In July, eight weeks before the 1996 Kentucky Bodybuilding Championships, I phoned Roger Riedinger in desperation. I’d been dieting for five months, was nowhere near contest shape, and felt that my chances of achieving my goals -- winning the short class in the Novice division and placing in the top three of the open middleweight division -- were shakier than the fat hiding my abs.
I had never worked with Roger before, nor had I bought anything from him, yet he was charitable enough to answer my questions and dispense advice for well over an hour.
I followed through on Roger’s suggestions, which included adding 400 more calories daily in the form of protein and fat. Within a week I was hardening-up and I knew I had finally connected with someone who could help make my bodybuilding dreams a reality.
I could kick myself for not taking advantage of Roger’s counsel sooner. I'll bet many of you shy away from seeking his help for the same reason I did -- the suspicion that he'll try to sell you products. Such an assumption is understandable, given the commercialization of our sport, but unwarranted in the case of the Riedingers. The truth, as I’ve learned from experience and from conversing with others who rely on their advice, is that Roger and Sandy are willing to help anyone, whether he or she spends lavishly on supplements or can barely afford tuna and rice.
I began bodybuilding competition in the summer of 1995, placing third in the lightweight class of both the Louisville and the Thoroughbred Championships. It was just before the evening show at the Thoroughbred that I first spoke with Roger, who was kind enough to say that I had enough muscle to win my class, yet honest enough to point out that I needed to be much leaner.
Roger offered to help me prepare for the 1996 contest season but I declined, partly out of a cocky certainty that I could chart my own course and partly out of apprehension that his offer was based less on altruism than economics. After all, I’d seen the Riedingers manning their Beverly International booth at numerous contests. It was natural to assume that they were no different than many of the business people who hover like vultures over the iron game, eager to sink their talons into the bank accounts of the sport’s legion of wide-eyed, oh-so-gullible practitioners.
I began training for 1996 using the brief, infrequent, high-intensity approach that has long served me well, combined with a high-protein (50%), moderate-fat (30%), low-carb (20%) eating plan.
Roger sent me his No Nonsense Magazines, and I noticed immediately how closely the training and dietary ideas it contained paralleled my own. I have no faith in most bodybuilding publications, with their emphasis on volume training and high-carb eating, because those methods don’t work for me.
I kicked-off my pre-contest phase in March 1996, bigger and stronger than ever at 198 pounds and bursting with confidence. But as spring progressed and the summer contest season loomed closer, it became evident that something was wrong: despite the progressively lowered calories and carbohydrates, despite the pre-breakfast aerobics, despite following my plan to the letter, my body was retaining fat like Dorian Yates retains Olympia titles. In fact, I was embarrassed by how little I had to show for 20 weeks of non-cheat dieting. After reviewing the advice and success stories in my collection of No Nonsense Magazines, I called Roger.
We met six weeks out from the Kentucky and Roger’s coldly honest calipers showed my body fat was 9.9% at 184 pounds. I was distraught -- over five months of dieting for that? -- but Roger noted that if I did everything right I could whittle myself into shape by show day. He suggested I lower carbohydrates further, to about 75 grams a day, with no starches. My meals were based around lean animal flesh, eggs, and vegetables. Every fourth day I ate one large starchy-carb meal to replenish glycogen. I began taking ephedrine, caffeine, and aspirin twice daily to induce thermogenesis, and progressively added one-minute high-intensity intervals to my thirty-minute, three-times-weekly treadmill workouts.
I followed this protocol religiously for four weeks and the fat just melted away. Every few days I noticed a new peak or valley somewhere on my physique, which intensified my resolve. When the results come that fast, contest prep isn’t grueling, it’s invigorating. Despite the 3 a.m. hunger pangs, the minor annoyance of having to bring my own food to social events, and the creaking pains in my joints, I was having a blast! A month out I weighed 172 with no loss of strength.
Two weeks out, Roger had me consume just four meals daily (I normally eat five meals) consisting of nothing but eight ounces of fish, turkey breast, or chicken breast, and lettuce. I also took six Beverly Density Plus aminos 15 minutes before meals. This Spartan regimen was necessary to maximize my condition, Roger explained. The sudden absence of dietary fat, combined with zero carbs and low calories, would enhance fat-burning. He warned me this would be hell week; that I’d feel awful and be obsessed with food.
But my body and mind thrived on the meat-and-water diet. For the first couple of days hunger gnawed at me like Nasser El Sonbaty at a buffet table. Then the hunger disappeared and ketosis-induced euphoria set in. I felt incredible -focused, hyped, and high. I reveled in the discipline, the regimentation of eating, training, tanning, and practicing posing in the single-minded pursuit of my goal. I was sleeping just 4-5 hours a night, yet was almost manic with energy. And I was getting leaner by the day. Bulges, indentations, and veins that had been in hibernation my whole life were bursting into view.
One week out I was leaner than I’ve ever been, but flat. Roger instructed me to eat red meat -- up to 2 1/2 pounds a day -- and slowly add in carbs (oatmeal and yams) to fill out. I continued with the Density Plus and added five Muscularity branched chain aminos after meals. I also began creatine loading. Two days out I cut sodium and began drinking distilled water. Friday I drank a gallon of parsley tea for the diuretic effect and continued fat loading.
I weighed 161 at the 1996 Kentucky Bodybuilding Championships, eight pounds heavier than I was the year before and much harder and leaner. The judges placed me first in the Novice short class, and second in the open middleweight class. I not only achieved my goals, I exceeded them! Just as gratifying as my accomplishments were the numerous compliments I received on my condition.
I’m now working for more muscle mass, using heavy-duty training principles and a protein-and-fat, no-starch diet Roger designed for me. I plan to regularly visit the Beverly Nutrition Center so Roger can monitor my condition and fine-tune my regimen. And I intend to step on stage in 1997 in my best condition yet.