Few have the dedication to get fit, and even fewer have the will to take it to the stage. Will 2016 be your year to show the world how Jack3d you can get? Read Pro Natural Bodybuilder Victor Egonu's guide to your first show.
1.) Prepare your Prep
Do research about the type of competition you want to enter, how the respective criteria is judged (size, leanness, symmetry and posing presentation) for your given category (bodybuilding, physique, figure, bikini), the procedure in which the contest is run (pre-judging vs. finals), size of the show (smaller shows make for a good debut), membership fees, age groups and qualifications , etc… Most importantly go and see a local contest and compare how you felt before, during and after the show. If you’re motivated overall, it just might be for you.
2.) Make the Decision
Many people think you need to have a magazine-worthy physique to compete for the first time…not true. In fact, all you really need is the desire. So, after you’ve seen a local bodybuilding contest and you know you have what it takes to compete, the next question is: are you willing to commit to months of dieting & training on top of your already very-busy life? If the answer is yes, you must now predict when you plan to compete, then honestly assess your body composition (ratio of muscle to fat), and create a game-plan to get stage ready.
3.) Get The Game-Plan
Alright, so you’ve done your research, saw a local show, made the decision to compete, picked a contest and assessed your body composition. Now all you need to do is create a contest prep plan that will help you look your best come show time. How do you do that? It’s simple. Getting stage ready requires losing as much body fat (BF) as possible all while retaining as much muscle as possible. It all comes down to your body composition (the ratio of muscle to fat). Once you know your BF %, you can determine how much fat you need to lose and estimate how long you will need to diet. I’ve listed an example below:
Let’s say you weigh 190lbs @ 16% BF. That means 16% of your 190lbs is fat weight (30lbs) (but we’ll have to subtract 3% to stay within the essential fat range necessary for you to not only function properly but to compete as well). So, you’ll need to lose 13% BF to get stage ready. 0.13x190≈25lbs of BF needed to be lost to get to 3% by show day. So, 190lbs-25lbs of fat = 165lbs estimated stage weight. Assuming you lose no more than 1-2lbs a week (we’ll say 1.5lbs/week), this could take you approximately 16-19 weeks to prepare! That means you’ll be training hard and dieting for nearly 4-5months…still willing to compete? If so, read on!
*Note: check out fatlossboss.com if you want more info about losing, maintaining or gaining weight.
To begin losing fat, create a slight caloric deficit via diet & cardio (I like the ratio of 80% diet + 20% cardio). How big a deficit will depend on many factors such as how active you are during day, how fast your metabolism is, how many calories you are currently consuming, how much you burn while you workout/cardio, etc. Usually, the initial deficit is in the range of 250-500cals/day from your current maintenance level calories. Over the course of 1 week, this can equate to around 3500cals or 1lb of fat. You can alter the rate at which you lose weight by increasing the deficit (lowering cals or increasing cardio, or a bit of both), but, again, it’s not recommended you lose more than 1-2lbs a week in order to prevent losing your hard-earned muscle. I’ve listed an example below…
Let’s say you eat about 3000 cals right now to maintain your weight. To begin losing fat, you decide to cut your daily caloric intake by 400cals which ends up at 2600cals daily. By the end of a week, this is about a loss of 0.8lbs. But, you want to lose about 1lb/week so you’ll need to lose another 0.2lbs. Where do you make up the difference? Cardio! 0.2lbs is about 700cals per week or about 100cals per day. If you burn approximately 10cals/min during cardio that means you would need to do about 10 min per day or 23min sessions 3x/week. With this as an example, you now know you need to eat an average of 2600cals/day and do 23min of cardio 3x/week on top of your normal training routine. You may also use carb and/or calorie-cycling throughout the week.
• Food Choices
To get lean enough for your bodybuilding contest you have to eat oatmeal, lean red meat, chicken, tuna, egg whites, broccoli, brown rice and sweet potatoes… NOT! If you’ve been alive and paying attention recently, there’s a lot of hype around “flexible dieting” or IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros). Essentially, this is nothing new as it basically says you don’t have to be super strict on WHAT you’re eating rather HOW MUCH you’re eating. Eating a Pop-Tart and having freedom in terms of what you’re eating while dieting is great, although I’d have to say having the majority of your intake come from nutritionally dense foods such as those listed above will fill do a better job of not only filling you up but also in fulfilling your micronutrient requirements. The most important thing is that you strictly track how much you are eating via apps/online calorie counters such as My Fitness Pal to ensure you are in a caloric deficit and not working backwards. To learn more about flexible dieting, check out our Top 5 Macro Hacks
Adding supplements to your diet can give you an edge in your prep. Remember, the goal of getting stage ready is to lose fat and retain muscle; therefore, supplements such as a fat burner and BCAA supplement would suffice. USPlabs offers a wide range of great products that can be implemented into your prep. I’m personally using a combination of EpiBURN Pro, Ultimate-T and Modern BCAA+ for my cutting phase. Make sure to check out USPlabs on Facebook, Twitter & Instagram for the latest information on other supplements you can take to help you during prep as well.
The competitor who believes getting stage ready requires lightening the weights and doing tons of reps on top of excessive amounts of cardio to help “burn” the fat away and “tone” the muscles is sadly mistaken. That is actually one of the fastest ways to lose muscle because you give muscle no reason to stick around. Muscles are grown via overload, not de-load.
Continue with your current training program.
If you’re losing strength early, you may be losing muscle, too.
Slow and steady is the only way through the long haul of prep.
Do as little cardio as possible. In the past I did tons of cardio (45min-1hr everyday) and thought that would help me get super shredded but I was wrong. Not only did my fat-loss stop very quickly due to adaptation, but I wasn’t recovering properly, I couldn’t get a pump in the gym, and I ruined my metabolism…I was doomed! That was years ago. Since then, I have improved my body composition and fixed my metabolism so that during my current contest prep I am doing only about 40min-1hr cardio…per week! The type of cardio you do is up to you. Personally, I like to mix it up. Sometimes I’ll do HIIT (High-Intensity-Interval-Training). Other times I’ll do LISS or MISS (Low or Moderate Intensity-Steady-State).
Remember that the priority of your prep should be diet, training, and cardio.
Getting lean requires losing fat. Losing fat requires metabolism. If your metabolic rate has been damaged due to poor diet and overtraining (too much cardio and too little calories), you may want to fix it prior to starting your prep. Your metabolic capacity (MC) is basically the ability of your metabolism to burn calories efficiently. Therefore, if your MC isn’t up to par, you risk metabolic slowdown and a halt to fat-loss which is bad during contest prep. So, make sure you start off prep with a high enough MC and slowly make changes to diet and cardio as necessary.
4.) Don’t Turn Off The “Life” Switch
It happens to the best of us. When we get so involved with a task we tend to lose sight of things that are going on around us such as life. This is especially true if you are planning on competing in a bodybuilding contest because a significant amount of your time will be used to prepare. Bodybuilding is not easy; you have to focus on diet, training, cardio, posing, tanning, meal prep, etc. Things would go much easier if you had some team support, right? Well, you do. They’re called friends, family, co-workers, etc. Don’t shut them out. Rather, invite them in and share the journey with them. If done correctly, you’ll see how much more smoothly prep will go for you. I’m not saying you’ll never get frustrated as that’s nearly impossible once carbs have dropped very low. I’m just saying be mindful of who your actions affect. Losing friends and breaking bonds with family members is not worth a day (or minutes) of posing on stage. So, don’t turn off the “life” switch and walk away because it can be hard to find it again. After all, remember, you CHOSE this path.
5.) The 3 P’s: Preparation, Presentation, Progress
This is what I refer to as the 3 P’s. Preparation refers to your diet and meal prep. Having your meals planned out a day or two ahead of time can prevent the likelihood of you bingeing when you shouldn’t. You don’t have to eat all of your meals out of Tupperware. In fact, if done correctly, you can use apps such as My Fitness Pal to track your intake if you plan to eat out at a restaurant or family event.
Presentation refers to stage presence such as posing and appearance (tan, suit, etc.). You’ve created a masterpiece out of your physique, and you need to be able to display it properly. Learning the poses and practicing them every day starting 3 months out will ensure that you show off your hard work to the best of your ability. Tanning can make or break you. Make sure to get a base tan a couple of months out and then apply tanning spray to emphasize the definition of your physique.
The last P is Progress and it refers to body composition. If you are hopping on and off the weight scale everyday…stop. Instead, use the mirror or pictures to track progress and then once per week you can have an official “weigh-in” day to see if things are moving along.
If you’ve read the tips above and believe you still want to compete, good for you! Its one thing to make personal achievements in the gym but it’s even more rewarding when you show your hard work to the audience. No matter which contest you plan on doing or how you might place, the most important thing is that you have fun with it. There’s nothing worse than devoting half of a year to get stage ready only to hate the process. After all, you worked really hard to get stage ready. Now, enjoy it!
by Victor Egonu
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The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of USPlabs or any employee thereof. Examples used within this article are only examples. USPlabs is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by the authors of this article. Content contributors are not employees of USPlabs. Authors may have been remunerated by USPlabs.
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