There were many warnings along the way that what I was doing was wrong. I was always good about sacrificing what was needed in order to become a better bodybuilder. Hence, I went to a night club maybe once in my early 20’s, and partying in general was an infrequent treat. However, these were all sacrifices that made me happy, and I always found time for my closest friends. But, at this point I was turning down some get-togethers that didn’t involve late night outings. Post-work meet-ups with coworkers, grabbing lunch with friends, and other such occasions I was uncharacteristically avoiding. The show was over, but I avoided things I would otherwise have enjoyed because I really wanted to nail my reverse diet.
A common reason some macro counters don’t get competition ready is simply due to the lack of precision in their tracking. I knew this, and because of this I tracked my veggies, Splenda packets, and wrote down my 83 grams of oats in the morning as just that. Yes, this was tedious daily work, but it paid off and it got me as lean as anyone did in those days. I wanted to take my reverse diet just as seriously as I did the contest prep diet itself. Going to a restaurant and estimating something was not good enough per the reverse diet model I was following. In my mind, reverse dieting was a delicate and precise system that required you to sweat the details the same way you did when contest prepping. According to my limited understanding of how things worked, this was how I saw the situation.
Overshooting your macros would mean taking in more calories than your body could assimilate, and the consequences were unwanted fat storage. Minimizing fat storage was the goal and if you could avoid it all together this was an added bonus to “building up your metabolism”. On the other side of the precision equation, undershooting your macronutrients supposedly meant you were losing some of the metabolic capacity you could have been building. This line of thinking lead to a neurotic push and pull mindset, that was really very misguided, but at the time this was more or less how people looked at the situation. Unfortunately, there are still coaches that believe it works this way today.
I felt limited, trapped even, but I was in too deep at this point to turn back. Despite the fact that I was increasing my food by about 100 calories per week (generous by many reverse dieting standards), this was how I felt. I can only imagine what it must have been like for the people who had coaches bumping their carbs by 5 grams and their fats by 2 grams from one week to the next. No this is not a joke, as it was a common practice in those days, and I suspect similar approaches occur to this day.
At this point, Thanksgiving was around the corner and I was running around in anxious circles. Inside I was wishing the holiday would just go away and let me “supercharge my metabolism” in peace. This was a fortunate line of thought, because I think it was those exact thoughts that knocked me out of my insanity enough to realize it was time to nip this behavior in the butt. As I thought about it, I realized how it just didn’t make sense. If you recall, I was reverse dieting in order to make my next prep easier. But, I thought to myself “prep was hard, but not harder than this phase, then what is the whole point of going through this phase?” Why was I doing something that was harder than prep, to make prep easier? It was backward and made no sense. So, at this point my logical brain finally caught up, and I completely abandoned my reverse diet.
There was no bingeing or cleaning out of the cupboards, I just found myself at Trader Joe’s the next day buying all the food I typically would in the offseason. I went back to my old offseason habits, and this became my exit plan. The only guilt I had was what others would think of me because I decided to quit my reverse. Believe it or not, I kept posting my daily intake on my bodybuilding.com journals, but it really wasn’t what I was eating. I felt dishonest, but you have to understand that it was a confusing time for me. I was the poster boy for what at the time was deemed the most successful reverse diet in history. To be perfectly honest, I don’t think I have ever seen anyone comply with such a silly task the way I did post show. Despite how misguided my approach was, I can’t help but pat myself on the back for working so hard at something that I thought was the right thing at the time.
Every prep after this was still a bit a too influenced by the reverse diet mentality, until my last season in 2017. My 2011 and 2014 prep had me gaining 4-5lbs out the gates, but after that I slowed it down and the next 4-5lbs would take me about 4 months to gain. My most recent prep I followed our “Recovery Diet” model and gained the first 10lbs in roughly one months’ time, and then another 5lbs a month later. This was perfect because 10-15lbs over contest weight is where my physiology balances out, and at this point I can adapt and recover much better from the stresses of training. This most recent season was the shortest transition period I had ever experienced, and it gave me great confidence that we here at Team 3DMJ nailed this whole recovery diet method. My hope is that in a few years it will become standard practice in bodybuilders’ nutrition macrocycles. It’s a good thing that people might have forgotten that the recovery diet originated from the problems the reverse diet created. But, that puts a smile on my face as it tells me just how common of a practice the recovery diet is becoming.
To my Team 3DMJ community, I would like to thank you for guys for reading this. I am sure over the course of time this series will help many, but I just want to give a nod to the fact that it helped me to finally be able to talk about this publicly. Being able to write something like this would not be possible if our community wasn’t as awesome and supportive as I experience it to be.