Bodybuilding Contest Prep 101

Bodybuilding is not an easy sport. It’s more than just a hobby, it’s a journey. Patience, discipline, and consistency are required. After all the hard work you put into it, there’s no better way to cap it off than by entering a bodybuilding competition. Competing will give you an opportunity to show off your great physique and feel a sense of accomplishment at the same time. But before you can enter a bodybuilding contest, you need to prepare for it. Listed below are the things you should do for bodybuilding contest prep.

Bodybuilding Contest Prep

1. Give Yourself Enough Time to Prepare

Bodybuilding Contest Prep
Bodybuilding Contest Prep

Usually, contest preparation involves a minimum of 2 – 4 months of diet planning. The goal is to shred fat and increase muscle size before the actual competition. Being able to balance the macronutrients specific to the needs of the participant is important. The caloric intake at which one begins their preparation will need to be adjusted. However, losing weight too fast may lead to loss of strength and lean body mass.

A gradual loss of 0.5kg (1.1 lbs.) per week or approximately a 500-calorie deficit per day is recommended for retaining lean body mass. This figure is based on a 154-pound person at 13% body fat with 3 months of prep time. The leaner you are, the shorter diet period needed. A person who has more body fat may require faster weight loss and will risk losing lean body mass. To prevent this from happening, you should have enough time to prepare for the contest.

2. Don’t Forget Your Protein

Protein helps bodybuilders maintain their lean body mass and is therefore important for contest prep. Research indicates that 1.2 – 2.2g per kilogram of body weight is sufficient. Some may require more due to caloric deficit conditions and intense training. Increased protein can help an individual maintain a positive nitrogen balance, which is helpful for muscle growth and repair.

3. Consume Just the Right Amount of Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates will give you the energy needed to get through your contest prep workouts. Inadequate carb intake may impair resistance training while consuming the right amount can enhance performance. It’s important to note that carb requirements can vary from person to person.

Studies indicate consuming carbs of 4 – 7g per kilogram of body weight is beneficial. This information provides a good range and ensures adequate carb intake during contest prep. As you reach your target weight and body fat percentage, it’s suggested to increase carbohydrates. This will help preserve lean muscle and athletic performance. But make sure you are consuming low glycemic index carbs. Stay with whole grains.

4. Know Your Numbers

Bodybuilding Contest Prep
Bodybuilding Contest Prep

Knowing your numbers is important. This covers not only nutrition, calories and macros, but also training; reps, sets, and body weight. You cannot manage what you do not measure. So make sure you measure your body weight, training performance, and nutrition in a consistent manner. Without consistency, any data collected will be useless. And knowing beforehand what weight class in which you will be competing will help you along toward meeting your contest weight.

5. Train Properly

When it comes to training, you’ll want to gradually increase your reps and cardio/aerobic activity the closer you get to contest day. This will help you burn more calories to get more “cut” and show off your muscle definition, yet maintain your muscle mass. Focus on higher rep ranges in the 10 – 15 rep range. But be careful you don’t overtrain, and make sure you get adequate rest between workouts.

6. Posing and Tanning

Bodybuilding Contest Prep
Bodybuilding Contest Prep

You’re going to want to start practicing your posing in the weeks leading up to your contest. It’s good to get a training partner to help give you feedback here. And use the mirror often! Posing daily in front of the mirror will help you learn which areas need more focus, and will also give you the confidence you will need when you are up on stage.

If you are lighter-skinned, you’ll also want to start using tanning lotions and oils to help best highlight your muscle definition. We recommend staying away from tanning beds or too much sun exposure, as this can lead to premature skin aging and skin cancer. You’re better off using temporary spray tans or lotions. But be careful around your face — you don’t want your face to appear too tanned, so you don’t look strange.

7. Two to Three Days Before The Big Day

This is when you will need to start hitting your peak by reducing your water retention and getting your muscle definition as high as possible. You should generally cut back on your sodium and carbohydrate intake and keep drinking lots of water up until the day of the competition, and then sip water throughout the day of the event. You also might want to increase your carb intake after you make weigh-in, along with consuming small amounts of protein, so you have the energy you need and your muscles appear fuller on stage.

Be very careful, though. We don’t recommend anything drastic like severe depletion or loading of carbs, water or potassium, etc, as that can be very dangerous. And don’t let anyone talk you into taking any non-prescribed drugs or diuretics! Instead, learn how your body responds best and do things naturally.  Even the pros have difficulty timing things right, so don’t get discouraged if you aren’t at your peak on the first attempt. And consult your physician beforehand to be safe.


Preparing for a bodybuilding contest can be intimidating, especially if it’s your first time. And it can take several weeks before you can achieve a ripped, full, and muscular body. Hopefully, by taking note of these tips, it will be easier for you to achieve your goals and be confident that you’ll do well in the competition.

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