If you think it’s tough to go easy on the peppermint bark and Grandma’s cookies during the holidays, try being Andre Drapiza: A pastry cook at Spago in Beverly Hills, he fills his kitchen (and his Instagram feed) with decadent pies and deluges of homemade donuts each day. But for the past month-plus, Drapiza couldn’t eat a bite of his own drool-inducing creations. The 29-year old was cutting in order to take the stage at the amateur Mr. Olympia, where he looked shredded enough to crack the top 10 in classic physique.
“I think the more times you do it, the more preps you go through, you can dig a little harder. You know, you get ‘more comfortable being uncomfortable,’ he says about missing out on his creations while he cuts. Drapiza has some serious discipline training to fall back on: Before he was a pastry chef or a stage-ready bodybuilder, he was a paratrooper in the Army’s 82nd Airborne division, where he made 23 jumps. Still, even with Army Strong-level discipline, passing on pie during a cut “still sucks a little more each time.”
Drapiza doesn’t have the option to just “not have temptations in the house”—just as you might not if you’ve got kids or a spouse. When he’s at Spago, he has to make and be surrounded by souffles and other gourmet goodies. And when he’s at home, he can’t help but indulge his passion for baking: Every day, he’s trying out new recipes or wowing his husband with delicacies like his favorite—his rich, firm chocolate cream pie with graham cracker crust, and topped with fresh whipped cream.
Despite eschewing every bite, Drapiza finished off the podium in the classic physique category—a result he says disappointed him. But it’s safe to say that Drapiza is the most ripped pastry chef in America. If this man can sport a six-pack despite swimming in a sea of sweets, we slightly-softer guys can learn something from him about avoiding a cookie or two to stay lean(ish) over the holidays—or as the long COVID winter drags on. Here are Drapiza’s tips for dieting discipline in the face of overwhelming deliciousness—and the right ways to fit in that cream pie.
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Give yourself 20 percent of your calories for “play”
The cutting phase before a bodybuilding show, where Drapiza is completely sweets-free, is the exception to the rule. And that rule is 80 percent.
“I count my daily protein, [aiming for 1.2 grams per pound of bodyweight per day] … most of the time, when I’m eating it, I’m having rice with it. So that’s 80 percent [of my daily] calories per day that’s clean,” he says. Those clean calories are usually made up mostly of ground beef, eggs, and rice. Once he’s hit those protein numbers, though, Drapiza feels free to go wil