Health Fitness

Dorian Yates’ Secret: What are skinny people doing to be that way?

A consensus has emerged within the world of bodybuilding over the last twenty years regarding the exact ways and procedures necessary to become as lean as humanly possible while retaining muscle mass. Across the country and the world, bodybuilders are lifting weights, engaging in aerobics and eating disciplined to melt away body fat. While they may question the content of the workout or the food selections, they may argue about which is the superior cardio mode, what they don’t argue about is general procedures.

The stark fact is that anyone with manic discipline can get a radically lower body fat percentage: You need to lift weights like a labor camp detainee and do metabolism-boosting cardio with Big Ben regularity. They pre-plan every bite they eat. If he is in control of himself, his environment and life circumstances and can exercise the necessary discipline and denial, he too can achieve a super low body fat percentile. He requires that food, exercise, and rest be in perfect symmetrical proportion.

The procedures bodybuilders use to lose fat are the absolute best and most effective if the stated goal is to reduce body fat and retain or actually add muscle. To win at bodybuilding, above all else, you must be lean. If you’re not skinny, you’re doomed to nothing, and unless you possess less than 10% body fat percentage (for a male), don’t even consider entering a local meet–you’ll get blown out of weeds. In the world of bodybuilding everyone is supposed to be skinny otherwise they wouldn’t be there, winners are determined by symmetry and muscle mass.

So how do all these bodybuilders routinely achieve body fat percentiles of 3 to 9%, a degree of fitness unattainable by all but the elite 25 years ago? It was a confluence of events. The fall of the Iron Curtain allowed all the bottled up information about training to leak to the west: this was the beginning of the information revolution that culminated in the advent of the internet. A quantum leap in leanness occurred when bodybuilders began to systematically include cardiovascular exercises in their training regimen. Cardio was supposed to ‘wreck muscle’ but in fact, cardio not only burned extra calories but also improved stamina, allowing athletes to train harder, longer and more often. Aerobics resulted in a huge improvement across the board, as intense cardio burns calories and your metabolism stays elevated hours afterward. Cardiovascular synchronization tricks improved the results.

Bodybuilders began using weightlifter training tactics to get bigger. When bodybuilders started increasing calories to support intense training and the newly added cardio, a funny thing happened: They didn’t gain weight. They got bigger. They became more muscular. Incongruously, they also became thinner. They found that they could eat a lot of calories as long as the calories came from approved food sources. Caloric intake was distributed over several meals eaten at uniform time intervals throughout the day. Top pros consumed 7,000 to 10,000 calories a day to maintain 270 to 320 pounds of “off-season” muscle mass. Dorian Yates told me that he would go from 300 pounds to a 260 pound contest by imperceptibly cutting his calories from 6,000 to 3,500 per day. He gradually tapered off, taking 12 weeks to peak. If he went below 3,500 calories, his hard-earned muscle would evaporate. At 290, Dorian could walk his Doberman twins at top speed and achieve an age-related heart rate of 80%. He was famous for lifting barbell press-pounds, but his food choices were surprisingly “average.”

Typical daily meal schedule – pre-competition phase

3500 calories – 50% – 55% carbs, 30% protein, 15% – 20% fat

7 am

Lunch 1,500 grams of oatmeal, 6 egg whites, 2 yolks, 2 slices of whole wheat toast, banana

10 a.m.

Meal 2 mid-morning 40 grams of protein (powder mixed with water), 300 grams of potato


Lunch 3,200 grams of chicken breast, 100 grams of rice, 100 grams of mixed vegetables

4:00 p.m.

Meal 4 40 grams of protein, banana


Meal 5 post-workout 70 grams of carbohydrate powder, 30 grams of protein powder

7:00 p.m.

Lunch 6,200 grams of extra lean beef, 300 grams of baked potato, 200 grams of broccoli


Meal 7 40 grams of protein powder, 50 grams of oats

This is Dorian’s cut back pre-contest diet (eating at its strictest), but this menu doesn’t seem inhumane. The key is the type of food, the time of ingestion and the mixture of different foods. Everything within the diet is selected and prepared and placed for a specific reason.

For example; the first meal of the day is delayed until you complete your early morning cardio session. Glycogen, which comes out of the sleep/fast cycle, is depleted at which point body fat is mobilized to fuel the aerobic session. Once the cardio session is complete, it replenishes depleted carbohydrate stores to reduce controlled catabolism. Throughout the day, at equal time intervals, eat. Every two or three hours it refuels in some way. Establishes and maintains continuous anabolism. Meals are made up of one serving of protein, one serving of fiber carbohydrates, and one serving of starchy carbohydrates. Fiber slows the insulin released by starchy carbohydrates; protein also does it to a lesser degree.

Dorian kept his fat intake at a realistic (for a professional bodybuilder) level of 15-20% of total calories. He trained in the afternoon and as soon as he finished his brutal training session, he would replenish his body with exactly what he needed in the form of a protein and carbohydrate shake. He wanted to retain as much of his incredible muscle mass as possible and not consume a single more calorie than necessary to achieve it! By staying at the caloric breakeven point and using the caloric cost of exercise to create a negative energy balance, fat was systematically burned to cover the caloric deficit. He would maintain this methodical regimentation for 12 weeks straight, every day, without a single break. To get your body fat level down to 2-3% on competition day, I would maintain a decent amount of calories in the face of a drastic increase in physical activity: more cardio, more lifting, longer sessions with weight designed to burn and hit. Shape to final muscle detail: The bulk build phase ended months ago.

It is about melting the last vestiges of fat from the body without destroying the mass. Razor’s edge. There is no room for mistakes or momentary lapses in discipline: at these levels, those who fail end up in 17th place. he Feeds himself with food throughout the day: he still eats fruit, beef and potatoes. Hardly gulag fare… this approach works – as attested by bodybuilders around the world who get body fat percentiles below 10% across the board using a template similar to the one used by The Diesel.

If you have the circumstances and the discipline, a soft version of this rigid approach could work wonders.

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