6 Hard Truths That'll Get You Stage Ready

Prep Essentials for Female Physique Competitions

Just diet and exercise to step on stage, right? WRONG. Here are six things every first-time competitor needs to know.


Preparing for your first bikini or figure competition (or even a fitness photoshoot) is a mixture of excitement and nerves. Do it right, and you can expect incredible results. I’ve worked with both seasoned pros and beginners, and here are the hard truths that’ll guide you through your prep.

1. Prepare to Bid Farewell to Some of Your Favorite Foods

You know that “enjoy your favorite foods without sacrificing anything” tagline you see everywhere? Well, achieving your best shape requires some sacrifices. Sorry to burst your bubble! While you don’t have to live off bland chicken and salad, you can’t indulge in pizza and ice cream every day either unless you want to see your hard work go down the drain.

Focus on lean protein sources like chicken, turkey, and fish, and load up on veggies for maximum volume. Reserve your carbs and fats for sources that’ll keep you satisfied, energized, and nourished. Of course, a good coach can make adjustments, allow for cheat meals, and even incorporate diet breaks if you’re doing well.

2. Embrace Cardio

Most people can’t avoid cardio if they want to achieve that jaw-dropping, shredded physique. But don’t worry, it’s not all about mindlessly spending hours on the Stairmaster.

Instead, take a strategic approach. By incorporating certain forms of cardio into your routine and adjusting your calorie intake, you can maintain muscle definition, fullness, and an overall improved physique. It’s all about doing the right amount of cardio to get the best results. And who knows, you might even fall in love with walking to nowhere on a treadmill!

3. Daily Weighing and Tracking of Food are Non-Negotiable

There’s no escaping tracking your food intake. You need to account for every morsel. Tracking apps like MyFitnessPal make this process a breeze. Even your fish oil (on Amazon) capsules must be accounted for because every calorie counts.

Tracking allows for flexibility in your diet, so you can still eat out and indulge in cheat-style meals while meeting your macro targets. Tracking is essential unless you’re an elite athlete who has it all dialed in. And trust me, the joy of discovering extra “energy” calories at the end of the day is an incredible feeling!

4. Get Creative with Your Food Choices

Flexibility is key. With a finite number of macros to work with each day, you can get creative and have endless food options. This prevents your diet from becoming monotonous and helps you resist cravings.

Why settle for a basic protein shake and some dry rice cakes post-workout when you can mix your protein powder into some fat-free Greek yogurt topped with berries for similar macros? Experiment and modify common recipes. Your options are endless, but an example might be using iceberg lettuce as a burger bun or replacing carbs with plant-based options like cauliflower rice.

Who said dieting has to be boring? In an ideal world, you’d plan your foods based on your target macros and write it all down in a meal plan to keep things consistent. This is especially important as you’ll be eating similar foods throughout your prep. But if eating the same foods each day sounds like your worst nightmare, then just eat what you know works well for you and track everything using your app.

5. It’s Not Just about Your Physique

It’s not just about having a killer physique. Every detail matters, from your flawless makeup to your skin tone and texture and even what you wear.

You need to look your absolute best and exude confidence in front of the judges. Practice your poses religiously, seek guidance from a posing coach, and build that stage presence. It’s also important to consider that oftentimes, posing on stage feels like a workout in itself, and sometimes harder.

Practicing your posing after your workouts can be a good way to build your “posing fitness,” as you’ll already be fatigued. Set yourself up to look great in every way. Confidence is key!

6. Expect the Unexpected in Terms of Weight Loss

The scales aren’t everything, but they’re one of the most important metrics to track during your fat loss phase of training. If you think you need to lose 20 pounds to look your best, brace yourself for the reality that it might actually be closer to 25.

First-timers often underestimate the amount of body fat they need to shed. In large part, I think some of this comes down to societal expectations of how much a woman “should” weigh. Just remember, this is a competition of extremes. The judges aren’t going to award a trophy to the most average-looking body, and they certainly won’t do that for the skinniest one, either.

You want to be a healthy and highly nourished machine! This is also one of the reasons why you’ll want to start your fat loss phase today instead of next month, because it’s better to be ahead of time and cruising in, rather than having a high-stress time with it.

Final Thoughts

Competing means taking your body to an extreme. At times, your muscles will be depleted and flat. At other times, you’ll start to see muscle appear where it wasn’t before. It’s a yo-yo of emotions where some days you’ll question your sanity, and others you’ll remember why it’s a sport you love. Be ready for it.

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