Last week, I talked about a few things anyone needs to know before they compete. Today I continue that conversation with 4 more things you really need to know!
1. You will lose weight.
All the women out there just went, “awesome!” And, most of the men said, “Shit!!!” Women almost always want to be smaller and lighter unless they compete in bodybuilding, and very few women do that anymore anyway. Most men are exactly the opposite, and that goes double for those of us who started training to get bigger and stronger because we were undersized. I can imagine it’s not the same for guys who used to be fat. Losing weight doesn’t carry the same shame and sense of failure as it does for those of us who fought and scrapped to gain every ounce. Obviously it’s a psychological issue. I started lifting weights at 95 pounds, and my goal was always to get bigger and heavier. The day I finally broke 200 pounds felt like I had just earned my PhD or won the lottery. So any time I have dieted for a show, the questions that irked me the most were:
“So what are you down to?” and
“What do you want to get down to?”
I NEVER want to lose weight. Of course I want to get ripped, and losing bodyfat does mean weight is going to have to be lost. But I, along with most men who work so hard to build muscle mass, are proud to be bigger and heavier. Often when I get that question, I jokingly answer that I’d love to be ripped at 270. That’s about as likely to happen as me going back in time and inventing the light bulb, but it’s genuinely how I feel.
So when you diet for a contest, you are going to get lighter. If you’ve never competed before, this can be alarming at the least, and upsetting enough to cause you to quit the contest for some. Here you are at 225 pounds, a weight it may have taken you ten years of training to reach. Now you start dieting, and after a month you’re starting to see some cuts and veins – but your weight is down to 210! Another month goes by and you’re really starting to see some nice definition, but damn it, you’re under 200 for the first time in years! That might have been the lightest you thought you would get, but it’s clear that you still need to be leaner. You might get under 190 by contest day if you were carrying as much bodyfat as a lot of guys do before starting your diet. The weight shouldn’t matter, and really it doesn’t. You are judged purely by how you look onstage, and being big but smooth doesn’t win shows. It gets you last place. Condition is more critical than ever these days.
2. You will look smaller in clothes.
This goes right along with losing weight. As a bodybuilder, you probably carry a substantial amount of bodyfat and water. In clothes, this makes you look bigger because well – you are bigger. It’s just not all muscle. As you diet down and shed the fat to reveal the musculature in detail, you will be getting smaller. Even though what you’re losing isn’t muscle (unless you’re going way too low on calories and/or overdoing the cardio), your clothes are going to start fitting looser on you. Again, women love when this happens. Men might be happy to see their pants are loose around the waist, but having them looser around the thighs and all over the upper body can be disturbing. Along with the weight loss, this is why most big guys in gyms all over the world never compete, or start getting ready for a contest and abort the mission. The worst part is near the end of your prep when your normal clothes start to hang off you and your face gets that sunken look. Well-meaning people will ask you if you’re sick, or if you’ve stopped working out! As long as you know this is going to happen going in and you can prepare yourself for it, you should be okay.
3. You will have to give up your normal social life for a while.
The hardest part about competing is definitely the diet. And it’s not so much the fact that you have to eat so strictly and avoid many foods you might normally be eating like breads and the occasional pizza or cheeseburger. It’s more like you have to eat those specific diet foods at exact intervals every day for anywhere from 12 to 16 weeks. You can bring your own food to a lot of places, like to get-togethers with family or friends. There are other places you can’t, such as most amusement parks, night clubs, church, and so on. And the bottom line is, if you can’t eat your foods when you need to eat them, you won’t look the way you need to on contest day. So you might have to decline more than a few offers to go out and do things. Like I said, as long as you are fine with bringing a cooler containing your own food to places and it’s allowed, you can still do a lot of things. But you will definitely have to say no many times too. It can make you feel like you’re missing out and make you question why you’re doing this. You just need to keep your eyes on the prize, and remember how good it’s going to feel to proudly display all your hard work on stage at the end of the prep.
4. You will be tired – and your sleep will suffer.
That sounds like a contradiction, and it sort of is. In the final stages of your diet, when your carbs and calories are at their lowest and you’re doing the highest amount of cardio, you probably won’t be a bouncing ball of energy. You might find yourself relying on pre-workout powders like SuperPump and fat burners to get through your workouts and have enough energy to get your other daily tasks done. Then, the double whammy is that you may very well have difficulty sleeping. I always do. Even though you’re exhausted, your metabolism is running in a higher gear. I find myself waking up more during the night and having trouble falling back to sleep again, and often sleeping for no more than six hours as opposed to my normal 7.5 or 8, and unable to fall back asleep. Once the contest is over, that situation reverses itself. But it can be rough, especially if you’ve never dealt with it
That’s all for now, have a great weekend!