Mackay bodybuilder Kaidan Homan.
Mackay bodybuilder Kaidan Homan.

Bodybuilding champion’s incredible story of sacrifice

FOR 26 weeks Kaidan Homan sold his soul in pursuit of the ultimate goal.

He sacrificed time, money, food, friendships and, almost, a relationship.

He pushed himself to his physical and mental limits in the quest for the perfect physique; for the promised land that could only be found on a faraway stage, under harsh lights and judging eyes.

His proving ground was a place few dare to tread and even fewer care to understand. Because being a bodybuilder is not glamorous. It's not fun.

Being a bodybuilder means being selfish. It means prioritising sleeping over socialising; dieting over family dinners and often, training over time with loved ones.

Being a bodybuilder dominates your life. It pervades your waking moments and restless dreams; creeps into every conversation and can cause arguments at any turn.

Homan's journey began 14 months before stepping on stage at the ICN Brisbane Classic and claiming two first-place finishes.

His dual just-desserts in the first-timer and under-74.5kg classes were the fruits of labour borne out of a competitive drive to be the best, but to also prove that his sacrifices were worth it.

 

'In the end it felt like another job'

One week on from his stage debut in Brisbane, Homan sat opposite partner Shelly Beckham at a cafe in Mackay

It was one of the first meals in more than a year that he was able to enjoy without meticulously tracking the macronutrients - the carbs, fats and proteins - in his food. And yet he was struggling.

"It's addictive," Homan admitted.

"For the past five days I haven't tracked but I already feel like I want to get back to it. I just can't get away from it now.

"Even Shell tracks now and she's not even doing a show."

When Homan first linked with his Brisbane-based coach and made the commitment to getting on stage, the gym was his worldly escape.

The confines of his iron paradise was where he felt safe; where he could do all his thinking, blow off steam and catch up with mates.

But, for months at a time, that paradise started to feel like a cage.

"There were days where I just didn't want to train - and I always wanted to train," Homan said.

"Those last 10-12 weeks I had sort of had enough. Working, training; everything was just flat out.

"In the end it felt like another job. I was working 12 hours, that's one job. Then going to the gym, that's another job. And then another was spending time with Shell and giving her some attention."

Even as he spoke the words, Homan understood how it sounded. Relationships are not jobs. But their bond did take a lot of work when he was in the throes of competition prep.

 

Mackay bodybuilder Kaidan Homan on stage at the ICN Brisbane Classic.
Mackay bodybuilder Kaidan Homan on stage at the ICN Brisbane Classic.

'It was like having a second brain'

It was through Beckham that Homan first linked with coach Robert Jessen and started on the path from gym goer to body sculptor.

In a way she helped light the first fuse that drove Homan's fire to succeed on stage.

Their relationship is strong; founded in a mutual love of many things - including the gym.

When Homan was on the gym floor, Beckham was often not far away. The pair even outfitted a small home gym when coronavirus forced the closure of fitness centres across the country.

Her grounding in fitness and understanding of the process, having also trained under coach Jessen, helped Beckham separate the good days from the bad. But the bad days were still hard.

"I think for anyone that's going to do it, just be prepared for how it will affect your friendships, your relationships, your work; your general day-to-day," Beckham said.

"It's hard for me to talk too much about it because I haven't done it myself, but from my point of view it's tough and really demanding on a relationship.

"Because he was so strict and everything he was doing was so structured and the timing was so important, it just made everything hard.

"Dinner with family is hard because you have to prepare his food, take certain things and everything has to be weighed. You can't just eat what's on the table.

"When everything is limited, it puts stress on me, on Kaidan, on the relationship, on friendships - from that point of view it was really hard.

"There were days when Kaidan was working and he was obviously really tired and easily … irritable. I started to lose patience in the end."

As often as the long work and low calorie days hit Homan, they would hit Beckham just as hard. She was on the front lines in his battle against hunger, pain and exhaustion. Without her, he might not have made it through.

"There were days where I was working, doing 12 hours, then coming home and training after that. Then I had to catch up on cooking food. But I would get home and Shell had cooked my food while I was training," Homan recalled.

"She helped me, so much.

"She was organising photo shoots, (posing) trunks. So many times I would forget what I had to do. It was like having a second brain.

"And in the gym she gave me heaps of support. It was great having someone there to push you."

 

Mackay bodybuilder Kaidan Homan with partner Shelly Beckham. Photo: True Fitness Photography
Mackay bodybuilder Kaidan Homan with partner Shelly Beckham. Photo: True Fitness Photography

'She wanted to strangle me a few times'

If all it took to get on stage was train hard and lift heavy, Homan might have had hundreds of rivals in Brisbane.

Instead there were just eight in the first-timers category, for a reason that should now be quite obvious.

"Training is the easy part. It's the food that's the hard part," he said.

Where a good coach earns his dollars is in the strict diet they set for a client alongside their training program. It is the diet that always acts as the greatest hurdle for any aspiring bodybuilder.

At the peak of his muscle building phase, Homan tipped the scales at 78kg and was taking in 4200 calories a day. That's the equivalent of about seven and a half McDonald's Big Macs.

It might sound appealing to be given the green light to each so much food - it was not.

"4200 is a lot of calories. A lot of people might eat something like 5000 in a day, but you can hit that by eating a few Big Mac meals. My 4200 was bulk rice, pasta and chicken - like over a kilo of chicken a day," he said.

"On work days I was fine. But on days off, because you let yourself sleep in for a few hours, I needed to get up and get that food in.

"There were days where I hadn't had all my meals and at the end of the day I'm trying to cram them all in. I was going to bed feeling sick because I had to eat so much food.

"I was so sick of eating rice."

Then at 26 weeks out, Homan transitioned into his 'prep' or 'cutting' phase. His caloric intake dropped almost overnight to 2900.

Approaching competition week he was eating as little as 1900 calories a day. All the while working long days as a boilermaker before finishing and heading straight to the gym to train.

Suddenly he longed for the rice he came to despise so much just a few months earlier.

"You feel constantly hungry. Mentally, you struggle," he said.

"I once warmed a meal up in the microwave. My stomach was telling me 'I'm hungry' - all the time. But I walked away for two hours and I forgot that I even had it in the microwave."

Homan conditioned himself to live with the hunger, to the point he sometimes could not identify the impact it was having on his mind and body.

"Because you're hungry all the time you can get pretty bad mood swings," he said.

"Shelly wanted to strangle me a few times I think.

"And it's uncomfortable. At work leaning on benches, when you have no fat on you, everything hurts."

Mackay bodybuilder Kaidan Homan gets a pump backstage.
Mackay bodybuilder Kaidan Homan gets a pump backstage.

'All I wanted was a Mars Bar ice cream'

Behind every good bodybuilder is a great support network.

In his partner and his coach, Homan was set up for success.

A good coach keeps you honest while understanding how to help a client past their mental and physical hurdles.

For Homan, he might not have made it to the stage without his Mars Bar ice creams.

"From 26 weeks out I was allowed a 're-feed' day every Saturday. That was 3760 calories and it was whatever I wanted (to eat)," he said.

"If I'm craving something through the week, Saturday is when I let myself go.

"For instance, I really love Mars Bar ice creams. So I would buy a box of them and plan my whole day Saturday so that I could have it that night and work my macros around it."

Though his coach was there to put hurdles in his path, Homan said without Jessen, he could not have made it to Brisbane.

"I had no idea what to do, especially with prep," he said.

"I knew how to track my macros and all that, but not how to work it all out.

"Coming into a show he knows all the foods I should be eating, when I should be eating and what I need to be switching to.

"You learn it yourself once you do it, but I wouldn't have known what to do without him."

 

Mackay bodybuilder Kaidan Homan (right) with his coach Robert Jessen after winning the first-time and U72.5kg classes at the ICN Brisbane Classic.
Mackay bodybuilder Kaidan Homan (right) with his coach Robert Jessen after winning the first-time and U72.5kg classes at the ICN Brisbane Classic.

'Up at 5.45am for porterhouse steak'

The final few weeks before competition were undoubtedly the toughest.

Homan was at the end of a drawn-out prep phase, made longer because he had originally planned to first compete in Townsville, only for that competition to be postponed and later cancelled due to coronavirus.

"Townsville was more of a lead-up to getting on stage, to get my confidence up being closer to home. It would have helped," he said.

"I had started prepping for the Townsville one and all of a sudden it was pushed back, so that was a big juggle for the coach food-wise as to which way we would go."

As the day drew closer, Jessen kept moving the markers on his diet.

At Homan's level of conditioning, every gram of food and drop of fluid could make a difference under the bright lights. The run-in would be make or break for his chances of winning.

"The Monday and Tuesday were high calorie days. Wednesday was a medium day and then Thursday and Friday were low," Homan recalled.

"On Saturday, the day of the comp, I was up about 5.45am and at 6 o'clock I had to eat a porterhouse steak, rice, banana (and) four rice cakes with peanut butter. I had to fully load carbs into my body.

"I was only allowed 600ml of water and four cranks of salt - to dry me out. From then on I was only allowed to sip water.

"Oh, and I was allowed a coffee too. Just one, as a pick-me-up."

The gang arrived at Sleeman Sports Complex at 9am and at noon, Homan made his long-awaited stage debut.

 

'It kinda puts me in the mindframe to go again'

Fourteen months removed from making the decision to compete, and 26 weeks on from starting his stringent diet, Homan's bodybuilding debut flew by.

His superior conditioning and muscle maturity outshone his fellow first-timers, and gold was the colour in his eyes and around his neck by midafternoon.

"It was honestly nerve wracking, getting on stage in front of a heap of people," he said.

"You can see the crowd a little bit and the judges are right there in front of you. But after the first one it's not too bad.

"It's a lot of fun. You just have to make the most of that."

Homan added another win in the weight division, again a clear-cut winner, before progressing to the overall final.

Winners from each category at the Brisbane Classic were then put into a single late-afternoon show, with the top pick declared the 'overall' winner.

It was there Homan tasted his only defeat; a loss he wonders might have been avoided with a slightly better run-in.

"In the overalls they don't really give you a place. They only announce the winner and that's it," he said.

"From what people in the crowd told me, it was a pretty good battle.

"My coach reckons if I had another week I probably would have won overall. It was just a lack of conditioning in the legs. I don't know if driving down played a part in that."

 

Mackay bodybuilder Kaidan Homan gets a pump backstage at the ICN Brisbane Classic.
Mackay bodybuilder Kaidan Homan gets a pump backstage at the ICN Brisbane Classic.

'It was a milestone getting to the finish together'

Back in Mackay and in the swing of training for fun, Homan and Beckham were able to look back on the 14-month journey and appreciate all of its ups and downs.

Asked if she thought the trials had made their relationship stronger, Beckham laughed: "Yes, I guess so. I think it was a milestone just getting to the finish line in one piece, together."

After a turbulent love-hate relationship with the gym, Holman is back at World Gym Mackay with the beaming smile his fellow members have come to know so well.

He has found fun in fitness again.

"I kinda want to try again," he said quietly.

"After the two firsts and coming so close in overall … I want to get back on stage. But I don't know …"

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