Dieting Update

February 3, 2014


Justin Purcell

So is it true that when you’re at your leanest you’re also at your weakest? Competitors in bodybuilding, figure, physique, and bikini can attest to feeling your worst prior to walking on stage. Being carb depleted, calorie deficient, and dehydrated can definitely effect how you feel. People who are under 6% body fat have problems performing the most basic tasks, even remembering small details is a hard task to complete.

I’ve been a Guinea pig for the past few months testing this process and trying to find a happy medium, because as a majority most of us want to look our best, feel our best, and perform at the highest level simultaneously. So let me give you a breakdown of my personal body experiment, and what I found to work best for myself.

As a competitive strongman I walk around at 305lbs and relatively lean compared to most of my colleagues at 17% body fat (pictured below). Now at 305lbs my overall strength is at its peak. My best overhead press, deadlift, squat, and bench are best at 305lbs, or at least that was what I thought. However, being that heavy I also experienced mild sleep apnea, shortness of breath, and swollen ankles because of the weight, so there are definite tradeoffs to being big. Shortly before Thanksgiving I decided to give my body a break and diet for a bodybuilding competition to lose some body fat and basically just let me body feel normal.

For 10 weeks I dieted like a bodybuilder, I dropped 60lbs of body weight and 9% body fat overall. I also flushed all the excess water out of my system to get a real weight idea at the end of the diet. At 8% body fat I definitely didn’t have the endurance I had when I was heavier. Generally I train one body part per day for 2.5 hours or close to 50 sets. Very high volume, but that’s how my body responds best. At 8% I only had about an hour of resistance training before I hit the wall. I kept all of my power on the lower end of all movements but my overhead press, and bench went down considerably in volume, and slightly in power. For example, I would rep 405 on bench for 8-10 at 305, but at 8% I could only hit 3 reps in strongman events I picked up speed on certain events, but the loss of mass definitely made truck pulls, and overhead presses harder. So being lean definitely does cost you numbers, but at what percentage can you keep power and still look and feel good?

For my best individual results in a physical appearance, and power came at 12-14% body fat. I went down to 245lbs in body weight in 10 weeks, and I’ve subsequently increased to 265 in the past 3 weeks (pictured to the right). Today during event training I was able to match all of my best prior numbers, and my endurance was on point. So athletically I want to keep my percentage between 12-14% from here on out while trying to increase lean muscle mass. Now at 12% I don’t have a ripped mid-section, but I do have great overall definition, and vascularity. So why not have the best of both worlds? The body is amazing. Test it!

Abs, Abs, and more Abs! IT’S COLD AND I WANT COMFORT FOOD!
Abs, Abs, and more Abs!

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