Category Archives: figure competition diet
More and more I get questions from women who are in their 30’s or 40’s who’ve been working out for some time and would like to compete, but they are afraid that they won’t be able to compete with younger competitors. The other day I had a 39 year old woman come to my gym telling me how ‘everyone‘ said she could never compete with younger figure girls. I showed her pictures from a recent show in which all of my competitors were 35 or over (35-45). They won mutiple classes and one of my competitors missed a pro card by 1 point.
The really great thing about this sport is that age is not the hindrance that it is in many other sports. Recently while watching the Olympics I would hear the commentators praise competitors who are in their 30’s… for still competing with the younger athletes. In figure, age brings about wisdom, grace and often a better physique. I explained to this potential figure competitor that the over 35 competitor makes up the backbone of my entire team. I explained to her that each competitor from the recent show, besides leadership, brings something different to the table …. Erika brings grace and a flawless posing style (and hairdo) that often, as in this show, will get comments from the judges/announcers about her presentation. Karen, who brings a hardcore non-stop attitude – having just completed a national Under Armour challenge where she completed 100 (yes 100!) continous squat presses with a 45 lb Olypmpic bar (she doesn’t want me to mention that she is 50 years old… so don’t tell her I mentioned it). She reminds everyone that it’s just a sport and not your whole life. There is Andrea, who brings a more quiet, more subtle approach to training and competition, sort of a ‘just do-it’ attitude… no complaints, not too may questions – just workout, practice posing and get on with life, these are traints I try to get younger competitors to model. Finally we have Denise, one of the hardest working competitors I have ever met. Competing 9 months after having a baby, her before and after pictures are so incredible that people didn’t believe they were real! Told she would never be a figure competitor because of her age, she has won first place trophies in the Untied States and Canada… and proved all her critics wrong.
Then I hear this: “Won’t the judges always go for the younger competitor?” It doesn’t matter what your age is… if you have the best physique you will win, besides, judges respect the over 35 competitor… most judges are former competitors, and they know how much hard work goes into getting onstage in your 30’s and 40’s, when your metabolism starts to slow down, your skin is not quite as tight as it use to be and you have more life responsibilities which makes it more difficult to find enough time to train for a show…. they respect that.
So don’t listen to the naysayers… most don’t know what they’re talking about. If a trainer says you are too old, then find s trainer who is knowledgeable and willing to work with you – the truth is, a lot of trainers only want to train ‘easy’ competitors women who are 24 years old and in shape, who may have competed and done well in the past. They don’t want to start from square one with a woman who is 37 and never competed before… Ironically, as is often the case… that 37 year old will find another trainer (I hope it’s me) and show up at a competition and kick the other trainers competitor’s butt! Nothing like a little sweet revenge!
So without my ‘veterans’ …there would be no “Stokes Crew”
More and more I hear figure competitors complaining about how their competiton diet destroyed their metabolism. If you want to understand what really happens, just watch the video below:
I’m mad… I mean really mad! Yesterday I met a figure competitor who told me her trainer (i use the word ‘trainer’ very loosely) told her not to drink water for 3 days before her show… thank goodness she didn’t do it! Does this fitness professional (again, i use the term ‘professional’ very loosely) realize that a person can die after 3-4 days of no water? YES… I said die! What a complete moron! Dying for a 10″ trophy? Hmmmm…. let me think on that!! This is the sort of nonsense that originally motivated me to write my figure competition diet book – because I was appauled at what some trainers were doing.
… apparently some trainers are still in the stone-ages when it comes to diet.
Bodybuilding’s #1 cause of death: By far the main reason bodybuilder die – right before, during, or immediately after a show is due to dehydration and electrolyte imbalances. Many people think steroids cause these deaths, the truth is… there has never been a single documented case of a bodybuilder dying of steroid use. The reason I bring this up is because whenever a bodybuilder collapses and dies, people always say it was related to steroids. Nope! …these athletes die from electrolyte imbalances secondary to dehydration!!!
intense training + dehydration = recipe for disaster
Trainers with NO experience are giving diets to competitors. Trainers have to understand that they are training someone’s daughter, wife or mother, they look to you for guidance… they have complete faith in you. They trust you to give them good advice. Thy place their health in your hands… This sport is hard enough on the body… especially for women! The diet has to be tough… but it CAN be healthy. My competitors eat at least 5 x day… 7 or 8 meals a day is even better. They drink as much water as they want.
Everything I tell my figure competitors comes from years of experience which includes many failures and successes along the way – I’ve trained competitors all over the world – from Brazil to U.S. Soldiers in the Middle East. I’ve trained women featured in Oxygen Magazine, Bodybuilding.com and women that compete at the highest levels of the sport, which is why I would never just blindly pull something out of my a** and offer it up as advice.
To this particular ‘trainer’, I would like to ask:
- how dare you tell a competitor not to drink water for 3 days
- how dare you take their money and give them such bogus and dangerous advice
- how dare you advertise yourself as a figure coach or personal trainer
- how dare you give advice without understanding even the basics of human physiology
- how dare you jeopardize a young woman’s health
I studied and documented everything when I first started… I took meticulous notes, checked body fat everyday on competitors, documented muscle retention throughout the dieting process etc…. I stayed up many nights, literally all night, writing diets and trying to figure this whole thing out, safely – on top of more than 20 years being involved with bodybuilding!
Stop thinking it’s so easy to go from teaching group powerboxing classes to being a figure competition coach! Be a professional and do your research! Then go out and see what works, study your results – do this over and over …and over again. Then you can start developing a program. Don’t just hope that a women with great genetics walks through the door of your gym so that you can take her to a competition and call yourself a figure coach…. uhhh, don’t work like that. That’s what we call in the industry a ‘Perp’ (perpetrator, fraud, fake).
Please, do your homework and gain some knowledge… before you hurt someone!!!!! (or better yet, save yourself 5 years and learn from my experience here – but I’m sure you won’t do that!)
There is none so blind …as he who will not see!
Right after taking this picture the other night after a competition, another competitor asked me… “What do your competitors eat?” Below is a breakdown of what they eat…
Figure Diet: the competition diet is pretty basic. Lean protein, fibrous carbs (vegetables), complex carbs and good fats. The diet should be structured to change as the body gets leaner.
- Meat: Chicken is the food of choice 80% of the time with fish and tuna being eaten 20% of the time. Some competitors switch to fish in the weeks prior to a show to help with fat loss.
- Protein powder: Every competitor uses protein powder each day between, 2-4 scoops. Closer to competition, competitors will replace some of their chicken or fish meals with protein powder to keep fat loss going. You should choose a powder that taste good to you, otherwise you get tired of it real quick.
- Supplements: A multivitamin once a day and protein powder, that’s about it for 95% of my competitors. Creatine should only be taken in the off-season. If i find that someone is taking creatine during precontest training, I will have them stop immediately because it makes you hold water.
- Cheat foods: Peanut butter seems to be the big winner when it comes to cheating. Almost every competitor admits to cheating on the diet. 70% will choose peanut butter. Ice cream is enjoyed by 30% of competitors and potato chips are eaten by 40%. They say the best thing to do is make sure there is none of the ‘offending’ food in the house… otherwise it will be eaten.
- Compliance with the diet: 99% of competitors cheat on the diet. I know a few who I ‘think’ won’t cheat… but I can’t be 100% sure. They often try to lie about it, but i get the truth eventually. Actually cheats are harmless and can be beneficial if kept to a minimum. The brain (psychology) and body (extra energy) benefits from the extra boost a cheat can give them.
- Artificial sweeteners: 60% say they use some sort of artificial sugar or flavoring in their coffee (also about 80% drink coffee). These have to be eliminated the last week of a show because they can hold on to water in your body. You can lose 3 or 4 lbs just by eliminating artificial sweeteners from your diet (depending on how much you use).
I think other trainers and competitors expect me to have some secret food or supplements that I use. I don’t. The only ‘secret’ is how the diet is structured… but the foods are just basic foods.
The charts below are based on my competition diets (http://www.figurecompetitiondiets.com/)
(To view or download the complete map: http://www.figureready.com/figure-ready-blog.html)
To view or download the complete map: http://www.figureready.com/figure-ready-blog.html
Jody and Laurie
Kaylee is a down to earth well-rounded competitor from Canada who followed my competition diet program – If you are interested in a well-written inspirational BodySpace profile, check it out: http://bodyspace.bodybuilding.com/OSIP/. Here is an email she sent me:
“Since I started the program, which I have been following religiously, I have dropped over 15 lbs. My weight is at a 4 year low (since after the last time I competed) but my confidence is at a record high. I’m seeing aspects of my body I haven’t seen in YEARS (oh, 6-pack, how I’ve missed you!) The workouts are HARD, but I enjoy them, and the diet is easy! It’s simple to follow and it’s real, easy to obtain food- nothing weird on the list! I’m still 3 weeks out from competition, but felt confident enough I registered last weekend! My husband comes home today after being away for 6 weeks- I can’t wait for him to see the new me! Everyone at work is noticing and complimenting me, and so far even my parents aren’t complaining this time (they called me emaciated last time). I am SO glad I decided to order this program! I know I’ll use it for contest prep for years to come!”
Check out her BodySpace: http://bodyspace.bodybuilding.com/OSIP/
(Sorry I’ve been gone so long but I’ve been working on some new projects for figure competitors. I will have details in a few weeks).
The following email I received epitomizes the reason I became a figure coach. This is what it’s all about… if you’ve ever doubted yourself read below and get re-energized!!!!
I owe you my thanks. You don’t know me, but it was nine months ago in February that I decided to do some research on how to go about doing a Figure Competition, nine months ago when I found your website and purchased your e-book on line. Nine months ago when your website convinced me that I COULD do it!
I’m a mother of three, a wife, a full time worker with an awesome 70 mile commute (one way). The odds were against me. How would I ever find time to train? How would I be able to cook meals for myself and then turn around and take care of my family? How could I cram the workouts I needed into my 1 hour lunch break? It seemed impossible at the time, but now that I look back, the hard work was well worth it. I would have never gotten as far as I did had it not been for your Figure Guide. The idea of it was overwhelming, but your workouts and your diet plan made it easy for me. I didn’t have to think, I didn’t have to figure anything out and I didn’t have to spend 2 hours a day at the gym. I just had to follow the plan and stay focused. Follow the plan, take your word for it and trust that my investment would pay off.
Well Terry, IT DID!!! I followed the Figure Guide workouts religiously and stuck with the diet. I only had 12 weeks to get ready for what seemed like the impossible and all I had was your book. I had 20lbs to lose and was sitting at 27% body fat. It was hard to imagine that I could shave it all off in just 12 weeks, I was scared and I consistently wondered if I would make it. I had no one to guide me, no teacher, no trainer but I could see myself changing weekly and I enjoyed the challenge of each workout.
On June 19th, after only 12 weeks of training, I stepped out on stage for my first ever Figure Competition. I was 22lbs lighter and sat around 13 to 14%BF. I took home second place in my height category and realized then that it wasn’t over, I had the bug and I was going to keep going. Since my first show on June 19th I’ve entered two more NPA shows where I placed 1st in my height category and recently on October 16th I took the stage to battle for Pro. I was 25lbs lighter and sat at 10%BF. I placed 5th in the NPA Pro Classic barely earning my Pro Status and winning my first check!
At first I was pretty bummed out about getting 5th place. I was going for the gold and felt like I didn’t train hard enough, but after giving it some long thought I realized, “wait”…here I am, a mother of 3, a wife, a full time employee with a 70 mile commute, and I managed to do all of this on my one hour lunch break. In just 9 months I did the unthinkable, I transformed my body, I became a Figure Competitor, I became an NPA Pro Athlete and I changed my life.
I will admit that I no longer follow the Figure Guide like how I use to, but I owe my success to you, it’s where my success started. The book was my stepping stone; it was where it all began and it’s what convinced me to commit to achieving my goals. I still use the concepts weekly tweaking things here and there, but since I’ve come to know and understand my body I realize that I no longer need to follow a guide, I now know what works for me, I now know myself and what my passion is. Thank you Terry for the “no more guessing” and making it easy for someone like me. I often wonder what would’ve happened if I never stumbled upon your website. I’m so glad I did. Thank you!
That’s the reason I’m a figure coach!
Getting ready for a figure competition is a process designed to increase in intensity the closer you get to show day. Unless you possess great genetics it’s going to be difficult to get lean for a show… so you must be smart and not burn out early by doing too much too soon.
Have you ever known someone (not a figure competitor) to start a diet, and the first day… they’re doing an hour of cardio, eating a super-strict and low calorie diet, going to the gym, taking fat burners – and oh yeah, let’s not forget about the colon cleanse concoction they’re taking. Realistically how long will this last? It’s simply too much for the body and mind to handle at one time. I’ve seen figure competitors take this approach and by contest time (if they make it) they look more like a warmed over corpse than a figure competitor. Ever seen a girl’s hair fall out from over training? …I have!
Look, the truth is YOU WILL OVERTRAIN getting ready for a figure show. This is not a sport for the easily intimidated and there is not reason to sugarcoat it. The key is to delay it as long as possible. If you’ve competed before, how many of the following symptoms of overtraining have you had during contest preparation:
- excessive fatigue
- sleeping irregularities (high cortisol levels)
- nagging injuries
- amenorrhea (loss of period)
- cravings for sugar
- loss of sex drive
These are signs of adrenal gland dysfunction caused by overtraining. Many an athlete has experienced this accidently! Figure competitors actually look for some of the signs of overtraining as a sign that they are getting close to competition shape. Competitors always ask me: “When will I lose my period” or “How come I’m still getting my period, should I be working out harder?”
What to do:
When beginning your contest prep, start out conservative on a diet with a decent amount of calories and a workout regimen that is not overwhelming (ex. 1 resistance workout a day and 20 minutes of cardio). As you get closer to your competition, you will increase your cardio to 2 sessions a day while increasing the length of your resistance workouts and cutting your diet slightly. The idea is to increase the intensity of your workouts, while decreasing the calories in your diet. This is a slow and steady process… it’s a fine line between doing it right… and hitting a brick wall. The diet is very important… if your diet is one of those: 1 grapefruit for breakfast, 1 for lunch and a protein drink at 3pm…. or some silly combination like crackers and tuna etc etc…. you are going to have a tough time because a lot of these diets are just bogus and not fit for a guinea pig. Couple one of these silly diets with intense workouts and not only will you become extremely overtrained but you may get sick as well. So make sure your figure competition diet contains good protein sources, complex carbs, fibrous carbs and the proper kinds of fat.
If it was easy… everybody would be doing it!
Anyone who’s ever tried dieting for a figure competition knows how difficult it can be. The best way I’ve found is to diet consistently throughout the week and have a cheat meal on the weekend. Unfortunately when staying consistent gets difficult, bad things start to happen… really bad things! Let’s take a look at a few of these contest diet pitfalls:
Starve and Binge:
- Sometimes competitors lose their ability to stick to a diet and go on a binge. This is often followed by starving themselves to make up for the binge. It doesn’t happen just once but often becomes a regular pattern. Instead of eating chicken, fish, potatoes and vegetables over the course of 3 days…. a competitor may binge on eat ice cream, chips, chocolate etc…. for 1 day and then barely eat anything for the next 2 days! Not very healthy! It happens more than many figure competitors will admit. Doing this will torment you mentally with feelings of depression and failure… I’ve gotten many a midnight text message from a figure competitor in the middle of the fallout from one of these binges. Why some competitors can stop after one brownie, slice of pizza or candy bar and the next girl continues until she wants to puke is something I don’t quite understand – but it happens.
Some competitors will talk about how closely they follow the diet… EXCEPT they forget to mention the constant nibbling they do during the day:
- a handful of nuts
- scoop of peanut butter
- piece of bread
- a little bit of this and a little bit of that
- etc, etc, etc…..
These calories add up over the 3 month precontest diet phase! These ‘nibbles’ are always on the highest caloric foods (fats)too: cookies, nuts, chocolate etc. No one seems to want to nibble on a few vegetables or a piece of chicken…. not only would that be better but your stomach would feel fuller. Those last few pounds you need to lose to be in great shape for a competition may never come off if you don’t get control of the ‘nibbles’.
No carbs (or very low carbs) can be used as a diet technique closer to competition time BUT… you shouldn’t be using it on Day 1! This is a sure way to lose a lot of water, dehydrate yourself, slow your metabolism down and make it twice as hard to get lean for a show (slow metabolism). These are usually first timers who are eager to lose body fat, I have to keep reminding them: “Your competition is in 3 months…. not 3 days”. If you cut your carbs too much, too soon, you will stand a much higher chance of mental and physical burnout when you couple this with the increased training intensity during precontest training.
Sometimes more experienced competitors will go day after day on no carbs trying to lose more body fat… especially if they haven’t been consistent with their diet. They use this as a way to ‘catch up’. Your body gets real tired of this, real quick… pretty soon you will be walking around with your brain in a fog, like a zombie, struggling to figure out the simplest daily task (brain cells needs twice as many carbohydrates as the other cells in your body to function normally). Your workouts will become impossible also. Low carbs + low energy + poor workouts (because of low energy) + slow metabolism = 1 miserable, unhappy figure competitor!
Those are 3 of the main diet malfunction I see. There are more but If you avoid these 3 and follow a consistent diet you should find it a lot easier to get ready for a show (I didn’t say easy…. just ‘easier’).
How we eat …BEFORE THE SHOW:
We have a tradition of going out to dinner the night before a show. The truth is – if you diet correctly it’s very hard to mess anything up the last few days before a show. While other competitors are bordering on the edge of dehydration or following some last minute ritual to get ready… my competitors are out eating a nice meal so that they have energy for the show the following day.
Two things about the picture below:
- there are 2 professional competitors and one National NPC competitor in the photo (if it worked for them it could work for you)
- ….and yes those are fries on the plate
I always try to stress to competitors how important it is to push even harder the last 4 weeks before a figure competition. These weeks are the hardest because your body fat is low and your body is fighting to keep from losing more fat. But the pounds you lose during the final weeks can have a dramatic effect on your overall appearance… as opposed to early on when a pound or two didn’t even register when looking in the mirror.
This is the time when many competitors plateau and make very little improvement. It’s easy to just “stay the course” …thinking that somehow you will continue to improve. This, of course, is the wrong attitude – what you must do is work harder, more often… and keep your diet tight. Having this attitude can be the difference between winning and losing – or the difference between looking like you belong onstage… or looking like you don’t.
Sometimes when a competitor complains why they can’t do this or do that, I tell them: “Get over yourself” …not to be a jerk, but the competitors you will go up against are probably training hard while you are coming up with reasons not to train. Whether it’s doing cardio before the kids get up in the morning, running on your lunch break or working out after everyone has gone to sleep – you just do what you gotta do.
When your body fat is low and you are low on carbs and energy, the diet becomes very difficult your mind starts to think:
- “why is this so hard?”
- “why am I doing this?”
- I have not lost a pound this week (…so shouldn’t I just quit? …or have that piece of cake?)
This is your subconscious mind trying to justify you quitting, or eating your son’s birthday cake that’s in the fridge…. or maybe participating in the office party next Friday, going out drinking with friends or any number of other temptations you will surely face …everyday! Only the strong survive in this sport.
Tips to keep you focused during the final weeks:
- focus on how good you will feel getting onstage in good shape win or lose. You will have done something many women have talked about ….but very few have accomplished.
- remember that your competition is probably training hard and not cheating
- refuse to make excuses: If I had a nickle for everytime I heard: “It’s harder for me because… I have kids, I’m in school or… I don’t live near a gym or… i work full time etc. etc. etc… there are a thousand excuses. It’s hard for everybody…. each person has things going on in their lives, whether its a full-time job, kids, or a spouse who is unsupportive. Just get over yourself and do it… like Jennifer (aka ‘applejack’) did below.
When I first decided to write a diet book for women (mainly competitors) who emailed me from all over the world looking for diet answers. I was reminded by my mentor (a very successful individual in the health and fitness industry), that the more well-known I become… the bigger target I will become for negative people. Regardless of how noble my intentions were, he said, It would be irresistible for some people not to say/write negative things. How right he was! I think it took a week or two before individuals were posting negative comments. The sad part is that it was people that see me (and usually speak to me) at the shows I go to every year. These individuals know how successful I am… and if you don’t know me you can look at my websites and this blog. These are NOT magazine photo shoots with professional models, these are women with a lot of determination… and a dream! The girls in my testimonials… you can see the same girls in the pictures and videos on my site and working out at my gym. Nothing fake here…
“His diets don’t work”
This is the silliest comment of all. My book is designed entirely on what bodybuilders/fitness/figure competitors do to get lean. I’m not making diets up out of thin air. The very first diet I ever used with my first figure competitor, came right from the mouth of one of the top figure competitors in the world… gram for gram. The only thing I changed was the portion size (proportionally) because my athlete was not as big as the competitor I received the diet from. It worked like a charm! Since then I’ve developed a lot more diets and tweaked them to work on the average woman who wants to compete, but the concepts are still the same… They will never change because human physiology will not change in the next 100,000 years (scientist believe that it takes 100,000 years for 0.001 percent of a genome to change!). Which means what worked in the past, will work now …and in the future. All I did was organize the diets and put them in a format that’s easy to follow.
My favorite is the individual who signs up on a forum under an assumed name and tries to trash me… WHO HAS THAT MUCH TIME ON THEIR HANDS?! The first time it happened was shortly after my book came out…. and it still happens today. I was warned about all of this (even by one of the show promoters)… but you never really believe people have so much idle time and ill intentions until it actually happens. I would gladly help any competitor get better or trainer with his/her clients… I do it all the time. All they have to do is ask!
Stop drinking that Gatorade… oops, I meant HATERADE! Somebody told me ther was a company that makes Haterade T Shirts. When I did an online search, I found a company that sells them. I couldn’t stop laughing.
Anyway, the one thing about this sport that I absolutely love is that I can’t hide! Not behind words, fake names or nasty comments. The competition stage is where I’m judged! The stage is unforgiving. The lights exposes every dimple. My work is on display every year, 5 or 6 times a year for the judges and audience to see. For me it’s the ultimate challenge, you either get results or you get out of the game. This is why I would never put an ineffective, unproven book or any information that I didn’t believe 100% in on the market. Ok, I’m done with all that nonsense – now on to something positive….
Do you want to be a personal trainer?
Enough with that negativity. I was thinking about how to turn this post into something positive. What I decided to do is answer a question I get quite often in a series of upcoming posts: “How can I become a successful personal trainer?” Since I became a personal trainer I’ve never struggled to acquire and keep clients. Over the years, I’ve noticed how most trainers struggled to get clients and many could only manage to make a meager income. It’s not easy to make a living as a trainer. The truth is most trainers quit because they struggle to find and keep clients. The difference between me and them was nothing earth-shattering, it was just that I had gotten good mentoring BEFORE I became a personal trainer by someone who was already successful in this field. If your goal is to become a personal trainer then this series of upcoming posts will show you how simple it is if you are willing to let go of the misconceptions you may have about running a business and about the personal training industry… so that you don’t fall into the trap many trainers fall into and struggle to get out of. If training and working out is your passion, why not make a career out of it? So keep your eyes open for that series of posts to start.