There is a lot of information online about the nutrition and exercise preparation for a bikini competition, and although everyone adopts a slightly (or starkly) different approach, I think people are pretty well informed that, overall, it involves a reduction in calories, lifting weights and cardio. It all comes to a head when you step on stage, looking exceptionally brown in a sparkly bikini with over the top make-up and sass. It looks exceptionally glamorous, but, in truth, 90% of the day is far from glamorous! When I was getting ready for show day, I had to scout the Internet for tips and tricks about what to expect and found very little. In the end, I reached out to several people who had competed before in order to get some insight into what to expect. Hopefully, this helps to enlighten you as to what most of show day is like.
Don’t wear moisturizer for a week prior to the competition. I learnt this the hard way – I had so many problems with my competition tan and ended up having to shower between the morning and night show and get re-sprayed as the tan wouldn’t take to my skin properly. I had been using moisturizer up until 2 days before the competition, thinking that would be sufficient, but the oil residue had lingered on my skin and made the tan go really patchy as well as me not being dark enough! It is really important to exfoliate properly too, I used pure brown sugar, which I think is the best preparation for your skin. I also got told to use baking soda, mixed into a paste and start this the week before the competition, alternating daily between baking soda and sugar.
Avoid deodorant. Thankfully, I already knew this before competing. But the day prior to the competition until after the competition is over, you have to avoid deodorant, otherwise your tan will turn green or grey! (Not a good look!) Instead, use tumble dryer sheets, or baby powder. I sprayed perfume on my bikini to help me smell a bit better, which is definitely fine, just make sure you don’t get any on your skin!
Pack plastic cups with holes cut out in the bottom. After you get tanned, be prepared to pee only into a cup! You don’t want to get any pee on your tan anywhere, and, although you can get it touched up, you don’t want to add any unnecessary drama to the day (and a streak down your leg is not the best look!)
Be prepared to be publicly naked, frequently. When you get sprayed, you have to get fully naked and go into some very unflattering positions in order to get the tan in all the necessary places. At my competition, there were two different rows for men and women, but I have heard that this is not the case at other competitions! In reality, everyone is so focused on themselves that no one is really looking at you. In my opinion, best to just embrace it!
Get your bikini glued to you. There is special glue that glues your suit to you so it doesn’t ride up or move, and, needless to say, you cannot pee after it has been glued to you! The competition tan group glued my bikini for me, and, like when getting sprayed, get ready to hand your butt and your boobs to these people! I was concerned it was going to hurt peeling the suit off, but it doesn’t, although be prepared to be sticky!
Unless you really know what you’re doing, get tanned by the tanning company who are affiliated with the show. I cannot speak highly enough about the tanning company at the show I competed in. They were very knowledgeable, experienced and kind! They gave all sorts of hints and tips as well as doing whatever was needed to make sure you showed off your physique in the best possible light. They oiled, glued, tanned and rollered me a number of times and did that for every competitor. Also, don’t get sprayed on your face. It doesn’t sit well and will clog your pores. If someone else is doing your make up, they will match your skin tone, and if you are doing it yourself, seek out the darkest foundation you can find and mix it with your usual foundation!
Understand that competing is incredibly expensive. Everything about competing is expensive, so make sure you are fully aware of all the costs involved. Take advantage of any special deals in the months leading up to the competition to try and reduce the costs and make sure you enter the competition knowing you are financially able to commit. I got my bikini custom made and bought it in a Black Friday 50% off sale (6 months prior to my show), but I have heard of suits costing up to $1000. Add in shoes, jewelry, tanning, coaching, posing, nails, NPC card, registration fees, hair and make up (I did mine myself), hotel, transportation and bits and pieces for show day (e.g. Robe, fake eyelashes etc.), expect for one competition to cost a couple of thousand dollars easily.
Be prepared to be rushed and be prepared to wait. The morning judging was incredibly fast, almost too fast, and it was a big rush getting things done in time. The evening show, however, we had to wait about four hours to get on stage. The bikini category is typically last as most spectators (other than friends or family) come to watch the bikini athletes. Fellow competitors are much friendlier than you would think, so make the most of the nerve-wracking wait by either befriending others or bring some entertainment! Backstage was incredibly nice as I competed in a college theater, but lots of competitions are at schools, so expect backstage to be high school locker rooms!
Watch your step. Again, I learnt this the hard way. After the morning show, when you go backstage again, be prepared for oil to be on the floor. I fell over in my heels and landed really nastily on my bum. I am now sporting a hideous bruise which is really painful!
You will be cold. Getting spray tanned is freezing and combined with low body fat, you will probably be cold a lot of the time. You cannot put clothes on over your suit, so some of us did some body weight squats and exercises with resistance bands in an attempt to warm up! As a bikini athlete, you don’t really need to ‘pump up’ with resistance bands, but mentally it can help as that’s what everyone else will be doing!
Come prepared with a bag of stuff. My top tips about what to pack with you: spare make up, eyelash glue, flip flops, pyjama trousers and a long sleeved top, a robe, plastic cups, plastic cutlery, all your food, a resistance band, water, hair straighteners/curlers, hairspray, dry shampoo and a phone charger.
Be prepared for friends and family to be the only ones that cheer for you. Standing on stage with the crowd shouting out both tips and encouragement for specific competitor numbers that aren’t yours was a bit of a shock. I have watched bodybuilding competitions before, but the reality of it didn’t really sink in until I was on stage! It sort of feels like being the last one chosen for a school team when the crowd is pretty quiet, as well as making you think you look awful. In reality, unless you are competing in a massive show, most of the spectators are friends and family!
The judging is done in the morning. The morning is called pre-judging, but, really, this is where almost all of the judging is done. The night time is the show, where you can put on a bit of a performance, but bring your best package to the morning show!
Be prepared to be dissatisfied. Having prep dieted before, and suffered big time with post prep blues, I was expecting this. You put all that work in for a few seconds on stage and, when you see pictures or compare yourself to others, you may be left feeling a bit despondent. I definitely felt like this both on the day and the day after. Yes, I am proud, but an overwhelming sense of failure also hit me. I panicked in the morning show and my posing was way off, and, seeing other competitors as well as photos of myself, I knew that my legs were too big and I wasn’t lean enough. When everyone else is sharing how proud they are of their physiques and you feel like you aren’t, it can be very intimidating. The very nature of bodybuilding is continuous improvement, and dissatisfaction is one of the factors that drives progress, but while everyone is congratulating you, it is okay to feel a bit down. For me, this is when I leaned heavily on my support network, both on and offline. To the everyday individual, they think you look amazing, so it is a good idea to share your feelings with your ‘fitfam’ too, they will get it and understand. Having utilized flexible dieting throughout my prep, I had zero cravings post show and actually, on show day, ate less than my peak week macros! It is perfectly okay to go and eat a nice meal afterwards (or a gross greasy meal!), but, for me, I didn’t want to. It is also perfectly okay to have a couple of days of being a bit less rigid with your diet afterwards, but make sure you have a reverse diet in place. You cannot go from peak week calories to continuous binging, or even high ‘clean’ calories overnight as your body is primed to store fat. Reverse dieting is hard, especially at the start when your calories are low and cardio is at its peak, but, exercise the discipline that got you to the stage in the first place and work through it. You will reap the benefits long term. For me, I am sticking to my macros as religiously as pre-contest, especially initially. I want to improve and I want to be happy, two things that will not happen if I am ‘yolo dieting’.
Be prepared to be sore. Waltzing around in heels as well as flexing and holding poses is not easy! Combined with the lack of sleep in the weeks leading up to the competition as well as the mental and physical stresses of high output, low calories and the stress of the day, your body will be exhausted in the days after. My muscles hurt so much and I am still exhausted.
Competing is fun, it is a great experience that pushes you to your limits in every sense of the word. You will be in the best shape of your life, accomplishing something most people cannot comprehend. I enjoyed the experience and met some great people too! But, it is not all tan, tensing and sparkle. Hopefully this blogpost will give you a bit more of an insight into what show day entails…