Bodybuilding and training as a figure athlete is definitely a sport of its own. Many people who have not competed or gone through this type of training regime may not quite understand the concepts or principles of the lifestyle. I am often asked questions by people who are trying to understand the rationale behind the science of contest preparation. Here are some of the most common ones and my responses for those who would like to know more about what physique competition is really all about.
“Don’t competitors go without water for like 10 days? That’s so unhealthy!”
No, absolutely not! The truth is, every time I compete I feel I am in the best health ever. Think about it—you’re in a regular routine of daily exercise of both cardiovascular and strength training, hitting all major muscle groups. You are eating balanced, frequent meals with a combination of protein, fibre, carbohydrate and healthy fats. You get so into a routine that you also develop regular sleep patterns and let me tell you, I sleep like a baby! You stay hydrated very well with at least three to four litres of water per day throughout the five or six months of contest preparation. The only time your hydration is limited is the day of the show. I have never gone without any water at all. On the day of competition, I will likely have about 500 ml to sip on throughout the day.
“How do I get rid of this right here?” (pointing at a particular body part)
Overall physique transformation to a leaner body happens through burning more calories than consumed. You’re not going to get rid of one spot and not anything else. Also, genetics, not exercise, determines how the fat in our bodies is distributed and stored. You can’t spot reduce. You can’t change your structural genetic build. You can’t turn fat into muscle. You need to commit to a lifestyle change of nutrition and exercise for a physique transformation to a leaner you.
“You only walk on the treadmill? I thought you had to run to burn enough calories?”
My cardiovascular training is in a specific heart rate range and a specific time duration to burn fuel from stored fat sources. I also incorporate interval training to keep my heart rate up to where it needs to be to get the most out of incline walking or stair climber training.
“I have been exercising for weeks (or months) and haven’t changed my physique or become leaner, what am I doing wrong?”
Exercise is a great way to improve muscle size and strength, endurance, power, cardiovascular conditioning and other aspects of physical and mental well being, but if what you’re after is a leaner physique, you need to dial in on your nutritional needs and intake. One of my favourite quotes is “Abs are made in the kitchen.” It all comes down to calorie intake versus calorie expenditure. You can train all you want—spending hours in the gym—and, sure, you’ll get stronger or run faster or run longer, but you won’t see physique changes unless you match your nutrition appropriately to accomplish your goals. Don’t get frustrated. Get yourself a great trainer who can individualize your training and nutrition plan to your goals and give you the tools you need for success.
“You must be starving!”
No, I have never really gone hungry throughout the whole contest prep. I am eating so frequently and having so many fibrous vegetables. You get lean from making the right choices to fuel your body to train hard and stay healthy, but it all comes down to burning more calories than consumed—certainly not from starving yourself!
“Don’t all bodybuilders only eat meat?”
I eat more fibre and green veggies than anything! Yes, each meal is balanced with a small to moderate protein source and some with starch carbohydrate or fat sources, but the majority of my plate is filled with vegetables.
Protein is important for growth, repair and maintenance of tissue. There are sources of protein other than meat. I like to explore my options to keep it interesting and include egg whites or whole eggs, whey protein isolate, yogurt, milk, cottage cheese, lentils and beans in my diet.
“What do you mean you can’t have fruit? I thought fruit was good for you?”
Yes, fruit contains many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, as well as providing plenty of soluble dietary fibre. However, it does have fairly high sugar from fructose content. For me, my body responds best to get in peak conditioning by omitting fruit from my diet several weeks away from a contest. Even in the off-season, I try to keep fruit as a nutritional choice limited and then choose mostly veggies for my fibre source. Or I consider fruit a dessert or a “once in a while” treat.
“You eat 6 times a day!jQuery15207231824212989975_1391728630636! How are you not 500lbs?”
Yep, six meals a day, which means I’m eating about every three hours. The key is what and how much that makes it an effective nutrition plan for a lean physique. I am certainly not eating a heaping plateful of calories each time. I eat just enough so that I am starting to get hungry before the next meal within a few hours. Each meal can range from 250 to 400 calories, depending on my activity level that day and what my needs are. I like to think of eating not to feel “full” after each meal, but to be “just barely satisfied.” Usually, half the plate is fibre (vegetables) and the rest is a small portion of a lean protein and maybe a bit of starch carbohydrate. This keeps me full of energy, fuelling my body and my brain. My metabolism is revved to keep burning and not storing!
Written by Melissa Leier