The short answer for the majority of people…. NOPE.
Competing seems to be the fashionable thing in the industry at the moment. I mean do you even fitness if you haven’t posted a semi naked oompa loompa style stage pic on your Instagram? Do you even fitness if you haven’t moaned and complained about your dry, plain chicken, rice and broccoli that your coach has you eating 5 times a day or the fact that you’re spending an hour on the stair master at 5am every morning, even though YOU are the one that volunteered yourself for this? It’s a funny one.
Anyway here’s a few things to consider before you start on your journey to the stage. Hopefully they’ll be of some use to those of you who are thinking of getting into the wonderful world of competing!
Am I eating enough?
As you know, losing fat means reducing calorie intake. For the low body fat levels required for the stage, calorie intake need to be reduced quite significantly. HOWEVER reducing calorie intake is very hard if you’re currently not eating very much. Let’s say, for example, you are currently maintaining your weight on 1600 calories a day. For someone who should be training hard and holding a decent amount of muscle tissue, that ain’t a lot of food. Having a poor metabolism and low calorie intake means that dropping weight will be a lot harder than it will be for someone who is maintaining their weight on 2200 calories for example.
For someone with a low starting calorie intake and therefore a slow metabolism, fat loss will be much more difficult and by the end of prep, calories will be dangerously low – leaving ya feeling like shite! Start your prep on high calories and with a well performing metabolism however and by the end of prep, calories won’t be dangerously low and energy levels and overall mood won’t be too awful! I know which I’d rather if I’m honest. I would honestly suggest reverse dieting before you even think about competing. Walk your calories up nice and high so when you do have to go into a calorie defecit, you’re still scoffing loadsa cals and living the dream. TRUST ME! I’ve managed to drop almost a stone pretty easily without going below 2100 calories a day. There’s a lot to be said for reverse dieting.
Do I already have good habits in place?
Do you drink enough water? Do you train with intensity and purpose? Do you train regularly and consistently? Do you consistently hit your macro nutrient and calorie goals? Do you get enough sleep? Do you prep your meals? All of these factors play a huge role in prep and contribute towards fat loss and achieving your overall physique goal.
If you have to start prep by doubling your water intake, cutting out your alcohol intake, increasing training intensity, starting to prep meals and starting to actually stick to a diet plan, thats a lot of lifestyle changes that you’re going to have to make and that’s going to be difficult.
Why am I doing this?
With competing being so popular at the moment, it’s common for people to think it’s something that they have to do in order to receive recognition or approval within the industry. If you’re doing it to boost your social media following or to get some sort of sponsorship from a supplement company then I’m afraid you’re doing it for the wrong reason and will most likely be very disappointed. It is a HUGE commitment so if you’re not doing it for yourself or out of genuine love for the sport then you’re doing it for the wrong reason. If it doesn’t make ya smile then it’s not worth it. It’s simple.
Am I ready to receive criticism about my body?
Stepping on stage as a bikini competitor means that you’re accepting the fact that a panel of judges are going to analyse and criticise your physique. Likewise when you check in with your coach each week. They will give you feedback on how you’re looking and sometimes it might not be what you want to hear. The feedback should be seen as constructive criticism as opposed to an offensive comment someone has made about your body that you may not want to hear. If receiving criticism about your body causes an emotional response then it definitely isn’t wise to subject yourself to that just yet!
Do I have emotional attachments to food?
Some people turn to food when they’re sad. Some people turn to food when they’re happy. Some people suffer with binging, purging, restricting. I know that when I was recovering from my eating disorder and was starting to enjoy food again, I found myself obsessing over when my next meal was going to be or secretly eating so I didn’t look like I was recovering too quickly. The focus placed upon food during prep will only enhance these issues and make it harder to get out of bad habits. Deal with your disordered eating or mental obstacles surrounding food FIRST AND FOREMOST.
Can I afford it?
Competing is a pricey hobby, I’m not gonna lie! A coach, bikini, heels, jewellery, show day make up, show day hair, show tan, federation memberships, entry fees, travel, accommodation, food etc. etc. – it definitely all adds up. Of course, savings can be made and some of the things on that list aren’t essentials but they’re all potential costs to consider.
Am I ready to give up certain aspects of my social life?
As much as I don’t think that comp prep should take over your whole life, there will be times where it has to come first. Social occasions are usually centred around food, alcohol and late nights – all things that don’t go well with progressing during competition prep. If socialising is important to you and you don’t want to miss out on social events then maybe give prep a miss for the time being.
My final comment is what’s the rush? The stage will always be there. You won’t be too old. You don’t have to do it right now! The best thing I did was waited. In the time that I waited I improved my metabolism, I improved my relationship with food, I improved my relationship with my body, I built a lot of muscle and I learnt a lot about what is required to get show ready. Waiting was probably the best decision I made and it definitely made the whole process of prep a hell of a lot easier and a lot more enjoyable!