Justin Thacker After 2012 World Champs

Andrew HudsonFirstly congratulations on your recent achievement, you have set the bar very high for all of the rest of us in terms of what can be achieved! A medal at the world champs is something many of us dream of!

Justin ThackerThanks Bulk! It was a truly amazing experience. Coming 3rd in the World exceeded the goal I'd set for myself, Just making the finals alone had been a HUGE dream of mine, so I'm really happy with the outcome. Going five years back, in 2007 after prepping for the Classic World Champs for an entire year, I flew all the way to compete in Spain. I'd retained a lot of water from the flight which I tried to lose. But ended up missing my weight by a mere 200 grams! This was on my second weigh in attempt. As a result I was disqualified and was not allowed to compete, what a nightmare after all that work! That really was a devastating experience for me. So 2008 I competed in the open lineup for a change. In 2009 I prepped the entire year with my eye on doing the classic division again, went back to compete in Classic Worlds being held in Spain again, this time I made the weight for my class! What a relief that was, Anyway I landed up placing 8th, but did not get to compete in the finals, only the top 6 going through. Happy but not content, I took 2011 off to improve again, with my goal of one day making the Classic Worlds finals! So it's been a very long journey, a testament to being persistent and not giving up. No matter what happens or how bad things seemed I picked myself up and worked to keep a positive attitude and improve myself. Most people give up too easily I think. My advice is keep going! Because the people who succeed are sometimes the ones who just never give up and keep working, refining & improving what they do & keep trying!

Andrew HudsonWe have all seen the pics on Facebook and on the net, you made drastic improvement from SA's can you give us insight into what you did diet wise to achieve this?

Justin ThackerI did do a few unconventional things this year actually…leading into the worlds I basically stuck to diet & training approach I'd been doing the whole year leading into the Regionals and Nationals. This whole year I've been eating fewer meals for one. Eating three to four bigger meals a day about 4 or 5 hours apart as opposed to many small meals every 2 hours like I had in the past. I also weight trained in a "semi fasted state" I did "bracket" my morning workout with combo of Ignite, BCAAs, CytoGuard and Glutamine. My first solid food meal was generally at 1pm and had 50% of my daily carbs in this meal, the rest of my carbs (25%/25%) were split equally between the other 2 meals. Protein and fat was split equally between all meals. I also ate carbs before bed as I find it helped me sleep better and ensured I was fueled for the next day's morning workout. I found as long as I'd set up my calories amount and macros correctly this approach did not negatively impact on fat lose or muscle retention while dieting in fact I found it easier and the recovery was better plus it was better for hunger control. I'm not saying this is the only way to do things but it seemed to work for me. I believe it did help to keep me more insulin sensitive & partition calories towards muscle as opposed to fat storage. Another thing I did not do. And something I normally do, as do most competitors after a show... is pig out for a week or two after the show. I feel this really sets competitors back, especially if you plan to compete again a few months later (As I was, going to the Worlds in November). The thing is after a long diet one's metabolism is slow and you are primed to store body fat very fast! After a show your glycogen levels are topped off from the carb load week, so I personally think no more than one max two days off plan, and its best you must get back on your lower carb diet for a good week or so. And only then in the second week start adding back small amounts of carbs and perhaps some healthy fats. I believe it is far superior approach to "reverse diet" slowly like this slowly week by week adding back carbs in controlled amounts and building up your metabolism so that it catches up with increased calories. The night after the SA finals I went for sushi and sorbet with sprite zero. The next day I only ate clean foods freely with no set plan; I didn't measure or weigh anything. Monday I was back on my diet 100%. I prepped all my meals for the whole week ahead of time. I won't lie its hard and it takes a ton of discipline, you get hungry but the results are worth it. I found I actually got leaner and fuller and got stronger and was able to increase calories to almost off season levels after SA's. As opposed to pigging out on junk, ballooning up fast and still being stuck with a sluggish metabolism. One ends up feeling bloated and having to do excessive cardio to try losing all the fat one has gained as a result making it very hard to get in peak shape again. I think this approach made my goal of taking my condition to another level much more achievable this year.

Andrew HudsonWhat did you do with training and cardio this year? Anything different?

Justin ThackerMy weight training was as always intense and consistent. I did mix in and try a few new exercises to keep things interesting like trap bar deadlifts, single leg deadlifts, dead stop dumbbell rows to name a few. I used some higher rep sets on leg press on leg day and ladder pushups at the end of chest day. I also added some isolation movements towards the end of my workouts like cable flies and lying back leg extensions which I did not do before. I did train a bit more instinctively towards the shows this year and focused a lot more on form than heavy weight I had in the off season. Concentrating more on how I executed my reps, really slowed things down, controlling the negatives, holding in the stretch position, exploding the positive portion of the rep and squeezing hard on the contractions.

I'm turning 40 next year so I'm training smarter now especially when very lean. I want to get the most mileage out of my joints and tendons as possible! Currently my joints feel great and I have no injuries which I always seemed to be suffering with in the past. Cardio wise I mixed it up during contest time depending on how I felt and my energy levels. I did move more towards HIIT towards the end mostly eg.6 x 30 second sprints on the recumbent bike for 15 min or so I found it more time efficient and I also got better fat loss and recovery doing shorter more intense cardio. I did mix this in with steady state incline treadmill walking in the evenings and stepper machine for 20 min at a moderate intensity at lunch time at our work gym. Sometimes I'd walk outside on the weekends for an hour or two with my 10kg weighted vest but this was at more of a lower intensity.

I also varied the amount of cardio. My goal was to be 100% ready 2 weeks out, so in weeks 3 and 4 I really pushed the cardio hard and then started to back it off the final two weeks to let my legs recover.

Andrew HudsonHow did you manage to stay motivated for that long?

Justin ThackerKnowing that my competition wasn't cheating on their diets, skipping cardio or taking it easy at gym. I used to visualize the Russians training in the freezing cold. Something is that I found motivating was in 2011 I went to South America and did the Inca trail over the Andes mountains. We had these Sherpa's who were peasant farmers that carried all our tents and camping gear. While we were plodding along dying from altitude sickness these guys were sprinting up sheer cliffs with only leather sandals on, literally running up the mountain with 30kg on their backs it was unbelievable, they were super human! Just seeing their work ethic was hugely motivating to me. Whenever I felt like getting off that stepper during this prep I use to think of those Sherpa's and how hard they work! It also helps having positive friends, family a supportive girlfriend and a great sponsor like SSN with such an awesome team of fellow bodybuilders all backing me up. Nutrition wise I think planned refeeds definitely played a major part in helping to keep me motivated this prep too. As I knew you only have three or five or however many days of low calorie, low carb eating and then I got the reward of feeling human again for a day or two. Also I try my best to take my time put in some effort and make my food taste decent; diet food doesn't have to taste like cardboard! I also tried not to think and just talk about competing and bodybuilding all the time and become too obsessed! To help create some balance in my life, which can be hard when prepping for so long!

Andrew HudsonWhat are your favourite supplements for dieting?

Justin ThackerSSN CytoGuard
SSN Ignite

Andrew HudsonWhat are your favourite supplements for the offseason?

Andrew HudsonWhat is your take on Cheat meals? Do you believe in whole days of carbing up or rather a single meal?

Justin ThackerI did incorporate higher carb days and meals and found them very beneficial when dieting really hard on low carbs. I found this carb cycling approach superior to straight dieting on a set amount of calories. What I did was I worked out my calorie average for the entire week and reduced the weekly average as I got closer the show. I think cheat meals (eating a meal of junk food) can work, but only if you are already ripped. I preferred to use planned "refeeds" Once or twice a week (I did one High carb meal on Tuesday night as I trained legs on Wednesday morning and did a full high carb day on Saturday after I trained back and biceps. I preferred to utilize the same foods I'm planning to carb load on. Mainly so I can practice my final week and peaking for the show and get an idea how I reacted, take notes of when I look the best etc. The leaner I got the more often I'd refeed, towards the end that ended up being every third day or so. I was able to increase the amounts quite a bit. In fact 2 weeks out from the world champs I ate over 1200grams of carbs 2 days in a row as my final refeed! I only had a refeed when I need it so it was a tool I used if I was feeling very depleted. I used my weight as an indicator of when I needed to have a higher carb day or meal e.g. Once my morning weight dropped below what it was the day before my previous refeed I knew it was time to throw in another refeed.

Andrew HudsonYou normally do all your contest prep on your own so how was it having Helen with you to help you this time?

Justin ThackerIt was awesome having her there to support me on this epic journey and we had such a great time at the contest together and both learned a lot! She did such a fantastic job of documenting the whole journey on facebook, helping with tanning, helping with the weekly bulk cooking, shopping and organizing etc. She really was an absolute star. There were ups and downs especially towards the end when I had no time for anything, no sense of humor or a personality! I was doing so much cardio and was tired and suffering from the low calories. So that part was tough for both of us. Normally I had just gone through that stage on my own so it was no problem. I think we have both grown and learned from the whole experience on how far not to push things and how we can work to make things easier for both of us in the future. I really have to hand it to all the girlfriends and wives of competitive athletes! It takes a lot of tolerance and patience from their part especially in the final few weeks before a contest. For now it's my turn to give back and spoil her because she really deserves it!

Andrew HudsonWhat did you weigh when you left here versus what you weighed in at?

Justin ThackerThis was quite a scary story (well it was for me at least!) remember I said in 2007 I missed my weight by 200g from retaining water on the flight and was disqualified from competing. Well a similar thing almost happened this time. The protocol I follow during the final week has my sodium and water is very high (up to 5 grams of sodium a day and 10-12 liters of water a day!) this is while on a very low carb, moderate fat, high protein diet. Our 15 hour flight was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. Now the weigh in was at 7pm that Friday evening. Which gave me a day and half to lose any water I retained. So no problem I thought! I boarded the plan having checked my weight before I left - 73 kg. So all was good at this point…We flew over night and the following morning I woke up in my seat bent over and I tried to put my shoes on…well! My feet wouldn't even fit into my shoes! I lifted up my tracksuit pants and I had these huge cankles! My shins were basically like swollen balloons. A massive dent remained when I pushed with my finger into them. Anyway I got to the hotel and carried on with my plan of drinking my water and keeping my sodium up. I think I was in denial at this stage! That Thursday evening I was still feeling very full, even my face was looking puffy. I was too scared to get on the digital scale I'd bought with me as I knew the next evening I had to be under 70,6kg. Finally my curiosity got the better of me and I jumped on the scale, to my horror I was 79,4kg!!! With 24 hours to go till the weigh in I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little bit panicked! Anyway we both decided this was not going to be the end of our trip, we'd come too far for that! So Helen (my girlfriend) and I got up at 5am and we walked all over Sofia, did tons of posing practice, photos, hot baths, spitting, you name it! Finally I got my weight down to 73kg by 3pm. 2,5kg to go with four hours before the weigh in! This called for drastic measures…So I went up to my hotel room put on two tracksuits hooked up my IPod & Bose Headphones and headed to the 25 story hotel stair well…20 stairs per a flight and I climbed up and down that building 4 times! (That's 4000 stairs) took me just on an hour. Anyway to cut a long story short I got to the weigh in hopped on the scale – 69.95kg!  ..Time to carb up! Shew! Dodged a serious bullet there…

Andrew HudsonWhat did you crave the most while dieting?

Justin ThackerFood wise it really depended on what stage of the contest diet I was in. But it was generally whatever macro I was deficient in...I almost never crave protein when I diet as I'm always on a high protein diet when in contest prep... It was always either carbs or fat or a combo of the two. I did a short stint of very low carb and low fat and the carb cravings I had were unreal! I was literally dreaming about bread rolls. When I was on a low fat diet for a while all I could think about was peanut butter! The day after high carbs refeeds I use to get really hungry sometimes too but things normally settled down after a day or two. Generally when I followed a more balanced diet 40% protein 40% Carbs 20% Fat I had minimal cravings. Cravings always happened when I was in too sever of a calorie deficit or I dropped one of my macros (Pro.carbs fat)

Andrew HudsonFirst thing you ate after coming offstage?

Justin ThackerAn entire loaf of homemade banana/date loaf wrapped in tin foil and gulped down two liters of ice cold cytoguard I had waiting in my gym bag! HEAVEN!

Andrew HudsonIn hindsight is there anything you would do differently next time?

Justin ThackerEven though I know what to do I think it would have been helpful to have a diet/prep coach especially towards the final few weeks. Mainly to take the pressure off of thinking, pre-empting any problems, and to stop me doing stupid stuff as I tend to push myself too hard sometimes and overdo it, I just seem to lose my common sense in those last few weeks LOL A coach to tell me when to back off, would help me "keep the ship on coarse" and stop me from doing things like dropping calories lower than necessary… or doing too much cardio, both of which can make you go backwards at this stage. Things like climbing 4000 stairs before the weigh in to ensure I make my weight! LOL

Andrew HudsonWhat is the next step from here? Have you thought about what you want to do next? Future plans?

Justin ThackerNext year I will not be competing I want to instead focus on make the necessary improvements to my physique bearing in mind what the judges are looking for when it comes to Classic bodybuilding, even just a kg of well-placed contest muscle can make a huge difference. Objectively looking at pics I mainly need bigger quads (especially lower quad, tear drop and outer sweep) and also add some meat to my lats and bit to my upper chest and will change my training, exercises accordingly to put more emphasis on these key areas. I have been dieting this whole year and it's hard to add muscle when you are dieting and doing a lot of cardio and I don't want to just come back and look the same. Which I feel would be the case if I compete again next year…As I would literally have to start dieting again in a few months' time! So I've decided 2013 is the year for improvements and then I plan to compete again in 2014 with the goal of giving the classic worlds another shot! Hopefully moving up two places! ;)