11 months of preparation, 11 months of diet, 11 months of completely structured and balanced meals, 11 months of hard training. Michi says himself, the time was tough. The result paid off: he won the INBF Natural Muscle Mayhem in Los Angeles in August 2017. We talk to our athlete in detail about how he felt during this time, how it changed him and what belongs to his life besides bodybuilding.
Johanna : You started your tough training plan and diet 11 months before the big day - that's a really long time. What was your attitude towards life during the entire preparation period?
Michael : It actually worked, I was totally relaxed. Many people say that during such a diet phase you are totally stressed and also susceptible to stress. This is true from a certain body fat percentage. Pretty much towards the end, according to my friends and my girlfriend, I wasn't bitchy or anything, but very, how can you put it, "in focus". At some point the body switches to survival mode. Your body doesn't actually know that you're preparing for a bodybuilding competition - it just knows that it hasn't been getting enough food for eleven months, even though it's consuming more. When you get so skinny, you have so little fat that a switch goes off in your head. To be honest, for the last 8 to 10 weeks I've only thought about food.
This might sound crazy, but during this time I constantly watched cooking shows and invited my friends over for dinner, even though I didn't eat anything myself. I just wanted to see that they enjoyed it and be a part of it in some way. (laughs)
Johanna : Wow, I don't think I could stop myself from doing so much. If I'm hungry, then I have to eat something. Something that I like and of course enough...
Michael : For me it was never the case that I had the feeling that I was prohibiting myself from doing anything. I knew all along that I wanted to compete and in order to win I had to follow all these steps. I also knew that I could eat whatever I wanted afterwards. Still, I was very strict with myself - I didn't have a single cheat day or even a single cheat meal the entire time. What I missed most was not the food or large, delicious portions, but the time you spent with friends in restaurants, bars or eating together. That's why I still went to the restaurant with my friends or invited them for ice cream. (laughs)
Johanna : What else helped you during this difficult time?
Michael : Especially in the weeks immediately before the competition, Dr. Dome also supports your supplements throughout the training period - because of the nutrients that you are simply missing from your diet. Before I flew to the USA, I often went to Dominik's practice and received vitamin C and vitamin B12 infusions. This also helped me a lot in not getting sick, as your immune system is very easily vulnerable to such high training intensity.
Johanna : How much did you train during this time?
Michael : 5 days a week.
Johanna : You also paid a lot of attention to your diet during this time. In recent years, bodybuilders have also been adopting a vegan diet. We are currently taking a closer look at the topic of veganism in our blog. What do you personally think of a vegan diet? Is it even possible to get enough protein this way to build muscles during such an intensive training phase and in competitive sports?
Michael : There are a few natural bodybuilders who eat exclusively vegan and I think it's basically possible. I don't eat vegan myself, even though I like to eat vegan from time to time. My criticism regarding muscle building is the amino acid leucine. With a vegan diet, it is difficult to consume enough of this at every single meal so that muscle protein synthesis can be stimulated and function properly. The latest research has shown again that with a vegan diet it makes the most sense to eat different sources of protein. For example, not just lentils, but lentils and peas together. At the end of the day, protein is protein. I just think that with a vegan diet it is difficult to get enough protein without, for example, getting digestive problems, since this diet is very high in fiber.
I can imagine that people who don't know much about nutrition, eat a lot of processed foods and are perhaps overweight would benefit from a vegan diet. As a result, they simply engage more with the food and the high amount of fiber means they are fuller more and more quickly, which can then help them, for example, to reduce their weight.
Johanna : What would you say is your “One thing for optimal performance” – so what do you think is your one thing that allows you to function optimally?
Michael : Sleep. Enough sleep. You know, if you eat too little - I noticed that myself during this time - you can still somehow function optimally in the end. But if you don't sleep properly, nothing works.
Johanna : Do you have a morning routine?
Michael : Yes. It depends on how much time I have in the morning. I don't do any real yoga or anything like that, but I stretch for 20-30 minutes - a bit of mobility. At the same time, this also helps me wake up, as I usually don't drink coffee in the morning, but prefer an espresso in the afternoon.
Johanna : You are in the process of building your own company, writing your bachelor's thesis and training at the same time. How do you manage to switch off in the evening?
Michael : I went to boarding school when I was at school and it was very stressful with the learning load. They taught us a mentality back then that still works for me today: “Work hard, play hard”. So every day I sit down and do the things that have to be done for that day. But after that I really try not to do anything and switch off. Training is usually the best time for me to switch off. There are also days when I don't do anything all day and try to completely clear my head. This helps you to continue with full energy afterwards. I also like to read in the evenings.
Johanna : What is your current favorite book?
Michael : There are two books that I really liked. Once “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey and “Legacy” by the All Blacks.
Johanna : What’s coming up for you in the next few weeks?
Michael : (proudly) I have just handed in my bachelor's thesis, now I still have the last exams to go and then I'll be done. As a little break, I'm going to Iceland for 5 days next week - I'm really looking forward to that!
From our side, hats off, dear Michi, we are very proud to be able to sponsor you!
Michael Hiller in August 2017 at the INBF Natural Muscle Mayhem in Los Angeles.