Those who know Matt Schnellbaecher might have noticed he's been a bit grouchy lately. That's just his stomach talking.
For the past month, Schnellbaecher has been on a strict diet in preparation for East High's bodybuilding competition. A lack of carbohydrates leads to fatigue and irritability on occasion.
"To switch from eating whatever I want whenever I want is tough," Schnellbaecher said.
East is one of three local high schools hosting boys and girls bodybuilding competitions this week. Event organizer Kris Black plans to hold five schoolwide events and an all-city competition later this month.
Schnellbaecher, a senior, starts his morning with a carefully measured 2/3 cup of oatmeal with almonds. For lunch, chicken with one cup of rice and vegetables. He eats the same for dinner.
Adhering to a restrictive diet is difficult, Schnellbaecher said, but also beneficial.
"It's been testing my self-discipline, which is a good thing to improve," he said. "Self-discipline and self-control is a big aspect of the sport."
Dalton Chapman can attest to that. Every school day, the West senior has to resist the urge to break his high-protein, low-fat diet.
"It's tempting every day to go somewhere for lunch and have a cheat meal," he said. "Dieting is definitely the hardest part."
There are several other components of bodybuilding, Schnellbaecher said, and none can be overlooked.
"Everything you do from how you sleep to your stress levels, it affects how you're going to look the day of the show," he said. "Everything has to be accounted for."
Schnellbaecher, who plays football and baseball for the T-birds, works out at the gym every day. He targets chest and triceps one day, back and biceps the next, then legs. Even on "rest" days, Schnellbaecher is at the gym doing cardio exercises.
Chapman, who recently signed to play baseball for Everett (Wash.) Community College, follows a similar regiment.
"Every muscle group twice a week," he said of his daily, two-hour workouts.
Watching his older brother compete in East's annual show prepared Schnellbaecher for the challenge of bodybuilding. But he's looking forward to the conclusion.
"I'll definitely be relieved when it's over," he said.
Due to the rigorous training involved, Black said, bodybuilders forge strong bonds with one another through their shared experience.
"You really can connect with the people you're competing against," he said.
But bodybuilding isn't just about how shredded someone can look, said Black, a two-time winner of East's competition. It provides a foundation for healthy living, he said.
"It's a lifestyle," Black said. "Not something you can really turn on two months out."
The high school events teach students to build and tone muscle, Black said, along with presenting their physique. He encourages kids to get creative with the latter.
"It's about having fun as much as it's about looking good and presenting yourself well," he said.
Reach Mike Nesper at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4335.
By MIKE NESPER