Competing in a bodybuilding competition is an exciting, exhilarating and fulfilling experience. It takes determination, dedication and just plain hard work. And, unless you plan on becoming a professional, all you can hope for from all of your effort is a trophy.
Ah, but what a trophy!
When you stand on stage, holding a rigid “relaxed” pose and hear the announcer call your name as Champion in your Class or Winner of the Overall Competition, it’s mighty sweet. You savor the moment and forget all about what it took to get there.
Deciding to Compete
If you are in reasonably good shape and work out regularly, at least four-times-per-week, you can be prepared to enter your first contest within a year. I trained five-days-a-week for 10 months to get ready for my first contest.
You need that much time in order to gain the lean mass your body needs to sustain itself as you enter the fat-burning/cutting phase of your diet, about 13 weeks before your contest. If you want to compete as a Middle Weight, (165 – 185 lbs.), for instance, you might need to be around 195-200 lbs before you begin your cutting phase. The reason is simple. When you go into the cutting phase, your body loses about one pound of muscle for every three pounds of fat. For my first contest, I weighed 154 lbs on January 1st. When I stepped onto the stage on March 19th, I weighed a ripped 136. I was the lightest Bantam Weight. In fact, I was too light. The Bantam Weight limit is 143 lbs. Off season, I will bulk up with lean mass to about 165 lbs and try to come in at around 142.5, near the top of the weight class for next year’s competitions.
So, the first thing you need to do, after deciding to enter a contest, is to pick a contest 10 – 12 months in the future and decide in which weight class you want to compete. Then, see where you are now and where you need to be on contest day. At that point, you can plan your diet.
To make sure this is something you really want to do though, you should attend a bodybuilding competition in your area. It’s the best place to learn about the sport. You can pick out who is really ready to compete and who needs to do more work. Depending on whether you go to a drug-tested show or non-tested show, you will also see how huge some of the men, and even some of the women, who use steroids and other illegal muscle enhancers look. You can decide if that’s the direction you want to go or not.
Once you decide you want to compete, you must make a complete change in your life style. Bodybuilding is a life-style sport, much like ice skating, marathon running, competitive snowboarding, etc. Bodybuilding takes a lot of time in the gym and a lot of time in the kitchen. Competitive bodybuilders build their lives around their workouts and their meals, which during daylight hours average once every two-and-one-half-hours. It’s also expensive, calling for large amounts of protein each day, at least one gram for each pound of body weight. Here is a typical diet for a bodybuilder who is trying to put on lean mass several months before a competition:
Breakfast: Three egg whites (protein) and one whole egg + one cup of oatmeal
Mid-morning: Protein shake (two scoops) in 8-12 oz of water
Lunch: 8 oz of steak, or chicken, or fish + 8 oz of sweet potato + cup of vegetables
Mid-Afternoon: Protein shake (two scoops) in 8-12 oz of water
Dinner: 8 oz of steak, or chicken, or fish + two cups of vegetables
Throughout the day, you need to drink between 1/2 and one gallon of spring water.
This diet is designed to put on about a pound of lean mass a week. Lots of protein, lots of carbs and little fat.
I’ll talk about how the diet changes as you get closer to your competition later.
I said earlier, bodybuilding is an expensive sport. It’s not as expensive as a Bass Boat with all the accessories, but it’s close.
In order to help your body use the fuel you put in (food and drink) and to take advantage of your workouts to build muscle, you need a good supply of supplements. I won’t go into brand names or lead you to any supplier, but, here are some of the supplements you should consider:
Protein Powder: Check the labels. Some are designed as meal replacements, some for lean muscle mass gain, others for general growth, some for fat loss and some for heavy-duty muscle building. One caution, check the labels for additives.