Although most people perceive a “diet” as a strict meal plan that is a struggle to follow, the term actually refers to what you eat on a regular basis. So if you’re eating burgers and burritos on the regular, then your diet would be burgers and burritos. Eating like a bodybuilder is a lifestyle choice. Bodybuilding in the off-season is a little more relaxed, but that doesn’t mean I’m not “dieting.”
My idea of dieting is being conscious of what food you put in your mouth. If you are not aware of what you eat regularly, then that’s a problem. Dieting in the off-season doesn’t have to be strict, but you do need to follow a few guidelines. My guideline when I’m putting on mass is to be, first and foremost, conscious of the calories and the amount of protein that I eat. Carbs, fats, and my food sources are secondary to the actual number of calories I consume versus how much I’m burning in the gym. And if I’m not eating enough protein, then how am I able to recover from intense training?
While it’s optimal for health purposes and performance to be on a “clean” and regimented diet plan, take into consideration your mental health and the fact that you need to live a little life when you’re not in contest prep. The off-season is the time to experiment with food and training. Make time to do things you wouldn’t do during a competition prep. The best bodybuilders in the world know how to have a little balance in the off-season while training and sticking to clean eating habits, then turn it on for competition. Once the light is green and we say go, it’s no more messing around. We are all in to be our best.
Locking down a contest prep diet can be both motivating and dreadful. Your mindset starting a contest prep has to be 100 percent all in. You have to be ready to do whatever it takes to be your best without any deviations. When you say you are ready to lock it down, you lock it down. Your first priority is to get the shit done that you have to do to be your best. Understand that it’s easy to get motivated to start a contest prep diet, but you also need to be prepared to take on the struggles. You must take your mind and your body to an uncomfortable place to achieve a stage-ready look. It’s not easy to get shredded. It’s one thing to look good at the beach, but it’s quite another thing to be stage-ready, especially Olympia stage-ready. 99.99% of the world can’t do this sport. And you want to be the best at it. Don’t expect easy. Expect a 24/7 mental and physical struggle.
The challenges are what give you the results. When you’re low on energy, lacking motivation, and hungry for more food, know that this is what’s turning you into a champion. You’re doing what others can’t do. You’re more disciplined than anyone else—it doesn’t matter if you’re a pro or not. Discipline isn’t about being a “professional.” If you want to be a pro, you have to become a pro first. You don’t automatically become a professional when you get a pro card. You earn it through the hardships you endure and the process of competition prepping. It’s not just about how great you look or how much muscle you can pack on, it’s about the person that you become through the grind. It’s only when you can develop the characteristics of a champion—and only then—that you will become a champion.