Never lose sight of your goal to grow. That is my singular purpose for bodybuilding, whether offseason or precontest. When I'm counting down the days before a show, I want to continue getting bigger and putting on more muscle while still trying to eliminate bodyfat.
The way I see it, the more muscle you add, the deeper will be your cuts and striations. The differentials in those separations are a matter of maximizing muscle tissue as contrasted with minimizing interstitial fat, and the only way to ensure this is to keep protein and calorie consumption high. A protein surplus is the only way to grow muscle, and an adequate calorie supply is essential for maintaining enough training intensity and energy to lift the heavy weights that build muscle.
By avoiding extended periods of weight loss when approaching a show, I can actually appear fuller and harder onstage than during the offseason.
I'm more professional in my training strategy now. In the past, I would go all the way up to 255 pounds in the offseason, but these days, I never allow my bodyfat to exceed 5.5%. Yet I constantly persist in growing. With my new methods, my body is fed muscle-building nutrients on a consistent basis. This allows me to micro-manage my progress so that when a protein or calorie-intake adjustment is necessary, it's so minor as to be relatively insignificant. It's when you have to drastically alter a nutrient's intake that you can overdeplete or overdehydrate and miss your peak.
Offseason, I eat five to seven meals a day, but when I enter my precontest phase, it's always exactly seven meals a day, and my calories actually increase. Bodyfat reduction comes from a combination of increasing my activity and decreasing my intake of dietary fats by changing the types of food I consume, not necessarily the amounts.
My calorie intake offseason is 3,500-4,000 per day, but by the time I reach the 12-week point, it increases to 4,500. Protein remains at 200-250 grams a day, and I play with my carbohydrates to keep my metabolism responsive, using a base of 500-600 grams, then dropping it to 250-300 for a day or so (but never more than two) before taking it back to 500-600.
Dietary fats are reduced to 60-80 grams per day at the eight-week point, to 40 grams at six weeks, 20 grams at three weeks, and eventually to less than 10 grams. On the day of the show, I want my bodyfat to be less than two percent.
The point is to use my precontest period to continue growing, but the only way to do that is to develop my strength of will to a level that can take me beyond all previously perceived limits. A championship heart and mind are the true foundations of bodybuilding success.