changed my plan and incorporated different training techniques (cf. "Adelfo Cerame's Hypertrophy-EDT-5x5 Crossover Regimen") but first and foremost due to the application of different training techniques such as modified times under tension, increased workloads in my EDT regimen and the higher volume training in the hypertrophy part of my training split.

While I stuck to the EDT/5x5 part of the split in the first two weeks after the Florida Nationals, I am now on my first week of the hypertrophy + 5x5 combination and will stick to it for the next two weeks, thusly alternating the EDT/5x5 and the 5x5/hypertrophy split, every other week. Even that is a departure from the original weekly rotation, but after the first  round on the hypertrophy/5x5 split this week, I am actually considering to keep training this way for the majority of my prep, just throwing in the the EDT sessions every other three weeks or so.
Figure 1: Current hypertrophy + 5x5 routine (Adelfo Cerame Jr. 2012)
As you can see, I vary my rep schemes depending on the exercises I do; I feel that my muscles need more stimulation and time under tension during certain exercises compared to others. Therefore I vary the reps between 8-10 and 10-12 reps per set and go down into the 6-8 rep range, whenever I feel that the exercise is particularly suited to go real heavy. That being said, I am not even trying to lift moderate, let alone light weights, I still try to lift as heavy as I can, but pick weights which will allow me to hit the prescribed amount of reps.
A note on setting your rep ranges right: With my 5x5 routine, I’ve learned in the past that 5x5 regimen work particularly well with compound movements; and while I have tried doing cable flys, triceps pulls and the like with five or even less reps in the past, you really don’t get much out of those exercises in the lower rep ranges. When you are training on a higher volume hypertrophy split, on the other hand, you do obviously want to incorporate more of these isolation movements into your routine, where - as Dr. Andro's hypertrophy routine exemplified - you will then train at the other end of the hypertrophy range, incorporating the occasional real high rep work (15-25 reps) as a means to really exhaust the muscle.
So far, I am very satisfied with my training regimen and very pleased with the way my training has been going. I feel that with these alternate splits of heavy lifting combined with hypertrophy training, I’ll be able to gain a little bit more muscle within the small time-window I have before I gradually start to taper down my calories within the next week or so…

Apropos caloric intake: A brief lesson in tapering up and down your food intake

I mentioned in previous blogposts here at the SuppVersity that I would be gradually increasing my calories to take full advantage of the small window of opportunity I have before I really have to start dialing it in again for the USA’s in New Orleans. Fortunately I did not ruin my physique after my Florida show (for a breakdown on how Adelfo did that, click here), and was able to maintain a very low body fat percentage. That gave me the luxury to play around and try to increase calories (rather than cutting them back again, right away), while still trying to burn fat or at least keep fat gains to a minimum.
Adelfo Cerame's In-Between the Shows Mini-Bulking Guide - Physique athlete, bodybuilder or just someone who "wants to look good naked", I guess at least the male part of the fitness community, will (and the female should) be faced with this question at some time: "How do I manage my energy intake to maximize my lean muscle gains and minimize fat gains?" As Dr. Andro would probably say it, "I don't have the hubris to tell you that I knew the answer to this question", but I still feel that some of the things I have learned in the past may well guide you on your way to a more muscular, yet not fattier self:
  1. It’s always smart to slowly increase calories so your body has time to adjust. For myself, I usually prefer a 200-300kcal increase/week, which would be a 50-75g increase in carbohydrates; which is the macronutrient that I usually adjust when I make increases or decreases. The reasoning behind this strategy is that I like to keep my protein intake fairly constant and my fats moderate to high, depending if I’m cutting or trying to build lean mass; I have yet learned from past (low) fat mistakes, and will never go lower than 50g/day with my fats.
  2. Adding carbs gradually here and there is a good way to slowly increase calories, like I mentioned above, you manage your caloric surplus by modulating your carb intake and in order not to overwhelm your body, you better make sure to go slowly, in order to make sure that you do not pass over your individual threshold (I emphasize "individual" here, because the latter will not only vary from person to person, but is also susceptible to influences from previous diets, your current training regimen, your stress levels and, obviously, your current body fat levels and overall health). Personally, I have found that 50-60g of carbohydrates immediately after my workouts (shakes + fast carbs) and another 100g in the vicinity of the workout (most of them as starchy carbs in my post-workout meal) appear to be my magic numbers.
  3. When you do intermittent fasting, your body is tuned to run on fats for fuel so, I that I don't see any reason to ingest large amounts of carbs before I work out or during my rest days. I thusly ingest the lion's share of my weekly carbohydrate intake after my workouts. With carbohydrates being the macronutrient by which I adapt my total caloric intake, this does also mean that I have a built in "high calorie / low calorie cycle", with currently 180g protein/ 200g carbs/ 55g fat on my workout days; 50g immediate following my workout and 100g in the real food meal thereafter. The rest of the 50g are trace carbs from my raw milk, cottage cheese and, not to forget, my Physique 2.0 meal supplement shake, I ingest before my workouts and pre-bed to take advantage of the protein anabolic effects of the slow releasing total milk proteins and the increased fatty acid oxidation from the WM HDP in it's carbohydrate fraction.
  4. Never surpass your individual carb threshold, to monetize on the muscle building performance enhancing effects of carbs, without compromising your physique. For me 200g of carbohydrates are (currently) the sweet spot, with a maximum of 100g of carbs (mixture of slow and fast digesting) in my post workout meal being the upper limit on a "per serving" basis. If you stick to clean foods and refrain from the artificial flavored junk you buy on every corner, it is actually not that difficult to distinguish between being really full and satisfied and having surpassed the threshold of reasonable glycogen replenishment.
  5. Judge your diet by the way you look in the morning, and don't get fooled by the intermediate bloat right after a meal. Specifically if you are eating whole maximally satiating foods with a high volume, that alone will make your stomach stick out. Add to that any intermediate bloat in response to the temporary fluid loss and replenishment during and after your workout and you know why the same waist that looked disgustingly protruded after your PWO meal is back to its normal size on the morning thereafter.
  6. Image 2: If you don't acknowledge that bodybuilding is an art, you will never make it to the stage.
    Don't calculate calories as if your body knew what a "calorie" is. I know that it's difficult and even I am guilty of it from time to time, but think about it, can you say exactly how many meters you will be able to make with one tankful of gas? I don't think so and that despite the fact that you car is a much less sophisticated machine than your body. Just as you won't get as far at 130mph as you would get with 30mph, your bodies caloric expenditure depends largely on your current metabolic rate, which in turn is influence by your weight status, our prior diet, your endocrine health, etc.

    This is why you should never start out from any sort of calculated baseline, but just build on what you are eating now and go from there re-evaluating your diet on a weekly (not a daily) base), closely monitoring the way you look, feel and perform (weekly progress pics and a measuring type for your waist, are a must, scales - even those showing you random bf% are obsolete).
I guess, some of you may have expected some sort of formula or "magic number" that will work for everyone and will now be disappointed that you still "don't know how much to eat" - so if that's you, you do at least know why all your efforts to build a better physique have failed. If you don't acknowledge that bodybuilding is at least as much an art, as it is a science, you better attend Dr. Andro's physics classes, instead of studying his bogposts, here at the SuppVersity.
After a few conversations with Adel, ah.. I mean Dr. Andro ;-) I decided to slowly build up to caloric intake in the 2000-2100kcal range and see how this affects my body. Having hit the mark this week with seeing hardly any negative and a lot of positive side effects, I am now at the point to decide whether
  • to stick to where I am and try to build some more muscle mass on what I suspect would be a maintenance level,
  • to kick it up a notch and try go for a "hardcore mini bulk" trying to build as much muscle as possible even if this goes hand in hand with a minor increase in body fat levels, or
  • to start cutting back again and hope that - just as with my last prep - the gradual and slow decrease in caloric will facilitate a minimal gain in muscle mass while I am still gradually losing body fat
Take a look at where I am now. What would you do? Put an end to the "mini-bulk" I am on right now, keep rolling, increase or decrease the energy intake?
Figure 1: Adelfo Cerame Jr after 2+1/2-weeks of "mini-bulking" before the USA Wheelchair Championships.
I guess I have already put on a little more muscle mass, or at least, I have gotten a lot fuller over these past weeks - at the expense of some water retention, yeah... specifically in my lower abs. But I will take care of that once I start dialing in my calories again. So, what do you think SuppVersity Readers? Keep pushing it another three weeks?