Contest Prep Guide: Prep Before You Prep
Preparing for any type of competition, whether it’s bodybuilding or a performance sport, will take a toll on most people. Preparing for a sport requires time, effort, and sacrifices.
At Sharks, we prep our athletes for bodybuilding shows all over the country. We coach our athletes through their contest prep by analyzing and manipulating their Nutrition, providing guidance for proper contest prep execution, coaching support, and training. However, one thing we encourage but have no control over is discipline and execution. Ultimately, that is up to the athlete.
You wanna prep? Cool. How bad do you want it? That is the main determining factor of one’s discipline.
Before you start prep, you should be aware of everything it entails. If you go into it blindly, you’ll be hit with some curveballs that may deter you from continuing. If you have a good understanding of prep, then you can confidently answer the question “how bad do you want it?”
Being contest lean is NOT healthy and sustainable. Bodybuilding is an extreme sport and requires you to get to very unhealthy levels. For many people, their hormones will not be optimized, their body is being pushed to extremes, and they may experience things like headaches, low energy, and increased hunger to name a few. Further, women may experience amenorrhea, which is the absence of the menstrual cycle.
The goal with contest prep is to get lean for the show by taking the healthiest approach possible. In some cases, it will be extreme. In other cases, it won’t be too bad. If you get truly contest lean (which not everyone does when they go into a show), you should not stay that lean after the show. Once the show is over, that lean body will not be sustainable, and you should start a “reverse diet” that focuses on increasing calories back up. This will help you get your energy levels back up, prevent muscle loss, and restore your body functions to optimal levels.
One of the biggest variables of contest prep is food. Your caloric intake and expenditure will determine how lean you will get. One of the main ways to get contest lean is to decrease the caloric intake through decreasing macros, primarily carbs and fats. Due to this, you will have to be extremely accurate with your macros-- this means you will have to track your food and weigh everything carefully. Do NOT cheat yourself. The best way to tracking effectively is to do the following:
Meal prep for the week. This will prevent you from having excuses on why you didn’t stick to the meal plan.
Pre-weigh your food and bring it everywhere.
Be familiar with foods that are “macro-friendly”. There are a lot of options out there that help with contest prep, like sugar-free Jell-O and low-calorie tortilla wraps.
Follow the exact macro plan your coach gives you. This will allow them to see how your body reacts to the plan and make adjustments accordingly.
You will be limited on your macros during contest prep. Your main focus will be sticking to your macros/diet plan. This means you will most likely not be able to eat out. Also, you may feel lethargic and may experience some hangriness. Due to this you may experience a hit in your social life. Going out to eat will cause temptations that deviate from your plan, at some social events you won’t be able to bring all of your prepped food with you, and you may not have the energy to be going out late to socialize. Plus, staying out late isn’t the best option since you should be focusing on maximizing your sleep time for optimal recovery.
For reference, I started my 2018 contest prep mid-October and missed the following: my birthday, my husband’s birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Valentine’s Day, and my first wedding anniversary. I did not go out on weekends and my Sundays consisted of grocery shopping, cardio, and preparing my food and workouts for the following week. Was it worth it? In my opinion, yes…I really wanted to do it and it was a goal. I knew it would be tough beforehand, so it wasn’t a shock.
I recommend telling your family and friends that contest prep is an extreme and it is temporary. Give them a heads up and let them know you’re still available but may be a bit busier. It also helps too because many times they will be supportive and will help you during those rough patches during prep.
Prep isn’t cheap. Be sure to allocate a good amount of money. Below is a list of things we want you to consider when heading into prep.
Show Bikini (Female Division only)
Bikini: $150-$175 (rent) – Amanda Louise Swimwear
Bikini: $500-$650 (buy) - Amanda Louise Swimwear
Nails: $35-$50 (No need to go crazy)
Jewelry: $30-$100 (glamcompjewelry.com)
Heels: $50-$80 (Amazon: Ellie)
Tanning & MakeUp
Tan, Make-up & Hair Package: $269-$400 (extensions extra) (Lashes included)
Regular Tanning/Oil: $110-$120
Make up: $99 (lashes included)
Upgrade to Senior Makeup Artist: $20/day extra
False EyeLash Application: $20/day
Hair Style: $75/day
Hair Extensions: $15/day
• Halo: $500
• Tape Extensions: $500 (Purchased) $150 (put on) $50 (take off)
• Clip-In: $80-$150
NPC Card: $125 (for one-year membership)
Entry Fee: $110
Addition Division: $60 per division
OCB Membership: $72.50 (for one-year membership)
Entry Fee: $69
Addition Division: $49
Nutrition and Training Coaching
One of the biggest reasons people do not continue contest prep is due to the mental toll it takes on you. It is hard, you will be tired, most days you will be hungry, and you may not want to train. There will be times you will want to go out to eat and drink with friends, but you won’t be able to. Your hormones will also be all over the place too, which will play a role in your emotional state.
This is why you truly have to want it and be aware of what it takes. When you’re deep into prep, your mind can easily take over and tell you to quit. You will be hungry, and your mind can easily convince you to just forget the plan and grab a donut-burger with extra-large fries and a large milkshake. If you don’t want it bad enough, you will succumb to that pressure.
When you see someone on stage and admire their physique, take time to realize the sacrifices they made and the work that it requires. It’s truly impressive what the mind and body can do, when you want it badly enough.