Arriving on stage lean, healthy and happy requires a disciplined but flexible nutritional plan, says Shaun Stafford
Shaun Stafford is a two-time and current WBFF Pro Fitness model world champion and performance director at City Athletic. He is based in London.
When preparing for a show, I establish a nutritional baseline before I do anything else. I know my body and how it responds to different calorie intakes, so once I have that baseline, I know how much I can flex either up or down to keep my body on the path to where I need it to be.
I’ve found that around 15 calories per pound of bodyweight is my ideal baseline. Then I put in a small deficit from that – maybe just a couple of hundred calories a day – and see how I respond. The total daily calories come from 40% protein, 40% fat and 20% carbs. That split allows me to drop fat really quickly. Every three or four days I will have a refeed, so drop protein and fat and up carbs.
When cutting I like to go as low-carb as possible, because that works for me. I am quite insulin sensitive and carb sensitive, and my problem areas on my physique – where I tend to store stubborn body fat – are the typical carb-sensitive sites.
I continually monitor and adjust, based on how I’m looking and feeling, either through progress shots on my phone, or having body-fat levels measured, which I do every two weeks. I have a target body-fat percentage I want to be on the stage, which is around 4-5%. As the show approaches I have a very flexible approach to my diet, based on how I look and feel, and the data from my assessments.
If I’m 6% four weeks out, and know I lose 0.5% per week, then I keep doing what I am doing because it’s working. I know a lot of people before a show change a lot and massively ramp up carbs, they cut water and play around with sodium intake. For me, lean is lean. If I’m 4%, shredded and look and feel healthy, then I don’t need to manipulate water or salt intake. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it, because the less stress you can put on your body at this crucial stage the better. Why suddenly throw it a curveball?
For me it’s about getting as lean and conditioned as possible as early as possible then cruise into the show, feeling and looking happy and healthy. Oh, and shredded, of course!