Weight loss or fat loss is probably the most common goal of our clients here at The Cut. This can easily be achieved for most by simple lifestyle changes, applying some basic nutrition principles and adding structure to their eating habits. But then we have some clients with the intention of getting “ripped” which “on paper” is also simple, but the reality is it requires a different mindset and level of sacrifice to just “lose a bit of fat.
Jay Magee is the 2019 WNBF official UK and World pro men’s physique champion and UKDFA British champion, which was achieved in only his second year competing. Jay is co founder of Reborn to Transform which is an online coaching company merging bodybuilding, movement analysis and rehab…. So it’s fair to say Jay knows a thing or two about being lean and getting other people there too.
Q- 2019 was your second year competing, but obviously you have been lifting weights for a lot longer prior to the season. What is your background in fitness and what made you want to compete? Was competing always part of the plan for you?
I have been lifting weights since I was a kid (not always properly), my dad ran a gym in Manchester that myself and my friends would get the bus down to and train at. Ever since then I was hooked and trained in some capacity. I always knew I wanted to pursue a career within the industry and I become a qualified personal trainer 9 years ago.
2 years ago I realised I needed a new goal and a few friends from the gym I coach at who compete themselves said with my shape I’d do well in Mens Physique.
Q- Why did you choose the governing bodies that you did to compete under?
I chose to compete in the UKDFBA because as a natural competitor I wanted to compete in a federation who’s values matched my own. They have a strict 10 year drug free policy and test using both a urinalysis test and a polygraph at every competition. They are also affiliated to the WNBF which is the biggest and most prestigious natural body building federation in the world. Lastly out of the two main natural feds in the UK, UKDFBA are the only ones to have a Mens Physique class. I have also competed in untested federations and won shows including an Arnold’s Europe qualifier and then competed in the Arnold classic in Barcelona.
Q- When you are not competing what does your normal training week look like?
So I’m either in prep to compete or in an improvement season which will lead in to that particular prep. What my week looks like depends on what stage I am. Firstly we structure frequency and volume to prioritise areas we feel we need to improve and areas that fit the criteria of my class. Mens Physique judges are looking for a lean, fit, muscular physique that is balanced and aesthetically pleasing. They like nicely shaped overall muscle, a small waist, good V-taper and good abs. At the moment I’m running a 2 on 1 off with the split as follows:
-Full body pull
-Lower and lats
The amount of cardio will depend on whether we are in prep, and at what stage, or an improvement season. As I’m currently in the middle of an improvement season although we do still programme a little cardio in, it’s literally only 20 mins fasted on a non training day for the nutrient partitioning effect this gives you and more importantly the ability to improve work capacity in my back off sets.
Q- How long would you allow for a prep for a competition?
We normally allow around 14-16 weeks to be safe, however I respond very quickly and am normally almost stage ready after around 10. During both preps to date we were ready earlier than we anticipated and we decided to enter warm up shows last minute. We actually won both shows, one of which was the Arnold’s qualifier.
Q- Going by your IG account you are lean all year round but stepping on stage is a different level. What changes do you make to your training?
I wouldn’t say lean all year round but we do like to stay within a body fat range that will not cause a level of inflammation that will impair building tissue.
As I mentioned above I get lean quite quickly so we don’t have to do anything dramatic early, we start by creating a negative energy balance through either output, nutrition or both and then manipulate as needed depending on how I’m feeling.
It will get to a point however where it doesn’t matter how your feeling and you do whatever is required to take you from lean to stage shredded. The trick is ensuring you don’t reach that point too early (nor too late) so you’re not dragging your arse for unnecessary amounts of time as this can cause unnecessary muscle loss (some is inevitable).
Something else we do to ensure we progress in our training right up to show day is programme change at the right time. The aim during prep is to at least preserve tissue throughout which means at least matching log book numbers on a week to week basis, however this obviously becomes more difficult the deeper into prep you go and calories (units of energy) become more scarce.
By starting a new programme at around the 8-9 week out mark as you get closer to show day, those log book numbers you need to beat are less daunting and more manageable than for example a set of log book numbers you’ve built up over say a 15 week programme that you’ve followed.
Q- How strict are you with your nutrition outside of contest prep?
I still follow a nutrition plan however incorporate free meals into that plan depending on how I’m looking. At the moment I’m on 3 free meals per week.
Q- How does nutrition change during prep? Is there any room for cheat meals or days off?
Im not a fan of the word cheat meals as the word itself suggests it’s not controlled or that it’s a free for all, we do have strategic refeeds to mitigate diet fatigue.
I will still have rest days depending on how my training is structured however more often than not there will be some element of cardio on that rest day even if we are not training with weights.
Q- Being someone that is pretty comfortable with the lifestyle that keeps you lean, how does taking it up a notch and getting “ripped” effect you emotionally and physically? What are the biggest challenges you face?
Physically during the last few weeks of prep I felt terrible. I was moody, irritable, probably not much fun to be around and I didn’t have much patience for anything that didn’t remotely relate to my own selfish needs.
I constantly felt hungry and food was constantly on my mind. Even when I did inhale my food it felt like I hadn’t even scratched the surface.
When getting stage lean the biggest battle you will have to face is with yourself. Every day you will play chess with your own mind and every day that game becomes a little harder. I removed external temptations to some degree. I asked friends and family to avoid asking me to events where I may be put in a position. However there is no getting away from those voices inside your own head. Those voices that would tell me there is a square bar in the cupboard and that one wont hurt, or to add extra oats to your bowl.
I would try and justify these things to myself as a good idea too, maybe because I was looking flat or that it would improve my next training session but in reality if you want to achieve true condition then you have to learn to control these voices, and I did. You have to learn to weirdly enjoy these daily battles with yourself as this is the only way you’ll succeed.
You will go weeks maybe months without feeling you have any energy whatsoever, you’ll feel like you have lead in your legs and running through your veins, basic tasks will require a pep talk to get yourself motivated to do them so imagine the mental fortitude you’ll require to perform cardio and put yourself in a position to go and lift twice your body weight for reps in the gym.
You need to have a strong support network as those people closest to you will have to be selfless at a time when you are completely selfish. You will sacrifice a great deal however your level of sacrifice will match your reward.
Q- Do you think for non personal trainers who balance a busy work schedule in an office this is an achievable goal? Would you ever discourage getting stage “ripped” as a goal?
I would never discourage anyone from a goal, however I would certainly sit down and explain to them exactly what they need to be willing to do and the sacrifices they would need to make in order to achieve that particular goal. I would make sure they have a support network ready to put you before themselves and that their particular “why” was strong enough to see them through those difficult parts of prep I mentioned above.
Q-What do you prioritise the most important factors for an individual trying to get lean when they come to you for coaching?
Why they want to do this and what their current position is. I asses a number of factors which all help me understand where an individual currently stands including:
What their health markers look like/ how are they sleeping/ how much tissue (/muscle) do they currently have/ how long have they lifted weights for/ what is their training split like/where are calories currently at/ how is their relationship with food/ how much cardio are they currently doing/ what’s their mental and emotional state/ why do they want to do this/ how is their support network/ how’s digestion/ do they have social events or holidays coming up.
Q- People outside of the fitness industry always seem surprised that coaches hire coaches. To what capacity do you work with a coach? And what are the reasons you do?
I work with my coach year round but during a prep especially. Even as a coach, you need someone who can asses your situation objectively and make decisions without emotion or personal feelings. If I were to coach myself this would obviously be impossible as I would have an emotional attachment to my own goal. I have worked with my coach Calum (www.themusclementors.co.uk) since I first decided to compete and I do leave pretty much everything in his hands. He gives me a plan and I execute it, it’s that simple. I trust him (which is essential) and as he’s extremely good at what he does I’m also always learning from him too.
Q- What common mistakes do you see in approaches to getting lean or ripped?
Doing too much too soon and firing all the bullets in your gun at once. This is usually lots of cardio from the start and an aggressive deficit straight away.
Another mistake we see is not spending enough time “prepping for your prep”, this means making sure your body is functioning as well as possible and in a prime position to be placed in an environment to lose body fat (think of this as almost like your mini off season). Taking calories high and output low gives you longevity with the variables you intend to manipulate week to week.
Q-What advice would you give to somebody looking to achieve “stage level ripped”
Hire a coach, give yourself enough time, ensure your “Why” is stronger than your “why not”, understand it’s going to be one of the hardest things you will ever do but remember its a choice and the reward will be worth the sacrifice provided you wanted it for the right reasons in the first place.
Get your house in order!!
For great training advice please give Jay a follow on IG- jaymagee_wnbff_pro