Diary of a Fitness Competitor
The photo on the left is from 2011, before I increased my calories, started lifting, and focused on an overall healthy lifestyle. The photo on the right is the week of my first bikini competition. Eating anywhere between 1,600-2,000 calories per day.

Many of you enjoyed my Diary of a Bikini Competitor (DBC) series because I offered a transparent look into the diet, training plan, and life of a competitor. Diary of a Fitness Competitor (DFC) is the muscle-happy big sister of Diary of a Bikini Competitor.

For those that followed along previously, you know I didn’t particularly enjoy my experience with the NPC or the bikini division (more on that later.) I am going to try different organizations and federations as well as different classes. Fitness (or fitness model) division is a little more muscle and little less “skinny and pretty” that you find in bikini. My interest is also in the WBFF but I have to save that until next years Denver show.

For those just catching up, I live a pretty balanced lifestyle. By following an intuitive eating approach I manage to keep my body fat fairly low (I usually sit between 17-21%), rock 6 pack abs, and have plenty of energy for heavy lifting and my active Colorado lifestyle. On the occasional weekend, I enjoy margaritas with friends and I have a weakness for donuts. My diet is anything but restrictive. When working towards changing my body composition, I follow a flexible dieting (IIFYM) approach. This means, I am tracking my macronutrient intake. You can learn more about a healthy body, macronutrients, and reverse dieting by clicking the links for my previously written articles.

My goal with my DBC and DFC series is to offer insight into a different competition prep diet and training plan. The competition diet we see entirely too often is one that promotes serious low cal diets (we’re talking 1,400 kCals or less), no room for “treat” foods, ridiculous amounts of cardio (45 minutes +), and some serious deprivation.

Totally not my idea of a good time.

A competition is never going to be fun but it shouldn’t be hell on earth. It should be challenging and a competitor should have to sacrifice some things (it wouldn’t be a competition if you didn’t) but you should NOT be eating tilapia and asparagus for 16 weeks while running on a treadmill 2 times a day for 45 minutes at a time.

Fitness competitions can be a great catalyst to self-confidence, personal betterment, improved self-value, and to meeting like-minded and lifelong friends. You can learn how to workout and fuel your body appropriately. You can finally believe and prove to yourself that you can and will reach a goal if you work hard.

Quick Insight Into My Method

Because I have been living a healthy lifestyle for so many years (and because I am certified in heath coaching and have a pretty good knowledge base about the physiology of a human body) I know what I need to do to change my body composition. For things I have questions on, I default to the amazing experience and knowledge of Layne Norton. Norton is Professional Powerlifter, Pro Bodybuilder, and (most importantly) holds a PhD in Nutrition Sciences and a BS in Biochemistry. If anyone knows their stuff about the human body, nutrition, and fitness it’s Norton. You can learn a little but about his philosophy and gain insight into competition eating and exercise by clicking here.

Essentially, I default to science.

Bro-dieting or “bro-science” (i.e.; calorie restriction, no re-feeds, low carb/no carb, excess cardio, and stupid fitness trends like squeems) are just not things I am interested in. Why? Because they are extreme, unnecessary, and more often than not cause more damage to a competitor in the long run.

Broscience is the predominant brand of reasoning in bodybuilding circles where the anecdotal reports of jacked dudes are considered more credible than scientific research.
Broscience in action:  “Bro, you gotta slam 40-60 grams of waxy maize plus 20 grams of BCAA within 7 seconds of finishing your last set of squat rack curls. Otherwise, you’ll go straight catabolic.”
What I am interested in, is a healthy, science-backed approach to changing body composition. Making changes to your body doesn’t have to be a dramatic 600+ calorie cut with excessive hours of cardio and strapping yourself into a waist-cincher. With a little understanding of caloric needs, metabolism, and fat loss you can create a plan that works for you!

My Personal Programming

I always begin with a little disclaimer. My numbers should not, and will not, be your numbers. These numbers are specific to me, my body composition, my height/weight, current muscle mass, current training plan, and my personalized goals. I post transparent looks into my programming in order to provide in-depth understanding of the process. Please do not copy and paste this programming and use it as your own. You may or may not see the results you are looking for. If you are interested in competition coaching, I provide those services here

My goal is to prove that you can compete (and place well) in a healthy way. I want to show that “dieting down” or simply working to change your body composition doesn’t mean 1,200 kCals of lettuce and black coffee with extra cottage cheese or crazy amounts of cardio.

I am starting off my competition prep diet at 2,000 kCals per day.

  • 35% carbs
  • 35% fat and
  • 30% protein
  • (Which means I’m eating approximately 175 g carbs, 78 g fat, and 150 g protein.)

Macronutrient BreakdownI am keeping my carbs higher than my protein at the moment because the reverse will happen later on. Protein will slowly get higher and carbs will be tapered down for a lower-carb/fat loss method. (I will never drop under 100 g of carbs per day) As you approach the end of a competition diet, protein increases in order to maintain muscle mass. I haven’t decided what to do with my fats yet. My body LOVES healthy fats and I don’t normally have an issue eating 60+ grams so I will watch my progress and make adjustments as needed.

My cardio will be approximately 8-10 minutes at just 3 times per week. (This will change as I move through the process.) I intend to keep lifting heavy 5-6 days per week.

How did I arrive at these numbers?

This process didn’t start immediately. After my show this past spring, I spent a good amount of time reverse dieting in order to maintain my leaner body composition and increase my metabolism. As a health professional, I advocate eating. Food is the fuel a working body needs in order to function. If you are lifting heavy 5-6 x per day, you must eat!

A Science-Based Prep

My TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) is now close to 2,400 kCals per day based on my body and activity level. My carbohydrates are close to 170 grams per day. Why is this important? Starting a prep at 2,400 calories with high carbs gives a competitor much more wiggle room to adjust carbs and calories as opposed to starting a competition prep diet at 1,500 kCalories with 100 grams of carbs.

The competitor who starts at 1,500 kCals will immediately need to either

  1. cut calories or
  2. increase cardio in order to lose fat.

By cutting calories from 1,500 per day, the competitor already puts themselves at risk of running into their BMR (basal metabolic rate) which is the minimum amount of calories needed to survive if you do nothing all day. Essentially, the minimum amount you need to perform basic human functions like respiration, digestion, and to keep you breathing and your heart beating.

The competitor, over the next several weeks, will need to continue to cut calories and carbs or increase cardio in order to keep fat loss consistent. You can already see the problem they are running into: ridiculously low calorie diets and way too much cardio. This competitor stands on stage skinny, hungry, carb-depleted (which makes muscles flat), and will (more often than not) gain too much weight with post show binge eating, a ruined metabolism, and no concept of normal eating.

Fitness Competition DietThe competitor who starts at 2,400 kCals can do a quick cut of perhaps 200-300 calories and, if they desire, throw in a few days of short, efficient HIIT-style cardio in order to initiate fat loss. This has the competitor sitting pretty at 2,100-2,200 kCals per day while effectively losing fat.

As this competitor moves through their programming, they can do another hard drop of 200 calories, perhaps adjust the amount of carbs, proteins, or fats they are consuming, or increase their cardio to 15 minutes or 3-4 times per week. This competitor steps on stage looking athletic, muscular, happy, healthy, and proud. With a proper reverse diet, this competitor can even maintain their leanness while slowly adding back in calories and decreasing cardio.

Because this competitor never deprived or restricted themselves to unsafe levels, their metabolism is still functioning well and their mentality surrounding food is safe and healthy. Eating disorders and/or disordered eating are all too common in competition prep world and the latter example (2,400 kCals) reduces the chance that a competitor will fall into a disordered eating trap.

Many future and current competitors see their programming as a straight line with an end goal (the show.) The type of mentality can be damaging to a competitors body. Competition dieting should be viewed as a slow and steady wave with periods of reverse dieting and dieting down in order to preserve muscle mass, decrease post-show weight gain, and protect the metabolism of the competitor.

Hopefully this gives you a little more insight into my methods and process.

Diary of a Bikini Competitor: Show Day

With Love and Carbs, 

Amanda 

1 Comment on Diary of a Fitness Competitor

  1. Meagan Ignatowicz
    October 15, 2015 at 2:02 pm (2 years ago)

    I am absolutely LOVING your blog. I am competing in my first bikini competition next week and I have been very against traditional contest prep ideals since I began this journey 14 weeks ago. I am very much about the “balance” and not about the serious deprivation associated with traditional prep plans. I have been on a 45% carb/ 25% fat / 30% protein macro plan at about 2,000 cal/day. Looking forward to reading more of your stuff!!

    Reply

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