CONTEST PREPARATION 101
Updated: Feb 10
Do you have what it takes to take your TRAINING & NUTRITION to the next level?
Perhaps you're one of the few who's dreamed of stepping on STAGE?
Over the years I have helped prep an elite few of natural athletes whom have embarked on the ultimate fitness journey.
From Bikini & Fitness models to Figure athletes. All wonderfully gracing the stage and walking away with successful placings! 🏆
Now whilst being 'competitive' is a journey in and of itself:
🛑 WARNING 🛑
Competing is NOT for those whom lack a basic understanding & foundation of general Fitness. To put it simply, you will NEED a good grasp with both your Training and Nutrition respectively to be successfully competitive.
Contest Preparation is NOT a Fat loss solution to obesity or any previously diagnosed underlying issues. It is also generally NOT recommended to compete if you suffer from the following:
🛑 anxiety / depression
🛑 food eating disorder
🛑 anorexia / bulimia
🛑 training in-experience
🛑 injury / medical condition
🛑 obesity / overweight
Now that we've got the obvious stuff out of the way, let me share something exciting with you.
The competitive process is relatively simple. It is so simple that it is in fact the same process used for anyone looking to lose weight.
So now you're probably more determined than ever to compete or know what it all entails?
Read on for more on the Beautiful & challenging World of Competition Prep. 👇
TO COMPETE OR NOT TO COMPETE?
Ok, so lets start with arguably the very first and most important step.
At some point in time, you will personally have either asked the question or made the choice whether or not you'd like to compete?
This is a personal choice and at the end of the day will ultimately come down to you.
No-one can force this choice onto you just as well as no-one can take this decision away from you. It is your own personal right and the desire to want to be competitive should always come from within you.
For those whom have made the choice, this is where your will and determination has likely driven you to do it. That being said, if truth be told anybody can choose to compete and just about anyone can grace the stage.
How SUCCESSFUL one is will be largely dependent on their preparation, mindset & their reason to want to compete in the first place.
Before we discuss the many pitfalls of competing (and there are some), one must understand their reason as to WHY they want to compete in the first place.
Perhaps you've been training for years on end & looking for a new challenge? Maybe you're determined to grace the stage and showcase all your hard efforts in and out of the gym? Or perhaps you're just an all-round competitive individual and love competitive sports?
Whatever the reason may be, If you struggle to find your why or a valid enough reason to compete, then competing may likely not be for you.
If you can answer this without a moment's hesitation then you're probably on the right track.
Competing as a sport is not one to be taken lightly as there are many downsides to competing for those whom are even successful at it. From Post Comp Blues to Post Comp Blowouts, hormonal disruptions, testosterone production to eating disorders.
Competing will also take it's toll on you both mentally and emotionally even for experienced individuals whom decide to 'self-prep'.
Those whom enlist the aid of a Contest Preparation Coach benefit greatly simply from removing the constant arduous thought process & emotional component from dieting.
Note: always ensure you have been given the medical all clear before choosing to compete.
Now that we've discussed as to the 'why', lets continue to the first stage of prep.👇
Your first step towards starting your contest prep journey starts here. Whether we're a newcomer to the stage or a past competitor, the goal in the off-season is always the same:
✔️ Build as much Lean Muscle Mass as possible. ✔️ Increase overall Energy (calorie) balance. ✔️ Keep Bf% minimal (where possible).
In order to build or improve a physique in the off-season, an appropriate amount of energy (calorie) intake balance is always required.
If we've been looking to compete and be within 'striking distance' of being stage ready, it helps if we're somewhat physically conditioned prior. It is a far less arduous and grueling process of 'being ready' versus having to get ready.
For some seasoned athletes whom are somewhat 'condition' ready, they may generally only have a small amount of bf% to lose i.e. 3-5kg.
For most newcomers, they will generally have a more significant amount to drop for their first show i.e. 8-11kg.
Note: Lean muscle mass will likely be lost in the dieting process. How much is lost is dependent on diet length, exercise activity and overall energy (calorie) balance.
Off-season bf%? 🤔
Now you're probably wondering what's an ideal bf% range to shoot for in the off-season?
For natural athletes whom are male, probably about 8%-11%. For females, generally around 19%-22%. The most important body fat range is generally the one we spend the most amount of time at in our off-season due to our Body fat set-point.
One of the most common hurdles an athlete will usually struggle with during their off-season is:
- being goal focused
- putting weight (safely) on pre or post contest.
All semantics aside, having some bf% & increased energy (calorie) balance in the off-season is relatively healthy and to be expected.
On the context of long term Stability, Performance and making Improvements, maintaining an adequate energy (calorie) balance dietary approach is recommended and further encourages:
✔️ Muscular growth
✔️ Increased metabolism
✔️ Improved mental focus
✔️ Balanced sex drive and libido
✔️ Increased hormone production & balance
Maintaining an appropriate amount of energy (calorie) intake also lessens the likelihood of the following:
❌ Binge eating
❌ Weight rebound
❌ Disordered eating behavior
❌ Physique anxiety
❌ Impaired testosterone production
❌ Elevated cortisol levels
❌ HPA axis dysfunction
Benefits of low off-season bf%?
Maintaining a low amount of bf% pre or post contest whilst not mandatory is often encouraged. At one end of the spectrum if hovering too low of a bf%, most competitors will begin to fight the urge to return their bodies back to homeostasis.
At the other end of the spectrum, most athletes will also experience certain levels of 'duress' when body fat levels start increasing post show. These scenarios are almost always often overlooked by many competitors.
If you identify with either scenario, here are some harsh truths for you to remember:
- you will never be as lean, weak & hungry as when you stepped on stage.
- you will also never be as full and strong as in the off-season.
Each stage of prep has its own place and time. For most competitors staying within the aforementioned bf% range will experience some of these benefits:
👉 Athlete's only have a small amount of kilos to lose.
👉 Athletes at low bf% set point maintenance have less weight to lose next time.
👉 Athletes at low bf% are somewhat conditioned i.e. visible abs, arms, legs, thighs, glutes etc.
👉️ Athletes with adequate energy balance minimize the associated effects of the body's 'self-defense' mechanisms post contest diet.
If you're looking to combine the best of both worlds, consider 'maintaining' at a comfortable bf% level during your off-season. 💪
An off-season is typically the only time where energy is at an all time high & where calories are a plenty. Remember this.
Note: bf% varies and is subtly different from person to person due to varying Biological and Genetic predisposition along with other variables i.e. Height, Weight, Training, Nutrition etc.
As mentioned prior, the process is relatively simple. To lose weight all that is required is a Calorie deficit.
Sounds pretty simple right?
Well in a word yes. However the process can be a lot more complex depending on an individual's situation & their diet history including:
- what they did pre-diet ❔
- what they did during the diet ❔ - how much they dieted on ❔
This is where it pays to have a Contest Preparation Coach or team whom specialize in traversing the various in's & out's of contest prep.
However if you're looking to achieve this process (coaching aside) we will want to start fine-tuning the following during prep: 👇
Division & Posing
If we're looking to compete, chances are we may already have a certain category aka division in mind to be competitive in. Whilst most competitors have their sights set on a single division only i.e. Bikini, some competitors may also be able to do well in two different categories i.e. Bikini & Fitness or Sports model.
In most instances however, a physique will generally suit one category more-so than others:
Athletes with overall larger muscular size are generally encouraged to compete in the next category up i.e. Bikini > Fitness or Figure > Physique.