|Building a better body|
by Danielle Mario
U of R student does hardcore training
For some people who spend long hours in the gym, it's more than a hobby - it's a lifestyle. For University of Regina student Neil Tkatchuk, it means a struggle between school, life, and an amateur bodybuilding career. One week before competition, his struggle is apparent. "I had to write a midterm today, so luckily it was at the start of the carb-depletion," he said. "Basically, I don't want to think about anything until these five days are over and I can start bringing carbs back. Then, I'll be able to think a little more." Tkatchuk is competing in the Saskatchewan Amateur Bodybuilding Association (SABBA) 2007 Novice Bodybuilding Championship, March 31 in Regina at the U of R theatre. Tkatchuk said three months before the SABBA competition, he starts his eating regimen - six meals a day consisting mostly of skinless chicken and protein shakes. Now, in the last week of prepara- tion, he says things get worse. For each of his six meals, he consumes only a cup of broccoli and six ounces of chicken, plus lots of water. Even artificial sweeteners are forbidden. "I can't even chew gum," he said. "It can make you hold water under your skin, so we cut all of that out two weeks before [the competition]." On top of his low-energy meals, he's in the gym three hours a day. Tkatchuk says it's worthwhile because he is already seeing the pay- off from disciplining and sculpting his body. He placed first in the junior men's category at this same competi- tion in 2005, and took a third place at the provincial SABBA championships in 2006. At a provincial level where steroid use is high, Tkatchuk has made a conscious choice to not to use them, but even a natural bodybuilder pays the price for the strict diet and supplements. Daphne Cocks, a local nutrition store clerk, estimates Tkatchuk spends up to $100 a month for supple- ments. There are also health costs. "My doctor said my kidneys are already being affected from using cre- atine," Tkatchuk said. "Once he told me that, I stopped taking it. I'm supposed to go for blood tests, but I don't want him to make me stop doing the competition. I'll get through it and then I'll go see him." Tkatchuk says creatine, the legal supplement that causes your muscles to regenerate at a faster than normal rate, has affected his muscle enzymes as well. He will take a few years off to let his body recover after the SABBA competition, but he doesn't regret his decisions thus far. "[Creatine] is the only drug on the [fitness] market that is thought of as safe," said Regina physician Dr. Matand. "But there are many dangers to the kidneys if you take a lot and don't flush it out. If you take more than six grams, twice a day, you're playing with fire." "The way I look at it is I could go out and party, drinking every week- end and doing all those things, and this is healthy compared to that," Tkatchuk said. Matand explained that things are much worse on steroids. "A man might look [like] he's big, but you grab [his wrist] and squeeze. It will just [break]. Crack! There's no bone mass ... It's just no good," he said. Tkatchuk's girlfriend of five months, U of R kinesiology student Jennifer Landry, has stuck by his side for the entirety of his training, but there's been a price. "Sex life?" she said. "He has no energy - we just haven't for two weeks." "... and one more week left," added Tkatchuk. Landry goes with Tkatchuk's to many of his workouts. She is consid- ering entering into figure competi- tions as early as next year. Karen Fahlman, Tkatchuk's boss as the U of R Fitness and Lifestyle Centre, says the staff has been very supportive of Tkatchuk. "I think he has given most of his shifts away [this week]," said Fahlman. "The staff is helping him out." Tkatchuk has one week to go, and a lot to lose, but said there are benefits to this lifestyle. "I like going through it - to see your body change like that," said Tkatchuk. "It's kind of interesting to dedicate yourself to that. I think it's really helping my self confidence, too."