Q: I met a girl I really like. I’m about to start contest prep, and I don’t want to scare her away. I know that you’ve been single for a long time, and I wondered if you had any tips for dating while dieting for a show.
A: That’s a really great question because you don’t want to have to abandon your social life for three to four (or more) months each year. You can’t have balance in your life like that, and without balance (or fun) you’ll end up abandoning bodybuilding. I’ve seen it happen all too many times. I’ve addressed a number of issues in recent conversations on this topic with young bodybuilders.
Gas (flatulence). This one has to be first because it can be a total deal killer! Just because (nutritionally) you can eat all the broccoli that you want doesn’t mean that you should—especially if you’re planning to spend some time with that special someone. Stuffing yourself with high-fiber vegetables just to fill up your stomach is a really bad idea if you’re going out on a date. Another thing you shouldn’t do is stack a meal and a protein drink or a meal and a protein bar. We all know how foul that can be, and it’s just a recipe for disaster! When you know that you’re going to spend time with your girl, keep your meals smaller, and don’t throw fuel on the fire.
Dining out. While we’re on the subject of food, let’s talk about dining out. For God’s sake, don’t take your girl to a restaurant for dinner and then pull out your Tupperware containers of chicken and brown rice. Bad move! It’s very embarrassing for your date. You can almost always find grilled chicken or fish on the menu, along with a salad or steamed vegetables. My best advice is to find several restaurants that have dishes that are suitable for you and stick with those while you’re dieting. I love the grilled chicken at Chili’s. I often go to the one near Hyde Park Gym in Austin and modify their salad so much that they eventually put a special key on the register for “Dave’s Salad.” If you’re at an unfamiliar restaurant, just tell the waitperson that you are on a special diet and tell them exactly what you want. As long as you’re courteous about it, they will most likely be more than willing to accommodate your needs.
Training and diet talk. Many of us end up dating others who also work out and share our interest in fitness. But even if your significant other is interested in training and nutrition, you don’t have to talk about it all the time. I’ve had close friends who couldn’t talk about anything else during their precontest training. Even I got tired of hearing about it. Go easy on the training and diet talk with your date. Even if she asks you about it, keep in mind that it could be that she’s just being thoughtful because she knows how important it is to you.
Moodiness. This is a tough one. There are going to be days when you just wake up hungry, tired and in a foul mood. You should warn someone you’re really interested in that there are going to be days when you’re not going to want to be around anyone. If you’re in a bad mood more often than not, then you’re dieting too hard or severely overtraining—or maybe you’re just not too excited about competing. I always tell people that you need to enjoy the journey, not just the destination. Enjoy the fact that you’re getting leaner and looking better. Look forward to achieving the best condition of your life. Sometimes you really have to make an effort to focus on the positives. If it were easy, everyone would walk around lean and muscular all the time. Think about the great things that are happening with your body. You’ll be happier, and so will everyone else around you.
Alcohol. A drink every now and then won’t ruin you. Drinking regularly will hurt your condition, and getting drunk could totally throw you off track. Don’t drink so much that you lose control and then eat poorly. Don’t have drinks that contain the sweet mixers that add sugar and excess calories. An occasional glass of wine or your favorite liquor on the rocks won’t kill your condition.
Workout times. While you don’t want to miss any workouts, especially during precontest training, you’ll sometimes need to be flexible about your workout times. If someone cares about you, she is going to know how important your training is to you. You can show her how much you care by occasionally adjusting your workout times to accommodate her schedule and doing what she wants to do. Always keep in mind that your loved ones are very often making sacrifices for you because they want you to be successful. Reciprocate!
Sex. Last but certainly not least—I recently had a conversation with a young bodybuilder about the loss of interest in sex during contest preparation. It’s kind of strange. We’re successful at putting on muscle because we’re high-testosterone guys. Normally we have sex on the brain about 98 percent of the time. Anyway, my buddy said that his girlfriend had been very patient and supportive but that his dieting had been very hard on her. One of the problems was that his interest in sex had waned, and her feelings were hurt. It was difficult for her to understand and impossible for him to explain. He was so relieved when I told him that I’d experienced that phenomenon early in my bodybuilding career. I suspect that it’s a result of dieting too hard and/or overtraining. I haven’t experienced it in recent memory. In fact, with one girlfriend I had a few years ago, we were having sex so frequently that one of my training partners thought that I must not be training and dieting hard enough for my show—I had too much energy. Just be aware that if you’re having to lose a lot of weight quickly, you might sometimes not have the energy for, or even interest in, sex—and it’s not abnormal. I’ve found that when I don’t have much fat to lose and can take my time losing it, I don’t have a problem with sex drive. Oh, and sex will not make you weak in the knees. That’s just an old coaches’ tale. It was their way of trying to make sure that you were at home and in your own bed at a decent hour.
When you’re preparing for a show, you have to focus on the things that you have to do in order to step onstage in top shape. Tunnel vision is necessary—up to a point. If you want to have a long, successful bodybuilding career, it’s important to maintain some balance in your life, even during precontest training. If you have to live like a hermit to get ready for a show, you’re going to miss out on too much life and too much love. Let people who care about you know in advance that it’s a difficult process, and let them know what to expect. That will help. You also have to make some sacrifices and compromises, however, and expend some effort to keep your social life intact. My mom always taught me to be considerate of others and to treat people the way I’d like to be treated. Those are great words to live by at all times.