Do’s and Don’ts for Bikini Show Prep
The tip for this week is going to be a little more personal than ones I have done in the past. I feel that because there are so many different strategies and misconceptions when it comes to preparing for a bikini show, it is only fitting that I give you a dietitian’s perspective on what you should or should not do if you’re thinking about competing yourself or know someone else who will.
DO Hire at Least One Coach for Your First Show
Even though I myself am a dietitian and personal trainer, when I began my contest prep I had no idea how many calories I needed for my specific prep timeline, or what my exercise routine should be in the week leading up to to the day of the show. Every person has different needs, and I knew that cutting on 1200 calories per day would be way too low with the metabolism I have.
So, I had my resting metabolic rate (RMR) tested and had my meal plans created by another sports dietitian who has worked with physique athletes in the past. I also took exercise recommendations from an exercise physiologist who based recommendations on my current body composition (measured by a DEXA scan).
Finally, I hired a posing coach who herself is an IFBB professional bikini competitor and has almost a decade of experience on the stage.
Posing properly requires the correct combination of balance, tension, and angles to create the right effect, in addition to being able to create a fluid transition between poses.
Posing for bikini competitions is DIFFERENT for everyone—you can’t just copy what someone does in a YouTube video and expect it will work for you. Everyone has a different body shape and size.
Hiring a posing coach allows them to determine the best positions for you. And hiring a dietitian and fitness specialist with experience competing and/or coaching physique athletes will greatly benefit you as well!
Even bodybuilders who themselves have training or dietetic credentials often hire coaches because there is no substitute for an extra set of knowledgeable eyes on your progress during prep.
DO Remember the Importance of Vitamins and Minerals
Too often when people are basing their meals on hitting macronutrient targets, they forget to consider micronutrients as well. If you are eating the same basic 6 foods during cutting (egg whites, spinach, protein powder, chicken, sweet potatoes, and oatmeal, for example) you could develop deficiencies in nutrients like vitamin E, calcium, and vitamin D.
This advice holds true during bulking as well. Just because you can eat significantly more calories in the off-season doesn’t mean you should skimp on fruits and vegetables.
DO Consider Having a Cheat Day or Two During Your Prep
I had an unplanned cheat day two weeks out from my show due to a wedding that I attended where there was not easy access to low-fat food options. Although I hadn’t planned to go over my daily fat allowance, I ended that weekend feeling fully determined to stick to my plan the final two weeks of my cut, and I actually experienced less hunger and cravings for over a week after the wedding.
I believe that if I hadn’t indulged at that point, it would have been more difficult to stay on track in the days leading up to my show. While being strict with your eating is the name of the game for competition prep, there’s no reason to be stricter than you have to, especially for the sake of your mental sanity.
DON’T Buy into the Notion that here is a “One Size Fits All” Approach
I have seen multiple instances where coaches will provide calorie and macronutrient goals for a competitor that are just cookie-cutter recommendations and don’t take into account individual preferences, metabolism, or initial body composition. It is critical to have a diet plan developed specifically for you.
Eating just 1200 calories per day and getting the majority your calories from protein is not the best approach for everyone. Doing cardio for one hour per day 7 days a week is not ideal for every competitor.
If you don’t have a coach who tailors a prep diet plan specifically to your needs, you could wind up losing weight too quickly or too slowly, or even losing some of your hard-earned muscle gains.
DON’T Follow an Ultra-Low Carbohydrate Plan for Weeks on End
From a scientific perspective, this is completely unnecessary. Carbohydrates are vital to your body and the healthy functioning of its various systems. The average person can store 1200-1600 calories of carbohydrates in their body.
Assuming you start on the high end of that range, storing 1600 calories, that comes out to only 400g of stored carbohydrates (4 kcal/g) in your body.
If you normally eat, for example, 200g of carbohydrates per day and then cut down to 30g per day during prep (yes, I’ve seen coaches prescribe this!), then in just over 3 days your carbohydrate stores would be depleted.
And this does not factor in the extra cardio many competitors do during prep, which burns even more carbohydrates! Going too low on carbohydrates not only causes excessive fatigue and weakness, it also can cause dehydration (because two grams of water are stored with every gram of stored carbohydrate in your body. You lose stored carbs, you lose water).
These factors are all top reasons why some competitors experience adrenal failure and/or metabolic dysfunction during and after contest prep. Although competitors in the physique and bodybuilding divisions may strategically deplete carbs and water in order to get that ultra-lean look for the stage, it’s not necessary at the bikini level.
DON’T Worry too Much About Winning your First Show; Have Fun!
This is the best advice that I received along the way as I prepared for my first show, and now that I am one day out I truly believe that having a relaxed mindset is key. Sure you want to give your prep everything you have so there aren’t any regrets, but you also want the process to make you feel strong and motivated, not miserable.
So, once all the hard work is done, just enjoy the opportunity to get dressed up, tanned up, and glammed up and show the results of your months of hard work! I’m more excited than anything right now to get up on stage, and I appreciate the support of everyone who has followed my journey along the way!
Let the countdown to post-show pizza and ice cream begin 😉