Unless you have competed in a bodybuilding/fitness show or prepared for a photo shoot, you won’t know the extent of preparation that is needed. We’re not just talking about diet and training – there is a whole host of things that need to be thought about to make the day go to plan and be stress free.
Some people may think these are minor details, but if ignored, they could make all those weeks of hard dieting, training and cardio go to waste. Below is a guide of things to think about for people going into a show or a shoot and also give the general population of fitness enthusiasts a little insight into all the “other” stuff that happens behind the scenes that they don’t see. You’ll see it’s not just rocking up on the day in your trunks and throwing some shapes out on the stage!
Skin prep and tanning
Your skin needs to be in the best possible condition in order for your tan to look as good as it can. I start exfoliating a couple of times a week from around four weeks out and then most days in the final week leading up to the show.
I also find it beneficial to build up a bit of a base tan using a sunbed from about four weeks out, but these must stop at least one week prior to the show as the use of sunbeds can make you hold water.
It is advisable that you use the skin prep products from the tanning brand you are using, but to be honest, a decent exfoliator will do the trick. Before any tan goes on you need to do the dreaded full body shave. This is the thing I hate most about competing. Once that ordeal is over with then you can either follow the guidelines on the bottle of tan before applying or ask someone who has gone through the process a few times and tried different tans – how many coats? How thick? How many days before do you start? What do you use to apply? Will you use a glaze? Do you need to wash it off? These are things you need to be asking.
Depleting normally happens about a week out from the show or shoot. The aim is to fully deplete the muscles of glycogen which will make them more receptive when you load. If all goes to plan, this process will take you from flat and skinny, to thick and full, ready for your show. This should only be done if you are lean and on point. If you are still carrying fat then don’t deplete and load.
When depleting, you will normally drop your carbs around 50% lower than what you have been dieting on. Some people go zero carb and others go to 150g carb – it’s specific to the individual.
On the first depletion day, you will normally train legs. This is because they usually take longer to recover and you don’t want inflamed legs come show day. Many coaches will vary this depletion and load process, as there’s no hard and fast methods or rules that work for everyone. Some people don’t do it at all. For my recent show, my coach had me stop leg training a week out, drop my carbs to zero as I was only on 40g per day anyway, and kept me training heavy and doing cardio up until Thursday (the show was Sunday). Some people like to do specific depletion workouts focusing on the squeeze, but my coach didn’t change anything for me. I kept things as heavy as possible, but remained sensible.
Again, there are many different variations of the loading process. Like with depletion, there are no hard and fast rules or exact methods that will work for everyone. You need to be mega flat and depleted for the loading process to go well. Done wrong and it will be a disaster, done correctly and this will leave you looking full, dry and hard.
Loading is dependant on the individual, but as a guide, start two days before. You will either start high then lower, start low then go higher, or go higher and higher depending on how your body reacts.
If you start with a lot of carbs on the first day and you wake up dry and your weight hasn’t changed, then you will probably have another high day. If you wake up lacking water and the scale has shot up, it would be a good idea to back off the carbs that day and reassess later in the day or first thing on the morning of the show.
What you do on show day will depend on what you look like on the morning. If you look full, dry and hard, then you just want to maintain this look until it’s time to pump up. If you’re flat, you may want to add more carbs. If you’ve spilled over and are looking soft, it would be a good idea to just eat protein and fat meals and maybe do some posing to try get rid of the water.
Water and sodium manipulation
Depleting, loading and playing around with water and sodium all go hand in hand. You need to be VERY lean for these to have the best affect. Done incorrectly, or whilst carrying extra body fat, will leave you looking a lot worse.
Hopefully you will have already been lightly salting your meals with sea salt throughout the diet, as this has many benefits. For me, this stayed constant throughout the whole diet and through the day of the show, we didn’t play with sodium at all. I have seen and heard of a lot of people cutting sodium, or sodium loading, and they end up looking terrible the day of the show. If you look good leading up to the show, try and change as few things as possible. It’s often the case that something that could make you look 1% better will make you look 20% worse.
Water intake will normally increase the last week of prep. Mine was around eight litres a day. My show was on the Sunday, so we pushed water a little higher on the Saturday then stopped it at 7pm. I then had no water at all until after the show had finished.
It’s a good idea to check the running order to gauge a rough time that you’ll be on stage before you prep your meals, as it’s always better to have more than not enough. If you have a coach, then ask him/her what they see you eating on the day and prep accordingly.
You don’t really want to be eating anything on the day that you haven’t eaten during prep, as you don’t know how your body will react. Usually small meals or protein and carbs, some nut butters and some simple sugars to eat about 40 minutes before will help with a pump if need be.
This is body-type dependant, but try not to eat so much that your stomach looks full and bloated. You want to keep that waist tight so small light meals are perfect, something such as rice cakes with jam.
Some other stuff …
I don’t know about you, but I like to be prepared. I always rather have too much of everything or be somewhere an hour early then run out of something or be late.
Get to the venue in good time. You don’t want to be rushing around, stressing, trying to eat and make sure your tan’s okay, all at the same time. When it’s time go back stage and chill, some people lie down with headphones in and their feet raised up, but the main thing is to just chill out and think about what you’re going to do on stage.
Always have a spare pair of trunks or, if you’re me, have two. If one pair gets covered in tan during the morning show, then you have a spare for the night.
Most venues won’t have anything there for you to pump up with, so you will need to take some dumbbells with you, or a band of some type. Then, when it’s time to get pumped up, go hit your chest, back, delts and arms to get them nice and full of blood ready to get on stage.
And last, but not least, enjoy it!