For many, including Craig, physique athletes are the epitome of a healthy lifestyle with their lean and muscular bodies, but he wasn’t aware that the extreme nature of some contest dieting approaches can create an unhealthy relationship with food.
“My first show diet was very restrictive. I used to eat fish and green veggies 4-5 times a day with one cheat meal a week,” recalls Craig.
“My approach during my first competition prep created a calorie deficit so large that I ended up having an eating disorder after the show, which is why I took some time off from competing between 2019 and 2023.”
When Craig decided he was ready to compete again, he knew he needed to find a more sustainable approach that he could take into life after competing.
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Value of a good coach
“My goal is to compete a for few more years and then start a family so it is important to stay fit for life after competing.”
Thankfully, he found a coach who perfectly aligns with this philosophy, which has not only reignited Craig’s passion and enjoyment for the sport, but also brought stage success with it.
“Joining my coach Matthew Weitz has been the best investment I’ve made into improving my physique, my health and my lifestyle. His dieting and training approach has changed my view on bodybuilding and the approach to getting in shape for show day.”
Matthew introduced Craig to the If It Fits Your Macros (IIFYM) diet, which basically allows adherents to eat what they want, as long as they don’t exceed their daily macronutrient limits and ratios.
Often billed as ‘flexible eating’, proponents of IIFYM-based eating consider all calories equal. While some people see this as an opportunity to eat poorer quality carbs and fats, like sugars and processed foods, the best results on the IIFYM diet come when dieters make wholesome and nutritious food choices most of the time, like Craig does, with only an occasional treat.
“Following this approach enabled us to work out a diet that I truly enjoyed. I also dieted for 32 weeks, which was a lot longer than before.”
Craig’s contest prep diet consists of:
Meats: Egg whites, extra lean beef mince, chicken breast, whey protein
Carbs: Oats, jasmine rice, sweet potato, cream of rice, Trigz, wraps, white hamburger rolls
Fruits: Banana, berries
Eating this way also gave Craig enough energy to train more intensely in the gym. In the past, Craig followed a simple training approach that consisted of 3-4 sets of 12-20 reps.
“This time, I had a very goal-driven approach where I chased progress on lifts and kept my working sets to 15 per body part each week.”
Craig’s weekly show prep training split:
Monday: Push (chest, shoulders, triceps)
Tuesday: Pull (back, biceps, abs)
Wednesday: Delts and hamstrings
Friday: Chest and back
Saturday: Quad-focused leg day
Craig also looked for innovative and enjoyable ways to do his cardio for conditioning, rather than the conventional approach on the stationary bike or treadmill in the gym.
“I enjoy mountain biking and hiking. Getting outdoors and the fresh air offer a great breakaway from the regular gym-based training and are a great way to bond with my family.”
Craig was mindful about the potential muscle loss that can accompany cardio exercise like cycling. To ensure he spared muscle and burnt fat while out on a ride, he used a mix of carbohydrates and amino acids in his water bottle.
This intelligent use of Biogen supplements formed part of a more comprehensive plan aimed to supporting Craig’s hard training in the gym and his considered dietary approach.
Based on coach Matthew’s new and effective approach, and Craig’s commitment and dedication to the plan, the duo tasted success at Craig’s first show back after his unhealthy and unenjoyable experience in 2019.
He placed first in both the Classic Bodybuilding and Classic Physique divisions at the show and has big plans to build on his proven new approach.
“The goal is to push my physique as far as it can go, but remain healthy at the same time. I am currently in an off-season phase until early 2024. After that, my coach and I will plan the best show to compete at based on the progress I make in this improvement phase. The goal is to step on stage next year in August.”
2017: 2nd in Classic Bodybuilding & 3rd place in Junior Bodybuilding at the IFBB Gauteng Central show
2019: 1st Place in Classic Bodybuilding African Naturals, 2nd place Overall Bodybuilding
2023: 1st Place in Classic Bodybuilding and Classic Physique
Stronger than ever
Based on his experience with both types of approaches, Craig believes that he is stronger and more ready than ever for the next phase in his competitive career.
“Going through what I did and making it back to the stage proved to me that that my mind is stronger than I expected, and the body follows where the mind goes.”
In addition, Craig now finds that his approach is easier to adapt to his lifestyle. “My normal diet consists of the same foods, just in higher quantities. That makes transitioning between phases a lot easier.”
And as a big foodie, important to Craig’s quality of life. “I love finding cool recipes to try out or fun foods to eat.”
He has also learnt important lessons with the contrasting approaches. “Prep is mainly about fatigue management and making sure you spare muscle. With a sustainable approach, you won’t dig a hole so big you can’t get out of,” he concludes.
Favourite music to train to? Depends on my mood but it can be anything from country to hip hop or electronic.
Favourite exercise? Deadlifts or hack squats
Favourite cheat meal? Burger and fries with cheesecake (Oreo or any berry cheesecake)
What do you do to relax? Hiking with family and friends, video editing or travel
What’s in your gym bag? Biogen weightlifting belt, wrist guards, lifting straps, deodorant, amino acids
2024-01-24T09:37:11+02:0002 Nov 2023|Gym|Comments Off on Biogen athlete Craig Sevell finds bodybuilding success in sustainable dieting
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