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What It Takes to Be the World’s Top Bodybuilder

A day in the life of the world's top bodybuilder, Denverite Phil Heath.

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It’s difficult to win one world championship, let alone four consecutive titles. But University of Denver grad Phil Heath aims to do just that this month when he defends his Mr. Olympia world bodybuilding title in Las Vegas from September 17 to 20. (That’s the same competition that launched Arnold Schwarzenegger’s career.) Heath spent four years as a shooting guard for the Pioneers basketball team and discovered bodybuilding after his hoops career ended in 2002. After putting on 100 pounds of muscle post-college, Heath won his first world crown in 2011. To train for this year’s competition, Heath devotes almost 20 hours a day to lifting, recovering, and eating—a lot. We caught up with the 35-year-old to see just what it takes to become the world’s best-sculpted man.

6:30 a.m. Wake up in a downtown Denver penthouse.
6:45 a.m. Eat two cups of cream of rice (cooked), 10 egg whites, and two whole eggs.
7 a.m. Heath spends 45 minutes to an hour on an incline treadmill, spin bike, or treadmill climber at his condo’s gym. (He never runs for cardio; it’s too hard on his joints and ligaments.) During his morning workout, he’s often on conference calls with the business team at Gifted Nutrition, his personal line of supplements.
8 a.m. Shower and get dressed.
9 a.m. Eat two scoops of Gifted Nutrition vanilla whey protein and one cup of gluten-free oats.
9:45 a.m. Hit the tanning bed (up to three times weekly) to even out his skin tone in preparation for itsy-bitsy bodybuilder undies.
11 a.m. Eat lunch out, perhaps at the Thirsty Lion Gastropub & Grill, where Heath munches on filet mignon wrapped in pepper bacon and grilled asparagus. He peels off the bacon and substitutes two cups of white rice for the white cheddar mashed potatoes.
Noon Chiropractic, acupuncture, and massage treatment sessions (three to four times per week) loosen tight muscles.
2 p.m. Eat a 10-ounce bison filet and two cups of angel hair pasta. As competition draws closer and Heath’s body metabolizes meals faster, he eats more frequently.
2:30 p.m. Lift weights at Armbrust Pro Gym in Wheat Ridge. In the 10 weeks before the competition, Heath lifts twice a day, focusing on each muscle group two times per week. Heath’s workouts last around 90 minutes because, he says, “If you’re killing yourself, you don’t need more than that.”
4:30 p.m. Eat a 10-ounce Redbird chicken breast with two cups of sweet potatoes.
5 p.m. Nap or watch an action movie. Heath hopes that, like Schwarzenegger, a career wielding machine guns on the big screen is in his future after he finishes competing.
7 p.m. Eat 10 ounces of salmon with two cups of basmati rice.
7:30 p.m. Heath and his girlfriend take a walk around downtown. (Yes, he sees you staring at him.)
9:30 p.m. Eat a 12-ounce cod filet with steamed spinach.
10 p.m. Heath heads back to Armbrust Pro Gym for a late-night lift session. He opts for the after-hours schedule in order to focus without interruptions.
11:30 p.m. A half-hour cardio cool-down closes Heath’s night at the gym.
Midnight Snack on a dozen egg whites with one cup of plain grits.
1 a.m. Strum his electric guitar. Heath keeps this hobby to manage his stress levels.
2 a.m. Bedtime. Finally.

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Total Calories: 5,281

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