I want to start off by telling you that I’ve been training for more than 12 years, but never competed! I lifted because I loved it. My friends, all the way back to my Cincinnati Powerhouse days urged me to compete, but I was always able to come up with some type of excuse. I didn’t have time, I was too busy, I didn’t want to diet, blah blah blah.
But, after 12 years I didn’t love lifting for the sake of lifting quite as much as I used to. Going to the gym was starting to become a chore. If I didn’t find some new motivation soon, I was finished.
Well, maybe competing wouldn’t be too bad after all. It sure would give me the motivation that I was lacking. I still had all the old excuses, and definitely had my work cut out for me. But, with the encouragement of my wife and friends I committed to compete in the NPC Capital of Texas Roundup Bodybuilding contest in Austin, Texas.
I’d made excuses for years, but once I decided to do this "competition thing" I really thought it was going to be easy and I could diet and come into shape no problem.
WRONG – back to reality Matt. See me on the street and I was a big guy, not fat in "street" terms, but in the bodybuilding world I was a fat boy. I weighed in at around 210 when I started this whole thing and walked on stage at 165. Now do you see the picture? I had no idea how challenging this was going to be, and neither did my wife!
My first step was to get on my knees and pray to God for his help and strength. I always have to start with a solid foundation and it doesn't get anymore solid than that. After that it was time to formulate a game plan of diet and training. I started my diet twenty-two weeks out from show time, that’s right, twenty-two weeks. I know that crash dieting never works, slow and methodical was the way for me to go.
I turned into a head case after JUST TWO WEEKS! I knew that I could not be in the driver’s seat anymore when it came to dieting. I had to obtain some outside help. This was hard for me because the driver’s seat was easy for me. With the Lord’s blessing I had built a successful business and was the leader of a wonderful family, so giving up the reins was hard, but it had to be done for my sanity’s sake. I worked with a guy named Scott Salberg here in Austin that had worked with many national competitors. I decided to let go and let Scott do what he does best, make a champion. He sent me my first diet and I thought I was going to puke. Twelve egg whites, 4 oz chicken and 1 cup of oatmeal for breakfast! This guy was a nut, and sure enough I almost puked after my first breakfast. As time went on it became easier to eat more and I slowly but surely started to notice changes in my body in the mirror.
A couple of weeks went by and my gains in the gym were better than ever. I must have been seriously under eating before. I ate five solid food meals and one shake meal each day. My macro nutrient profile consisted of high protein, moderate carbohydrate, and low fat. When you see my diet (see sidebar) you’ll probably be freaked out by how much food I was eating. Believe me, so was I.
The premise of this diet is higher calories earlier in the day slowly trickling off as the day goes by. I followed the same pattern but lowered the calories as the show got closer. Occasionally I added a cheat meal or carbohydrate load when I felt I was shutting down and my body needed a kick-start. There was no set time for this meal because it was based upon necessity not a set schedule. This particular plan worked well for my body and metabolism. It may not be right for everybody, which is why it is wise to give yourself plenty of diet time to deal with any unwanted or unsuspected problems.
I think that the most important thing you can do is choose your game plan, then stick with it to the end. Whether you choose a low carbohydrate, high protein, moderate fat plan, or a low fat, higher carbohydrate, high protein approach. Don’t switch between the two because it can have dramatic effects on metabolism and greatly influence the outcome. Choose a plan and stick to it to the end.
A Typical Diet Day
12 egg whites, 1 yolk
1 cup oatmeal
4 oz. lean meat (boneless skinless chicken breast)
3 scoops Muscle Provider
½ tbsp flax oil
12 oz lean meat
½ cup brown rice
2 cups green vegetables
10 oz boneless, skinless chicken breast
2 cups of green veggies
Meal 5 (Post Training Meal)
16 oz lean fish
1 cup cooked white rice
6 oz lean red meat (eye of round, sirloin, etc...)
2 cups of veggies
Supplements: Mass Aminos and Ultra 40 with every meal. Super Pak, Glutamine Select, Creatine Select, Joint Care, and EFA Gold daily. Last 8 weeks I added: Muscularity and the Lean Out / 7 Keto Musclean stack.
Supplements played a critical role in my success at this show. I have taken so many supplements over the years and I have to tell you that nobody beats Beverly, nobody! I used to go to all the shows around Cincinnati and now Austin. You can always tell a Beverly athlete; they have that "look." I wanted that "look" for my show so I used only Beverly International supplements for my contest preparation.
Muscle Provider was my staple for my shake meal all the way up to contest day. Towards the end my post training meal also went from fish to Muscle Provider. I needed the fast acting protein with ease of digestion to get those amino acids to my muscles as quickly as possible.
I stand by Beverly International and the quality of their supplements. I promote and sell their products in my chiropractic office. I have been taking Super Pak for quite some time now. I had a nutritional blood analysis done on myself that tested my entire vitamin and antioxidant spectrum for the previous six months via lymphocyte cellular regeneration. No human body is perfect; but I was virtually spot on. Way to go Beverly for making great supplements and a great Super Pak which I do not hesitate to give to any of my patients with nutritional deficiencies.
My training did not change. I followed the same type of program as I do in the off-season. My cardio did change, and near the end I went up to nearly two hours a day.
Training consisted of a two on - one off approach
Day 1: Chest
Day 2: Back and Biceps
Day 3: Rest
Day 4: Shoulder and Triceps
Day 5: Legs
Day 6: Rest
Day 7: Cycle starts again with Chest
As you can see, I end up working a different body part on a particular day each week. This allows better use of muscle glycogen stores in order to keep those unwanted catabolic hormones at bay.
I varied my training based on what I felt like doing for that given body part or body parts on that day. On major body parts like chest, back, and legs I usually did 3 exercises for 3 sets each or a total of 9 sets per bodypart. For minor body parts such as biceps, I usually did six total sets. Let’s face it, most of the work for muscle gain is in the off season. Now is the time to show off what you have got. In all likelihood you will lose some muscle while dieting. That is just the physiology of the human body. So be smart while getting ready for a show. Train with your head and not your ego to avoid an unwanted injury. As Lee Haney used to say "stimulate don't annihilate."
All the dieting, all the training finally has come to an end. Now it’s show time! Even though it was my first show I entered the open division rather than the novice. I don’t even know why I made that decision. Luckily it turned out to be the right one.
Now, you have to understand that I did not know what the heck I was doing when it came to posing, color or presentation. Scott's help was invaluable. I certainly had not come all this way to blow it by having a bad color, bad posing or a bad routine.
We started working on my posing at 12 weeks out. One of the secrets Scott taught me is be sure to choose poses that present your physique in the most favorable light. The best way to do this is to use the process of elimination. If you don’t look good in a pose, don’t do it. Try something else. Keep working with what looks good and eliminating what looks bad until you are left with only your very best poses for your posing routine. Use the same process with the mandatory poses. You must practice over and over until you have them down cold, but then there are various ways to "tweak" them to your own body style to make you look your best.
The morning of the show arrived and everything was where I wanted it to be. I was lean and hard. My carb-up had gone well with no spill over. Here’s what I did for my carb up on Friday: Each meal was 6 oz lean ground beef and a 6-oz potato. I repeated this for all six meals.
No competitor ever knows what the outcome of a contest is going to be while they’re out there onstage. All I know is that I did my best for the glory of God and that is all I can ask of myself.
Pre-judging went well, but the show was packed with some excellent talent. It was a national qualifier and a lot of the guys were looking to win and move on to the Europa shortly after this show. That night I was more nervous than at prejudging. I had fifty plus people in the audience and that put some extra pressure on me. When it was time for my routine, I could barely hear the music for the cheering from my supporters.
Now, it was time for the top five to receive their awards. I was called and won my middleweight class, what a great feeling! Now I would have to wait through the light heavies and heavyweights to get a chance at the overall. Finally, it was time for the overall posedown. Both the heavyweight and the light heavyweight winners were well put together so I did not get my hopes up too high. Once again I focused solely on my own presentation and let the chips fall where they may. It paid off! I was announced the overall winner! All the weeks of dieting paid off with my middleweight class and overall wins at the Capital of Texas Round-Up Bodybuilding Show.
Good things kept happening. First, I was chosen by a local news station, Channel 8, as Athlete of the Week. Then, I was offered their monthly "sports doctor" segment. It gives me a great forum to help people with their sports related injuries, gives my business Avery Ranch Chiropractic plenty of publicity, and it allows me to continue to promote the sport of bodybuilding as a healthy lifestyle.
In closing, I have been concentrating on bringing up some of my weaker points and perhaps a national show will be in the future. Let me add a personal thanks to Beverly for the wonderful supplements. When it comes down to it, you get out what you put in, and Beverly is no joke on what you’re putting in!
Matt Harper at a Glance
Occupation / Education:
1) Bachelor of Education in Health Promotion and Education from University of Cincinnati, Honors Graduate
2) Doctorate of Chiropractic from Palmer College of Chiropractic, Magna Cum Laude of Doctorate Class
3) Owner of Avery Ranch Chiropractic Austin, Texas
Family: Married to Tatjana with a beautiful daughter Brooklyn
Current Residence: Austin, Texas
Where do you train: Fitness 19 and Gold’s Gym
Off Season Weight: 190
Contest Weight: 165
Favorite Cheat Food: Pizza
Favorite Bodybuilding Meal: Steak and potatoes
If you were to recommend just one Beverly Supplement to a beginning bodybuilder, what would it be?
I recommend Muscle Provider for its complete amino acid profile. Most people that begin to train are just
eating three square meals a day. We all know that that will not cut it if you are trying to put on muscle.
Muscle Provider is a great product to add in the extra protein you need to build lean muscle.
Most Inspiring Bodybuilder: Dorian Yates
In your CD player: Red, Sevendust, Mudvayne all things to get ya' goin
Most Inspiring Book: Bible
Hobby or interests outside bodybuilding: Reading and spending time with my family
Other Interests: Home Improvement, fishing and other recreational activities
Words to live by: With God all things are possible