The Nutritional Strategy of a World Champion
Dr. Joe Klemczewski of Perfect Peaking:
2010Nancy Hanna didn’t expect to win the WNBF World Championships in 2005. “My personal goal in addition to being in the best condition ever was to medal – placing in the top 5. Honestly – winning the overall didn’t cross my mind,” states the newly crowned world champion. Don’t get me wrong, she’s used to winning as a competitive junior national-level gymnast in Canada and then as a competitive provincial water skier, but this is “Worlds.” You don’t win Worlds unless you’re a genetic freak – a legend – and Nancy only began lifting weights five years ago.
She got her feet wet with a couple of shows and as any winner does, she locked her sites on lofty goals and to dug her heels in and did what others weren’t willing to do. First, she attended Nancy Andrews Pro Series Weekend Camp in January of 2002 where I met her for the first time. I was fortunate that she decided to hire me to assist her nutritionally for her contest preparation. Fortunate because I love working with a hard worker. Nancy is a pit bull. No, she’s a Tasmanian devil who eats pit bulls for breakfast. Nothing shakes her, she never complains, she just works. Sixteen months later she was a WNBF pro, having won her card at one of the most competitive shows in the INBF, the Northeast Classic. At 114 pounds, she relied on good symmetry and great conditioning.
As many lightweight clients of mine do, she beat much bigger competitors by being sliced to the bone.
That, however, would only carry her to sixth place in her first WNBF World Championships that same year. Welcome to the WNBF.
2010Bury your head in the sand, disappear as a one-contest pro, or go home and get to work? Duh. Nancy’s long-time trainer, Martin Oliver, affectionately know as Satan to Nancy, told her the truth: “You’re just too skinny.” (Or maybe he was more tactful – but I doubt it.) Only having lifted weights for three years at that point, Nancy, Martin and I agreed that a prolonged comprehensive training offseason and a controlled, but aggressive nutrition plan to match was a necessity. Neither Nancy nor I was especially happy to “have to” force her body weight up to 138 pounds, but I knew she was committed to a 2-year program to build and she would never actualize her size potential if she was dieting half of every year for contests. “To be honest,” Nancy says, “I found it difficult to believe I would ever be back to 120! I don’t like being 135!” And, of course, I didn’t like her being there either but for a bodybuilder so young in her career, it was necessary.
2010Her training involved heavy movements and the addition of deadlifts. “I hate deadlifts, but I like them more now with the results I’ve obtained,” Nancy adds. Keenly aware of manipulating Nancy’s training around the responses he saw in her, her recovery needs and an understanding of periodization, Martin watched his student mature and grow under the force of cleans and squats.
Contest preparation started in January for a June contest that was cancelled.. Having lost about ten pounds, I ramped Nancy’s food back up to a level that was closer to maintenance amounts with her eyes now set on the World Championships in November. Both of us hoped for a contest weight of about 120 with the newly forged muscle yet with a body fat percentage below her standard of 7. With the amount of time we now had, it was easy to coast through the summer on higher amounts of food but still slowly shed body fat. As the pages of the calendar turned, we locked into more frequent communication; I monitored progress and nutrient intake closely and called in plays from the sidelines.
At about 120-122 pounds, neither one of us was completely satisfied with body hardness. I know what perfection is needed for Worlds and I know what it looks like. Nancy knew what she was capable of. We weren’t there yet. Still with the advantage of having lost weight very slowly with only moderate levels of cardio, Nancy had a full tank metabolically and we had another gear. Martin and Nancy both were shocked that after all that hard work; she was heading toward past contest weights. “But,” I assured them, “look at her pictures - her shoulders, back and quads are HUGE! Much bigger even though her weight is moving lower than we thought it would. She has to play her ace; she has to beat the heavyweights based on her condition as well as her size and shape.” I most often have multiple clients in the same classes at the same shows and with the highest ethics I make sure each client has their best shot at winning. I can’t control genetics, posing, the intangibles such as suits and tan, the judging panel or even which clients will be perfect and which will cut corners, but like every good coach, I will have all my players ready to play their best game. As this contest turns out, the entire top three were clients of mine, but I would never have been able to predict the outcome – I just make sure they all are at their best. I knew for Nancy to be at her best, she would have to be the hardest lightweight with the most muscle to win that class; not an easy feat.
But, if she could do that, I knew she would likely be harder than any heavyweight and she would need to have enough size remaining to not be “the skinny lightweight that got beat by a heavyweight.” We had time to push the limit on her hardness and still bring fullness back in slowly.
One month before the show...115 lbs; a pound lighter than her pro debut.
I’m sure Martin thought more than once to have Nancy forgo my advice. He had to think I was on the verge of ruining his and Nancy’s hard work. “I don’t think I was as worried about it as Martin was,” Nancy affirmed, “but did worry that I wouldn’t be “big” enough. Visually I looked the same, maybe flatter… but I still overly depend on the numbers on the scale. Then when we started to increase food the numbers started going up and which caused great concern too – for me, more than the lower numbers as I was worried that now I would not be lean enough – if the numbers where going up – was my body fat increasing??!!!.. Had I lost my edge of being lean, which was one of my strengths? Martin was happy because he wanted me to come in heavier and fuller than 2003. I learned to depend on the expertise and guidance of those around me – my trainer and Dr. Joe.” And the numbers did come up. Seeing a “graininess” in Nancy’s upper body that most competitors will never experience, male or female, and lower body separations deepening by the day, I reversed gears and not only asked Nancy to start incrementally increasing foods, but to cut back on the cardio. Again, it’s such an advantage to be ready early and hit the precontest starting line in a planned condition that allows for predictability. As Nancy mentioned, after being hesitant to allow her body to drop that low in weight and body fat, she was equally if not more tortured about the increase in food. The scale jumped...and climbed...and didn’t stop until she was over 120 pounds. Understand my increases in food were very precise and very incremental, but nonetheless, she was up six to eight pounds – talk about messing with a bodybuilder’s mind! As her body absorbed the carbohydrates and recovered more completely in the absence of double cardio, her metabolism responded as any should: it wanted more. As her weight increased, her body fat decreased - two more millimeters were shed from her quads while she gained six pounds. (Did I mention there are advantages to being ready for a contest, before the contest?) Now we had to make sure she made her weight class.
2010“As usual – peak week chart arrived by email- like clockwork (from Joe). Everything that is stated on the chart happened according to plan,” Nancy states with relief. “Everyone in my home knows that it is Peak Week… and all this will be over in a week! I think they count down the days just like I do, but for a different reason….”
2010On the stress of peak week, Nancy comments, “I don’t mind peak week because its all over at this point … and everything is laid out for each day…except when Joe makes last minute adjustments and you have to find extra/different foods to add in- which is a challenge when you are traveling and away from home.” (Hey! Peyton Manning does his best work calling audibles from the line - sheesh!) Nancy is also accustomed to the sometimes-counterintuitive methods of peaking that bring my clients into a show full, hard and dry, but that still doesn’t make them easy. “Two gallons of water a day makes for an interesting flight...”
2010“I’m not a good judge of how I look… there were times when I’d look in the mirror and think “Yeah! We nailed it this time,” then I’d step on the scale or have a second look and all sense of self-doubt would set in… this in addition to the fact that I was stressed over the fact that my weight was going to be a determining factor of whether or not I was in the lightweight class…and would I be full enough earlier enough in the show. The day of the show I looked at myself and thought – we did it – for the first time ever I had veins in my thighs and calves! I was fuller, bigger and leaner than I had ever been… so matter what the outcome, I had won – I was 1-1.5% lower in body fat and approximately 4 pounds heavier than 2003 – WE had met our goals.”
2010And meet them she did. Nancy knows what it’s like to leave nothing undone and to best the best in the world. It didn’t take a village, but she’s quick to smile, blush and pass the credit. “I am thankful for Dr. J’s constant communication – no question or concern is ever looked down upon… there were days when I must have sent 10 emails… and he always responded immediately – putting my fears to rest. We were constantly making adjustments – even on the day of competition - to cardio, food totals and timing of meals based on our communications. As an individual I may have won the World Championship, however, behind me stands a team- I could not have accomplished my greatest goal/dream without the guidance, support and expertise of my team members such as Dr. Joe and my trainer, Martin to whom I owe a huge THANK YOU!”
2010Would you like to make a run at being a World Champion?
Work harder than anyone else. Get the best information - even if you have to travel to a seminar. Trust people who have been there to help you get there. Plan the entire process and don’t quit. The best in the world will be waiting to greet you. They’ll be ready. You better get to work.
I’m fortunate that Nancy hired me in 2002. I love working with a hard worker.
For more information, check out Dr. Joe's website at Perfect Peaking
About The Author
Dr. Joe Klemczewski is a WNBF Pro and has graduate degrees in health and nutrition. From his office in Evansville, Indiana he works with clients all over the country, including top WNBF Pros, using his online consulting program. He can be reached at www.thedietdoc.com
"Reprinted with Permission