I’ve been meaning to write an article like this for a while now…
The Member Online Journals forum is probably one of the coolest things about Wannabebig. Since the birth of the forum, we’ve seen over 3,200 journals created and nearly half a million individual journal entries and comments added by our members.
What makes it so awesome is that you can jump straight in by starting a journal, and fairly quickly, you’ll find that members will pop their heads in to offer encouragement and advice. If that sounds a bit scary, it’s just as easy to browse around a little and find some journals that you’re interested in following yourself. Whatever way you join in, you can guarantee you will go away more inspired and more knowledgeable than when you dropped in!
We have members with a huge range of experience keeping journals, from some of the most experienced powerlifters on the planet (Eric Downey, JT Hall, Ryan Celli, and Vincent Dizenzo, to name a few) to guys and gals just trying to get bigger/stronger/fitter/leaner for the first time.
So…. there I am, lying in bed at night (I’m not even joking!) thinking, what’s the best way to highlight some of our members’ great transformation stories as well as raising the exposure of the Member Online Journals forum a little?
And then it clicked…
We needed to publish an article that shares a member story with all of our readers! Better yet, let’s not only share a success story, let’s also follow someone every step of the way on a current effort to reach a goal!
And that’s where Wannabebig forum member Unholy comes in…
This guy has not only gone from fat to buff, he’s already part of the way through a new mission to compete in two bodybuilding shows later this year – the INBF NYS Bodybuilding Championships on October 24th and the OCB NYS Championships on November 7th.
This interview will give you some background information on Unholy, bringing you up to speed on his incredible journey so far, as well as covering his goals for the next 17 weeks and right up to his first show.
We’ll also be publishing three further articles documenting his progress:
- 10 weeks out from first show (INBF NYS Championships)
- 4 weeks out from first show (INBF NYS Championships)
- 1-2 weeks after the second show (OCB NYS Championships)
Ok, enough from me, let’s get into this…
Wannabebig: Paul, first of all, thanks for agreeing to take part in this series of interviews. I’m really excited about sharing your story and current journey with our readers.
Unholy: No worries. I’m pleased you picked my story to share with the Wannabebig members. And, not that I really need it, but it’s going to be probably the biggest test of accountability I could ever wish for!
Wannabebig: Awesome, so let’s dive right in…tell us a bit about your background.
Unholy: Well…growing up, I was always a big kid…
Wannabebig: By “big”, you mean “fat” right? 🙂
Unholy: LOL, actually both! I was usually the tallest and heaviest in my grade school and middle school classes, and went on to play high school lacrosse for two years. It wasn’t until after I quit the team and started working fulltime my senior year that I discovered weight lifting. I found Wannabebig on an online search for weightlifting/bodybuilding, and I was immediately hooked.
However, when I went on to college, I replaced barbells and dumbbells with beer and fast food. The “freshman fifteen” turned into the “freshman fifty” and before I knew it, I was 295 lbs and my waist measured a whopping 48.7 inches! I had a realization that I was ruining my body and health and it was time to do something about it. I started going to the gym again and watching what I ate. After a few months, I was down to 275 lbs. Here’s a pic, but it’s not for the faint of heart!
After a few months of hard work, down to 275 lbs
By following the WBB1 routine and a low carb/high protein/moderate fat diet over the following year, I managed to get down to 240-245 lbs by July 7. Here’s another picture:
And down to 245lbs……
Wannabebig: WOW…a drop of 35-40 lbs is no joke! That’s a serious achievement. It must have felt pretty good, huh?
Unholy: Yep, it felt great to ditch that weight, but I was only just getting started! I lifted on and off over the next year but it wasn’t until October 1st 2008, this past fall, that I had clear bodybuilding aspirations. Motivation was at an all-time high and I realized that the only thing standing between me and the body I always wanted was simply myself. I rejoined the gym after a five-month hiatus, I picked a show for the following October, and got to work.
Wannabebig: You definitely don’t do things by half, that’s for sure . Deciding to shed some weight or get stronger is one thing, but committing to a bodybuilding show is on another level! Apart from requiring you to live a pretty drastic lifestyle whilst you prepare for it, some people may find it a bit odd that you want to get up there on a stage in front of others and flex your muscles. What made you want to compete? Where did that come from?
Unholy: I’ve been a fan of bodybuilding for a few years now. I have always had great admiration for those that had the commitment and discipline to get themselves into contest shape (3-4% body fat). I decided, “what better way to get into the best shape of my life than a bodybuilding show?” It’s the ultimate test of willpower. The more I got into reading about all the aspects of competition, the more intrigued I was and the more excited I got about the whole process. Needless to say, I was hooked after I started seeing results.
Wannabebig: Ok, so let’s get back to October. You picked a show to compete in, so what next?
Unholy: Well, before I started, I took another couple of pictures to serve as ‘before’ pictures. Here’s my starting point on Oct 1st 2008:
Before picture 1 – October 1st 2008
Before picture 2 – October 1st 2008
With a new fire lit under my ass, I was scrambling to learn as much as possible about competitive natural bodybuilding as possible. While I read and researched, I kept to a modified version of WBB#1 routine and kept a fairly clean ~3500 calorie diet.
I lowered my calories and cut carbohydrates slightly further and started training using a high intensity/high frequency/low volume approach and fell in love with it. The routine was very similar to what I was doing before but with less volume and higher frequency.
Here’s a side chest shot from March 22nd, 2009:
Side chest shot from March 22nd, 2009
In the beginning of April, I started focusing on getting my metabolism revved up for my preparation. I slowly increased my calories and started hitting the gym even harder. My strength was improving and I felt great eating at caloric excess once again, even for a short period of time. I got my calories up to 5000 a day for a few days towards the end of April and then slowly started tapering down. By doing this, I managed to gain size and lean out slowly.
On May 9th 2009, my 22nd birthday and my 24 weeks out mark, I started adding in cardio and once again controlling my carbohydrate intake and monitoring my calories more closely. I started eating 3800 calories on workout days and 3600 calories on non-workout days for two weeks and I dropped a couple more pounds. I then added more cardio in the form of mountain biking and also lowered calories a bit to around 3600 for workout days and 3400 otherwise.
Below are some pictures of me at 19 weeks and 5 days out, with my weight at 201-202 lbs. These were taken June 8th 2009:
Side Chest – 19 weeks and 5 days out (201-202 lbs)
Front- 19 weeks and 5 days out (201-202 lbs)
Side on – 19 weeks and 5 days out (201-202 lbs)
Wannabebig: You’re looking absolutely great at 19 weeks out. I cannot believe that it’s the same person as that fat guy back at 245 lbs! So, where are you at right now?
Unholy: My height is 6’0” and I don’t think that’s going to change between now and the competition 🙂 As we speak (July 13th 2009), I’m currently 190 lbs at ~9% body fat with a 32” waist and I’m 17 weeks out. I know you’re probably a bit sick and tired of looking at me, but I promise that this is the last picture you’ll see, in this article at least! Here’s me at 17 weeks out, taken July 13th 2009:
Side Chest – 190 lbs at ~9% body fat with a 32” waist
As for my lifts, I’m bench pressing 95 lb dumbbells for 8 reps, deadlifting 315 lbs x 8, and doing pause squats for 275 lbs x 8. I should mention that I don’t really lift for strength. The mind-muscle connection, contraction, and full range of motion are much more important to me.
Wannabebig: And what is your next short-term goal?
Unholy: To bring the best possible package to the INBF NYS Natural Bodybuilding Championships on October 24th 2009 in Poughkeepsie, NY as well the OCB NYS Bodybuilding Championships on Nov 7th In Syracuse NY. The shows are two weeks apart and this will be my first time competing.
Wannabebig: Do you know what weight class you’ll be competing in?
Unholy: I am guessing I will be either at the top of the Middleweight or the bottom of the Light Heavyweight class. These are tested events so conditioning is my main concern at this point and I want to come in absolutely shredded.
Wannabebig: What’s your current training routine look like?
Unholy: My split is three days on/one day off:
Day 1 – Calves/Chest/Upper Back/Cardio
Day 2 – Hams/Quads/Abs
Day 3 – Calves/Shoulders/Biceps/Triceps/Cardio
Day 4 – Off (LISS or HIIT)
I train with maximum intensity using a low volume approach and I usually do two warm-up sets per body part and then proceed to do my heaviest set in the 6-8 rep range first followed by two more working sets. The goal is to fatigue the body part enough to stimulate growth with these three heavy sets per body part and reaching physical failure on each set is a must.
I usually do one exercise per body part with an exception for back and sometimes chest. My back needs vertical and horizontal training and my chest is a lagging body part, so I throw in a little variety to get some more growth.
As far as cardio goes, I am currently doing 3 x 40 minutes of Low Intensity Solid State cardio (130-145 BPM heart rate) and I just started doing HIIT 2 x 30 minutes a week. I do both of these outside on my bike rather than in the gym. It’s just my personal preference to be outside rather than stuck in a gym.
Wannabebig: Is the way you are training now specifically different because you are competing?
Unholy: My weight training routine is not much different from my off-season training. It’s important to keep intensity high to preserve Lean Body Mass (LBM). I HAVE cut a bit of volume to avoid overtraining. My cardio routine is definitely something new that I’ve started for contest prep.
Wannabebig: What’s your current diet looking like?
Unholy: It’s a controlled carbohydrate/high protein/moderate fat approach. My calories are around 3000 and my macros are:
120 g fat
180 g carbohydrates
300 g protein
This is split into six meals a day, each meal consisting of:
20 g fat
30 g carbohydrates
50 g protein
Every third day, my last meal of the day (every 18th meal) is a carb-up meal, which is roughly 150-180 g of carbohydrates and 30 g of healthy fat with only a trace of protein. I don’t drink liquids during this one meal to avoid abdominal bloat and distension.
As far as food choices go, I try to eat clean at least five out of six meals a day. I always make everything I eat fit my macros, but occasionally I do eat out and get some fast food. The biggest thing I have learned about prep diet so far is the importance of weighing your food. I never realized how much I was underestimating my peanut butter intake by!
Wannabebig: Sometimes it’s hard to really come to grips with exactly what it takes to hit the total numbers and macros every day. To give the readers some insight into your daily routine, what did you eat yesterday, for example?
Meal 1 – 5 eggs, 1 slice double fiber toast, 2 oz. Salsalito turkey breast
Meal 2 – 2 scoops Nitrean, 1 cup chocolate calorie countdown
Meal 3 – 8 oz. Salsalito turkey, 20 spears grilled asparagus.
Meal 4 – 1 scoop Nitrean, 2 tbsp peanut butter, 100 g blueberries
Meal 5 – 2 tbsp peanut butter, 1 peeled grapefruit, 6 oz. Salsalito turkey breast
Meal 6 – 5 eggs, 2 servings dark chocolate peanut butter
Wannabebig: Are you using any supplements right now?
Unholy: Yes, I am. I didn’t supplement much in the off-season since I was well fed, and lethargy and recovery weren’t an issue. Back then, I used whey, fish oil, and a multivitamin, but everything changes when you put yourself in a caloric deficit. I realized that if I wanted the edge, it would help a ton to get some quality supplements. I have been taking Nitor regularly for the past month or so. I can honestly say that energy levels have been great. I know it’s working because if I occasionally forget to take it first thing in the morning, I’m quickly reminded by my lack of energy.
Another supplement I cannot say enough good things about has been ETS. I’ve tried everything for sleep from valerian root to maximum strength Unisom and nothing has given me the deep sleep and lucid dreams that ETS has. Can’t complain about reduced DOMS either!
Last but most certainly not least, I take Nitrean. After switching from a cheap whey concentrate/isolate blend over to Nitrean, I will never go back. I was extremely impressed with the taste and mixability. Besides, who can argue with a three-source blend?
Wannabebig: It must be tough trying to understand exactly how to prepare for and compete in a competition. Where do you start and is anyone helping you with your training, diet, and posing?
Unholy: It definitely is. As with everything, there is a wealth of information out there on how to do your own prep as well as a wealth of misinformation that you have to try to avoid.
We all know how dieting can play tricks on the mind…you feel small weak and it’s hard to stay objective. It always helps to have a prep coach or a trainer to assess your progress and make necessary changes to diet or cardio. I sought out IFBB Pro Phil Hernon’s help a few months ago. He was the one who worked with me to design the routine I am currently using. He helped me find something to bring my lagging body parts up and work around my shoulder problems. I have had great success since I began working with Phil and he’s a great guy.
IFBB – Pro Phil Hernon
Very recently, I’ve started working with WNBF Natural Pro bodybuilder Rob “The Reason” Moran. Rob is taking care of my diet and cardio for the duration of my prep. I consider myself very lucky to be working with him as he has dialed in hundreds of natural competitors, including national level NPC competitors.
WNBF Natural Pro Bodybuilder – Rob “The Reason” Moran
During my research into competing, I realized that being big and lean is not going to be enough. If I wanted the competitive edge, I would have to learn how to pose and present myself like a true bodybuilder. I know Gerry Triano has been working with competitive bodybuilders for over 20 years and has some great articles on posing and stage presentation. What I wasn’t aware of was that Gerry is from my neck of the woods! I got in touch with him and we will be working together on my posing. Gerry is a posing guru. He is also a very amazing human being and coaches free of charge in honor of his late wife.
Wannabebig: Well, it looks as if you have some great help on your side! But, even with great help, it’s obviously not going to be plain sailing. What have been the toughest challenges for you in the last three months, and what do you think will be the toughest from now through to the competition?
Unholy: The toughest challenge so far was getting myself mentally ready for 24 weeks of dieting. Natural competitors need longer to diet down to sub 5% body fat than our assisted friends do. The idea of dieting for such a long time, especially after cutting since October 1st with very few breaks, was a hard one to get my head around.
Wannabebig: So…. I guess that means partying, drinking, womanizing, and all-you-can eat pizza buffets are benched then? 🙂
Unholy: I haven’t touched alcohol since my 22nd birthday at 24 weeks out. The biggest challenge I expect to face over the coming weeks is food cravings. I got fat in the first place because I like to eat! Throw in a couple of hours of cardio a week and restrict my calories further and I might go nuts. But hey, “Never give up what you want most for what you want at the moment.”
Wannabebig: Great advice! And, you keep your own journal on Wannabebig – how is that going for you?
Unholy: It is very motivational and I feel more accountable for my actions. I hope to get more people interested in the sport of bodybuilding. I also want to show people out there that you can compete and look great without anabolic steroids. Not that I have a particularly problem with them, but I make the personal choice to compete naturally, and I believe that if you put the effort in, you can achieve some incredible results naturally.
If anyone wants to drop by, you can check out my journal here – My Road to the INBF and OCB NY State Bodybuilding Champtionships
Wannabebig: Ok, so we’ll leave it there for now, but we’ll be catching up with you in about seven weeks, when you’ll be ten weeks out from the INBF NYS Champ show. Where do you want to be at that point?
Unholy: Flirting with the 180’s for sure…I should drop another 2-3% body fat by then. When the going gets tough, the tough get going!
Wannabebig: Can’t wait to see your pics at 180 lbs, and if you carry on the way you’ve been going so far, I’m sure we’ll be just as impressed with your progress in the next seven weeks as we have to date. Good luck and see you soon!
Unholy: Thanks very much, and I’m looking forward to doing this again in seven weeks!
Note: You can read part 2 of this interview here: An Inspiring Interview with Forum Member, Unholy – Part 2
Written by Daniel Clough (with a little help from Unholy!)
Discuss, comment or ask a question
If you have a comment, question or would like to discuss anything raised in this article, please do so in the following discussion thread on the Wannabebig Forums – An Inspiring Interview With Forum Member, Unholy discussion thread.
Create your own Wannabebig Training Journal
Why not create a training journal of your own? Simply join the Wannabebig Forums (it’s free) and then create a thread in the Members Online Journals section. Then all you have to do is make an entry as often as you like! It’s a great way to receive extra motivation, accountability and advice from other members!