Dieting: When to Push and When to Pull

admin October 24, 2013 Comments

What do we pay a contest coach for?

I think pretty much any coach can put together a decent looking diet at first glance.   What are the real reasons experienced competitors hire a coach:

  1. An objective eye– Although many of us can objectively assess another physique, when it comes down to those final weeks and looking at ourselves we all become maniacs….myself included. Some people think they are too small when theyre quite big, some think they are not lean when they are totally shredded, or flat when full and so on.

  2. Psychological reassurance

  3. Support

  4. Feedback– Not just praise in the form of feedback but constructive criticism when necessary

  5. Knowing when to push harder and when to pull back-. A good coach if following your prep closely should be able to determine from pictures, bodyweight, trends, your feedback etc when its time to either hurt you more or get you off your feet and feed you a bit. Doing these things arbitrarily or making these decisions on raw emotion in bodybuilding can quite often lead to disaster.  Having a good eye/idea of when and how  to either PUSH ( create a further caloric deficit) or PULL back (EAT in a surplus for a set period of time, back off cardio etc) in my opinion is by far the most valuable asset a prep coach can have.


Example # 1- you are doing your own contest prep. You’ve been dieting a good 14 weeks now and have 6 weeks to go. You slowly pulled calories everytime you hit a legitimate plateau and have now transitioned into a lower calorie ketogenic diet. Calories are low, emotions are high, energy stores are low and you just aren’t liking what your seeing. You drop another 20 grams of fat out of your diet and add more cardio because you don’t think your getting lean fast enough. Now you take pictures 3 days later and you look even worse.  However as the masochist that you are you just think you aren’t working hard enough or suffering enough so you add even more cardio and continue to look worse. Even if you have a good eye for bodybuilding, chances are the athlete himself is not seeing this objectively. An experienced coach may so lets take the next 2 days off from cardio and eat 300 grams of carbs throughout the day etc. or say hit a cheeseburger and fries tonight for your last meal then send pics upon waking. Then all of a sudden the athlete realizes WOW I am a lot leaner than I thought, I was just flat, then pushes again for 5 more days does it again and then looks even freakier. If the athlete had never gotten involved with the coach he would have forced himself to work unnecessarily harder and harder and although he was getting leaner his physique was looking worse and worse. Without the objective eye he was either in denial that he needed to eat, simply didn’t think he needed to eat, or just thought he wasn’t getting leaner etc etc.


Example #2 is the guy who always thinks hes too small no matter what. Everytime he goes the slightest bit flat he’s running off to the diner to go down a hungry man breakfast to “fill out”.  Our example #2 here never places well at shows because according to him “ I was  just flat and holding water”. The experienced coach would play both the technician and the shrink and inform our subject that the reason he isn’t placing well at shows is because him constantly filling himself out is not allowing him to ever gain any significant ground in his endeavor of fat burning. So in a nutshell hes going on stage as a fat bloated water balloon despite his best efforts. After understanding through the explanation of his coach that sometimes/often you need to go flat to burn the fat the athlete is then able to wrap his head around going flat from time to time to allow himself to get lean enough. The coach reassures him that he will periodically fill him back out and for show time he will be full as a house on stage. Our athlete then proceeds to get extremely lean, then the coach as promised fills him up beautifully for show day and he finally displays winning condition on stage.


Example #3- the last example were going to explore here is a guy whose looking pretty ripped at about 7 weeks out. His goal for this show was to bring insane conditioning striated glutes and all. Every part of his physique appears to be dialed in at this point except he still does not have those striated glutes that he so desperately wants as theres a little bit of fat back there still. So our subject pushes harder with more fat burners, cardio and lower calories. We’re now 5 weeks out and the glute area is just barely showing but the rest of his physique is lacking any pop whatsoever and theres strong indications of muscle loss going. Our subject decides to push on a wee bit harder, more cardio less calories a tad more fat burners. Now his glutes are showing a tad more but the lat width and thickness he struggled so hard to bring up all offseason is now completely gone. His quads are looking more narrow as well. Now is when an experienced eye/competitor or coach would say for my physique during this particular prep this is not worth it. If our subject were to finally get the striated glutes he wanted he would be losing all the attributes that make him a decent bodybuilder in the first place.  Everyones individual physique is only capable of so much each year and one needs to determine safely what that point is. Maybe our subject can live off wide squats and lunges for another 2 years, stay quite lean in the offseason and have a shot at getting them next time but this time getting the striated glutes would most likely result in an unfavorable placing due to the strain it would put on the rest of his physique. Once again knowing when to push and pull back in my opinion is the most invaluable resource a prep coach can possess.

Once again keep it simple!


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Team Provo is a comprehensive contest prep/diet coaching service specializing in mens and womens bodybuilding, mens physique, womens figure, womens bikini and womens physique athletes that addresses all offseason and precontest nutrition needs. The results of coach Phil’s hands on, attentive to detail approach speak for themselves. Phil has helped turn amateur athletes into professional in the ifbb, dfac, and anbf To view testimonials, clients pics and more visit To contact coach phil please direct all inquires to