In December 2008, I weighed 225 lbs, up from 160 lbs the previous
year. The weight gain was deliberate—I was as strong as I ever was and ready to
step on the powerlifting platform as a 20 year old junior. But I didn’t feel good
about myself. My mom one day got angry at my physique and called me fat
and ugly. She cried. My girlfriend got a kick out of my appearance, made jokes by buying me pants waist size 50. I had enough. I
needed to do something.
I was reading blogs at EliteFTS
and read about Shelby Starnes. Shelby’s
clients had been enjoying great success, so I thought I’d give him a try. He was
offering a holiday discount of $250 for 12 weeks of diet consultation. I hired
him, and we started Jan 12, 2009.
He asked for some information from me and a picture. I sent him this:
5 Jan 2009, 225 lbs.
After a quick surveying of my needs at the time, he sent me my plan:
Ok Bernard, here's your
base plan. I want you to have 2 high
carb days per week
now, have those on your
most difficult training days and spread them out something
like Monday and
Friday. Have any other training days be
medium days, and all off
days be low days.
We'll follow this
rotation for 2 weeks and then see what changes we need to make.
Send me updates every
week with new pics, how your weight has changed, how you're
feeling, how training is
The high days will be
7 meals, keep fat as low
as possible on this day, so no added fats and use only lean
Meal 1: 70g carbs, 30g
Meal 2: 60g carbs, 30g
Meal 3: 60g carbs, 30g
Meal 4: 70g carbs, 30g
protein (switch this with any meal to make it your
Meal 5: 50g carbs, 30g
Meal 6: 50g carbs, 30g
Meal 7: 35g protein,
unlimited veggies (no carbs at this meal)
Medium day, 6 meals:
Meal 1: 50g carbs, 45g
Meal 2: 30g carbs, 45g
Meal 3: 50g carbs, 45
protein (switch this with any meal to make it your postworkout
Meal 4: 45g protein, 2
cups veggies, 8g of healthy fat
Meal 5: same as meal 4
Meal 6: 50g protein, 3g
evening primrose oil or borage oil (caps are fine)
Low day, 6 meals:
Meal 1: 30g carbs, 45g
protein, 3g fish oils
Meal 2: same as meal
Meal 3: 45g protein, 2
cups veggies, 5g fish oils, 1tbsp all natural peanut butter
Meal 4: same as meal 3
Meal 5: same as meal 3
Meal 6: 50g protein, 1
teaspoon olive or flax oil, 3g evening primrose oil or borage
oil (caps are fine)
Here are your food
Protein: chicken, lean
cuts of steak, fish, turkey, egg whites (ratio of 6 egg
whites to 1 whole egg),
whey, caseinate, any high quality protein powder
anything green, broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, asparagus,
Fats: all natural peanut
butter, borage oil, olive oil, cold pressed canola and
safflower oil, almonds,
cashews, walnuts, pecans, flax oil, fish oils
Carbs: oatmeal, rice,
potatoes, yams, cream of rice
You can use any zero
calorie condiments and spices to your meals. Also feel free to
drink any zero calorie
beverages at any time (diet soda, crystal lite, coffee, tea,
We'll start off with this:
On all your low days I want you to do some high intensity intervals. Do these some
time AFTER meal 1 (i.e not on an empty stomach). You can do sprinting, ride the
bike, whatever you like. But follow this protocol:
5 minute warm-up
15 minutes of intervals
Each interval will last one minute (so you'll have 15 total intervals) for the first
45 seconds of the interval you will only go at about 50% of your maximum, then for
the final 15 seconds you will go all out, as hard as you can.
10 minute cool down
On all your medium days, do 30 minutes of low/moderate intensity cardio (but for
these sessions, do them first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach).
No cardio on high carb days.
Shelby did not handle my weight training. For the first 8 weeks, I was able to maintain this schedule. This is the Westside method that has been heavily documented. It was used by that gym of world-class powerlifters and was responsible for majority of world powerlifting records in the 2000's. I was following a similar model for about a year by this point, and my body was used to a 4 day / week split. Took a while to tolerate it.
Sunday- Max Effort Squat (high carb)
- Work up to a 1 rep-max on a squat / deadlift related movement (choose one of the below that's different than last week's)
- Reverse Band Squat
- Reverse Band Deadlift
- Box Squat
- Good Mornings
- 3 Auxillary lifts (5 sets, 10+ reps)
- Glute-Ham raise
- Reverse hyper
- Leg Curls (meh)
- Trap Bar Deadlifts
- nothing stupid like leg extensions
Monday- Dynamic Effort Bench (medium carb)
- Bench Press for speed reps (typically 8 sets of 3 reps with bands or chains)
- 3 Auxillary Lifts (5 sets, 10+ reps)
- Dumbbell bench
- Dumbbell rows
- Incline bench
- whatever else that doesn't suck
Tuesday- Off (low carb)
- HIIT cardio this day after breakfast
Wednesday- Dynamic Effort Squat (high carb)
- Squat for speed reps on a parallel box (12 sets of 2 reps with bands)
- Subsequent week is 10 sets, then 8 sets with increasing weight
- 3 Auxillary Lifts
- Cambered bar squat
- Leg curls
- See Sunday
Thursday- Off (low carb)
- HIIT cardio this day after breakfast
Friday- Max Effort Bench (medium carb)
- Work up to a 1 rep-max on a bench press related movement (choose one of the below that's different than last week's)
- Raw board press (3, 4 or 5 board)
- Incline bench
- Pin press
- Reverse band bench press
- Floor press
- 3 Auxillary lifts (see Monday)
Saturday- Off (low carb)
- HIIT cardio this day after breakfast
Each wave of this training cycle lasted 4 weeks. The above would be performed for 3 weeks, then followed by 1 week of a de-load period. The de-load period consisted of weights no more than 60% of max attained on the max effort days with minimal auxillary lifts. Then a new 4 week cycle begins with ideally heavier weights than the cycle before.
Week 1 (1/11 - 1/18) (-5 lbs)
I lost 5 pounds in the first week. I was highly optimistic of the overall plan. I bought a food scale and weighed my food and ate at scheduled times. On my second low carb day Thursday, I felt dizzy and faint. I emailed Shelby:
Probably low blood sugar. You should get used to it after a week or two.. if not,
let me know.
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Not feeling right
From: "Bernard B"
Today is a low day. I have been eating all meals accordingly. I just came
back from the grocery. While I was there, I felt dizzy and unsure of how
I was still standing upright. I am better now, but still feeling strange.
What is this?
I did get used to it. Plan for week 2: continue.
18 Jan 2009. 220 lbs
Week 2 (1/19 - 1/25) (-5 lbs)
Feeling great. High carb day was becoming the bad day where I'd be chronically hungry. Low carb day was great. Lots of fats, and a feeling of being full the entire day.
Plan for week 3: continue.
25 Jan 2009. 215 lbs
Week 3 (1/26 - 2/1) (-5 lbs)
Still feeling great with base plan. Amazed with the numbers that are reading on the scale. No big visible differences here, but during cardio, I note that my body gets very very hot and I start sweating on my palms and soles of feet.
Plan for week 4: continue.
01 Feb 2009. 210 lbs
Week 4 (2/2 - 2/8) (-4 lbs)
De-loaded for training. Still feeling great and here I can visibly notice that my body is changing. At this point, I'm thrilled to have lost 19 pounds in 4 weeks.
Plan for week 5: continue.
08 Feb 2009. 206 lbs
Week 5 (2/9 - 2/15) (-1 lbs)
Started a new training cycle. Still feeling great but now I feel as if I am going through the motions. Shelby tells me that small, incremental changes are important and that we don't want to make too many changes to suddenly.
I have a failed Valentine's date (I was going to cook). The schedule didn't work out. Doesn't matter, I am making huge progress still and am feeling great.
First round of tests in school and I could feel there is some slight cognitive decline occurring. I had problem dividing 200 / 8 by hand on the test.
Plan for week 6: move 1 high-carb day to medium carb day (Wednesday)
15 Feb 2009. 205 lbs
Week 6 (2/16 - 2/22) (-4 lbs)
Starting to feel very tired now all the time. Still optimistic. The 1 extra cardio session from moving down to 3 medium carb days is wearing me out. I moved Wednesday's ME Bench day from high to medium. This decreased my carbohydrate intake by 260g in the week and increased by cardio by 30 minutes. 1 small change led to a loss of 4 pounds.
Suffering a greater degree of cognitive decline now. I am walking on Halsted street in Chicago, and cannot tell which way is north, despite staring at the Sears Tower. It took me 4 minutes to determine that the skyscrapers were north of my location.
Plan for week 7: continue.
22 Feb 2009. 201 lbs
Week 7 (2/23 - 3/1) (-0 lbs)
No progress this week. I was watching the scale every morning to see if I was <200 lbs. Starting to feel very hungry on the medium carb days now. My training is still going very well. I benched 275 lbs for a set of 8 on Wednesday, a personal best. My performance in school is beginning to deteriorate. I got A's on my first round of tests, I am now starting to score in the B-C range. I can't get the decimal for 3 / 8 by hand. I am becoming less responsive to my friends. At the gym, I see people giving little to minimal effort and start to get angry. I work so hard for what I am getting, and these people are shitting around. Take yourselves seriously for Christ's sake, otherwise go home. You wieners don't deserve to be here. I keep quiet.
Plan for week 8: increase medium day cardio to 40 minutes. Increase low day HIIT from 15 intervals to 18 and increase total time to 40 minutes.
01 Mar 2009. 201 lbs
Week 8 (3/2 - 3/8) (-6 lbs)
Big progress this week. By Tuesday, I had gone <200 lbs and I was thrilled. This was a de-load week for lifting, but I could begin to feel the weights I lift decrease. 60% on bench press for me was 185. I was struggling with this weight and shaking. I couldn't finish 5 sets of 10. On Squat, I am now folding in the hole for 275. My only solace in food now is the peanut butter I have 3 times daily on my low carb days and the olive oil I sprinkle on my chicken those nights. High carb day makes me dizzy, hungry and lethargic. My roommate now comments on the visual changes in my physique. When I lift my arms, I can now see my serratus anterior.
Plan for week 9: make high carb day into super high carb day. Increase carb intake by 50% at each meal that day. Continue everything else.
08 Mar 2009. 195 lbs
Week 9 (3/9 - 3/15) (-4 lbs)
Starting on the 3rd lifting cycle of the diet. I fail on squat warmup with 275 lbs on Sunday. My hamstrings and glutes don't feel right when I squat. Also, my pants are starting to become too large at the thighs. They are baggy and I migrate to sweat pants. It takes longer to reach my target heart rate during fasting cardio on medium days. Shirts that were previously tight on me are also loose fitting now around the chest. They looked like garbage bags on me. I start to vocalize my disapproval of those giving minimal effort in the gym while there. "This gym is full of ****ing wimps."
Plan for week 10: continue.
15 Mar 2009. 191 lbs
Week 10 (3/16 - 3/22) (-1 lbs)
The week before spring break. I flew out to Rutgers University on Friday 3/20 for a pharmaceutical conference. I packed several oatmeal-mixed-with-gemma pea protein meals. Gemma pea was from TrueProtein and was $3.89 / pound. I didn't taste it until at the hotel, where I proceeded to dry heave the entire weekend. It was disgusting. During the conference keynote, I was huddled over the sink in the Rutgers medical school bathroom, ready to puke my guts out. I shoved it down and stayed true to the diet while in NJ.
Plan for week 11: increase medium day cardio to 45 minutes.
22 Mar 2009. 190 lbs
Week 11 (3/23 - 3/29) (-4 lbs)
Spring break. I am starting to struggle with squatting 185 lbs, a weight I used to de-load with. I still hit a 405 deadlift here, and my bench is still > 275lbs. I can really see the outline of my abs now. Feeling ok, but my angry and mean Facebook posts from this era suggest otherwise.
Low-Carb Bernard ranting about school
Low-Carb Bernard complaining about complaining...
Plan for week 12: have a cheat meal on the high carb day as the final meal. Eat whatever you can.