It can be a very terrifying experience if you do not plan ahead and prepare yourself mentally and physically. I always recommend to any to anyone wanting to get involved in competitive body building to acquire someone's help for their first show. I made some very serious mistakes the first time I competed. Here are some pointers:
Do get someone knowledgeable to help you with your contest preparation.
Almost at any gym there is someone there who has competed, they will at the least be able to guide you in the right direction. Prepare a diet right for you as well as an
exercise program that will allow you to retain as much muscle as possible while dieting.
Do reduce the overall volume of training while dieting.
There just simply aren't enough nutrients to recover from long work out sessions and the addition of cardio will take a further toll on your body. I recommend always finishing the workout session in under 45min while dieting. Split up your body into 5 work out days and blast through the workouts.
Stick to the basic exercises that allowed you to build the muscle in the first place. I recommend squats, dead lifts, chin-ups, rows, shoulder presses, bench presses, barbell curls, triceps extensions etc. I will usually complete 75-85% of my work out with basic exercises and maybe finish off my work out with 1 or 2 sets of isolation movements. I keep total sets low, for larger body parts such as legs, back, chest etc. I will complete 7-9 sets and for smaller ones such as arms, calf, and shoulders I will do 5-6 sets.
Do include cardio in your pre-contest training.
I prefer to complete my cardio first thing in the morning upon wakening. I will take my thermogenic product right when I wake up and about 15 minutes later I will head outside for a 30-45 minutes walk. I usually start at around 20 minutes and work up to 45-minute session. At the end of my preparation I will add another cardio session in the evening right after my work out. The second session is only 20 minutes in length.
Do keep your protein high.
I always keep my
protein while dieting as around 350 gm per day. I will get around 250 gm from solid foods and the remaining 100 gm comes from protein shakes. Protein has a higher metabolic cost the other micronutrients. What that means to you is, digesting protein is much more calorie costly to your body then digestion of any other nutrients. The more protein you eat the more calories your body has to burn just to process the ingested protein. Be sure to check out the '
Protein Shake Recipes' page for some great recipes.
Do reduce your carbs.
I used to drop my carbs really low while dieting, however I found that that kind of approach is not for me. Reducing my carbs to low left me looking and feeling flat because there was no glycogen inside the muscle bellies and even though I was lean, I just did not look that great.
Now I leave my carbs fairly high at around 200 gm per day. I feel better and I look better and I have more energy through out the day. I will eat the bulk of my carbs for breakfast after my cardio and after my training. I will have around 50-60gm of carbs from oatmeal at breakfast time and 70 gm of carbs from rice cakes after training.
I usually keep my fat intake low in pre-contest preparation time. I eat around 30-35gm of fat a day and I try to get most of that fat from
essential fatty acids such as
Flaxseed oil, Olive Oil, Sunflower oil etc. There are some excellent products on the market, which are premixed variety oils. You might want to try those for your fat intake.
Do include supplements in your regiment.
I like protein powders, as they are so easy to use and a very affordable way to increase your protein intake.
Multi-vitamin is a must, once you reduce the calories and overall food consumption you also reduce the amount of minerals and vitamins in your diet. They are essential to your health and need to be replaced. I recommend a good multi-vitamin in and off-season, it simply is a MUST.
Creatine can be a useful tool as well; it will keep your muscle well hydrated and in turn reduce any catabolism from dieting and training. Glutamine is another useful tool in pre-contest regiment. It keeps your immune system healthy; yields in Growth Hormone release, and also keep your muscle well hydrated like Creatine.
If you are over the age of 25, you can try some of the pro-hormone supplement I do feel they have a certain amount of positive impact on the nitrogen retention, but as always be careful with any supplement additions. Especially pro-hormones as they do increase hormone levels in your body.
Do have one cheat meal per week.
This will keep you motivated, increase your
metabolism and will allow you once a week to satisfy all the cravings you might have through out the week. I pick Saturday and usually have cheese-less pizza and a chocolate bar or ice cream. Depending on your progress you might want to cut the cheat meal out of your regiment at around 4-6 weeks before the show. That time frame will be different for most of us.
Do not reduce your calories too much too fast.
I have dome that for my first show and learned a very valuable lesson from it. I lost around 20lbs in the first 2-3 weeks and even known some of that was water weight that is just way too much weight to drop in such a short period of time and I know some of that weight is muscle. You want to avoid muscle loss as much as possible. While in pre-contest training you will almost always loose some muscle but keeping that to a minimum is a must.
I would recommend 250-500 calorie drop per week until you reach 1-2 lbs weight lose per week. At that point you want to stay at that calorie level until your weight lose reduces then you can increase the cardio or slightly reduce the calories further to keep loosing 1-2 lbs per week. Try to do as little calorie manipulation as you can while still accommodating weight lose.
Do not train for over 1 hour.
You will create extremely catabolic state if you train for extended periods of time. I often see guys training for 1-1/2 to 2 hours at the time and in my opinion that is just
Do not stray and stay focused.
Stay focused, it's not the rest of your life you must do this for, it's just 12-16 weeks and after that you can go back to your regular life. I know it can get hard with friend always eating what you can't have and going out for drinks, but hey you chose the hobby it didn't choose you, right?
Do not give up.
If you quite or go and cheat out side of your schedule cheat meal, you will always wonder what if you didn't. You do not want that, you want to do all in your power to get there in the best shape of your life and if you have done all you could that you are already a winner.
That pretty much sums it up, my do's and don'ts of first bodybuilding competition. One more DO, do have fun with it as this is not your job, it's your hobby, so enjoy yourself and DO kick some butt.
Thank you for your time & take care,