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Preparing for Your First BodyBuilding Contest E-mail
Written by Jeff Behar, MS, MBA   

 

jb_first_contest

Preparing for your first bodybuilding contest can be daunting. How you handle the last 5 days can make or break months of hard training and dieting.

Understanding how to manipulate your calories, carbohydrates, sodium and water levels is essential to performing well on contest day. Understanding how to handle these items during the last week can increase the appearance of muscle density and fullness while offering maximum vascularity and help catapult you into the winners circle if done correctly.

This is referred to as "Peaking". Because bodybuilding "Peak condition" can only be maintained for a very short period of time, it is critical that you understand how your body will react to stress, changes in your diet (you do not want to introduce new foods the day of the contest and not only risk holding water), but also risk gad, intestinal and abdominal cramping and bloating.

The Importance of Peaking Properly

Your goal must be to look your best during the competition (ideally at pre-judging). If you are a contender after the pre-judging you may have a shot at the overall, so maintaining your physique through the evening event is also important. Any miscalculations and you may peak the day before or after the competition.

It is tragic to see a bodybuilder who has trained and dieted consistently in a ripped and vascular condition on Friday only to have the same competitor come in flat and smooth on Saturday. Just about every bodybuilder has experienced this at one point in their career, even experienced pros. The key is to experiment with what works for you. Practice peaking early. 

Peak Week Diet & Training Approach

As a general rule of thumb I would suggest approaching your last week of dieting like this:

Monday

Food:

    • Consume 6 to 7 small meals. All meals will contain protein from a variety of low sodium (not 'no' sodium) sources.
    • Carbs should be approximately 0.5 gram per pound of bodyweight today. This translates into 100 grams for a 200-pound male.
    • Carbohydrates should be of high fiber carbs (broccoli, other green vegetables, yams, oatmeal, brown rice, etc.) and approximately 50% of your normal intake. Protein should come from Tuna, or egg whites and other higher sodium sources. Condiments containing salt are still OK at this point.

Note: If you opt to low carb and salt your food this carb depletion and salt load should occur the Friday before. If you choose to experiment, this should be done two days before depleting carbohydrates. The goal is to cause temporary water retention through a sodium potassium electrolyte imbalance.

When you eliminate salt completely but keep drinking water, the result is an extreme water excretion from beneath the skin while using the carbs to pull water into the muscle. Both, if performed correctly can result in a full, "dry" vascular look.

Note: if you choose to salt load, you will need to increase your water to confuse the body for this effect to work properly.

    • Try to eat every 2 hours.

Water Intake:

    • Consume 16 ounces of water every hour, sip with meals.

Supplements:

    • 5 grams of L-Glutamine 4 times daily. Continue to take your lipotropics, carnitine, pyruvate, etc. Cut out your creatine.

Training:

    • Upper body very quick 2 sets per body part.

Cardio:

    • Light cycling/cardio at 40% max hart rate.

 Posing:

Minimum 1 hour on the mandatory. Hold each pose for at least one minute. This will help build your stamina, minimize shaking and give you a more polished look.

Also work on transitions between poses, using your arms to lead into a pose. This will make simple routines look quite polished even if you lack the expertise and are not a dynamic poser. 

Tuesday

Food:

    • Same as above except carbs should be approximately 0.75 gram per pound of bodyweight today. This translates into 150 grams for a 200-pound male. Protein can be reduced to maintain the caloric intake.

Water Intake:

    • Consume 24 ounces of water every hour, sip with meals.

Supplements:

    • 5 grams of L-Glutamine 4 times daily. Roughly 60% of free-form amino acids floating in skeletal muscles is L-glutamine. After an intense workout, glutamine levels in the body are reduced by as much as 50%. Supplementing with L-glutamine can help prevent muscle wasting that occurs because other tissues that need glutamine will not rob the glutamine stored in the muscle cells.

It can also help fat loss because muscle increases your metabolic rate, losing it will result in a lower rate.

    • Continue to take your lipotropics, carnitine, pyruvate, etc.

Training:

    • Upper body very quick 2 sets per body part.

Cardio:

    • Light cycling/cardio at 40% max hart rate.

 

Posing:

    • Minimum 1 hour on the mandatory. Hold each pose for at least one minute.
Wednesday

Food:

    • Same as Tuesday except high fiber carbs consumed should be approximately 1.5 - 2 grams per pound of bodyweight. This translates into 300-400 grams for a 200-pound male.
    • Avoids processed foods.
    • Use no condiments containing salt.

Water Intake:

    • Consume 24 ounces of water every hour, sip with meals.

Supplements:

    • 5 grams of L-Glutamine 4 times daily. Continue to take your lipotropics, carnitine, pyruvate, etc.

Posing:

    • Minimum 1 hour on the mandatory. Hold each pose for at least one minute.

Cardio:

    • Light cycling/cardio at 40% max hart rate. If you hold water in your legs, nix this plan.
Thursday

Food:

    • Up carbs to 1.75 - 2.25 grams per pound of bodyweight. This translates into 350-450 grams for a 200-pound male. Lower protein accordingly.
    • Protein shall come from low sodium sources such a boiled chicken or turkey breast.
    • Read ALL labels, nearly everything contains sodium.
    • Do your shopping in advance to be ready for this time.
    • Avoids all processed foods.
    • Use no condiments containing salt.

Water Intake:

    • Consume 16 ounces of water every hour, sip with meals Water should be of the low sodium (not distilled).

Supplements:

    • Potassium tablet 4 times daily. 5 grams of L-Glutamine 4 times daily. Continue to take your lipotropics, carnitine, pyruvate, etc.

Training:

    • None

Cardio:

    • Light cycling/cardio at 40% max hart rate. If you hold water in your legs, nix this plan.

Posing:

    • Pose and Pose to help that HARD look.

Friday

Food:

    • Up carbs to 2.25 -2.5 grams per pound of bodyweight. This translates into 450-500 grams for a 200-pound male. Lower protein accordingly. Pay extra careful attention to sodium. Keep this as low as possible.

Water Intake:

    • Reduce water to 64 ounces taken between morning and 4:00 PM. Sip sparingly and only as needed from 6:00 PM on. When your muscles begin filling back up with glycogen, water is required. When you cut back to half your normal intake, a lot of the water it takes to make glycogen is dragged from beneath the skin and stored in the muscles, creating less water retention and clear definition.

Supplements:

    • Potassium tablet 4 times daily5 grams of L-Glutamine 4 times daily. Continue to take your lipotropics, carnitine, pyruvate, etc.

Training:

    • None

Cardio:

    • Light cycling/cardio at 40% max hart rate. If you hold water in your legs, nix this plan.

Other Preparation:

    • Pose and Pose to help that HARD look.
    • Apply two coats of Protan Friday evening.
Saturday - Show time

Other Preparation:

    • I wake early to get an extra meal in and to apply several coats of Protan.
    • I add the bronzer at the contest site and arrive early to do so.

Food:

    • Very small meals only.
    • No sodium.
    • Simple carbs that are non bloating are best (raw honey, natural no sodium peanut butter, or apple butter, etc.)

Water Intake:

    • Sip only as needed.
    • By now you should be dropping water like crazy. Your abs should be very defined, muscular definition and vascularity should be very high. This is a very delicate balance.
    • Do not try anything new at this point to alter this condition.
    • Limit water in case you consumed too many carbs for your physique, otherwise you will risk "spillage" and smooth out.

Other Tips

Posing Trunks:

  • Be sure to try on your posing trunks in advance to ensure a proper fit. Current styles appear to leave you naked. Baggy or "full cheek" trunks are not in style. I prefer solid color trunks with no external markings. Choose a style and color that complement your skin color and physique.
  • A backup pair is essential in case one pair gets misplaced or discolored/soiled. I suggest having a black pair (hides dirt, oil, tan dye) for the prejudging.

Skin Preparation:
Remove all visible body hair, the night prior so to avoid sin irritation and possible subcutaneous water retention from such irritation.

Tanning:

  • The darker you are the more defined you will appear on stage. It is very difficult to be too dark, but it can happen. If this is your first show, when you think that you are finally dark enough, apply another coat. I prefer to use Protan or Jan Tana Competition Tan for my liquid tanning agent (I do not like dream tan).
  • Protan is my preferred choice because it smears the least. I apply the agent with a sponge applicator and use several coats to achieve maximum color saturation. The key is to have someone neat apply it correctly so that it looks very dark, even.

Caution: Gloves should be worn, and it should not be applied while you are in your trunks because the dye stains and can be very messy when applying.

Note: I prefer to apply either dye with a sponge from a bowl rather than spraying it on from the bottle.

Posing:

  • Always stand erect, tight, abs in head up when on stage, even when in the background.
  • Hold each pose for at least one minute, as this will help build your stamina, minimize shaking and give you a more polished look. Also work on transitions between poses, using your arms to lead into a pose makes simple routines look quite polished even if you lack the expertise and are not a dynamic poser.
  • A smile is contagious. Slightly turn your mandatory poses so that each judge can see it and Make eye contact with the judges. Smile and keep your head up when you pose.
    jb_side_tri_nj

  • At prejudging if they allow you to "free pose" without the music just use this opportunity to emphasize your strong points and hide your weak areas. You do not need to do your routine. For instance, if you do not have good calves, skip the rear double biceps, and stick to a front double bicep, or a side chest.
Miscellaneous:

  • If you are flying, have all your things including your NPC card, music, food, trunks, oils, etc, in your carry on bag.
  • The last thing that you want after literally months of preparation is to arrive at the show location on competition day unprepared.
  • Have a checklist for all your contest needs. Checklist should include things like a map and the site address, your NPC card, $$$, Posing trunks, Posing CDs, your routine, posing oil, Protan, bronzer, food list, supplements, Liquid K, Hot Stuff, etc.
  • NPC Card. If you do not already have a membership card remember to bring CASH to purchase one the morning of the show.
  • Copies of your music. It is important to have at least one backup.
  • Test the CDs prior to the last week. Have your name and weight class on the CD, note division (i.e. novice, teen, etc.).
  • Bring two sets of posing trunks (minimum). One pair black (hides dirt, oil, tan dye).
  • Bring a pillow to relax, keep our legs up.
  • Bring plenty of food, sodium free water.
  • Towel
  • Something to apply the Protan with.
  • Extra Protan and bronzer to reapply if needed after the prejudging.
  • Contest oil (I like almond oil with Pro Tan Hot stuff, a menthol-based oil that will warm your skin and enhance vascularity while on stage). This can be used in place of or in addition to posing oil.
  • Have Twin Lab Super Liquid K on hand in case you cramp. It is embarrassing as well as frustrating to have a muscle cramp while trying to hit a pose on stage. It may also cost you because you will not be able to showcase your physique in a flattering manner.
  • Also bring Pediolyte in case your body shuts down. If you can't stomach pedialyte, you may be in a serious life threatening dehydration state and need medical attention. Realize over supplementation with potassium can exacerbate this state. Stand in the light.

About Jeff Behar

Jeff BeharJeff Behar, MS, MBA is a recognized health, fitness and nutrition expert, regularly writing about hot topics in the areas of health, fitness, disease prevention, nutrition, anti aging and alternative medicine. Jeff Behar's work often appears in several of the major health and fitness newsletters, health and fitness magazines, and on  major health, and fitness websites. Jeff Behar is also a well sought after personal trainer, motivational speaker and weight loss expert.
 

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