By: Anthony Busacco
NPC Northern Kentucky MW Champion, Battle Of Champions Overall Winner Magazine 8 #1
I entered my first bodybuilding contest at age fifteen. Even at this young age I’d already had 2 years of hard training and a meticulous 10-week precontest diet under my belt. I’d been to bodybuilding shows before, but standing on stage was a different matter. The training and dieting had nothing to do with what I was supposed to do once I got out on stage. Bodybuilding is perhaps the only sport where the preparation and the competition are completely dissimilar. Still, with three older teenagers in my class, I received first place in the under 17 category. Two weeks later I was once again the youngest on stage, yet finished 2nd of 12 in the Open Teenage Indiana.
These small victories sparked a fire inside me that drove me to spend many late nights in the gym; give up numerous social activities that my high school peers enjoyed, refrain from many foods I watched others eat, and it lay the foundation for a disciplined way of life that would translate into success later on down the road.
At 22, I won the overall Juniors Class, my classes in the Men’s Open and Novice, and both Men’s Open and Novice overall titles at the 2002 NPC Battle of Chanpions.
At 16, my training partners were always older and stronger. This forced me to adopt a hardnosed training mentality. I became a student of the sport, paying strict attention to form and the mechanics of each exercise. All of a sudden anatomy and physiology classes had a whole new meaning. I learned how each muscle group worked and how they interfaced with each other. The intelligent application of these basic anatomical and physiological principles enabled me to continue to progress. Bodybuilding became as much a science as a sport to me.
Two years later, I decided to compete again in the Tri-State Classic in tandem with my training partner, Brian Wiefering. When it came time to begin dieting, we went to see Roger and Sandy at Beverly International. Up until this point, I had little understanding of dietetics and how the body utilized food. I was under the impression that in order to lose weight, one must eat less-I was shocked, and a little tentative, when they handed me a 5-meal contest plan. Roger explained how the body assimilated protein, carbohydrates, and fats, and that by manipulating your carb and fat levels while keeping your protein levels high, you can shed body fat while increasing lean muscle mass. This was revolutionary for me. During the entire contest diet my weight decreased just 5 lbs. I actually added 5 lbs. of lean muscle and decreased my total bodyfat by 5%! The day of the show I was the only teenager present, so in a last minute decision, I decided to compete in the men’s middleweight. I took first place! I won the Men’s middleweight class as a teenager (with Brian winning the overall), but more importantly, I gained invaluable knowledge about the importance of proper nutrition and how more protein interprets to more muscle.
College was next. I made it my mission to learn as much about biochemistry, physiology, biology and anatomy as I could. Because my father is a physician, I regularly picked his brain to fill in gaps and details where my college courses had left off. I began to revamp my training and diet routines to include the new information I acquired. I was fascinated by how the body worked, and in understanding the full-picture; I began to see new insights, and flaws, in popular trends in bodybuilding.
I did not compete again for 5 years. In the interim I experimented with many different training regimes. My goal was always to bring up lagging bodyparts while adding overall lean muscle mass. Size alone was not enough – symmetry and proportion were just as important. By documenting and analyzing my training I began to understand what exercises yielded the results I desired. I gained an intimate understanding of how my body worked. It’s not enough to blindly follow one of the "ultimate" prefab workout routines found in a muscle magazine-every body is different, and responds differently to different things. In this respect, it is good to try a new routine, but do so with open eyes, understanding that what might work for one person may not work for you. By doing this, you can tailor you own routine, incorporating new ideas into your pre-existing structure.
At 22, I was 205 lbs. I met Mark Ritter, my current Beverly consultant, at one of the local gyms. He said it was time to compete again and convinced me to begin training for the NPC Northern Kentucky Bodybuilding Championship the following year. I was a bit tentative. I wasn’t sure how I’d do competing against many seasoned bodybuilders in the area. I did know that if I was to compete in this arena, I would have to dedicate every waking moment to preparation, and with Mark’s guidance, I began to formulate a progressionary training, diet and supplement schema for the show.
At twelve weeks out and 9.5% body fat, my focus was losing body fat while continuing to add muscle. The first diet change I made was to cut out unnecessary fat and carbs while keeping my protein intake at 300 grams a day.
Here’s the diet we came up with: waffles at meal one, a protein shake for meal two, 12 oz. of lean beef and a serving of carbs for meal three, a protein shake for meal four, fat-free vegetable and chicken stir-fry for meal five, and a protein shake for meal six.
I’d go to school after meal two, and when I came home, I’d train calves and abs between meals three and five. In the evening, after meal five, I would hit my primary workout in the gym. My typical training split was: Monday – Chest and Tris, Tuesday - Back and Bis, Wednesday – Legs, Thursday – Traps and Shoulders, Friday – Bis and Tris, Saturday – Off, Sunday – high-rep Legs. I find that this split keeps adjoining primary muscle groups far enough apart to allow enough time for secondary muscle and joint recovery between workouts. Calves and abs were trained at least every-other-day and up to 5 times a week. Obviously, my schedule did not allow much social time with classes during the week and work on weekends, but I saw it as a trade-off for the progress this regimen would yield.
Waffles at meal one? Yes! I found that I was able to diet more effectively by making minor modifications to my diet rather than a major revamping of my preexisting eating habits. My high caloric expenditure from two-a-day training sessions, juxtaposed with an increasingly curtailed diet, made burning fat an easy task. At six weeks I finally deep sixed the waffles substituting lean ham, eggbeaters and a slice of dry toast for meal one. This lowered my morning carb intake considerably, which in turn, lowered my energy levels through out the day. However, this was a necessary evil to continue to burn fat as my metabolism and body fat level decreased. The Mass aminos and Ultra 40 were essential during this phase of dieting, ensuring that muscle would be spared as my body entered an increasing catabolic state.
At 3 ½ weeks out, I cut back to a five-meal plan. Meal one consisted of ¾ cup oatmeal and ½ grapefruit, a protein shake for meal two, 12 oz. of lean beef and a serving of rice for meal three, a protein shake for meal four, and two chicken breasts with low-fat spaghetti sauce for meal five. This plan allowed my glycogen levels to peak in the morning, before training. Then by tapering my carbs throughout the day, my body utilized stored fat to supply my remaining daily energy needs. In order to spike my metabolism, I substituted a high-carb meal for meal 5 every 3rd day. At this meal, I consumed 1¾ cups of oatmeal, four small potatoes, two servings of fruit, and two slices of dry bread. This meal triggered a massive insulin spike as my blood sugar levels climbed, and enabled my body to replete glycogen stores. It is no stretch to say that I noticeably hardened up every time I completed the three-day cycle. I believe that this high-carb meal was a key component in burning fat in the later stages of my diet.
Mark revamped my training and diet regimen for the last week of contest prep. My final leg day was Sunday before the show. Monday through Thursday consisted of full-body workouts each day, including both abs and calves I implemented 30 minutes of low-impact cardio Monday through Wednesday, and began to sodium deplete on Tuesday to flush remaining subcutaneous water reserves. I progressively cut my sodium intake over the four days prior to the show, and beginning on Tuesday, I consumed 2½ gallons of water a day and 1 90-mg. tablet of potassium every hour. I increased that level to 180 mg. on Wednesday, and 270 mg. Thursday on through the show. During this last week of training, I added Muscularity to my existing Beverly supplement regimen in order to promote a hard, muscular look. Thursday and Friday, my meals consisted exclusively of 6 oz. of beef and a half of a grapefruit five times a day. This eliminated almost all of the sodium in my diet while helping to curtail hunger cravings and sparing muscle tissue. Grapefruit has properties that are very beneficial in these last days of contest preparation; it is a very low-glycemic fruit, it prolongs the effects of thermogenics (namely caffeine), and contains a compound that helps in suppressing appetite. The Friday before the show, I weighed in at 173¼ lbs at close to 4% body fat. Friday evening I ate a high-carb meal consisting of a full bag of white rice. White rice is sodium and fiber free, which prevents any water retention that might cause bloating.
I continued to eat only beef and grapefruit the morning of the show while minimizing my water intake. With over 20 competitors in each of my classes, I took first in both the Novice and Men’s Open Middleweights. While I was not one of the heavier competitors in the show, my attention to symmetry and proportion had paid off. I was amazed how well my application of Beverly’s diet principles had worked. The beef, grapefruit, and potassium during the water depletion stage were especially effective. I found that I actually enjoyed those meals more than low-carb meals during the previous weeks of my diet. My energy levels also seemed to be higher during the hours of posing spent prior to and during the show.
After the Northern, I went home and ate waffles and orange juice, and shortly thereafter, my muscles quickly became engorged, I was harder, and had considerably more vasodilation than I did during the show an hour ago. (This was something I’d remember and incorporate in my plan for my next show, the Battle of Champions.) Since I was already "ripped to shreds" I decided I would not have to do the full-body workouts or the cardio for The Battle of Champions, two weeks later. I just followed my normal weekly training routine, substituting a light chest and back routine on Thursday instead of bis and tris. I even decided to keep my leg workout on Tuesday. I’d just rely on my diet to provide the cuts, and not worry so much about the soreness or water in the muscle. On Thursday I hit a heavy ab and calf routine, again to induce the full look I hoped to achieve in my legs.
I switched to beef and grapefruit one day earlier than I had before so I would be holding even less water for this show. During this time, I increased my water intake to three gallons a day, and began potassium loading. Wednesday and Thursday, I ate exclusively beef and grapefruit for five meals. At this point, my glycogen levels were extremely low. Although I felt horrible, I knew that this would make my carb loading much more effective for my show on Saturday. On Friday morning, I began complex carb loading, because complex carbs would take longer than sugars to convert to glycogen. Throughout the day, I ate two bags of rice, providing me with 520 grams of complex carbohydrates-a massive spike from under 100 grams a day. I did not worry about holding any water because I knew that without sodium, there was no chance for subcutaneous water retention. Because of this reasoning, I felt it was safe to drink water all the way through the day of the show! Where most bodybuilders begin to limit their water intake on Friday, I drank three gallons of water that day and 2½ gallons the day of the show. My conclusions were correct-not only did it fill out my muscles, but also helped to flush the last remaining sodium out of my system making me even harder than I was two weeks ago!
The morning of the competition, I took a lesson from my post Northern experience. For breakfast, I had 6 oz. of beef, 1½ grapefruits, two large glasses of orange juice, and an entire family-size jar of applesauce, which provided 240 grams of sugar. All these foods are sodium-free, and the high sugar content immediately spiked my insulin levels. I very meticulously planned my meals for the day, in order to hit my peak at prejudging. Sugars enter the bloodstream very quickly, which causes an insulin surge in your system. This causes two beneficial things to happen in your body. It immediately fills out your muscles with glycogen, and high insulin levels cause your body to enter a state of thermogenesis, which promotes high levels of vasodilation. You’ve got to be careful though... once the sugar levels in your body begin to normalize, your insulin levels will begin to fall. So, it was my task to keep my sugar (and insulin) levels at their peak all day long. To maintain these high levels, I continuously drank lemonade for its sugar and water combination. This approach is largely contradictory to how most bodybuilders prepare for a show, but my knowledge and experience in physiology seemed to validate my conjecture.
Showtime came and I hardly had to pump-up at all. My muscles were already swollen with water and glycogen. At 22, I won the the Juniors Class, my classes in both the Men’s Open and Novice, and both overall titles in the Men’s Open and Novice. I was the only competitor in the history of the show to win all three overall titles and the youngest to ever win an overall Men’s title.
Bodybuilding has been a major influence in my life. It has taught me discipline and has given me a healthy respect for my body. Too often we train hard and follow the latest routines, but often are discouraged. Progress seems lackluster. But I learned it is not enough to train hard-we must also train smart. It is important that we all find what works best for us in the gym, and couple it with intelligent dieting outside the gym. This is where Beverly International has risen to meet the needs of the competitive bodybuilder. They take a personal approach to bodybuilding, acknowledging every person’s individuality, and structuring their programs around that idea, rather than expecting you to conform to a preset notion of what will work best for you. Furthermore, they take the utmost pride in the quality of their supplements, which cater from the health enthusiast to the competitive bodybuilder. At any level, Beverly’s programs and supplements provide the direction and the means you need to achieve your health and fitness goals.
At 17, I met Roger and Sandy; later I met my current Beverly consultant, Mark Ritter, who is an experienced national caliber bodybuilder who also found success in the Beverly system. I learned the importance of proper diet and nutrition at a very young age, a component most people ignore in their equation to fitness success. Later, it was important to me as a student of the sport to have a knowledge and understanding of the human body. Beverly has taken this technical knowledge and understanding and coupled it with a pragmatic utilization in bodybuilding. Beverly International has, and will continue to be, a vital component in the equation to reach my fitness goals. And whether your goals are to take the stage in the competitive arena, or just stay in shape, Beverly International and their knowledgeable staff can provide you with the means to achieve your own personal success.