Chad Nicholls, ‘The Contest Guru’, Muscular Development, December, 45:12 (2008), 426-432.


Once again reaching into my mail- bag, I found of couple of interesting questions that may sound like the same old cookie-cutter questions, but my answers put a new twist on two staple parts of bodybuilding — nutrition and off-season weight gain — and my take on the best type of off-season dieting and how to employ it to anyone’s arsenal.


Over the last couple of years, I have really watched your athletes and have taken great interest in your work. One specific thing I have noticed is that they all stay very, very lean in the off-season, yet are still able to make mind- blowing gains. I’ve watched Victor Martinez over the last couple of years and the progress he has made in the off-season while working with you, as well as watching my favorite bodybuilder (Dennis Wolf) reach a new level of incredible muscularity in the very short time you have been working with him. I’m just wondering what your off-season weight/size gain theories are.


For me, the off-season is some- thing I take very seriously and something I feel some don’t take seriously enough. During the off-season, all of the groundwork leading up to the “end-result” physique on the contest stage is done … almost like the homework leading up to the final exam, if you will. With regard to my athletes, although all of my off-season programs differ depending upon the needs of each athlete, some things remain a constant across the board in all programs; here are some of the keys to the success of my athletes:

  1. First and foremost, mindset: You must go into your off-season training with the mindset that even though the pressure of a contest is over for the time being, you make all of your solid gains and improvements during the off-season that will dictate your overall physique and appearance come show- time. So each day, remind yourself that the off-season is just as important as the precontest diet phase.


  1. Consistency in your training all year long: It is important to take necessary breaks to rest, recuperate and repair after a show; however, when you are ready to get back to the gym, it’s GAMETIME! Consistency and regularity in the gym…hit your workouts just as you do when you are getting ready for the show.


  1. Treat your off-season diet with as much care and effort as you do during contest time: I cannot stress enough how important it is to get your meals in on a regular time schedule even during the off-season. Don’t skip meals!!!


  1. Have your cake, but eat clean, too: If you followed a contest diet all year-round, you would get nowhere fast in terms of size and strength gains…so go ahead, eat your pizza, burgers, cakes and pies, but in MODERATION! These will all help you gain weight— but don’t just eat junk. Your body is a fine-tuned machine so feed it the right way. Eating too many junk foods or doing nothing but eating crap throughout your entire workout will do nothing more than slap on a bunch of misplaced, disproportioned weight, make you tired and sluggish and hinder your health, not to mention the weight you gain will more than likely quickly disappear as soon as you begin your contest diet, leaving you with little-to-no real improvements.


So now you want to know: How do I incorporate this type of off-season diet into my plan and how will I know what amounts and what types of foods and fats to eat?

The one thing you will have to figure out for yourself is what type of ratios are right for you; how much proteins in the off-season and how many extra carbs…how many extra fats? This is probably the most important aspect of off-season dieting. We all know the stories of guys who eat KFC and McDonald’s every meal, every day of their off-season … and while these athletes have put on some quality size, they also put on tremendous amounts of unnecessary and unhealthy pounds of fat along with the size. Though I don’t adhere to that particular type of off- season, I will tell you that if you have a fast metabolism (sure, in moderation you can have junk foods here and there) you still need to make certain you are ingesting a solid diet of good proteins, fats and carbohydrates. For this purpose, I’m talking about the average person who has a good metabolism, but still needs to remain on a strict diet to get into shape.

For the athletes with a normal metabolism, I would suggest a 60 per- cent to 40 percent ratio with regard to good foods and bad foods during the off-season – meaning you need to stay within an eating range of 60 per- cent good, clean whole foods and 40 percent higher carbs and fats, adding in the fun junk foods within the 40 per- cent margin here and there. With this type of a “good food/bad food” ratio to your off-season your splurges are controlled, the types of bad foods and amounts of bad foods are controlled and this plays a big role in keeping your system healthy as well.

So now that you “hypothetically” have found that this 60/40 ratio will work for you, how do you incorporate this on a daily basis and when and where do you throw in the bad foods along with the good foods?

What I like to do with this type of food ratio is have an athlete eat pretty clean Monday through Friday (only adding in the higher fats and carbs in the form of clean whole foods such as nuts, peanut butter, grains, pastas, fruits and the like), then throwing in a junk food meal here and there. For instance on Monday, I’ll have the athlete eat very clean, trying to cleanse the body from any “cheat meals” eaten during the weekend, then on Tuesday, for most the day he will still eat his clean proteins and carbs, but maybe for supper he will have a portion of pasta and sauce and maybe some bread to go with it, maybe a little dessert.

Then he will just rotate eating clean for a day or two with adding one meal here or there, consisting of a normal-sized portion of a higher fat meal and a small dessert such as with a spaghetti meal…and keep on like this until the weekend. During the weekend, I allow this time as a splurge portion. On the weekends, we do a role reversal in terms of the types of foods— the majority of the foods on the weekend can be the more junkie, higher fat “cheat” types of foods and desserts and then usually I have meal 1 and the last meal of the diet stay very clean, then the Monday-Friday cleaner eating regimen begins again.

No matter what type of metabolism my athletes may have or what type of ratio they follow, I still help the athletes stick to a consistent meal plan during the week and on the weekend. I find that by keeping the splurges controlled and on a time schedule, the athletes are satisfied by getting to eat the foods they like and they are able to put on a good amount of weight and stay lean because they aren’t going haywire with their splurges. In terms of how many meals you should eat during the off- season…for my contest diets, athletes eat anywhere from five to six meals daily. During the off-season, they still eat around five or six meals a day, but I will also throw in a couple of good snacks during their Monday-Friday meal schedule to add extra calories, good fats and carbs.

Q: I will be participating in a show in about 16 weeks. I just wonder if you know of a certain tanning accelerator or an accelerating moisturizer that you would recommend for contest tanning. I’ve read several articles from a couple of the main tanning product companies that advise you to apply “their” moisturizing products on your skin prior to applying your competition tan to condition your skin and ensure a streak-free tan; however, I know they are trying to sell product and the one time I did try this, I looked like I had been wrestling in chocolate pudding. Some companies have even gone as far as to claim the best way to have the best tan is to go through a strict moisturizing regimen beginning about a month out of a show.

I’m confused and need help.


Skin care: no matter if you are a competitive bodybuilder or just the average person, skin care should be a major priority— not just to look good, but for the health of your skin. Over and over, I see competitors spend thousands of dollars on food, supplements, gym memberships, etc. to make their bodies look incredible, yet I don’t know how many of the athletes neglect their skin. No matter if you are a beginning amateur or a top-level pro, having clear, smooth skin always counts toward your score when judging your “overall pack- age” and appearance.

Though I am a HUGE advocate of taking care of your skin and employing a good, daily skin care regimen into your program and I have been very outspoken on this subject, when it comes to the final weeks prior to the show, moisturizing is a big NO NO and can actually be detrimental to your tan.

When looking at your skin from a competitive standpoint, getting rid of excess water from the body and dermis layers of the skin is a priority. That is the main concern with moisturizing…what does moisturizing do?

It brings moisture “fluid” into the dermis layer of the skin as well as plumps the skin for conditioning purposes; this will not only keep you from ridding your body of excess water that could be creating a blurry, filmy look to your skin and muscle, but the plumping effects of moisturizer will also have a tendency to make the skin look thicker and this could hide deep separation and intricate detail that is crucial when assessing an athlete’s conditioning.

To my athletes, I recommend not using any moisturizers prior to a show. How long before should you stop? Actually, that depends on the person…for instance: does he have thicker skin naturally? Does he have a watery physique? Does he have a problem with conditioning and separation?

These are all questions that need to be considered when figuring out how far out you should stop with moisturizing. At a minimum, I would suggest stop- ping all moisturizing at four weeks out; this includes moisturizers, lotions, tanning accelerators— anything that will put moisture back into the skin. You just need to figure out which skin type you are and that will dictate how long you need to stop. For most, four weeks is a good standard, but some can get away with two or three weeks out, while others may need to stop six weeks out; it all depends on your skin and how it responds to moisturizing.

By stopping the moisturizing, your contest tan will go on more evenly and dry better. When the skin is as dry as possible, the tan will adhere to the skin more easily and the first coat (your base coat) will go on very well and set the tone for how the rest of your tan will look. One suggestion I can make to assist with the final weeks prep after going “sans moisturizer” is to get a good exfoliant.

When your skin dries out, a good exfoliant (without conditioning moisturizers) will help the body shed the dead, excess skin cells. By following this— whether you use ProTan or the air- brush-style tanning— you will ensure that your base coat and all ensuing coats will go on evenly and smoothly.

After the show knock yourself out! Exfoliate your competition tan away and slather on the moisturizer as heavily as you like! Good luck!

2 thoughts on “Chad Nicholls, ‘The Contest Guru’, Muscular Development, December, 45:12 (2008), 426-432.

Add yours

Tell Me What You Think!

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: