You ask, I answer (bodybuilding Q&A)

A while ago, I put a general shout-out for bodybuilding questions you would like to see answered here. I’m far from an expert but, as ever, I’m just writing from my own perspective. So, here goes!

“Firstly – why no dairy? Secondly – what difference does 8l of water make to the government recommended 2l, for example?”

OK: the dairy. It’s a personal choice but I choose to leave dairy out of my diet from about 8 weeks before competition, partly because I want to use my limited calories for things which are chock-full of nutrition (I’d rather have more veg than a bit of yoghurt) and partly because dairy tends to be pretty high in carbs which normally isn’t a problem, but I do limit my carbs when I’m dieting for a comp. Again, I’d rather get the carbs I am allowed from loads of veg, or something with chew-factor like potato, than a glass of milk. There is also a school of thought which suggests dairy can make you look a bit soft, smooth or bloated. I’ve never tested this properly but I’d rather not risk it. Interestingly, since cutting out dairy, I’ve found that I really don’t like the taste of cows milk. It tastes kind of… claggy? And leaves me feeling a bit phlegmy. (Lovely) Having said that, I am looking forward to greek yoghurt and cottage cheese – I love both of those. I don’t think I’ll go back to drinking cows milk though (I like coconut milk – the stuff in cartons, not tins – and have even been known to make my own almond milk, although those uber-productive, spring-in-my-step days seem a long time ago at the moment!)

The water thing. This is in reference to the fact that I drink a lot of water every day at the start of “peak week”, tapering it off towards the show. This is something many bodybuilders do but, at the same time, many others don’t do anything special with water at all. Bodybuilders want to appear “dry” on stage (“ripped”, “cut”, etc) One of the theories is that you can drop some subcutaneous water (the layer between the muscles and the skin) on the day by minimising water intake. The theory then goes that, if you water “load” in the days leading up to the show, you’ll encourage your body to release or flush out extra water. I’m not sure there’s any definitive proof that one approach is better than the other (water load/deplete vs just drinking as normal) but in this sport people tend to do what works for them until such a time as it doesn’t work, then they’ll try a different approach. Having only done 3 shows, I haven’t had much of a chance to play around with ideas and approaches so, for now, this is how I do it. It does mean I need to be near a toilet for the first half of peak week! 😉

“What I would be interested in hearing about is how you keep your focus during the bit where you’re all on stage (pose-down??)- I wasn’t prepared for how physically close you would be to the other competitors.”

Yes, there can be a bit of jostling during pose-down (and sometimes during the compulsory poses) either by mistake (we can be a bit wobbly under the lights, and sometimes lined up quite close together) or by design (pose-down is a time to have a bit of fun, and – if you know the other competitors – really go for it by posing sort of as a duo). I’m not sure how I keep my focus, I hadn’t thought about it! I guess I am just very focused on getting my poses right, on listening to the person calling the instructions, on trying not to shake too much and on trying to remember the squeeze/spread/hold bits of me in. It does break my focus a bit when I touch another competitor – it’s happened more than once to me during the compulsory poses and I am always torn as to whether to be terribly British and say “sorry!” at the time or just get on with it! Honestly, though, I don’t find it difficult to focus when on stage. The lights, the audience, the judges sitting there… they all focus the mind pretty sharpish! 😉

“You look very elegant and almost balletic when you go into your poses – is that innate or something you’ve been coached to do?” (bless you, Sally – I promise I didn’t pay her to say that!)

Well, first of all a big thank you. Elegant is one of the last words I’d use to describe myself so to hear that I come across even remotely like that on stage is very nice to hear. As for balletic – here’s a funny story for you: family legend goes that, when I was little, I was kicked out of ballet classes had it gently suggested to me that tap might suit me better than ballet. I can’t remember this and I’m sure it’s been hammed up over the years, but certainly I was not a balletic child. Anyway, the short answer is no I wasn’t coached to be particularly elegant. My coach Kat and our friend Annie U did coach me through all the poses, and I practice lots, but the focus is on posing to show the muscles and shapes and symmetry we need to try and show. The bits in between – how you get into and out of the poses, how you choose to stand during “free moments”, is up to you. I do feel very happy on stage, perhaps that comes across!

“I’m wondering if you would do 2 comps so close together again.”

This is with reference to doing the NPA South East and then the BNBF Finals just a week apart. You know what, I think I would. It really helped my motivation: instead of prepping, peaking, waiting, peaking, it meant I was on a roll and just trucked on through. It was logistically easy: I had all my peak week foods in, lots of food prepped, I was in the zone in terms of what to cook and prep and eat. And I think I found it pretty easy to maintain my condition and mindset in those few days between the comps. I actually think it’s tougher to do competitions further apart. 6-8 weeks between comps seems to be pretty hard going for most people I’ve asked.

Thanks for asking! If I can (try to) answer any other questions, please leave a comment.

You ask, I answer (bodybuilding Q&A) is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.


6 Responses to You ask, I answer (bodybuilding Q&A)

  1. Karryann says:

    I have a question.
    What tips would you give to someone competing for the first time?

    Great post , love reading your answers ,they always come with passion 🙂


  2. The phlegmy thing r.e. milk is quite interesting – I get that feeling from all protein after eating it!


  3. AJ says:

    How does your stomach react to the bodybuilding diet, with high protein, veggies, etc? Have you noticed any increased gas, bloating, constipation, etc? I hear the diet can be tough on your GI system. Keep up the good work!


  4. Great answers Nic, very well written!!

    Sooo close now baby, sooooo much hard work under your belt, just a drop in the ocean to go compared to what you’ve already done.

    Keep going hard and strong!! Can’t wait to hear all about it (we’ll skype before though)

    We’re all so excited for you and cheering for you (from wherever we are!) SO wish I could be there!! xox


  5. Fifi says:

    Great post!
    Mmm, I too get phemy with dairy


  6. […] my bodybuilding Q&A post, a couple more questions came in – thank you! Here are my […]


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