Contest season is just around the corner. While browsing fitness and bodybuilding forums, I find it common for new competitors to be completely lost in an abundance of information.
Information overload can destroy your best intentions. Many individuals that are new to the fitness sport gather a ton of quality information. While this is good, the downfall is that they use every method they have outlined, leaving no back up sources for when a plateau strikes.
Consistent Off-Season Diet – You can’t realistically look 100% on contest day if you haven’t maintained a clean and consistent off-season diet. You can’t go from eating pizza and burgers all winter and attempt to clean it up come January and expect to enter a show in May. While you may make some physical changes, you won’t be in the shape you could have been if you ate well in the off-season. Off-season is the time to build muscle quality and density. It’s extremely difficult to attempt to build density and lose body fat at the last minute.
Last Minute Preparation – This can fall under the lines of the above to some degree, but what I’m putting emphasis on here are those who decide on a contest at the last minute, thinking they can start from scratch and prepare in twelve weeks. Contest preparation and competing on stage takes time, effort, and vision. While I have seen many take the last minute approach, it’s quite obvious they were not prepared and just competed for the sake of saying, “I did it.”
Cutting Carbohydrates – Granted, limiting and even restricting carbohydrates will lean you up, get you hard, and define physique, but many people go about this in the wrong manner. You can’t realistically cut carbohydrates until you have them in your diet first.
The best approach for reducing carbohydrates and lose body fat is to cycle the carbohydrates down slowly. This way you are always presenting something new to the body and it keeps the body responding by shedding fat. By the time you are in your final week of dieting, you will be on very low carbohydrates and showing a great amount of detail. However, you can’t get to this point overnight. Dieting down properly takes time and it should follow a formula.
Supplementing – Supplementing your diet is crucial if you are planning to compete. When you prepare for a contest you are putting your body under a great deal of stress mentally, physically, and nutritionally. You must compensate with supplements that provide nutrients, such as a quality vitamin/mineral. Adding sports nutrition supplements to aid in muscle growth and recovery, as well as fat burning will be a plus.
Cardio – Cardio is a tactic many people employ, thinking it will get them ripped. While cardio is wonderful for the cardio-pulmonary system, too much can destroy muscle gains and put you into over training mode. Many novices start off with a terrible amount of cardio, up to an hour or two a day the first month. When the body adapts to this amount of exertion, what does it have to fall back on? Three hours a day?
A better approach would be to start your cardio 16 to 20 weeks before the show, starting with three days of 15 to 20 minutes and build on that every week in a slow manner. This way you have a backup method.
Last Minute Fatal Tricks – This is the deadly downfall to 90% of the newbie’s and even some veteran competitors. Last minute fatal tricks can destroy you on contest day. Don’t get this confused with last minute tactics employed to further prepare you for contest day. A fatal trick will be something along the lines of loading creatine the week before a show or eating a dozen donuts the night before. Yes, I’ve seen these “tricks” used before and it will destroy a ready physique in a matter of hours.
General Steps To Bodybuilding and Figure Contest Preparation
Eat well year around. When a contest is 24 weeks away, begin cleaning up your diet by eliminating any obvious junk food you may sneak in during the day. Limit your bread and dairy intake as well.
After a few weeks of general cleaning up, start tracking your calories to find your caloric baseline. Take your stats and design a diet based on your lean body mass and activity level. Make sure you feed your body a complete meal every three hours.
Add cardio to the equation. Start off on the low and progress slowly each week. Don’t overload the body with too much cardio too soon.
Tweak your diet only when it shows no positive results. A tweak would be considered something minor, such as lowering the carbohydrates, or adjusting the calories, or changing the cardio. Do not do all at the same time. Use only one tactic at a time.
If you simply cannot make proper adjustments, hire a trainer. It’s far better to have a watchful eye over you than for you to destroy your own plan at the last minute when panic strikes. While your trainer’s plan my not appear effective on paper or at the time, you must have faith in them. Preparing for a contest is a far different avenue than general dieting and it can have many unfamiliar faces.
In Summary to Bodybuilding and Figure Contest Preparation
Getting into contest shape is not an overnight process. You have to prepare wisely. No amount of tricks can help if you didn’t do your homework off-season or in contest-prep mode. Look for changes in your physique each week or two by comparing pictures. Stay true and honest to yourself and your program and you will be your best on contest day.