It has taken Gordon Nelson just over a year to rise from not being on the Canadian bodybuilding radar to being at the top of the sport in Canada.
Nelson took the welterweight title at the 2009 Canadian BodyBuilders’ Federation in North Vancouver in late August. The win had double significance, as this is the first time in 23 years the nationals have been held in B.C.
“I was pretty nervous. I kind of went to the nationals thinking I was just going for the experience and to have fun. That’s all I wanted to do … I didn’t think I was going to do that well,” Nelson said. “I kind of didn’t believe it because it was so unexpected, but it felt good.”
Nelson’s start with bodybuilding came in the weight room at Chatelech Secondary when he was a teen. Flash forward five years and he has his sights set on international championships and entering the sport professionally.
But it’s been a long way from the Chat gym — five years of intense sacrifice, rigorous diet and hard time in the gym, literally sculpting his body into a living showpiece. He shares his time between bodybuilding and working on getting a degree in business.
Off-season training is five times a week in the gym, concentrating on heavy lifting for more than an hour at a time. His diet consists of about 4,000 to 5,000 calories per day of protein and carbohydrates, often chicken, rice, yams, oatmeal and eggs.
And in case you are wondering, he can bench press “up to 405 lbs.”
Four and a half months before a competition, Nelson changes his diet, lowering carbs and increasing protein and ups his gym visits to six days a week. The last few days are the most intense, cutting weight and eliminating sodium from his diet to dehydrate himself, which gives his muscles more definition. He also starts painting his skin brown to best show off every muscle group.
The night before the tournament, Nelson learned he was almost a kilogram above the upper weight limit for his class. To cut weight he skipped rope for two hours, dehydrated and starved.
“I was almost passing out I was so fatigued and exhausted because I didn’t drink any water that day at all and I didn’t eat much,” he said.
When it comes to competition time, contestants take to the stage and pose for judges who look for overall muscularity, definition and proportion as criteria.
Nelson said he had never met any of his Canadian competitors before and didn’t know what to expect, but low body fat and proportion were likely what tipped judges in his favour.
“I was just absolutely shredded. I had no body fat on me whatsoever. I think that’s what set me apart from the competition,” he said.
Currently, Nelson is looking for sponsors and has his eyes on competing in the U.S. where cash prizes for a first place finish are up to $200,000 U.S.