Getting Ready For A Competition: How Much Weight Do You Have To Lose?

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I’m really excited to share this post with you today! This post is actually an excerpt from the new book I’m working on called Quarter Turn To The Right: Your Complete Guide To Competing In Bikini, Figure, Fitness, and Women’s Physique.


I’m hoping to have the book completed later this year and ready for you to use as your ultimate “go to guide” for getting ready for you next show! Periodically, as I work on the text, I’ll give you guys a little glimpse into what topics I’m covering, particularly because I know that a lot of this stuff may be able to help you NOW in your quest to getting to the stage. Today’s topic is one that I get asked a lot by not only prospective and current clients, but I also hear it on my social media and that’s, “When do I know I’m ready to start prepping for a show? How much weight do I need to lose to get ready?”. So let’s take a closer look at this burning question, and my thoughts on this topic.



How Much Weight Do You Have To Lose?

For most people, in order to be stage ready, they’re definitely going to have to diet into their show. Now, the process of contest dieting can be pretty intense, particularly in the latter phases. Having to adhere to either a pre-set meal plan, or simply diligently following a macronutrient and caloric set up, is going to be the key factor in your success. On top of the nutritional portion, you’re going to really have to hone in on your weight training and cardio.


Like any sport, having a solid base and foundation well before you begin is very important. This includes your physical starting point prior to embarking on your contest prep. Many people like to use bodybuilding competitions as a means to motivating themselves to lose weight. And for the most part, that can be a very valid reason to participate in one. The double edged sword in that kind of approach is that they often lock themselves into a specific date to be stage ready – well before they should even be on a contest prep diet in the first place.


Oftentimes, when met with a looming deadline, many trainees will resort to extremes in order to get rid of the extra body fat that still isn’t budging after weeks of dieting. And when these extremes begin to come into play, not only will they be seeing fat loss, but the chances of muscle loss increases as well. The main objective for having a successful contest prep is to lose as much fat as one can, all while keeping muscle loss to a minimum. Extreme protocols obviously defeat this purpose.


As a competition prep coach, my initial protocol for those who need to lose weight prior to starting is to simply focus on that goal first – far before beginning a contest diet. If you are in a physical state where you have more than 30 pounds to lose, then jumping straight into prepping for a show isn’t the smartest idea. I always like to advise those with that kind of a starting point to first focus on getting to a physical state where they are relatively athletic, and with a lower starting body fat percentage.


For women, that may mean starting to diet for a show when their body fat is around 18-22%. When it comes to actual scale weight, I don’t like placing too much of an emphasis on that for those just starting out. The one thing you have to realize about the scale is that it isn’t a true representation of where one is compositionally. It doesn’t differentiate between fat, muscle, bone, and water. So to try to say that you should be looking to lose only X-amount of weight going into a show is misleading.


In fact, it won’t be until you are a seasoned competitor, who knows their own body, that you’ll be able to even close to guesstimate what weight would be your ideal stage weight. And even then, that estimation has its flaws. Also, some women can become very obsessed with the number on the scale, losing sight of the goal of fat loss, which isn’t simply just “weight loss”. You could well be losing fat, all while your scale weight stays the same. So it’s wise to not get too hooked on the idea (particularly for new competitors) of estimating how much you need to lose.


The scale, as I call it, is a tool in the toolbox – one of many. In fact, the one place I tell clients that weight counts is in nutrition. Your scale weight should be one of the markers upon which you set your calories and macronutrients. For more seasoned competitors (national level and pros), you have a better idea of your body and where your stage weight typically falls from show to show. How depleted or full you are will always have a determining factor on your final stage weight.


If you’ve put on muscle during your off season, you may likely find yourself a few pounds heavier than your last showing, naturally. If you tend to stay between 10-15 pounds above stage weight in your off season, then dieting for you is a breeze, and you won’t have to move heaven and earth to get to that end result. If you tend to stay 20 or more pounds above stage weight GIVE YOURSELF MORE TIME TO DIET! I cannot stress how important this is.


We often underestimate how long we need to take to prep for a show when we’re more advanced. And if you’re the type who has had easy preps in the past, and maybe you kept your weight a little lighter than when the goal is to gain some serious muscle off season, you may not anticipate how long it might really take for you to get those 20+ pounds off.  


What are your thoughts? How do YOU determine when’s the perfect time to start dieting, and if you’re a new competitor, what do you feel is your greatest obstacle? Share your comments below!