On today’s episode of Live Lean TV, we answer the questions, are fitness competitions healthy for you, and is competing worth it?
This was a question from #AskLiveLeanTV Ep. 009.
marisol.cardriel on Snapchat asks: So, we are told that we have to eat in order to build muscle and get lean. Why is it that bodybuilders restrict calories in order to get lean for competition? Are fitness competitions healthy for you? Not that I want to starve myself, just curious.
But before we get into today’s video post, I first wanted to quickly share that Jessica just launched our Tone @Home bodyweight only, follow along workout video program.
This is an awesome follow along workout video program that Jessica is leading.
She has put me through the workouts and I’m loving it as well.
Tone @Home is 40% off until Friday, September 4, 2020.
To help answer the question, are fitness competitions healthy for you, we are joined by special guest Jeremy Reid.
Fortunately, both Jessica and Jeremy are former fitness and bodybuilding competitors, and can share their personal experiences with competing.
From a female perspective, let’s first hear what Jessica has to say about her experiences with competing in fitness competitions.
Jessica: I really had a huge education with nutrition when i first started competing.
While prepping for my fitness competition, I actually learned very quickly that I was substantially undercutting the amount of calories I needed to be eating.
When I first started competing in female fitness competitions, all the advice I was given was females should be consuming around 1200 to 1500 calories per day.
Unfortunately, that calorie goal applied to pretty much every female competitor across the board, regardless of your height, starting bodyweight, and every other unique characteristic.
In other words, the nutrition advice for female fitness competitors was just cookie cutter.
Knowing what I know now, it’s so ridiculous to think that I totally believed this nutrition approach to competing.
Therefore I put myself on this calorie restrictive diet by fitting in low calorie foods, such as rice cakes, low fat yogurts, and other low calorie foods to keep my calories below a certain level.
From a muscle perspective, my body was basically looking the same, but I just got skinner because of the excessive amounts of cardio I was doing.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t a good thing because I didn’t look shapely like a female fitness competition physique is supposed to look.
So yes, it is true that you have to eat to make muscle gains.
Based on my personal experience, I learned this the hard way by making anti-gains.
Once I figured out that I needed to eat more, I then started building a better physique for competing in fitness competitions.
After I started building shapely muscle, I would then enter the lean out and final cutting prep phase.
The final cutting phase is when you have to be really diligent about:
The final cut before the fitness competition is somewhat of a short-term calorie restriction, but it shouldn’t be insanely restrictive.
For my body type, I would cut my calories to be in a small daily calorie deficit, but I wouldn’t go as low as 1200 calories.
Also, you can eat more calories when you increase your exercise.
That’s what helps you get ultra shredded for the day of the fitness show.
So yes, when you are getting ready to compete, you will mostly likely have a period where you will have to restrict calories.
But there are a lot of individual factors to consider.
The level of calorie restriction depends on the person, including:
When you’re prepping for a competition, you need to know all of the details.
These details include:
When I was competing, I even got to the point where I knew which types of carbohydrates were better for my body.
For example, I was so dialed in that I could tell the difference in my physique if I had sweet potatoes versus rice.
Competing in a fitness competition requires you to take your nutrition planning to a whole other level of seriousness and dedication.
In other words, you really have to put a microscope on your nutrition and your fitness.
Jeremy: Obviously it’s going to be a little different for a guy competing in bodybuilding, than it is for a girl competing a fitness competition.
When it comes to nutrition, the common thing you hear from a lot of male bodybuilders is, “I’m in my off season bulking phase”.
During this off season, some male bodybuilders will be eating 4000-5000 calories a day.
It may seem like a lot of calories to eat, but you can accomplish this by consuming mass weight gainer shakes.
However, here’s the thing.
Since bodybuilders consume so many calories during the bulking phase, they’re constantly feeling full.
Then once it comes time to cut down for a bodybuilding competition, a lot of guys begin complaining about how little they’re eating.
But in reality, they’re not really eating that little.
They’re just eating little compared to the 4000-5000 calories a day they were eating during their bulking phase.
In order to get lean after a bulk, you will obviously have to restrict your calories from where you were.
But it does not have to be a major low calorie diet that makes you feel like you’re starving.
When I first decided to compete in bodybuilding, I was over 300 pounds.
Then I dieted all the way down to 170 pounds to compete in the middleweight bodybuilding category.
It was intense.
Competing in bodybuilding shows was the end of the first part of my fitness journey.
Even though it’s called a competition, I was only competing with myself.
My goal was not to be competitive with others.
I was just proud of the amount of effort that I put in, and how I transformed my physique.
That is such an important piece to remember if you’re considering competing.
I get asked all the time if I compete in fitness competitions.
I’ll just put this out there.
To me, fitness competitions are not what Living Lean is all about.
This is why I’ve never felt the desire to compete in a fitness competition.
And let me make this clear, it’s not that I have anything against people that compete.
I’m definitely not dissing on competitors because a lot of people use competitions to help them transform.
But to me, fitness is not about competing against other people to see who has the better physique.
I use fitness as a way to build my self-esteem and compete against myself.
My goals are to get stronger and better myself, rather than going up on stage and trying to beat other competitors.
Ultimately this was also Jeremy and Jessica’s focus as well.
Jessica and Jeremy have no desire to compete in another fitness competition.
However, they both did mention competing was a great experience for them.
Fitness competitions can be healthy for you if you approach it in the right way.
Unfortunately, I know so many people personally, especially girls, that have competed, which led to damaging to their body.
Ultimately, they just didn’t prepare for the show, from a nutrition and training perspective, the healthy way.
Essentially people go to low calorie and overtrain to the point of damaging their metabolism.
A lot of new competitors also have the wrong attitude coming out of a show.
For example, they think since the show is over, they can now eat whatever they want, and only work out when they want.
This hurts your metabolism even more.
Reverse dieting after a fitness competition is just as important as the bulking and cutting phase of competition prep.
We talked about reverse dieting in this video post.
Ultimately competing in fitness competitions is not really what Living Lean is all about.
Living Lean is about living a sustainable and healthy lifestyle 365 days a year.
If you want to learn how to build a bodybuilder’s physique, check out this post on the secrets to a bodybuilder’s physique.
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Brad Gouthro is the founder of Live Lean TV, a media company focused on helping men and women “Live Lean” 365 days a year. Brad’s programs and content have helped millions of people all over the world learn how to get in shape, and more importantly, sustain it for life.