First-time bodybuilding competitor questions (and my answers)

A few weeks ago, I mentioned a friend of mine who is doing her first bodybuilding comp. She’s got support at home, but is certainly not surrounded by other competitors in daily life. So she often pings me questions on whatsapp or email. Now I’m not a coach or a PT, nor do I have one single qualification in training, nutrition, programming or coaching. But as a female competitor I am always happy to help out where I can (even if it’s just to give options or signpost to other/better resources!)

first-time bodybuilder competition prep questions

Here are some of the questions she’s asked me (and the answers I’ve given).

(Her questions in bold, my replies underneath).

Our chit chats cover all sorts of things that a first-time competitor feels, thinks, wonders about and worries about. Everything from cardio, to unwelcome gym comments, to what to do when you want to throw every tool in the box at prep all at once…

They might be helpful to you, too, if you’re just embarking on your first prep.

Feel free to add your own answers in the comments section (and don’t flame me if I’ve given really bad advice – I do always remind her that I’m not a coach, just a pal…)

On the topic of a stranger saying something pretty hurtful at the gym

Being a female bodybuilder means strong mind as well as muscles. You will come up against comments like that (also “don’t get too muscly”, “don’t overdo it”, “why do you want to do that to yourself” etc). What other people think of you is none of your business πŸ˜‰ And don’t forget he knows nothing of the criteria of your competition and category.

Frankly the only people’s opinions who matter are
-yours
-your loved ones
-the people sat at the judging table

Head down and focus on what you’ve set as your goal. Everything else is just chatter in the larger scheme of it all

Do you use MyFitnessPal or any kind of app to track your macros/calories?

Yes I use MFP. I also wear an activity monitor bracelet thing (Jawbone UP) which tracks output and syncs with MFP.

Had a deep tissue massage before the gym – OMG it hurt!

Ooh ouch! Try to have them on rest days if possible, not ideal before training. After training is an option too.


I’ve still got a fair amount of cellulite and naturally hold a lot of fat in this area…[legs]

Do you dry body brush? I swear by it for improving skin texture esp when prepping skin for show tan. Massage helps with blood flow; can’t hurt. Dry body brushing might not actually help the fat loss but will improve skin texture. I love it!


I don’t know enough about supplements! I only go buy what I read on the internet. I’m thinking because I’ve got a lot of leaning out to do, I should give everything a go? I can’t stand casein though… I’d rather eat cottage cheese.

I’d say the opposite: do the least, because then you’ll know what works. In terms of supplements I don’t think anyone “needs” anything but here’s what I take:

Whey, whey isolate, beef protein isolate (only after training)
Vit C, Vit D
Green tea capsules
Prebiotic and probiotic
ZMA (zinc and magnesium) at night (but I sleep like sh!t and you don’t)
Sometimes a BCAA drink/powder but don’t think I actually need it.

I’m never sure CLA does much for me but I know people who absolutely swear by it. Same as Creatine…never sure it does much but others wouldn’t be without it!

I’m on a downer… looked at where I was this time last year compared to now and feel my physique has barely changed… I feel like my dream is impossible

Your goal is NOT impossible. I promise. First up welcome to the head f**k of being one of the few to ever address a physique goal and actually do the hard work involved in changing health, fitness, body and mind. It is tough which is why we have these wibbles. But don’t let them overwhelm you. And “don’t believe everything you think” πŸ˜‰

Secondly, changes will always be less visible at the start or anytime you’re less lean. But they are there and to discount them just because you can’t see them clearly is doing yourself a massive disservice. Think of it like the tip of an iceberg. That’s what you can see but you’d better believe there’s a lot more going on.

And finally don’t forget the stuff you can never “see”. How has your knowledge, passion, focus changed? Your education about training and nutrition? Your ability to walk into any gym and know what to do? Your ability to make good food choices, to prep food? What impact has it had on your health, confidence, performance at work?

You’re looking far ahead and the body needs to catch up with the mind that’s all. Body is always a slow coach but it’ll catch up in the end! Promise.

(Evidently I was in some kind of Yoda-mood that day LOL)

Majorly craving chocolate Nic… I’m so addicted!

Me too if it helps! Here’s what I’d try: Options (or similar) hot choc, or proper cocoa powder and coffee together. Or would that set off cravings? If so then try a fatty but savoury snacks: bit of steak, eggs, salmon, even a burger (just the burger) yes it’s unplanned cals but maybe better to eat as a strategy than potentially give in to cravings and ending up eating much more that way! Or use the distraction/change of scene tactic….bath and go to bed!

Think how different you’ll feel in the morning if you do have choc now vs if you don’t. Your brain and body are battling….. it’s up to you who wins

(This was sent late at night by the way, I wasn’t suggesting go to bed during the day just because you fancy a bit of choc).

I’ve barely eaten all day. Back to back meetings then jumped in the car straight after to try get home at a reasonable time! Nearly 9hrs with nothing. Debating what to have for dinner (aka trying to resist every naughty thing in the cupboards) That 3hr car journey has taken it out of me!

My response to this was on an email but it involved thinking about planning ahead, always having your meals with you (if you’re actually prepping for a show – which this person is – so you can stick to your plan, not get over hungry, and not run the risk of overeating because you’ve lost touch with your hunger cues).

I need to start doing cardio before work…

I’d say give current diet time for now…keep back morning cardio as a tool up your sleeve so you have somewhere to go. Don’t throw everything at it at once.

I go at it hammer and tongs rather than a tactical approach

Get the most results from the least…otherwise 1) you won’t know what thing worked and 2) you’ll have nowhere left to go when things slow

Do you think it sounds like I’m on the right track with my prep so far? 0.75kg loss per week?

0.75kgs off a week is perfect. Any more than that won’t be fat and you don’t want to lose muscle or be dehydrated. We can’t know what you’ll look like at [target]kgs of course but the rate of fat loss is perfect.

Should I just use spin as an occasional tool if the weight loss slows down? I did wonder how often to do it.

I think stuff like spin can be good for prep from time to time, just not often/regularly. Don’t agree with those who say avoid it. Good intervals, but really it’s too long (45 mins?) to be real HIIT. It’s more like longer cardio, but pretty stressful. Better to REALLY blast HIIT and really make the steady stuff steady, if you see what I mean.

OK so I’m think my new routine will be…[new plan follows with lots of changes and lots of cardio]

Every day? No chick, too much. Either/or am plyos/intervals or PWO cardio. And just do abs like any other muscle group, they need time between sessions.

You think doing cardio/plyo in the AM and weights in the PM works better than doing them combined?

Yes but only if it doesn’t compromise sleep, or happy family relationships! And 2x cardio definitely too much. And too much hiit/plyos too much. And throwing everything at it at the same time not a good idea. Needs to be gradual and measurable. So long to go yet, don’t think too far ahead. Stick to the plan, be CONSISTENT (always most important of all).

Should I up the cardio this week?

No don’t change anything. You’ve already changed some things this week. Fat loss may be right back on track! Just sit calm and wait and see. Plenty of time to tweak again if needed. Take measurements as well as weighing.

I’m sat at work hungry and grumpy and tempted to eat something naughty…

Maybe develop some snack ideas you can have on hungry days (especially when is such cold weather) so you don’t push the hunger to cravings but also don’t wreck progress. But for now I’d say it’s a good sign that the morning HIIT is doing its thing.

My team at work are doing a ‘Fat Friday’ today – cakes, fish and chips, pizza. I’m sticking to my chicken and rice

Fat Friday lol is that what they really call it? I have Fats Friday as its a rest day so low carb. Whole eggs, chicken thighs and steak πŸ˜‰

Can you do a high fat day on comp prep?

If you carb cycle then yes of course, when carbs go down fats go up. Not too many changes all at once – you need to be able to measure and track.

First-time bodybuilding competitor questions (and my answers) 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.

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4 Responses to First-time bodybuilding competitor questions (and my answers)

  1. Rachel says:

    Awesome advice as always Nic! It is so tempting to do everything at once – more cardio, harder hiit, carb cycling, lower calories, more supplements! But you are so right, gradual changes make it so much easier to see what works and give you somewhere to go further down the track!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nicola Joyce says:

      Glad you liked it Rach, it just struck me that (appropriately edited!) snippets of the Q&A between me and my friend might help others. And yes very tempting to throw everything at it but it’ll either a) not work or b) something will work but how will you know what?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. hififi says:

    Great post, thnx for the rmdr πŸ‘
    I did really well with my weight loss 1st 2 weeks of the year with a most definite, less is more but consistent approach πŸ’ͺ
    Having slipped off the wagon past cple of wks, it’s very tempting to add more cardio, restrict more calories 😣
    But what I need is just to get back to what worked which was not extreme in any measure πŸ˜ƒxx

    Like

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