Amateur to Pro : – My competitive journey
The competitive year for me started the second I stepped off the stage of the DFAC Amateur world finals in Miami in 2016. I would be lying to say I wasn’t gutted about missing the BNBF British heavyweight title by only one point in 2016, then having an epic battle at the world finals I placed a respectable 4th. Annoyingly I had been 2nd in the worlds in 2013, so again I was annoyed to have placed further down the pecking order even though I was in my best shape to date. Admittedly, the 2013 finals were probably a less competitive year, but hey that’s bodybuilding.
I was ready to throw in the towel, I had been competing now for 12 years and I kept coming 2nd, It was almost a running joke, but it was no joke to me. It hurt. My choice was I could quit and accept that I’ll never be as good as I hoped or I could try one more time. I decided that I wasn’t ready to quit. The plan was going to be that I take 2017 off to work on my flaws and come back bigger and better in 2018 for one more try.
After licking my wounds at the tail end of 2016 I formulated a solid training and eating plan that I would stick to religiously. i did this by taking a long hard look at myself and seeing really what could be done to improve my shape and what was possible. I know I have big legs but they were too big for my upper body. I know my back wasn’t big enough and I know my arms and calves could come up a bit too. lastly, I know that I don’t have a genetically ‘flashy’ body and I have a thick waist so I’d need to be as lean as humanly possible, and learn to pose away my weaknesses.
For dietary changes I would push my calories as high as I could while watching fat levels to get my metabolism through the roof, this would be key to getting lean for me. I would be careful on cheat meals and deviations all year and try to be as close to my diet as possible all through the off-season. This was no mean feat especially with family life and holidays etc. Controlling food had to be a priority. Next, I would eat more food, especially carbs around my training window to try to maximize the insulin effect to drive the nutrients into my cells. By the time I started my cutting phase I was eating 5200 kcals per day with over 650g of carbs, 400g of protein, and 100g of fat. My body weight was at 97.4kg and around 12-14% BF.
Training was all about bringing up the weaker body parts, creating more balance, and keeping body fat to a minimum. This was the first time I kept CV in all year round. Five days a week I would walk uphill for 30 mins fasted. This allowed me to offset with extra calories, where before, I would have eaten less and done less exercise. However, I believe it kept me fitter and more fat adapted, as well as helped with my legs recovery as I had formerly suffered with leg injuries. My weight training was five days a week and was a double body part split. That meant that all body parts were exercised twice a week. Previously, I had only trained parts once a week. For my weaker parts I.e. back and arms, they were trained three times. This was my strategy going forwards and I stuck with it through the off season and all the way through my diet. I took the weekends off for family time.
I started my diet phase after having a family holiday in the last week of March 2018, and I was in ‘prep mode’ as of April 9th. This gave me 16 weeks to the first qualifier on the 29th of July. The first ten weeks of my prep was easy. I cut a few hundred calories, and increased my walks to 45 mins in the morning. By the end of July I had dropped to 84.2kg and competed for the BNBF at the central qualifier, I won the heavyweights and best legs and earned my ticket to the BNBF British final. I knew I still wasn’t my best yet but it was good enough. With a quick turn-a-round of 4 weeks I competed again, this time with the UKDFBA. I had dropped another 1kg for this show and was starting to look better. I won the heavyweights category, and won the overall Southern Champion, this also earned place at their British finals.
I now had the long slog of staying in competition shape for seven weeks until the first British final in October. This was tough, physically and mentally. I would like to add, this whole time my house was under full renovation and my family were living away. It was hugely unsettling to have to do all my work, being a father, husband, prepping, and training while basically living at my gym and not seeing my family. It was lonely and mentally draining, but I had to push on, I knew I had their support, but I was on my own, I couldn’t let anything get in my way now.
By mid October I was on my way to the BNBF British finals, the last 7 weeks had done me well, I was leaner and fuller than before and the best I’d looked to date. I was confident but nervous. The heavyweight class was epic, the toughest I’ve ever been in with 12 of the biggest and best natural bodybuilders I had ever seen. The call outs were looking good but I had no idea how it would go. I got placed third that day and was devastated. I was ready to throw in the towel, all that hard work, nothing but the win would have sufficed. It wasn’t for me this year but I knew I couldn’t rest for long, I had the UKDFBA finals looming in just two weeks, a tough turnaround to be be stage ready again.
With my nose fully to the grindstone and the last show well behind me I knew this was my last shot. All the stops were pulled out, no stone was left un-turned. I trained harder and dieted more strictly than ever before. I hit an all time low in body weight of 82.6kg. I was peeled. There were lines and veins showing on places that most people don’t even have places! This had to be it, now or never. With another epic battle against some phenomenal athletes I was finally crowned British Heavyweight Champion! I couldn’t believe it! But there was no time to absorb the win, I was immediately thrown back up on stage for the overall title. This is what I’d always wished for, a shot at becoming a pro, finally my chance to see how good I am. After a few rounds of comparisons, with more and more posing I was shattered, we were all moved to the back of the stage and lined up. To the left and right of me were the best the UK had to offer from all categories, lights, middles heavies, masters, juniors, it goes on. All I could see was what looked like a mass of lean muscled men, all desperately hoping for the title. For what felt like a lifetime the overall and new World Natural Bodybuilding federation Pro was being announced, the build up was electric… Then finally the words “with a unanimous vote our new Overall champion and Pro bodybuilder is…… Alastair Stewart!!!” It was me!!! I was flawed, speechless, overwhelmed with emotion, I could barely hold my tears of joy in, after 14 years of bodybuilding I achieved my dream of winning the title of Pro natural bodybuilder. I couldn’t workout whether I should smile or cry, ad ended up doing both, it was an amazing feeling of joy, relief, achievement, and pride.
With my win still sinking in I now had the world finals in Los Angeles to think about in just three weeks. No time for long winded celebrations, I had to hold this shape a little longer. I have competed at the world finals before but only as an amateur, this was up against all the best Pro naturals bodybuilders the world has to offer. The standard would be off the chart. My fear was that I would come last and would bring shame to the UK team, I felt like I didn’t deserve to be there. I was the only heavyweight representing the UK. There was a lot of weight on my shoulders. After a long flight and barely any time to get acclimatized to the new time zone and country I found myself pumping up backstage at the WNBF Pro world finals, it was like a weird dream, there were literally hundreds of the best bodies on earth all in one room getting ready. I was extremely fortunate to have the UKDFBA support team fully backing me and helping me every step of the way, they were phenomenal and so professional, I felt like a movie star, it was all very surreal. I stepped on stage, feeling very small in comparison to some of the monsters that were up there. I kept thinking ‘how do these guys get so big without taking drugs?’, ‘I must look ridiculous…’ I wasn’t used to being one of the smallest people on stage. I felt like I shouldn’t be there, I felt like a fraud, I was just some skinny guy from Surrey who’s been swept up in a whirlwind, I’ve been knocked back so many times I couldn’t get my head around the enormity. Surely, they’ll see through me and I’ll come nowhere. After 45 mins of posing on the most intensely tough stage I ever been on, we were told to leave. I was exhausted and with no idea how I had done.
Later that evening we were called on again for our individual posing and placings. My day had started at an anxious 4 am, it was now 930 pm, it had been a long day and I felt sick to my stomach with nerves. The call came that all the following numbers read out had not placed in the top five. I was number 44. They came out 38,39,41,43,46,49,51, wow I wasn’t called, I was top 5, this was epic. The 5th place was called, it wasn’t me, it was who I thought had won, 4th place was called, it wasn’t me either, is this right?, 3rd place was called, it wasn’t me, it was the current DFAC pro champ, there were just two of use left, my heart was pounding in my chest, I could barely believe what was going on. I grabbed the other guys hand, this was unreal, Then 2nd place was called and it was me, I jumped in the air punching my arms, I was flabbergasted, I’d just placed 2nd in the world in my first Pro world finals, how did this even happen? surely it wasn’t right and any second now they would say they made a mistake, but It was real I’d done it, I’d surpassed my wildest expectations, I just stood there grinning, so proud for me, my team, my family, and my country. I could hear my team mates cheering and yelling. What an end to round off a truly magical year.
I was the 2018 British heavyweight champion, British overall champion, New Pro natural bodybuilder, and ranked 2nd in the world….. Not a bad effort for a skinny guy from Surrey who just likes lifting weights and eating healthily.