Aaah! Contest prep! The bodybuilding world is one that I love, but at the same time, is one that really gets under my skin at times.
It’s so easy today for anyone to not only participate in the sport, but to also assume the role of “coach” or “trainer” the hot second they step off stage – still dripping with tanner and posing oil.
And because of this low barrier of entry, you’ve got a lot of folks out there who spread information regarding what it takes to do a show, and how to prep, that the truth and SCIENCE of programming for a competitor has gotten lost – and almost drowned out if it weren’t for a few of us who shout about a healthy contest prep from the roof tops.
So today, I want to explore 14 common misconceptions about contest prep, and I hope you walk away from today’s article well informed, and motivated on your own journey. To make it all easier to digest, I’m going to break the 14 points into 2 different posts. Let’s jump in!
You only need 12 Weeks to diet
On of the biggest misconceptions about content prep is rooted in how long one should diet, or that 12 weeks is enough…
Nothing can be further from the truth than this one. Although some people can take only 12 weeks to prep for a show – particularly the more seasoned competitor or pro – most people need way more time to reach the levels of conditioning needed to stand out on stage. In many cases with my own clientele, I like to encourage my athletes to take at MINIMUM 16 full weeks to diet.
Some have taken as much as 20-24 weeks, depending on their starting point. How long they need is really based on how much we may have to lose, and as an experienced coach I can look at them and tell. Taking more time to diet also ensures that you don’t have to resort to extremes to get in shape, and allows you to hold onto precious muscle as you do get ready and sail closer to that stage date.
You need to take drugs to compete
Let’s set the record straight here, although there are some people who make the choice of using performance enhancing drugs, not every does!
And it is absolutely not a requirement of the sport. Now, I’m not going to sit here and lie to you by saying that it doesn’t help. You’re changing your physiology to a great degree, so of course it does. But that isn’t without its risks and dangers – particularly for women. You can choose to compete as a natural.
Know that you have to work hard, you have to allow for recovery and rest. You have to FUEL your body for your prep, meaning cutting out complete food groups, and eating too little will see you losing muscle at a drop of a dime. But if you play the game smart, you can meander through the game without touching a single illegal substance.
You can’t eat carbs
This is one of the other biggest misconceptions about contest prep and goes hand in hand with the general consensus of the diet world as a whole. It’s crazy how we have vilified an entire food group – one that provides our body with the energy it needs for basic function for human life, let alone effectively fuel our daily activities (including training).
Carbs are essential in the game we play in as competitors. Now, the ideal is to find how much per day works best for you. Those who are insulin resistant will have a better time with lower carbs than those who are not. So knowing and understand your personal needs per day is far better than completely cutting them out.
Ketogenic dieting is best
A ketogenic diet is one that is very low carb and high fat. The carb range for keto sits around 5% of total calories. Fat grams can sit around 65-70% of total calories per day!
As carbs go down, fats must go up (and vice versa), so this kind of set up makes sense when you understand the science. To many they might freak out thinking they would have to eat about 100g + of fat a day and still get lean.
And although all of the science points to the fact that this approach is highly effective for fat loss, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t outpace any other method in the long run. For some, this kind of diet is a complete disaster because they thrive better with carbs.
So although this might be great for some folks (especially in the insulin resistant category), for others it might be that catalyst to make them want to throw in the towel. Once size definitely does not fit all.
You need to do double sessions of cardio
I have a mantra I want you to repeat, write down, and keep in mind…
“Cardio is a TOOL in the toolbox. Not the basis upon which a strong and effective plan is built”.
Cardio is indeed a useful tool, but competitors tend to go overboad with it. 2 to 3 hours a day looking to push fat loss… If anyone needs to push that much, they either didn’t give themselves enough time to diet, OR they need to take a closer look at their current diet as it is not pushing fat loss as it should.
I’ve been known to give clients a double cardio session very late in a prep. So maybe around 5 or 6 weeks out, we’ll split it between 45 to 60 minutes FOR THE ENTIRE DAY. So a morning session might find them doing 30-45 min. And an evening session of 10-20 mins – IF THEY NEED THAT MUCH AT ALL!
This is always assigned on a case by case basis. And whether you need it is individual to you. But the one thing I will stand by is that excessive amounts of cardio is so unnecessary and can lead to muscle loss down the line as well.
You must drop salt all prep – and especially during peak week
This misconception might find you having some performance issues in the gym as sodium plays a crucial role in water balance and muscle contraction. You ever hear about competitors saying they felt and looked flat by the time they hit the stage?
Well a lot of that comes from not properly carbing up, and in some cases from cutting salt completely out of the diet. Sodium pulls with it water into the muscle. So that will give you a nice a full look, and during your peak week – if you do everything correctly – you will find yourself fully, dry, and vascular!
So the next time you decide to eliminate salt, think about the greater benefits to leaving it in, and how it can really impact your final stage-ready look.
So that’s it for today, the first 7!
Have you heard any of these before, or even guilty of following them blindly because of a coach yourself? Post in the comments below – let’s discuss! And please, SHARE THIS! Let’s flood the industry with healthy and smart advice.