Ryan’s Journey to Bodybuilder

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I feel like I have done a ton of things when it comes to fitness or training.  I have trained for strength, power, athletics, fat loss, muscle gain, etc.  The list goes on and on, but there is one thing that stays consistent with my training- I have to have a goal.

The goal changes frequently but I always have a goal in mind when training.  The times that I don’t are the times where my training suffers and nutrition is lacking.  I can’t motivate myself without a direction or target to shoot for each day.  It motivates me to suffer through tough times and push through mental and physical barriers.

For those that don’t know I used to be a bit, well…. I guess the word is….FAT.  Yep, I was strong as an ox but I was fat.  There really is no dodging that bullet.  I weighed in at a hefty 335 lbs at one point.  I was a strong 335 with a bench press of 500 lbs, squat of over 700lbs, 385lbs power clean, 300lbs snatch, and ran a 4.9 forty as a shot putter and discus thrower at IU.  However, I just wasn’t happy and when my throwing career ended it was time to make some changes.

Over 18 months I was able to change my nutrition, through drastic measures, and drop over 110lbs to get down to 220 lbs.  I was there for exactly one day, that was my goal.  To break that mark and then it was back to eating a bit off plan and “enjoying life” a little too much.

Since that time I have trained for just about everything from the Tough Mudder to throwing competitions. I have floated between 225lbs and 255lbs for a few years as we built up Force Fitness and started growing our business.

However, this past year I decided I was tired of being mediocre.  I had let myself settle for just being fit.  I used all the excuses in the book, but I was simply out of shape and not as fit as I could have been.  My diet was lacking, I had several bad habits that held me back and my training was half hearted.

So, about 10 months ago I decided to join a coaching program for 12 months to get as lean as I possibly could.  At first it was a nice change of pace, but quickly it turned into a competition.   In January 2013 I realized I would be turning 30 this year and I wanted to be in the best shape of my life!  So I set some performance goals.

My goal currently is to win the Lean Eating Contest held by Precision Nutrition.  There are thousands of participants competing around the world but I want to win.  I will be happy with making the finals of the contest but I really want to win.

So, my goal right now is very close to that of a fitness competitor.  It is to get as lean and athletic looking as possible for my final photo shoot on June 6th.

My Training

Overall my training has been pretty basic.  I actually wrote out a complete training phase for myself and have sought out the help of some world class fitness coaches that have experience in preparing athletes for this type of contest earlier this year.  My training is very similar to what you see our clients performing at Force with a few slight variations.

Currently I am in the final stages of my preparation so I am training to dial in how my muscles look.  That includes some heavy lifting with lots of volume (sets and reps) in the major lifts- squat, deadlift, press, and pull up.  The rest of my strength training is all based around higher rep and higher volume lifting to dial in some weaker areas and improve my lagging body parts.

I also end every strength workout with 5-10 minutes of conditioning or intervals, perform 3 HIIT (high intensity interval training) workouts a week including sled pushing, car pushing, and sprints, and a few minutes of cardio each day.

That is a lot of training volume and time spent working on winning this contest!  I train 6-7 days per week and have to monitor my recovery closely to avoid injury and keep my progress headed in the right direction.

My Nutrition

Currently I am cycling my carbs and calories trying to shed as much fat as possible.  I have low, moderate and high carb and calorie days that are set around my training plan to ensure I have the energy to train at a high level but that I am still shedding fat.

It is a lot of work and I have to measure and weigh all my food, every day.  This was a challenge at first but now I have a good idea of what portions look like and what I can eat to high my targets.

My food is clean and easy.  Lots of organic, free range or grass fed proteins, veggies and some starches as needed to high my carb goals for the day.

This isn’t a plan I would recommend for the beginner trainee, but it works well if you are advanced and trying to take your fitness to the next level.

The biggest changes I have made in the past few months are giving up adding artificial sweeteners to coffee or foods and also giving up Diet Mountain Dew.  I try to avoid all of that as much as possible but still have a few foods in my rotation that include sweeteners.


My supplement list is a bit out of control!  I am dialing in and using them as supplements, not to replace anything.  When you get to this level of training you have to have ever edge you can get.

Currently I take Prograde VGF multivitamin, a high quality fish oil (I rotate Prograde EFA, Flameout, and Nordic Naturals), 5000 IU vitamin D, ZMA (for quality sleep), Prograde Metabolism, Prograde Genesis each morning.

Then around my training or depending on the day I use a BCAA supplement, creatine, beta alanine, Surge Recovery and also protein as needed to meet my protein requirements for the day.

It seems like a lot but it all has its place in getting me to my goals and I never use it as a substitute for good nutrition.

My Obstacles

My biggest obstacle in reaching my goal is easily the travel I have to do for work. I am on the road usually 1-2 days a week for at 3 weeks a month at a minimum.   Sometimes more!

However I refused to use that as an excuse and take my protein supplements with me and ensure I eat well on the road no matter what, even that means fasting for long periods to avoid eating junk.

I always get my workouts in on the road.  If the hotel doesn’t have a gym I find one to buy a day pass at or make due with bodyweight training.  Most places have at least a pair of dumbbells and I make something work to ensure I don’t miss a training day.
It is too easy to let these things stand in the way of reaching your goals and when I figured out this was going to be part of my life for a while I decided to make it a rule that I don’t use it as an excuse to miss training or eat poorly.  I am living proof that it can be done if you have the desire and will power.

I also struggle with getting enough rest. Rest from training and normal sleep.  I am a busy guy and get up at 5am every day of the week to get a jump start on the work day. I even get up early on the weekends to do a bit of work before people are out of bed.

I enjoy my early mornings and they are super productive but it means I have to get in bed before 10am to get 7 hours of sleep.  This requires me to have a ritual where the TV is off and my phone and iPad are turned off as well to get my body ready for a good nights rest.  I rarely go more than 1-2 nights in a row without getting 7 hours a sleep.

There isn’t a lot that exciting about my training or nutrition.  It is fun for me to chase goals and compete against myself to see what barriers I am able to break and accomplishments I can achieve.   I work hard, recover well and try to live the healthiest life I possibly can so that in 30 years I can still be chasing a dream.


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