Preparing for a bodybuilding competition is one of the hardest things you can do as an athlete, it’s literally going to take over your life and those close to you. Having said that you’re not going to war or starving as some people in the world are doing, so don’t moan no one is forcing you!
The final stage, the diet phase is often what people consider as prepping for a contest. The truth is those you’ve been prepping since the moment you first entered the gym till the moment you stand on stage. There has been a boom in the numbers or people competing due to the more attainable classes like men’s physique and women’s bikini being introduced. Unfortunately this has led to many talking about competing and actually doing so way before they are ready. I see so many people these days talking about prepping and dieting for a show but yet they have not spent enough years (yes years) training to develop a good base of muscle. How many times have they blamed there prep coach or their own prep because they over dieted or spilt over or were flat blaa blaa. No the truth is even with the best prep in the world ever if you didn’t have the base of muscle you cant diet yourself into a great physique. Great physiques are built not dieted! Others go the other way gaining 50lbs of shit weight then turning up on stage at the same weight or less as they had to diet so hard to get all fat off. We are building muscle not fat so gauging yourself with empty calories really won’t get you where you want, again time and dedication is required.
Before you consider entering a gruelling 12-20 week contest prep diet consider these points:
- Have you trained enough to build significant muscle? 18months minimum for physique guys, 24months for junior and first time bodybuilders. Some exceptions are possible, e.g. coming from another sport that involved lifting giving you a base level of muscle and strength, for bikini girls its a little different as the level of muscle required is lower so if coming from another sport like dance or gymnastics it maybe possible with the right frame and guidance to compete early on.
- Have you gained muscle not fat? Get a calliper reading done if unsure if you a bloke over 20% forget it! Clean up your act and get to a more realistic 12-14% you can still build muscle don’t kid yourself into eating junk! Girls if your arse is wider than your shoulders dream on! This is not designed to put people off just be realistic, you can still do it but give yourself a chance.
- Have you dieted before? Not weight watchers or some fad diet! If no you will need help do your research though many people are preaching a lot with slim to no experience, your prep coach should have competed and/or have a track record of others they have helped. Don’t talk the talk till you have walked the walk. Jose Mourinho may have never played top level football but he wasn’t given jobs without building his way from the bottom having worked with many top coaches first, It is true the best bodybuilders don’t always make the best coaches due to their genetic gifts which is impossible to coach. A coach who has shown consistent improvement through their own physique and took average genetic people to the stage is going to have more to offer than someone who turned pro early on or only seem to have worked with the genetic elite, see some of my results.
- Are you willing to do what it takes over the next weeks and months? If you’re going on holiday or got nights out planned, meals with family forget it right now. This is going to dominate your life sacrifices need to be made or you can’t hope to be your best, and believe me others will work that hard!
- Aim High but be realistic with your goals. I always assess my clients prior to starting and if they are not ready I will tell them not string them a long for the cash.
So assuming you have read the 4 points and feel you’re where you need to be with either a prep coach or a seasoned competitor helping you keep a watchful eye on your body, its time to plan which competition and federation you wish to enter into. The UKBFF has the biggest men’s physique and ladies bikini classes currently but others are starting to offer these popular classes. Possibly entering a smaller federation to see where your at would be a good idea plus if you do join the UKBFF you will then not be allowed to compete with anyone else. For bodybuilders you have endless options NABBA, WABBA, NAC, PCA, IBFA and plenty of local independent shows. My Advice would be go to watch a couple or ask a competitor you may know what they think is best for you.
If you are already watching what you eat and can accurately estimate your daily calories and you’re in decent shape pick a show 10-14 weeks away to start dieting. If you have no idea what you are eating then you really should start with a 4-8 week period where you monitor closely your calorie input and calorie breakdown and try to establish a maintenance point. (Any good prep coach will do this, I prefer where possible to have had a portion of working with clients during and off season).
Now once you are on maintenance calories holding a steady bodyweight it should be easy to slowly manipulate the calories in and out to drop weight at a steady pace and to be honest it really should be that simple. Add 30 mins of cardio a day roughly 300 calories and drop 50g of carbs another 200 calories and your 500 calories below what you were using to maintain bodyweight. For untested athletes you may add Thyroxin or a thermogenic like Clenbuterol along with some cardio and not even have to drop your food. I’m a big believer in eating as much as you can from quality food whilst still shedding fat, too many people go from eating high calorie junk food all year to gain the most weight with no cardio to all of a sudden doing lots of cardio and eating mainly protein and veg or salad and wonder why they drop strength rapidly and therefore muscle. If you can lose weight with cardio and keep your macro nutrients and calories constant perfect, you will have more energy to stimulate muscle.
Raise your metabolic rate train hard, incorporate cardio daily and use fat burners, dropping calories too fast or too much will not help you get in the best possible shape, a strong fit athlete looks better than a tired, starved weak one!
Be consistent with your food also and stick to wholesome nutritious foods always! I hear so much about re-feed days or cheat meals or worse cheat days, are you kidding me? If you don’t under eat you don’t need to re-feed maybe one meal a week to establish some normality and offer variation. So take the missus out for a nice meal, have a prawn cocktail starter and steak and baked potato main, not fried chicken wings in batter then a curry with naan and an ice cream sundae. If your anything like me and you eat clean you will be sat on the toilet half the day or have bad wind, it’s no fun. My favourite cheat meal I have perhaps once every 10 days is home-made chicken fajitas. Re-feed days, high carb days or even cheat meals have there place but only when used correctly not as an excuse to binge or go off course because it’s getting a little hard. News Flash it is HARD!!
I’ve seen some horrific stuff posted on Facebook and Instagram people eating less than my 2 year old daughter, seriously they wouldn’t survive a training session with me. Then they post about their cheat day/meal jaffa cakes, ice cream, pizza, donuts, sweets, chocolate etc. On what planet is any of this food healthy or beneficial??? This type of dieting may aswell be called the how to become type 2 diabetic diet. It seriously baffles me how anyone can not question this utter madness.
Another big issue is carbohydrates. How many people are carb sensitive these days? Or are you workshy? More likely. If you train hard and lift weights you need fuel, carbohydrates are the bodies primary and preferred fuel it makes sense to eat them. Yes some people will have to reduce them more than others and in some cases when taken out completely if results are just not happening. I do often wonder though are these people doing the cardio training with a burning intensity and sticking to the diet? The numbers don’t lie if you burn more than you eat you will drop weight, so burn more! And stop cheating yourself! Where people go wrong is when they cut carbs they do not replace them with fats. A Ketogenic diet (zero-20g carbs) requires fat to burn ketones without the presence of fat you will burn protein and thus muscle, not the goal!!!!! Ketogenic diets I’ve used with women as they have less muscle and do tolerate less carbs due to the inability to burn as many calories due to lack of muscle. Remember muscle is metabolic so the more you’ve got the more you burn training or at rest, this makes a joke of big guys who cant get in shape, how can you have a slow metabolism with 18stone of muscle? You cant unless your lazy as fuck and don’t stick to the diet or just rely on pumping more drugs in which is becoming ever more popular.
I keep protein constant throughout a diet eating more than you need will only encourage gluconosis (conversion or protein to glycogen) keep the protein the same roughly 1.3-1.8g per lb depending on a few factors one being if your using steroids and therefore have the ability to absorb more. You can change your protein sources towards the end of a diet, salmon can become tuna or cod, beef steak to turkey steak, and removing some or all of the yolks from our eggs will reduce the incidental fats in our protein.
Another thing I am big on is food. Sounds stupid but I’m talking solid food not shakes. A post workout shake is fine and BCAA and Glutamine supplements but I always encourage solid food for two simple reasons, solid foods stimulates your metabolism and satisfies your hunger far better than a drink.
So you still want to get on stage? Check out my bodybuilding contest prep and get in touch.