So let’s talk competition prep and all the different stages to look your absolute best.
Before you decide to start a competition prep, there are a few things that I get clients to do to make sure that prep goes as smoothly as possible.
Where are you starting from?
Firstly, before you start a diet, you want to know how much food you’re actually eating and what that’s doing to your body. Once you get an idea of your daily calorie intake and macronutrient breakdown, you have a base to work from. From here you will be able to tweak your calories and macronutrients accordingly – mainly a reduction of kcal. Now, we all know that a calorie deficit is key for fat loss. So calories will be being reduced every few weeks to break through plateaus when fat loss has stalled.
Therefore, it is a good idea to make sure that you’re eating as many calories as possible before you start. This will give you plenty of room to play with and reduce from. For example, if you’re only eating 1200 kcal before you start your diet, then your calories are already low. Once you start reducing calories or increasing your expenditure, you’re going to be extremely drained and tired. You’re going to run out of things to do next very quickly. Depending on how much fat you need to lose, there isn’t much more that you’re going to be able to do to continue the fat loss process for the full 12-20 week process.
So, focus on getting your calories high enough to give you plenty of tools to play with as you diet down. A calorie reduction might be anything from 10-20% of your daily intake.
Most people might need to make a change every 2-3 weeks depending on how there body is responding.
What do you need to lose?
The next thing to consider is how much fat you have to lose and how long that is going to take you to get it off. That is one major downfall that I see a lot of beginners make. A comp prep doesn’t just mean diet for 12 weeks, boom and you’re ready. If you’re already very lean, say under 10% body fat, then 12 weeks might be perfect. Whereas if you’re carrying more fat, say 11%+, then you’re going to need longer than 12 weeks to get ready. There is a big difference between getting lean – say 7-9% body fat to go on holiday, and being competition ready – say less than 5% body fat.
I would say that you should be aiming to drop between 0.5-1% body fat per week. In which you can expect some weeks to be better than others, but also some weeks with little to no change. That scale weight drop could vary depending on the size of the competitor. On average, no less than 0.5kg drop per week and anything up to 1kg a week for someone fairly lean. This should have them ready in 12-16 weeks, at a drop of between 8-16kg. I will be using myself and my clients as an example.
So, for my last show I started at 93kg (9% body fat), eating around 6000 kcal a day and prepped for 20 weeks, dropping 14kg to 79kg (2% body fat), eating around 1800 kcal. Body fat was assessed with calipers, so not 100% accurate, but it gives you an idea. I did have a weight restriction to make, which was under 80kg so I would have sacrificed some muscle mass to get there, which just insured that my condition was on point.
Now that you have the diet sorted and have set aside an appropriate time scale, we can look at your training. Training is pretty straight forward to be honest. You train what has worked for you up to that point to put on the muscle mass that you have currently. Continue through your dieting phase to try and increase muscle mass by focusing on progressive overload. This stimulus will help ensure that as much muscle mass as possible will be preserved during the dieting phase. There will be a point where you can no longer lift any heavier or increase your overall volume and your weights will decrease accordingly. That is where most people will now focus on increasing overall volume by doing more reps or sets. So don’t just change your training stimulus to light weights and more reps because you think that will help you get leaner as you start dieting down. You may get leaner by burning more calories per session and create a bigger calorie deficit. You may be sacrificing muscle mass in the process.
Train according to how you feel. There will be good days and bad days when you’re dieting, but hopefully more good than bad. But train as hard as possible, just like how you may of been training before you started dieting. There are so many different training programs out there, so it isn’t a case of something being better than another. Everything has its place, but enjoy how you’re training, be consistent, and make sure that your total volume matches your nutrition.
So, having a low carb approach with a very high volume glycolytic workout may not work well together for performance and recovery purposes.
Cardio is mainly focused on creating a calorie deficit per week to aid in fat loss. So focus on a weekly calorie target per week rather than the amount of time you’re spending doing cardio. I get clients to track calorie expenditure. I’ve seen clients go from burning 300 kcal per hour of cardio to clients burning 1000 kcal per hour of cardio. So I’ve seen time targets not being as effective as calorie targets. Again, it gives clients the freedom to do as little or as much as they need to do to achieve their weekly targets and they can fit this into their lifestyle. It may be less structured, but it’s equally less stressful and yields the same end result.
Now that you have got yourself looking amazing, the last piece of the puzzle is posing. You need to be able to showcase your physique as best as possible to allow judges to make the best possible decisions. This may come naturally to you or be a completely new venture. Video, pictures, and posing coaches can all help you to perfect that look to wow the judges.
This is only a short overview. Hopefully it gives you a fair idea of what’s involved to get competition ready.