Preparing for a Bikini Competition the Healthy Way
By Myprotein Writer: Sarah Curran- Personal Trainer member of DDT Bikini team
Competition prep is one of the most rewarding and exciting times for any bodybuilder. It can also be very challenging and difficult if not done properly, and can cause a lot of problems later on if it’s not done in a healthy and safe way. Find out in this article how to prepare for a bikini competition.
1. Increase Your Metabolism Off Season
The best advice I have ever received was to build up my metabolism in the off season. I cannot emphasize the importance and usefulness of this enough… building up your metabolism means that you will have a huge calorific cushion to take away from when it comes to the time to diet down… meaning no endless cardio sessions or starvation diets and mood swings!
To do this effectively, in your off season you need to gradually add in extra calories on a weekly basis. By gradually adding in calories this ensures no huge fat gains are made, while your muscle and metabolism continues to increase as you progress.
Graduallity is the key here and by tracking your weight weekly you can make your dietary decisions based on whether to add more calories or hold steady another week till your body is ready for a further increase. I found this made my life a whole lot easier and pleasant (and that of those around me) as it meant I did not have to resort to any drastic measures to shift any last minute weight. I also felt really healthy all through my prep and can honestly say… I enjoyed it, while also managing to keep cardio sessions to a minimum. By the very end I had a mere two short cardio interval sessions which was more than enough for me!
2. Avoid Dramatic Cuts in Diet
When your season arrives it’s important to resist any dramatic cuts in your diet. Any dramatic cuts in your diet will only act to reduce your metabolism and prevent progress…and who wants their calories taken away unless it’s essential to make progress anyway!
There are some golden rules I abided by during my prep that ensured I maintained my health while improving my physique, and these included: never dropping my calories too low, prioritizing my protein intake and if necessary supplementing accordingly, making sure i get enough carbs and finally fat with regards my macro nutrients. Other supplements I choose to use all year round include BCAA’s and Creatine Monohydrate.
3. Keep Track
Keeping track of your progress is an essential part of bikini preparation. I used photos and measurements alongside the scales. It’s important to use more than one method of progress because scales can often provide a lot of inaccuracy, and on their own they’re often not enough. Negative results from the scales alone can be disheartening – when in reality increases in weight might be due to the natural fluctuations in fluid levels. By using all three types of measurements you are better armed to make informed decisions on what actions you should take to continue to make progress.
It is important to also monitor your macro nutrient intake, which is the amount of protein, fats and carbohydrates you are consuming on a daily basis. The reason this is a vital tool in bikini prep is because it ensures you are consuming enough and not too much of the nutrients you need to get to where you want to be. I have found apps on my phone very useful for this purpose, and if you know what you are consuming, you can then make decisions on what you need to either add or take away to bring you nearer to your goals.
4. Meal Preparation
Failing to prepare is preparing to fail! An aspect I found quite difficult at times was all the meal preparation that was involved with staying on track and hitting my macro targets for each day. I found doing my food preparation ahead made a huge difference to staying accountable and on track. It meant that my dinner was there waiting for me after a long days work so that there was no need for me to be tempted at the idea of getting a takeout meal.
5. Your Training
Always prioritise your training- you should know exactly what muscle group your working, how long for and when. With regards to lifting weights, the heavier the better! You do not need to worry about becoming bulky if you are a girl. Heavier weights will build more muscle which in turn will burn more fat. Training this way will also give you a killer physique on stage.
Consistency is key… remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
The one thing I love about this sport is that hard work will always pay off. Keep pushing with your nutrition and training and you will get the results you worked so hard for.
6. Get Enough Rest
One thing many people forget about leading up to a competition is the importance of rest, recovery and fun. Make sure you get enough sleep and some quality time with friends and family.
7. Avoid Binges
The more progress you make, the more motivated you feel, although it can still be very challenging at times to avoid extra treats when you have reached your allocated amount in your calorie /macro budget for the day. This was probably my biggest obstacle in my journey …I love my treats! It can be difficult to draw a line at a small portion as I have found old habits die hard and when you have had a tough day at work, my natural reaction was always to use food as a reward.
There were times I resisted and there were also times I didn’t. Although it is not ideal, and although it can hold back your progress, it is important to remember you are only human, and it’s not the mistakes you make but how you handle them that matters. It’s not the end of the world if you have a treat too many on a few occasions! If you can just get yourself back on track again as soon as possible and don’t let a cheat meal turn into a cheat day, week or month, you will be just fine and will minimum damage will be done to your hard work!.
The key is to recognise your triggers. If you are aware of potential triggers you can plan ahead to evade them from becoming an issue in the first place. I always found on my low carb day I was great all day in work, and then when I would get home that night, I would get really bad cravings for junk food. I was able to make the evening a lot nicer when I noted this was a problem time for me, as I was then able to plan ahead and allocate some extra carbs for the evening time so that I could factor in a treat at that time and so satisfy my cravings without going off track on my plan that day.
8. Try a Coach
I also recommend if it is possible with your budget to find a good coach, It’s well worth doing your research. It really helps to hold yourself accountable to someone, and its lovely to know that if the going does get tough, you always have someone to have your back, who can offer advice and reassurance to you when needed! This can be especially useful if you are a first time competitor and nervous about being ready by show time.
9. Be Prepared for the Finish
A point I must mention, and one many first time competitors don’t consider, is how to return to diet and training post competition and avoid the post competition blues and weight gain that is so frequent amongst competitors.
My advice is simple, again keep all changes gradual and avoid the urge to binge eat once the show is over. By all means enjoy a nice meal and treat, but try cap it at that, your body will be more susceptible to weight gain after being restricted during prep.
Try and slowly add calories back into your diet… this is known as reverse dieting. Reverse dieting will ease you back in to off season while maintaining a fit healthy physique, leaving you in an even stronger position for your next prep and meaning you gain minimum excess weight whilst adding on lean muscle gains, making the process easier the next time around.
A Take Home Message
Although my experience had its fair share of obstacles to overcome, it felt amazing to find solutions to any issues I was having so that they could no longer hold me back from my goals. Once I addressed these, I found my journey went a lot smoother and became a lot more enjoyable.
Competition preparation can be fun and very rewarding if done in a effective manner such as this and when backed up by science, if carried out properly you can also feel healthier than ever. Always put your health and happiness first and work hard to reach your dreams, the sky is the limit!
A typical Diet day for Sarah:
7:00am Wake up: eat breakfast (egg white omelette with smoked salmon and salad) 2 rice cakes with almond butter.
8.30am Hit the gym for 1.5-2 hrs depending on training schedule
11.00 am Post workout meal: ( carb heavy meal with some protein and fats, for example homemade chicken curry with brown rice and smoothie with whey protein and creatine mixed in)
3:00pm Lunch: lean mince with a baked sweet potato topped with low fat cheese and vegetables with a small portion of brown rice.
7:00pm Dinner: grilled chicken, wholegrain noodles and vegetables with a sauce of choice (usually homemade and low fat or carb depending on training day, small treat after dinner that fits into calorie/macro budget.
11:00pm Bedtime snack: cottage cheese with flaxseeds and a small portion of pineapple and peanut butter or casein shake.