Last October 2015 I competed at NZ Weightlifting Nationals as a 94kg lifter. I weighed in on the day at 90.9kgs. 9 months later I competed in an Auckland Club competition weighing in at 76.8kg to compete in the under 77kg division while maintaining most of my muscle mass and strength.

Lifts from 2015 National Championships 90.9kg

After Nationals in October, I decided to go back down to by normal weight class of under 85kg (I was pretty fat as visible in the video and picture!). My diet started at 3100 calories per day. This number was used as my previous maintenance was around 3300 calories. I know from experience my weight starts moving quickly so I didn’t want to drop my calories too quickly. I set my protein to 1g/lb of bodyweight or 2.2g/kg. The rest was filled with around 1.5-2g Carbs/lb of bodyweight and the remaining with fat being around 60-80g. I finished this phase of my diet at 2700-2800 calories and 84kg bodyweight.

I maintained my weight at 84kg for a number of months and stopped tracking while I worked around a nagging hip problem. 12 weeks out from competition, I committed to becoming a 77kg lifter. Calories started at 2700 where I finished off my last diet. From here I slowly reduced calories by 100 if I hadn’t lost 0.5-1kg in that week. Once I got to around 2400, I only reduced my calories by 50 as this seemed to be enough to make my weight move again. My macro breakdown was the same as my first cut to 84kg: 1g/lb bodyweight of protein, 1.5-2g/lb bodyweight of carbs and the remaining being fat usually around 40-60g.

A typical day of eating went like this:

Breakfast (approx. 9am):

  • 3 Eggs
  • Half a big can of plain tuna
  • 2 Toast

Lunch (approx. 12pm):

  • Jasmine Rice
  • Chicken Breast

Pre Training (approx. 3pm):

  • Protein Smoothie (Low Fat Milk, Banana, Strawberries, Blueberries, Baby Spinach, Protein Powder, Low Fat Yogurt)

Post Training (approx. 6pm)

  • Protein & Oats

Dinner (approx. 8pm)

  • Kumara/Potato
  • Rump Steak

NOTE: Veges were had for lunch and dinner as well.

Training was all programmed by my coach Tina Ball at Strength HQ for the upcoming competition (snatch, clean & jerk, squats. pulls). I did my own assistance work and went completely by feel in terms of volume. By about 3 or 4 weeks out, I did no extra assistance work as I didn’t feel like I could recover from it with my calories being much lower.

Cardio was only done in the form of walking. I only walked on the treadmill for a maximum of 20mins at a time and only if my weight had stopped moving and I didn’t want to lower my calories again at the time. Or if I had a bit too much to eat over the weekend. In total I only walked a maximum of 10 times.

Most recent 2016 club competition weighing 76.8kg

Why was I successful?

I never excluded anything from my diet.

As I’ve learned from Eric Helms, there is no such thing as a bad food, only a bad diet. When I felt like it, I’d have chocolate cereal and peanut butter muffin splits for breakfast, but then I’d realise how hungry I’d be for the rest of the day since these foods don’t fill you up like eggs on toast does. So I very rarely ate differently to my typical day of eating as I knew that wouldn’t keep me full. If I had to eat out for dinner, I just made sure to leave a few hundred calories for the end of the day. If I felt like a beer, I’d leave a couple of hundred calories out for it. I knew that one weekend during my cut I’d be away for a party so I just stayed on schedule til the party, did what I needed to do, then jumped straight back on track. 2 days doesn’t unravel weeks of hard work!

I adjusted my training volume based on feeling.

As noted earlier in the article, my assistance work was dictated by how I was feeling. Learning to listen to how your body feels is something you will develop over time with your training. I usually felt just right after completing my weightlifting work so that is usually the sweet spot in terms of recovering between sessions while still making good progress. With most strength training sessions, generally you should feel like you can do more by the end of the session.

I had something to diet for.

This one is huge. Have something that you care about more than stuffing your face. Not making weight would not only let myself down, but also waste my coach’s time and the members of our club that would be there to help on competition day. Once you get close enough to your goal weight and the dieting gets harder, wasting the hard work you’ve already put in is too much of a pull to throw it all away.

I didn’t change my eating habits drastically.

This is pretty close to how I’d usually eat even if I’m not dieting down. This makes the transition quite easy as all I have to do is change the portion sizes and make a few small adjustments to fit my macro breakdown. If your diet is really poor, drastic changes may need to be made. In this case, starting earlier than planned would be required. Make small changes each week such as eating breakfast each day to start creating good, sustainable eating habits.

I gave myself room to move.

This is one of the biggest mistakes I see many people make whether they are looking to do more exercise, lose weight, gain weight, live healthier. Many people start all or nothing. An example I’m sure we can all relate to, you want to start losing weight so you start doing cardio 3x a week, go completely no carb, overhaul your whole diet to “clean” foods. But then what happens when your weight loss stalls? You do even more cardio? Eat even less? By lowering my calories by the minimum amount needed for my weight to start moving, and not adding in any cardio until I deemed it necessary, I was able to add what I needed to whenever my progress stalled to keep myself on the right track.

I hope this gives you an insight into your diet. There are no special diets, no special foods and no special formulas. However, some foods can make your diet a lot easier with keeping you full. SEE HERE for food ideas. Consistency, discipline and flexibility is what will get you to where your diet goal.