Our Ryderwear athletes are more than just the sculpted cores and sweat-soaked workouts you see on your Instagram feeds.
They’re real people, leading real lives beyond the lens, each with their own ambitions, anxieties and adversities to overcome.
What we want to do is offer a window into the people behind the physique. Sure, part of that is what they eat and how they train, but also their stories, their passions and their habits. How did they get to where they are today? What influences an influencer?
Antoine Vaillant is an IFBB Pro and Ryderwear athlete, who’s journeyed from rock bottom to the bodybuilding stage over the past five years, overcoming addiction and multiple rehabs. We spoke to Antoine as he was preparing for the California Pro, trying to qualify for his first ever Olympia: the holy grail of bodybuilding competitions.
7:00AM: Wake Up
I’m currently in the midst of my comp prep for the California Pro, so most of my life revolves around my meals at the moment. However one aspect of my morning ritual hasn’t changed, and that’s my morning coffee. Every morning I’m spending 30 minutes practicing my posing while listening to techno. I love artists like Zentrix, Breger and Azax. What makes bodybuilding a unique sport is the performance side: Posing. A sprinter’s hard work is displayed when he dashed across the finish line. The bodybuilder’s hard work is displayed when he flexes all his muscle fibers, hitting the right angles as he strikes the poses on stage.
I then send my check-in video to my coach, and hit some fasted cardio on the treadmill in my garage. I have a theory that the type of music you listen to during cardio has a correlation with the amount of calories you burn.
8:30AM: Meal One
For my first meal I’ll have 2 whole eggs, 4OZ chicken, 100G creamy rice and a scoop of daily cleanse.
Bodybuilding is all about nutrition, but during comp prep you have to be even more meticulous. For any young, beginner lifter looking to get into bodybuilding, my advice would be to eat like a pro bodybuilder 365 days of the year.
Self-image and body confidence comes in waves during my comp prep. Last night I felt powerful and strong, but this morning I’m feeling flat and empty. The mind is a great tool, but it can also be our worst enemy, so you have to learn that what truly matters is sticking to the plan, and just pushing through independent of inner talk. Nothing in your actions should change if you want to progress and reach your goals.
"Embrace the struggle and let it make you stronger"
9:00AM: Meal Prep
Abs really are made in the kitchen, so I’ll spend the next few hours meal prepping. Comp prep can become pretty obsessive and monotonous, so I always try and balance my training and meals with the spiritual and mental side of my life. Outside of training I’m a coffee connoisseur, I love techno, art and Joe Rogan podcasts, and I’m passionate about creating content for my social channels. I’m a pretty introspective person, and do a lot of reflecting while I’m meal prepping.
I started my fitness journey at the age of 10 or 9. I remember wanting to be strong and muscular, and admiring the alpha male figures in action movies, like Stallone in Rambo or Arnie in Commando and Predator. I also had this feeling of worthlessness and fear of not being good enough, stemming from my parents divorce. That trauma caused a fear of abandonment and confusion, and my physical strength was something I had control over. I thought maybe if I gained muscles I’d feel safe, I’d feel worthy and I wouldn’t feel like an outsider. I started doing push ups and sit ups in my bedroom, and kept putting the effort in.
11:00AM: Meal Two
Meal two is wild white fish or chicken with 300 grams of rice. Obviously I have to be quite precise with my food quantities. Getting stage-ready is an exact science! My meals aren’t exactly Instagram worthy, but they get the job done for what my fitness goals are. Social media is probably the biggest change to the fitness landscape that I’ve seen throughout my journey. I’ve embraced it as a positive thing, as it’s made the sport of bodybuilding grow and become more accessible. My goal is to use my social platforms to motivate, entertain and make the world a better place.
12:30PM: Pre Workout Meal
My pre-workout meal is the same as Meal Two. I like balls to the wall, sweat-drenched, high intensity workouts, so I’ll spend some time getting in the zone before I train. I’ll listen to some techno, and read some inspirational bodybuilding stories or articles. Reading those old bodybuilding magazines was actually how I really got into bodybuilding when I was younger. I remember reading the 2003 Mr Olympia reviews in Muscle & Fitness and being amazed at their physiques. I did my research on the Internet using an old PC with dial up connection, and learned through the bodybuilding message boards.
Today is leg day, and I’m prepared to be sprawled on the gym floor in a puddle of sweat by the end of my workout. I love training in the cut off Ryderwear Tanks, Shorts and my favourite D-Mak’s of the moment: the Rogue Camo Grey.
I’m a big believer in free weights. I always make sure I have one or two in each of my workouts. I think they’re harder to execute than most machines, and give you a certain look that doing just machines can’t give you. As a bodybuilder, you have to use everything at your disposal!
My workouts now are completely different to when I first started. In the summer of 2004 I made the decision to compete in bodybuilding, but I hadn’t even set foot in a gym before. I’d just been training on my own with one Dumbbell in my bedroom, but I joined the gym and told the owner I wanted to compete. A year later I competed at the age of 16 and won my class. I did it all by myself, and got so much fulfillment and self-empowerment from it. An obsession was born.
3:00PM: Post Workout Meal
I’ll have some more chicken breast, another 300 grams of white rice and an apple for my post-workout meal. As part of my recovery from my workout I like to do some power yoga in the afternoon. Being limber and mobile transfers so well into strength and muscle size. If you’re too tight then you’ll be prone to injuries, and when you’re hurt you can’t push and perform to your full potential! Bodybuilding resistance training is very linear and all about hardcore contractions, so it’s good to move around in other ways so the body functions properly for the longest time possible while you’re living on this plane of existence. We borrowed this meat vessel for our whole living experience, so let’s take care of it!
5:00PM: Meal Five
I’ll have Bison or beef for Meal Five. Bison is a great protein for bodybuilders, with fewer calories than beef, way less fat and more protein. It’s also rich in iron, zinc, vitamin B12 and Omega 3 fats. All these meals, workouts and sacrifices possess so much more meaning with a goal and purpose in mind. Purpose has saved my life.
"Find your purpose"
Back in 2012, I won my IFBB Pro Card at the Canadian Nationals, I was coming out of a bad relationship, and decided it was time to party and celebrate. I chose the wrong people and the wrong things to celebrate with. Drugs, alcohol and bad influences. This is when my drug addiction began. I hit many rock bottoms and lost everything more than once. I ended up homeless, in the streets and on welfare. My crippling addiction was ruining my life. Even when I wanted to stop, I would fall back into my old destructive habits.
One of my friends at the time died of an overdose, I had a few near death experiences and went into rehab after trying and failing to overcome addiction on my own. While I was in rehab I noticed that I had an advantage over other addicts: I had a purpose to get clean and become a Pro athlete. I knew in my heart I had to get back into bodybuilding and compete. It was clear in my mind that I had to go back to what I was doing before.
I realized this when I was having a conversation with another guy. He didn’t have a goal or any aspiration for his life after rehabilitation. When you go against such a strong, malevolent power that is addiction, you need something meaningful on the other side. Change has to come from a positive place.
7:00PM: Meal Six
I’ll cook some Salmon and rice for Meal Six. The comp prep lifestyle is a grind, but I’m driven. I came out of my last rehab in 2017 with a fire inside, and I started training for my comeback straight away. I wanted to return to the stage and prove to myself and the world that it wasn’t over for me. I teamed up with my coach Dorian Hamilton and moved to Burlington, Ontario and started putting the work in. I learned to live like a champion again. My comeback show as the 2018 Toronto Pro, and I ended up placing 4th. The comeback was real and I was proud of myself, then I got back to work!
I can honestly say that my addiction was a blessing. At times it felt like a curse, but without my addiction bringing me down and humbling me, I never would have learned my new outlook on life. I believe I’m a better person now because I went through that rough patch. If you’re going through a life struggle, keep pushing because once it’s all said and done and you overcome it, you’ll come out a better person. Growth isn’t always pretty.
"If you’re going through hell right now, keep walking"
I look at myself back in the summer of 2003, when my passion for fitness was ignited and I think ‘Oh boy, you have no idea what’s coming’. Part of me wishes I could protect and guide that kid better, but then again I’d be different today, and I like who I’ve become. I’ve learned a lot through the victories, but most importantly the failures.
After sharing his story with us, Antoine won the California Pro, fulfilling a lifelong ambition of qualifying for the Olympia. In December, he’ll live out the dreams his younger self had in 2003 reading Muscle & Fitness, competing at the Olympia in Las Vegas and gracing the stage alongside modern legends of lifting.