The Deadline Diet: Skip The Bulk And Stay Shredded All Year – A Simple Approach To Nutrition!

I’m paid to be the guy with the answers. People part with their hard-earned dollars in exchange for me to tell them how to exercise, eat, and sleep, and it’s an honor to have my knowledge held in such high esteem. Coming from a military background, I’m a firm believer in the creed, “a good leader leads from the front.” In the strength and conditioning context, that means a good trainer’s physique should always reflect the benefits of what he or she teaches. In my mind, to do otherwise is both disrespectful to the client and a huge knock on the trainer’s credibility. I feel pretty alone in that regard.

The strength coaching and fitness industry is overrun with armchair coaches who can’t get their clients, much less themselves, in even fairly decent shape. You can’t judge a book by its cover, but I know an out-of-shape fat dude when I see one.

Enough with the name calling and finger-pointing; this article entails my personal regimen that I used to go from 191 lbs and 8% body fat to 183 lbs and 4.6% body fat in less than six weeks.

Does My Fat Ass Make Me Look Like A Fat Ass?

When I consult with physique competitors, I usually recommend a six-week contest preparation. Without fail, I always get a look of bewilderment and skepticism, peppered with a touch of mild amusement. Six weeks is much less than the standard pre-contest recommendations of 12-16 weeks that you read about on the web or in muscle magazines (catalogs). Trust me, six weeks is plenty of time for an athlete that isn’t fat to get into contest or photo-shoot shape. With apologies to the contest prep gurus out there who charge by the month, it shouldn’t take a quarter of the year to get ready for a show–unless you’re too damn fat to begin with.

That’s an important point that bears repeating: If you compete, then you’re a physique competitor; if you’re a physique competitor, then look the part. Don’t get fat in the off-season and then try to convince yourself that you gained muscle, or tell yourself that “It’s unhealthy to be that lean all the time” bodybuilding bullshiznit.

Bulking-up will not improve your physique; it will make you bulky. If that’s what you want, great — just don’t delude yourself that you need to do that to add size, and please, don’t try to convince me, either. So what do I consider ideal body fat standards for athletes? Male physique athletes should maintain less than 8% body-fat and females less than 11%, at least from spring to fall; winter is the only time you have the right to look a little more “normal” and enjoy holiday food and festivities without turning every turkey dinner into an infomercial for Tupperware and OCD medications.

Which brings me back to six weeks: It’s plenty of time for an athlete with 8% or 11% body fat to get under 5% or 9% body fat. For many, 8% and 11% body fat may be their ultimate goal, but for a true physique competitor or trainer, that’s your job. They should never allow their body-fat to rise above 10% and 13%, respectively.

Gimme Five

According to Dr. Mauro DePasquale, the five targets for fat loss are as follows (DePasquale, 2008):

  1. Increase lipolysis (fat breakdown)
  2. Decrease lipogenesis (fat accumulation)
  3. Burn free fatty acids with correct exercise
  4. Maintain muscle tissue
  5. Maintain metabolic rate (T3, thyroid) and optimal hormone function

If you hit all the targets, accelerated fat-loss will occur; if you miss a target your progress will hit a wall.

What to Eat

The following nutrition program is nothing new. It’s my variation of a phase-shift diet that combines the protocols, research, and teachings of Dr. Mauro DePasquale, Gary Taubes, Loren Cordain, PhD, and the late Dan Duchaine; nutritional giants who’s broad shoulders we have the luxury to stand upon.

My diet plan is based on the following principles:

  1. Eliminate breads, flour, and gluten grains including wheat, barley, and rye.
  2. Eliminate grain and vegetable extracted cooking oils; instead cook with butter, animal fats, and coconut oil.
  3. Eat more healthy animal fats, butter, cream, and coconut milk to replace calories that formerly came from carbohydrates.
  4. Eat more animal protein (beef, chicken, bison, eggs, fish, etc.).
  5. Eat when hungry, don’t graze. Livestock and prey eat constantly; the King of the jungle eats sporadically. Continually stuffing yourself with food is counterproductive to hormone function and digestive health. For athletes: eat no more than 4 meals, and 1-2 snacks (post-workout) depending on training schedule.
  6. “Our ancestors consumed food much less frequently and often had to subsist on one large meal per day, and thus from an evolutionary perspective, human beings were adapted to intermittent feeding rather than to grazing.” (Mattson, M.P., PhD, Lancet 2005; 365:1978-80)

  7. Build muscle with a structured resistance-training program.
  8. Ensure adequate Vitamin D intake through midday sun exposure or supplementing with Vitamin D3.
  9. Ensure adequate intake of Omega-3 fats and oils from pharmaceutical grade fish oils.
  10. Schedule your menu so there’s a 2-hour fast before bedtime. Don’t consume any food, supplements, calorie containing, alcoholic, or caffeinated beverages 2 hours before bed; water is okay. You want to get blood sugar levels down before going to sleep; this will facilitate GH release.
  11. Only consume simple sugars, fruits, and carbohydrates at specific times to enhance muscle hypertrophy and thyroid function.

Sample 3 Days Low/1 Day High Carb Rotation Diet

The following menu is based on my training and work schedule. I followed a low carbohydrate diet for 3 days, followed by a high carbohydrate, high-calorie day.

Days 1-3:

Low Carbohydrate, Moderate Protein, High Fat

5:15 AM: wake up

  • 1 tall glass of water
  • Acetyl-L-Carnitine 3 grams

8 AM: Breakfast

  • 4-5 Whole eggs scrambled with organic cheddar cheese and bacon
  • Coffee, black w/cream
  • Fish Oil 3 grams EPA+DHA
  • Multi-Vitamin/Mineral
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin D3
  • Vitamin C

10 AM: Pre-Workout (30 minutes prior)

  • BCAAs 5 grams
  • Beta-Alanine 2 grams
  • L-Arginine 3 grams
  • L-Citrulline 1.5 grams
  • Caffeine 300mg

12 Noon: Post-Workout

  • Whey Protein 25 grams
  • Mixed with 2 Tbsp. organic cream and 6 oz. water
  • Essential amino acids (free-form) 6 grams
  • L-Carnitine 2 grams
  • Vitamin C 1 gram

1 PM: Lunch

  • 8-10 oz. Organic chicken, dark meat, grilled
  • Large romaine lettuce salad
  • Extra-virgin olive oil and lemon dressing (homemade)
  • Cod Liver Oil 1 tbsp.
  • Multi-Vitamin/mineral

4 PM: Snack (optional)

  • King Oscar sardines in extra-virgin olive oil
  • Or Tongol tuna in organic mayo
  • BCAAs 3 grams
  • Essential Amino Acids (free form), 6 grams

7 PM: Dinner

  • 10-12 oz. of beef or bison
  • Cod liver oil, 1 tbsp
  • Magnesium 300 mg.
  • Psyllium husk 1 Tbsp powder in 10 oz water

7:30 PM: Low Intensity Cardio

  • Walk dog at a brisk pace for 30 minutes or walk on the treadmill and watch TV at the gym.

9:30 PM: (30 minutes before bedtime)

  • Melatonin, 3-6mcg.
  • L-Arginine 4 grams
  • L-Citrulline 2 grams
  • ZMA

Day 4:

High Carbohydrate, Frequent Feedings

6:00 AM: Breakfast #1

  • 1 scoop plain Whey Protein
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • Creatine 5 grams
  • Mix in 8 oz. water

8:15 AM: Breakfast #2

  • Protein pancakes (gluten free) cooked in coconut oil
  • Knudsen organic apple butter spread over pancakes
  • Chicken tenderloin, 3-4 oz.
  • Multi-vitamin/mineral
  • Digestive enzyme
  • Vitamin C

10:30 AM: Pre-Workout (15 minutes)

  • Essential amino acids (free-form), 6 grams
  • Creatine 5 grams
  • BCAAs 5 grams

12 Noon: Post-Workout

  • Whey protein mixed in 8 oz water
  • Simply fruit juice 16 oz.
  • Essential amino acids (free-form) 6 grams
  • Creatine 5 grams
  • L-Carnitine 2 grams
  • Vitamin C 1 gram

12:30 PM: Lunch

  • Chicken breast, baked, 6-8 oz
  • Sweet potato, baked, w/brown sugar
  • Tea w/honey and lemon
  • Multi-vitamin/mineral
  • Digestive enzyme 1 tablet

3:00 PM: Snack

  • Trail Mix: 1.25 cups nuts: walnuts, pecans, pistachios, and almonds
  • 2/3-cup dried fruit: cherries, raisins, cranberries, and dark chocolate M&Ms

7:00 PM: Dinner

  • New York strip, broiled
  • Large romaine lettuce salad with olive oil dressing
  • Pineapple
  • Water
  • Digestive enzyme 1 tablet
  • Magnesium 300 mg.

9:00 PM: Snack

  • Plain, nonfat Icelandic or Greek yogurt mixed with 1 scoop of plain whey protein, 2 tbsp honey, and 1/4 cup blueberries
  • Cod liver oil 1 tsp
  • Digestive enzyme

The Heavy Stuff: Pre-Contest Weight Training Program

The following routine is similar to what I used during my six-week contest prep. The goal of this particular program was to bring up my hamstrings, glutes, and lower back, although my routine changed throughout the pre-contest training process.


  • I trained six days per week; four days resistance training, one strongman day, one day sprints.
  • If possible, perform any resistance training or high intensity energy system work before 3pm. This allows cortisol and insulin levels to drop before bedtime.
  • Always go to bed slightly hungry; wake up leaner than you went to bed.
  • Perform low intensity cardio in the evening.

I recommend a 30-45 minute walk 4-5 days/week, 30-45 minutes after dinner. Yes, this is a geriatric training method, but it works. Laugh all you want at your old neighbors walking in their fleece sweat suits; they’re on to something.

Others benefits of light evening cardio include:

  • Improves digestion
  • Reduces blood sugar
  • Modulates blood pressure
  • Facilitates growth hormone release during sleep
  • Can improve sleep quality more than watching television
  • Less likely to stray from diet due to idle time

Frequently Asked Questions

Isn’t early morning high-intensity intervals on an empty stomach best?

Absolutely…if you want to lose muscle mass. Although low intensity cardio is not the most efficient way to lose fat, it’s the least catabolic for physique competitors.

Why the gap between rising and breakfast?

I recommend a short fast in the morning to further the mild ketosis that occurs during sleep (when on low carb). Digestion is much more efficient when you’re mildly hungry. Never force-feed during a fat-burning phase; it’s counterproductive.

Does this diet work only for physique competitors?

Heck no. This diets works for anyone. Please note that jumping right into this if you’re not used to a low carb approach could be challenging.

Why dark chocolate M&Ms?

Dark chocolate M&Ms have a superior blend of phytonutrients that help shuttle carbs into the muscle. Especially the green ones.
Just kidding. What can I say, I like dark chocolate M&Ms. Organic dark chocolate would be a superior choice, but during a carb-up, it doesn’t really matter.

What did you do on your strongman day?

The strongman day consisted of energy system complexes:

A1) Farmers Walk – 4 sets of 90 feet, rest 30 seconds

A2) Backwards Sled Drag – 4 sets for 90 feet, rest 90 seconds


A) Prowler push – 6 sets of 90 feet, rest 60 seconds between sets

B) KB Swing – 6 sets of 20-25 reps, rest 60 seconds between sets


Make no mistake, I’ve no delusions of taking a run at the 202 Olympia this year, or any year for that matter, but when it comes to building muscle and losing fat, I do like to at least look like I know what I’m talking about. They say that, “Self-mastery is the first step to being a good leader.

” If you’ve got six weeks, then you too can follow my lead and get into the best shape of your life. Now who’s with me?

Author: Erick Minor

Erick Minor is a freelance writer and the owner of Strength Studio a sports performance and personal training studio located in Fort Worth, Texas.

Photography by: Taylor Bartram