While we are very well aware that before a contest natural bodybuilders try to lose as much fat as possible, some IFBB pros just do the so-called ‘growing into a show’ method.
In other words they don’t cut for the show. They simply transform into a highly muscled mutant by losing fat and building muscle at the same time.
The main reason bodybuilders grow into a show is to save their body from all the drugs you need in order to be a competitive professional bodybuilder. That’s why right before the contest they load up everything and enjoy the transformation. While this period is not particularly easy on the body, nor pleasant – it’s way healthier, cheaper and more tolerable than being on all kinds of drugs the whole year. This method also prevents burning out too early. It was used very successfully by Kevin Levrone who would take the majority of the year off and use only a few months to get ready to measure his muscles with some of the best.
Currently, this method is used by 3 times Mr. Olympia Phil Heath who also seems to prefer growing into a show. Truth be told most of the year he does not look as impressive but prior to the contest he blows up tremendously and really acquires the modern Mr. Olympia look.
Natural can never grow into a show because losing fat and gaining muscle mass simultaneously is borderline impossible for the natural competitor. You simply can’t gain muscle naturally while attempting to reach 5% body fat before a show. The body is in such deprivation state that gaining muscle is the last possible option.
When you are on tons of drugs like Phil Heath’s situation, it all changes. The body becomes more efficient at using the macro nutrients from the food and the insane amount of anabolics helps the construction of muscle mass. The athlete can also eat high calorie meals while still losing fat. On the other hand a natural basically wants to die prior to a contest. The diet is insanely severe and even slow distraction can cause issues.
Here’s Phil Heath on May 20, 2014
And here’s Phil Heat on August 20, 2014
Most bodybuilders don’t use the grow into a show method and are usually 50 lbs or so over their contest weight in the off-season. However, some prefer to stay moderately lean and up the dose tremendously prior to a competition. It just so happens that one of those guys is the current Mr. Olympia Phil Heath who blows up prior to a contest (in his case once a year) and during the rest of the time he looks less impressive, but at least he is a little healthier.