The road to a natural physique

Preparing for the men’s physique category in a bodybuilding competition
I have found that I always work better in the gym when I have a date on the calendar to work towards. Late last year it was the North American Grappling Association (NAGA) North East championships in Rhode Island that I wrote about previously. However, since then I haven’t had a goal on the horizon to work towards. Next year’s Spartan Races were a ways away and prior to that is a triathlon, but it’s still in the summer.
Luckily, the perfect opportunity presented itself.
A few weeks ago I decided I would join a colleague of mine in a bodybuilding competition. She is competing in the women’s figure competition and I decided I would compete in the men’s physique category. I know what you’re thinking and, no, I won’t be wearing a Speedo on stage.
For some time now I have considered competing in a show like this but could never put a date on the calendar. Now I have one: I will be competing April 1.
I’ve done a lot of research into these competitions previously but never thought I would be able to hold my own on stage. Luckily, a lot of the natural physique competitions have loosened their restrictions on how “natural” people have to be to compete.
Most of the men’s natural shows are comprised of three categories: men’s bodybuilding, classic physique and men’s physique. I will be competing in the men’s physique category. The judging criteria for this category is “based on good leanness and definition with full muscularity, and good balance, proportion, symmetry of both muscularity and conditioning, and presentation. Extreme size and leanness like with the bodybuilding category should be avoided.” This sounded right up my alley. Luckily, I walk around pretty lean based on my diet, genetics, and the fact that I’m in a gym either working or training almost every day.
The way I have been training has mostly been to develop strength and general physical preparedness (GPP), which involved a lot of squatting, deadlifts, pull ups and movements of that nature. I have also been following a intermittent fasting diet which has worked out well for me and definitely was a benefit in preparation for Spartan races. Now I will be switching gears to a more traditional “bodybuilding” diet and training for the next few weeks.
After doing a good deal of research I decided to go with a plan that was higher in carbs than I’m used to. My previous eating habit consisted of minimal carbs and even at one point I was eating almost no carbs (ketogenic diet), and I am pretty lean. But I wanted to try out the new diet to see what results I would be able to achieve. After all, I could always go back to my other diet to lean out if I felt myself putting on too much fat before the show. The most important aspects of this new diet plan involve quality of food, macronutrients and nutrient timing (mostly based around when I will train).
The biggest and most difficult transition for me was tracking everything I ate and trying to hit my macronutrient “macros” goals each day. Food is broken down into three macronutrients: carbohydrates (fiber, sugar, etc.), fat (saturated, unsaturated, transfats) and protein. “Hitting your macros,” as some people refer to it, means that your food for that day was in the correct percentages for each category.
For example, some days my macros might be 50 percent protein, 25 percent fat and 25 percent carbs; other days they might be 40 percent carbs, 40 percent protein and 20 percent fat. To hit these numbers you have to be very accurate with counting what you are eating and how much. This was difficult for me and I already paid pretty close attention to what I ate. (I’ve even been laughed at for counting out my almonds, and that was before I started this new plan!)
I purchased an electric scale, downloaded a food tracking app, and started on my macro counting journey. As I progress towards the show date on April 1, I will share the maddening complexity that nutrition and supplementation sometimes has and the joys of actually hitting your numbers for the first time, and I’ll let you know how my body responds to a completely different training and eating program as I travel the road to perfecting my natural physique.

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