Train, Eat, Sleep, Repeat: 4 Ways to Shred and Stay Strong
As a two-time Mr. Olympia Physique Champion, I fully understand the challenge in keeping strength while getting lean. To stay strong while trying to get shredded, the ideal routine should focus on four main aspects to maintain muscle while losing fat:
1) a calculated training routine
2) a proper diet with supplementation
3) plenty of sleep every night to recover
4) overall consistency.
Keeping things consistent is key to stay strong when dieting; maintain strength/intensity/weight throughout your training, and whatever you do, don't cut out cardio. Some athletes eliminate cardio because they're afraid of losing muscle.
I've seen this happen to many athletes over the years: through a combination of poorly timed calorie-cutting and extreme conditioning, they become far leaner than intended long before their show date.
The last thing you want to do is accidentally deplete the muscle mass you have been building for months. However, you won't be sacrificing muscle mass for cardio if you maintain the weight training and feed your muscles the nutrients they need.
You need to burn fat AND build muscle simultaneously to achieve an Olympia-grade physique; both cardio and weight training should be integral parts of your prep.
Even while you're trying to lose weight, it's important to maintain your protein intake to keep your muscles intact, stay strong, and get shredded. For instance, I eat approximately 7 oz. of protein per meal, which equates to 260 grams per day, in order to fuel my muscle growth during Olympia prep.
Carbs are just as essential as protein in your diet, but must be monitored strictly and vary from day to day based on your physique, whereas protein intake is pretty consistent.
Also, cheat meals should be utilized once a week, typically for increased carbs, fat and sodium, and are usually a red meat meal. This acts like gasoline on a fire, helping to spike your metabolism and further helping you to stay strong by refilling glycogen stores.
Keep up the amount of calories you consume until the right time comes in your prep. Remember, if you cut calories too soon, your body is going to start burning muscle. Don't let your all of your efforts be in vain. Supplementation: it's called this for a reason.
Supplements are added to complement a healthy diet by filling in any gaps in nutrition. Supplements are not going to do the work for you alone, but paired with a proper diet and exercise, they can boost your fitness regimen by supporting muscle growth and fueling weight loss.
You also want to use supplements that align with your fitness goals. For instance, I take Cell KEM and Carnigen first thing every morning. The Cell KEM is really what keeps my muscle gains in tact, and the Carnigen fat-burner is like my morning cup of coffee, putting me to work while not getting me too hopped up (remember, you don't want to sacrifice the pump for the stimulant). IsoJect is also part of my routine to help build/repair muscle. I consume two IsoJect whey isolate protein shakes per day, and for my final meal I make "IsoJect Pancakes" out of egg whites, a few scoops of IsoJect, and some cinnamon for flavor (they're close to pancakes in consistency, and I cook them on the griddle, so that's just what I call them).
Sleep is extremely important when trying to get shredded and stay strong. It keeps you sane during the monotony of training, and you need the recovery time. If your mind is not right, your body won't follow.
It's easy to get down on yourself or begin to spiral when you aren't seeing the results you want that day, but you keep going and push through. To keep up the energy it takes to stay positive, get motivated, and continue training, you're going to need all of the rest you can get between workout sessions. You're making rapid gains while shedding pounds of fat, it's going to be a grueling process.
Think of sleep as your time to cocoon and recoup while your body is going through this metamorphosis.
Again, consistency is key for getting shredded and trying to stay strong during this process. Most of training is not fun. It can even be stressful, but I thrive on stress. It keeps me in check and it motivates me to be sure I do everything I'm supposed to during prep. It gets me in the zone, especially as I get closer to the show.
I start seeing the routines and the meals change slowly over time, and my mind registers it, and my body begins to react more and more. In the days approaching the show I just get real quiet, I kind of withdraw, I get focused. It's intense, but it's this kind of determination, focus and consistency that drives results.
You have to push yourself, both mentally and physically, in order to get through prep of any kind, but especially for Olympia.
Below is an outline of my daily routine for Olympia 2016:
Approximate Daily Routine:
7 a.m. - Fasted Cardio
8 a.m. - Meal One
10:30 a.m. - Meal Two
1 p.m. - Meal Three
1:30 p.m. - Hit the Gym for Weight Training
3 p.m. - 20 minutes on abs/20 minutes on cardio
4 p.m. - Meal Four
5 p.m. - 20 minutes of post-workout cardio
6:30 p.m. - Meal Five
9 p.m. - Meal 6, IsoJect Pancakes
I attribute the majority of my success to this vigorous regimen, but it only works because I've stuck with it. Hany and I have been working very closely this year, and every check-in has gone really well thus far.
I've received lots of positive feedback, so I'm feeling really confident. Remember, you have to be vigilant of your training, diet, and recovery on a day-to-day basis in order to shred AND stay strong: Train, Eat, Sleep, Repeat.
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