Over the last few years bodybuilding has grown in popularity; these days, it seems as though everyone is a competitor, or knows someone who is. Carrying a meal in Tupperware, traveling everywhere with a gallon of water, none of that seems so taboo anymore. With the increased familiarity of the sport, there seems to be an increased social media trend of the exposing the unhealthy side of competition.
Currently, it seems scrolling through your social media feed you will come across numerous posts from competitors with low thyroid function, imbalanced hormones, slow metabolisms and other health issues as a result of contest prep. How can this happen? To achieve the level of conditioning and leanness needed to be competitive on stage, you have to decrease your body fat to an extremely low level; a level that is not naturally or easily maintainable (for MOST people). However, it’s not something that is meant to be a way of life; its meant to be a short-term physique. The problem emerges when you try to maintain a stage leanness year-round. Excessive cardio, low nutrient and low calorie diets start to wreak havoc on the body and, after extended periods of time, begin to negatively affect your health. So, how can you prepare for a show without permanently damaging your body?
First, the most important thing is to enter into a contest prep in a good place. If you go into a prep eating 1200 calories and doing 1.5 hrs. of cardio a day, where do you go? The answer… you have nowhere to go!!! You need to be physically in a good place, meaning you need to have calories and nutrients to cut and manipulate. If you have been eating in a deficit for a long time, your internal body begins to suffer. Athletes, especially women, need a certain amount of body fat and calories in order for normal bodily functions to take place. Personally, I am not a fan of women eating less than 40g fat per day. Why? The answer is one simple word… hormones. When your hormones are out of whack EVERYTHING begins to suffer! Your mood, energy, metabolism, immune system… EVERYTHING!!!
Furthermore, you need to be mentally in a good place. NEVER EVER should you start a contest prep because you hate your body. I promise you, it will only go downhill from there. Competing and contest prep is 100% a mental game. That’s not to say that you don’t physically have to do the work, you do, but if your head is not in the right place you will not survive. If you look in the mirror and only see the flaws, and then want to get on a stage and let other people judge you… have you lost your mind!!! competition prep is an absolutely fascinating and amazing process; watching how small manipulation can change your physique, and the progress you can make is so awesome and should be enjoyed!
Essentially, if you hate your body to begin, then reach your “goal” on stage, and then gain 5lbs and a little body fat… have you failed? ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! Remember, stage physique is NOT maintainable and should NOT be your goal. Starting in a negative place is only going to lead to a common problem A LOT of competitors have, body dysmorphia.
Ultimately, competing is a wonderful experience. You can learn things about yourself and your body that you never knew. You can take your body and mind to limits you didn’t know were possible. When done properly, it can be a triumph of glory. Like everything in life, simply make sure you do it right and never sacrifice your health for anything.
Until next time beauties.