Body Conquest Articles | Contest Preparations Part 2

on Tuesday, 16 April 2013. Posted in Training

Contest Preperations - Part 2

I wrote about three facets of competing that included posing, routines and bikini/posing trunks. This month I will focus on carbohydrate, sodium, potassium and water variations the week before the show, as well as tanning and stage presentation on contest day. Dieting and training nuances pre-contest vary so much depending on your category, sex, event and individual physique that it is beyond the scope of this article. However by applying a combination of all the following tips this expose will help ensure that you present an impressive, winning package on stage.


Peaking is quite an elusive concept that is hard to nail. If you have chatted to fellow trainee's, read articles and asked seasoned competitors you now probably have a bundle of conflicting ideas and opinions on how best to manipulate water levels within your body. What works for someone will not work for someone else. Even more confusing is that a plan that has worked previously on you may not work as well again.

Manipulation of carbohydrates, sodium, potassium and water can be used to create a harder, fuller, more striated physique. It is extremely difficult to peak on contest day, let alone exactly when your class is called out to come on stage. It may take many, many trials and errors to see what works best with your physique. Therefore it is a good idea to trial it two weeks out from your competition, so that you can tweak it the week before the show if you need to.

Because manipulation of those variables can backfire and create a disaster, many competitors do not mess with the loadings in case it does not go as planned. Particularly if it is your first show, you should allocate some time to consider whether to play safe or to opt for implementing these techniques. One more word on the subject-if you haven't decreased your body fat levels to a low enough state these techniques will not save the day.....you have left your run too late. If you are not lean enough to begin with, then all the manipulation of salts, carbohydrates and water are all moot points.


Carbohydrate manipulation aims to fill out glycogen stores in order that the muscle is at its biggest and fullest. But if you consume too many, the experience of "spilling out" may occur which will mean interfering with your definition and separation. Instead you will have a smooth and bloated look.

Typically to get more effects from carbohydrate loading it is best to employ a depletion phase first so you consume low dietary carbohydrates for several days whilst training in a manner which depletes muscle glycogen stores. The end result is a muscle really receptive to carbohydrates and an increased glycogen storage capacity.

Protein and fat intake is important during both the depletion and loading phases. Protein intake needs to be increased to help you during your depletion phase as it will aid in maintaining muscle mass during your depletion.

During your carbohydrate loading however, protein can be reduced as the increased intake of carbohydrates will have a protein sparing effect and allow you to maintain calorie control whilst eating an abundant amount of carbohydrates.

Fats need to be kept low during both the completion phase and the loading phase. Characteristically when you decrease carbohydrates it's ok to increase your good sources of fats which will provide you with some energy and aid in maintaining the fat burning process, but during carbohydrate it will just act as a fuel substrate instead of the carbohydrates you are trying to deplete.


Sodium and potassium produce opposing effects in the body. Sodium holds water under the skin that produces a bloated, puffy and smooth look. Conversely potassium holds fluid in the muscle cell, hence creating a hard, full look. As a competitor you need to temporarily lower sodium levels and elevate potassium levels for the day of your competition to produce a hard, vascular and pumped physique. Sodium loading can be combined synergistically with carbohydrate loading and water manipulation.

The sodium loading technique involves increasing sodium intake. Everybody's timing is different but as a ball park figure loading for 72 hours is a good place to start. The body will then register an oversupply of sodium. Sodium intake is then ceased 48 hours before contest time. Because the body will take around 72 hours to register the high to low sodium intake it will continue to expel sodium from the cell and the body at an increased rate.


A good time to start your sodium loading is 7 days prior to contest day. Make sure as part of your protein intake, that you are consuming "high sodium proteins" such as egg whites and tuna. Also, add a lot of salt to all your meals. Remember that you want a dramatic ingestion of sodium so that your body registers the extra amount, concludes there is an overload in the system and begins to regulate it back to normal levels. Your body will achieve this by excreting both sodium and water at an accelerated rate.

Three days before show day conclude your loading by switching to low sodium proteins such as chicken and turkey and stop adding salt to your meals. This rapid sodium expulsion is maintained until your body registers that your sodium levels have lowered. Therefore when the sodium intake stops 48 hours prior to the show, your body will not slow the rapid rate of sodium and water excretion. However the timing of lowering sodium is crucial. If you lower it too early your body might begin to rebound before your class and start retaining water-leading to the smooth and puffy appearance that you want to avoid. If you lower the levels too late you may not leave enough time to eliminate your water. Unfortunately the only way to get it "right" is to trial and test and learn by your mistakes.


Potassium loading is used in conjunction to sodium loading-helping to create a conditioned, tight, striated look. Potassium is a cell volumiser so it is not stored under the skin like sodium is. Potassium lives with blood and cells, where it draws water from out of under the skin. Therefore potassium loading improves water distribution and muscle definition without causing dehydration.

Starting the weekend before up until three days before contest day decrease your daily ingestion of potassium by eating foods low in potassium. On the third day before show day begin eating foods high in potassium and take about 300mg of a potassium supplement with each meal.


It's paradoxical that to get dry you need to consume plenty of fluids. You are wanting to maintain a high level of fluids most of the way through the week before the show which will increase Atrial Natriuretic Peptide (ANP) and inhibit aldosterone, an anti-diuretic hormone which leads to water excretion via urination.

To be totally dry either a reduction in water intake or cutting water out up to twelve hours before the show will need to occur so the increased excretion of water combined with the reduction in intake leads to a lower level of subcutaneous water.

The intracellular water should be maintained due to the carbohydrates within the muscle, however cutting water too early can lead to flat muscles as the water shifts from the cells to replace that extracellular water which has gone.

I suggest that if you are male, that you take in around 9 litres of water per day and then cut this down to 2 litres the day before, and if you are female, around 7 litres per day, cutting this down to 2 litres also. Possibly, you may like to cut water out completely 10-12 hours before the show. It is totally debateable whether cutting water out completely is necessary although I usually recommend it as it seems to work well.

Again, let me just say that the above means and methods of manipulating water and fluid levels is dependant on the individual and this is not an "individual how too guide", it is only an indicator of the principles involved and some factors that you should consider. I strongly suggest that you seek help from someone who has experience in contest preparation so that your chances of "missing the peak" is diminished.


Don't assume that tanning up is a no-brainer and that you don't need to take much time to apply it. Terrible tans entirely spoil wonderful physiques and really can distract from the judges eye. Most people use contest colour a couple of days previous to the show and then apply Pro Tan or Dream Tan on the day of the show. I strongly advise that you have a solid base tan from either the natural sunlight or from a solarium. Start this base tan a good six weeks out from the show. To prepare your skin for the contest colour use a loofah to buff your skin in the shower. Pay attention to buffing the rough patches such as your knees and elbows. This will make the application of the colour an easier process. Once you are dry you are ready to go.

I suggest you give the tan you use a test run. Some tanning products work for some yet look terrible on others according to your skin type. I have seen various shades of burgundy and orange, as well as "muddy" looks and pasty shades. Again, I will emphasise the importance of getting the product that suits your skin tone.

Blotches, patches and streaks detract from your presentation and your physique and makes you look unprofessional. Therefore make sure whoever applies your contest colour and Dream Tan does a capable job.

As evenly as possible apply your first coat. You will need someone to help you with hard to reach places such as your back and your calves. It's up to you if you want to paint your face or not, or use make up if you are female. The day of your show take a shower but don't buff. Some of the paint will wash off but don't worry about that. Once you are out of the shower and dry, paint two more coats allowing time to dry in between. After the second coat has dried, apply one even coat of something like Dream Tan. Then, if you like or feel the need you can use some oil to sheen the colour. However don't go overboard. Remember the lights are really strong and hot and you don't want to be dripping oil all over the stage floor, it's not a good look and again, it obscures the ability of the judges to identify your separation and condition.


Your aim should be to dazzle the judges on stage. Judges and promoters are always different. Stage criteria for many organisations can be confusing and frustrating. If in doubt don't be nervous about contacting the federation you will be competing in and asking questions about what exactly is expected of you.

For outstanding stage presentation the key is to let the judges see your personality shine through. The last thing you want to do is be the same as everyone else, or you will get lost in the crowd and overlooked. Try really hard not to be stiff, shy or nervous. Don't be robotic. Make the judges remember you by your poise and polish. To look like a champion you have to be nice and loose so that you look completely natural even if you don't feel it.


For presentation, it can't really get much easier as you have so much less to worry about than the females. Basically, the shorter your hair cut the bigger you look so I would opt for a very short, clipped hair cut. If you want to razor it all off, even better. For those of you with long hair, who want to retain it, put it up in a clean, slick pony tail so it doesn't hinder any of your judging rounds.

Remember to remove excess hair usually around 5 days before contest day so that any rashes or pimples that pop up due to the shaving and/or waxing has time to settle. Hairless is best though as it smoothes the skin out. It will also ensure that your physique has the maximum muscularity look.


Figure and fitness competitions are not beauty pageants but your appearance definitely factors into your overall presentation and should not be underestimated. You will want to have your hair in a flattering and neat style. This can be either up or down. Some girls wear wigs, either full or three-quarters, or opt for hair pieces and pony tails. Judges don't care about how you arrive at your look, as long as it is flattering and suits you.

Be aware that the strong lights of a bodybuilding show will make you look washed out, so you will need to apply make-up somewhat differently to how you would normally. So you must apply it darker than usual. Also, your body is so tanned that you will want to have your face match your body in colour. If you opt not to paint your face, make sure that you use a really dark foundation. You will want your eye make-up to be quite dark. Don't worry if you feel a bit like a clown, it will look great up on stage. Use your best judgement and take your make-up bag with you to go darker if required.

As for nails, again it's up to you what you want to do with them, but a lot of girls get acrylic or gel nails for the show. If you opt for going with your own nails, make sure you get a manicure so that they are shaped nicely and the paint job is a little better than if you were doing it yourself.


It is helpful to have a checklist of everything that you will need to take to the show as there is nothing worse than forgetting something and leaving it at home. Here is a comprehensive but by no means exhaustive list of things for all competitors to take so that you are super prepared:

  • Your posing trunks and costumes
  • Your evening dress if you are a sports model/fitness competitor
  • Shoes
  • Thongs
  • Your music (preferably two copies)
  • Your make-up bag
  • Dream Tan
  • A couple of old towels
  • Bikini Bite
  • Deodorant (be fair to your fellow competitors!)
  • Brush, comb and hairspray
  • Oil to apply before you go on stage
  • Food for the day
  • Lollies
  • Red Wine if required
  • Bottled water
  • Ipod to chill out too
  • Any jewellery that you may wish to wear
  • Props if you are using them
  • Camera, to take some photos of you looking your best
  • Money!!!
  • Phone
  • Bands/Weights to pump up with
  • Clothes to change into after the show
  • Yummy food for when you have finished.....
  • Your support crew
Finally, a great attitude. Make sure that you portray your self with sportsmanship and a good attitude regardless of your placing. Judges have long memories and there is nothing worse that seeing a bad sport who displays arrogance and anger.

Make sure that your bag is packed with everything and anything that you can think of. It doesn't matter what level you are competing at, pack the essentials. You want to make sure that your competition experience is a good one.

Well, that's it for part two of this contest preparation series. If you can apply these principles diligently, ask for feedback from peers and friends when vital and put into practice these steps you will be well on your way to getting onstage and looking like the champion that you are. For let's face it, anyone who even gets up on stage to have their physiques critiqued is a winner.

International Academy of Physique Conditioning Handbook, 2007, page 25

Ibid, pg26