“I’m investing in my metabolism” I told myself, and I believed all of it would be worth it in the long run. At this point, I was eating about 3200 calories on average while weighing just 3-4lbs above my contest weight. Looking back, I would now go as far to say that at this point I looked better than I did during any point of my contest prep. I was eating 1,000 more calories than any leg of my diet, but really that was the only thing I had going for me. In the gym my training was better, but I still felt like a “defensive lifter”, and beast mode was just not there. At this point it had been nearly a year since I hit a single PR, and my training wasn’t as satisfying or fun anymore. Life outside the gym was even worse to be honest. I was thinking about food all the time, and at the most inappropriate times. As in right after finishing a meal, or when I should have been focused on a task for work or school, and even when I was interacting with others.
Part of my success that prep came from the fact that I was so diligent and relentless. Now that I had experienced this “metabolic miracle” (not really, but I thought I did at the time) I had an irrational fear of eating foods I couldn’t track because it would “mess up my reverse”. See this is something people don’t know about me: when I put my mind towards something, I will endure more than most, sometimes to the point that it works against me. That was certainly the case in this scenario as I had dug myself into a hole post-show, and I was mentally wasting away in it. The belief at the time was that you could indeed increase your “metabolic capacity” by slowly increasing food after a long fat loss diet, and at the time it appeared that I was living proof that you could. This only added to the pressure to continue doing what I was doing, despite all the trouble it was causing me. I became the poster boy for a successful reverse diet, because my carbs went from 175 grams a day to just over 500 grams in the span of a few months. All while bumping my carbs by just 25 grams on a weekly basis.
I am sure many of you are wondering at this point if maybe I did perhaps increase my capacity because of the reverse diet process. But, if you do the math it’s quite easy to see that was not the case. And this is also the case with any “successful” reverse diet, even the ones with the most dramatic before-and-after claims. In my case this is were all the calories went during my slow reverse.
- I can lose weight on about 16 calories per pound, and I was on about 13 calories per pound (2,100 calories) towards the tail end of my prep. Adding the first 500 calories (slowly and painfully) would have simply put me at what would have been a more appropriate deficit for me. At 155lbs I can lose weight on 2500 calories, and this is still true to this day. Looking back the first few bumps in my intake didn’t even get me to my caloric maintenance.
- Right after my prep I started a new job that took me from desk jockey to being on my feet 4-6 hours a day. My estimated maintenance went from 2700 calories to most likely right around 3000 calories give or take. Making my slow gradual increases even less effective at that point.
- The thermic effect of food at this point must have been ungodly because I was doing my best to stay satiated at all times. I was probably eating nearly 70-90 grams of fiber on most days. The screenshots I will share with you in a bit here will blow you away. I was below my body fat set point (which is quite low to begin with) and thus, I felt hungry most of the day.
- Also, consider that I actually added in cardio (4 sessions a week) because I convinced myself I that liked it (in actuality it was there to allow me to eat a bit more) and now my TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) was about 3400-3500 calories.
- Considering all of this, it makes sense how many months later I was only 3-4lbs heavier via mostly glycogen and water, without hardly any change in my body fat level.
I was no longer focused on making muscular gains, but more so hoarding food. At this point I truly believed I’d upgraded my metabolism…but oddly enough, I wanted more. The food focus was so immense, that you could see it from my fitday screenshots (pre myfitness pal for you rookies) in my bodybuilding.com forum journal.
I mean here I was eventually eating well over 3,000 calories, but counting my 12 packets of Splenda, and 1.5oz of banana. Not to mention on another day having 20 Splenda packets, and weighing my cinnamon? At this point Thanksgiving Day was on the horizon, and my favorite holiday was giving me all kinds of anxiety. Finally, I decided enough was enough, and for the first time in months I stopped and reflected on what I was doing to myself. Somehow, I’d gone from being a guy that rarely examined his own physique outside of the gym, to the point where any bathroom visit required me to lift up my shirt “just to check”. I was previously known by my loved ones as a guy so chill that it was sometimes mistaken for apathy, and by strangers in the gym as the guy with commendable work ethic. But now, I’d become neurotic and a guy that was more or less just training to get by. Most importantly I went from being Alberto Nuñez who is so many things to many different people, to just not being present at all, because all I did was bodybuild…but in actuality, in this case I was not even body-building anymore. I was a bodybuilder dealing with a common bodybuilder injury. I was sick, and I needed to get better. I didn’t know as much as I know now regarding the psychological side effects of long-term caloric restriction, but I knew enough to understand this was not going to be fixed until I gained some body weight back, specifically some body fat. After making a pros-cons list in my head, it was an easy decision to make. I wanted to become a bodybuilder again, not just an eater. More importantly, I wanted to go back to being everything else I knew I was again.
In the forthcoming final segment, I will go over what steps I took to restore order to my life. How every prep after was easier to recover from, and how finally three preps later, I mastered the post show period.
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