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Student muscles his way into bodybuilding world

Nicole Santos

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Zach Batchelder, a senior nutrition major, sticks to a very tight schedule when it comes to eating and training for body building. Photo courtesy of Zach Batchelder.

Human Oompa Loompas walking around consuming massive amounts of sugar, women coated with makeup as if they were clowns and the smell of tanner can only mean one thing — backstage at a bodybuilding competition.

Zach Batchelder, senior nutrition major, has been at three of these competitions backstage because he’s been a competitor himself.

“The first show that I’ve ever done was 2012 right when I got to Chico,” Batchelder said. “I transferred here.”

As a transfer student from Diablo Valley College, a junior college in the Bay Area, he spent three years there and he’s been at Chico State for three more.

Bodybuilding doesn’t run in Batchelder’s family. It’s something he wanted to take on by himself, he said.

“I’ve always wanted to improve my physique since I was in middle school,” he said. “I wrestled in high school and the whole cutting weight aspect was something I wanted to learn more about. I would learn more on my own and that kind of developed into the knowledge for bodybuilding.”

Even though Batchelder doesn’t have a planned competition coming up he still trains regularly.

“Bodybuilding training is about four to five days a week, every week,” he said. “It’s very specific. It’s a different type of training than just getting stronger or say what a power lifter would do.”

The priority is to get big and look pretty on stage, he said.

“What you are looking for is muscular hypertrophy, and what that means is just making the muscles bigger, not necessarily being strong but looking bigger,” he said.

For each workout a specific body part is designated, Batchelder said.

“So there would be chest and tricep day, back and bicep day, one day reserved for legs and another day would be reserved for smaller accessory muscles like shoulders and arms in general,” he said.

Probably the most crucial part as a nutritional aspect is the amount of calories he has to consume a day, Batchelder said.

As he gets closer to a competition date, he progressively decreases his calories as little as possible so that he’s maintaining his maximum fat loss but also eating as much as he possibly can while still losing weight.

What he can eat as a bodybuilder is really controversial, he said.

“There’s the whole eating clean aspect,” he said. “You know, eating tilapia and chicken breast and broccoli. But that’s kind of a bodybuilding tradition and it doesn’t need to be that way.”

In the past Batchelder followed the tradition, but for later shows he said he didn’t and he was a lot happier.

“There’s no such thing as a clean food,” he said. “But one thing that’s important to take into account is still getting enough fiber and your fruits and vegetables so you get vitamins.”

At Batchelder’s first and third competition, he went on his own. But the second time around he hired a coach named John Nguyen to help with a difficult part of training known as peak week.

“This part is the week before the show, and that’s when you are manipulating things like your carb intake and your water,” he said. “It’s the last week that you dial yourself in perfectly. You kind of create like a saran-wrap effect on your muscles.”

As a nutrition major, there are definitely areas where bodybuilding and nutrition overlap, Batchelder said.

“I can apply things that I’ve learned in my classes towards bodybuilding such as the way your body absorbs different nutrients,” he said. “I probably learned the most within my sports nutrition class, because we learn about things like carbohydrate loading, water and hydration.”

As a senior preparing to graduate in May, Batchelder enjoys what the city of Chico has offered him over the past three years, he said.

“It’s nice that there’s a lot to do, especially outdoors,” he said. “I like how it gets hot and you can go to Bear Hole and you can go hiking and play disc golf.”

Since transferring schools, he has also had some great memories in Chico.

“To be honest, just exploring the city, meeting new people and going through new experiences are where some of my best memories come from,” Batchelder said.

Nicole Santos can be reached at [email protected] or at Iam_NicoleS on Twitter.

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Student muscles his way into bodybuilding world