Contest Prep

Supplement Guide

Your supplement guide for


Any “bodybuilding” or “fitness” competition requires a combination of physical and mental dedication and A LOT of discipline. It means scheduling all your meals and training days with great detail. Let’s not sugar coat things – this will affect your day-to-day life and your social calendar.

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Contest Prep
If you want to reduce fat and increase lean muscle mass, the stage can be an excellent opportunity to set a goal for yourself and see what you're made of.

What are the different competition categories?


Depending on the category you choose to compete in, your goals will vary in terms of body fat, muscle mass, and muscle striation. Choose a category that fits with your natural body composition, and training goals.

Let’s look at some of the main IFBB categories, and how they differ. For more information on each discipline, we recommend you head over to the IFBB page.

Category Description
All body parts are well developed and muscles are trained to maximum size (while staying in balance with each other). There should be no “weak points” or under-developed muscles. Body fat is as low as possible to show muscles, separation, and definition. Those showing more muscle detail will score higher. Other factors include a proportional physique, broad shoulders, narrow waist.
Classic Bodybuilding
Category for those that don’t want to take their muscles to extreme levels. Body weight limits are set according to the competitor’s height following a special IFBB formula. Body proportion, muscle definition, and body fat levels are given particular attention in this category.
Women’s Fitness
The chance to show your physique in motion. This category tends to be for women with an athletic body type. Judging is centered on two physique rounds, looking at body fat, muscle tone, and body contour, as well as one athletic round which features a dynamic fitness-style routine.
Men’s Fitness
Similar in structure to the Women’s Fitness category. Mass is limited according to the IFBB formulas established for four body height ranges: 170cm, 175cm, 180cm, and over 180cm. Currently, there is also one open Men’s category.
Women’s Physique
For women who want to train for a heavier, bodybuilding-style body but not extremely dried, lean and muscular. Athletes are expected to have an overall athletic development of the muscles but in a balanced and symmetrical way, with visible separation between them.
Men’s Physique
For those who prefer to develop a less muscular, yet athletic physique and who do weight training, keep fit and eat a healthy balanced diet. Athletes are fit and show proper shape and symmetry, combined with some muscularity and good overall condition. In this category, athletes compete in board shorts.
Women’s Bikini
Aimed at women who are fit and healthy. Overall body lines, balance, and proportions, body tone, and healthy appearance are considered. Hard, lean muscles are not necessary. The emphasis is on a well-shaped, fit, healthy and attractive appearance, like that of model.


  • Choose a category that is right for your body and your training goals
  • Develop your off-season training program. Make sure your diet is clean, and you are consistently training BEFORE you start contest prep
  • Find a great coach who can help guide you to make the right decisions about your training and nutrition. Don’t be afraid to ask for references!
  • Choose your show. Stay local if you can for your first one. It minimizes travel stress, and you’re more likely to have friends and family come out to cheer you on
  • Have a detailed plan that outlines your meals, macros, and training as you work towards show day
  • Think like an ‘athlete.’ These competitions are not about showcasing how much weight you’ve lost, or how successful your diet was. Being ‘stage ready’ takes hard work and commitment both in and out of the gym
Contest Prep 101 Featured


is more than superficial

Competing in Bikini, Fitness, Physique, or Bodybuilding is a great sport for those who have trained for competitive sports and are looking to focus on muscle definition and stretch as opposed to performance or speed. It’s a different type of goal, but many athletes find the change in mindset very rewarding.


After work drinks? Summer BBQs? Birthday parties? Can you attend these events and say “no” to the tempting treats, or much-deserved drinks? Are you prepared to leave early to ensure you get enough sleep (it’s critical if you embark on this kind of training plan!)?

Make no mistake, training for an event like this brings the word ‘commitment’ to a whole new level. But if you’re someone who thrives on working towards a goal, and loves the thrill of being on stage, competing might be the sport for you.

What contest prep looks like leading up to your show

Starting your contest prep four months out allows you lots of time to introduce changes to your diet and fitness routine while minimizing stress on the body. Once you have picked your show, get out your calendar, count back 16 weeks, and mark all important dates, so you know what’s coming.


Weeks Out from Contest High-Level Action
16 weeks
  • Start making small changes to your diet and fitness
  • Finalize your diet and fitness plan with your coach
  • Begin taking weekly pictures in your poses to start monitoring progress
12 weeks
  • Contest diet ramps up
  • Work with your coach to ensure your fitness plan works for you. Make any revisions needed
  • Review and revise supplements to help keep energy levels, and fat burning high
8 weeks
  • Register for competition
  • Order your suit
  • Increase cardio
  • Training days should become more muscle specific
  • Diet typically changes again, based on what you and your coach have outlined
  • Supplement additions to support fat loss, muscle growth, recovery and proper sleep
  • Choose hairstyle, accessories, and make-up (if necessary)
  • Start tanning
  • Purchase competition items such as lunch cooler, body lotion, tanning products, and nail accessories, make-up, etc. (if necessary)
4 weeks
  • Practice your poses DAILY
  • Pictures every second day in your poses
  • Modify diet and supplements as recommended by your coach
2 weeks
  • Diet needs to stay on point – it’s crunch time!
  • Carbohydrates are greatly reduced to sculpt the body and accentuate the muscle
  • Fats are limited but still needed in very small amounts to shuttle the protein to the muscles
  • Diet should be focused on protein to grow and maintain those muscles!
  • TRAIN, TRAIN, TRAIN!! Time to fine tune those trouble areas!
  • REST! To recover properly from all the training and keep hormones balanced
1 week
  • It’s PEAK weak!
  • Follow your plan from your coach to a tee
  • Get all event details; be prepared
  • Limit stress. Make sure you are sleeping well, and taking down time where you can
3 days
  • Look forward to your last workout
  • Fat and carb load to make muscles pop
1 day
  • Rest up. You’ve worked hard. It’s time to shine!


What foods are in, and what foods are out?

Training for a contest requires a strict diet plan. We recommend working with a coach to fine tune your diet based on your body composition, training schedule, and overall health.

The chart below gives you some insight into a ‘typical’ contest prep diet plan. The biggest thing will be managing your macros, so get out that food scale, and start prepping.


Foods to Eat

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  • Red meat is very limited if at all (usually once per week initially but after the 8-week mark, only for a cheat meal, if you still have them!)
  • Lots of white fish (tilapia, sole, cod), prawns, turkey and chicken breast. No dark meat as it has more fat
  • Quality whey protein powder
  • If you are plant-based, include lentils, vegan protein powders, and hummus
  • Eggs and egg whites


  • Oatmeal
  • Sprouted grains
  • Brown Rice
  • Sweet Potatoes/Winter squash


  • Chia Seeds
  • Flax Seeds
  • Coconut Oil
  • Udo’s oil
  • MTC oil
  • Fish oils
  • Avocado


  • Green leafy veggies
  • Broccoli, cauliflower
  • Asparagus
  • Cucumber, celery, carrots
  • Berries

Foods to Avoid

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  • High-fat meats like beef, and pork, you need protein from your meat, not FAT, to have a tight, hard muscles defining physique.


  • All sugar
  • Refined grains
  • Fruit (typically is eliminated 8 weeks before your contest due to sugar content)


  • Any food that is made from hydrogenated oil
  • No dairy (except whey protein powder)
Contest Prep

Hydration During Training

Our bodies are made of water. Just a slight drop in hydration (i.e. 2%) can result in reduced athletic ability and will have an adverse impact on your muscle tissue. During your contest prep aim for 3-4 liters of filtered water a day to keep your muscles hydrated and joints lubricated while flushing out toxins from your body. During the week leading up to your show is where you will flush out that water weight to reveal your hard, tight muscles.

Hydration During Training Featured



Once you have nailed down your daily macros, you want to ensure you spread them out evenly over the course of the day. Aiming for 5-6 small meals will help to keep your blood sugar balanced, prevent lean muscle loss, and keep your metabolism fired up.

Making sure you have ‘contest-approved’ foods on hand will also stop you from any temptation that may occur if (and when) hunger hits.


Sample Only.

Please work with your coach to determine a plan that is right for you

Meal 1

(within one hour of waking or within one hour of training)

  • 1 scoop of protein and water
Meal 2
  • 1 1/4c egg whites
  • Unlimited veggies (the more greens the better!)


  • 1/2c oatmeal
  • 1 scoop protein powder
  • 1tsp fat of your choice (coconut oil, or Udo’s Oil) or 1/4c raw nuts like almonds or pumpkin seeds) or 1-2 tbsp of chia seeds/hemp hearts
Meal 3
  • 4 ounces fish/ turkey/prawns
  • ¼ avocado
  • Unlimited veggies
  • Carb of choice (2 slices of Little Big Bread from Silver Springs, Ezekiel bread, serving of yam or sweet potato)
Meal 4
  • 1.5 scoop of protein powder with water/unsweetened almond or coconut milk
Meal 5
  • 4 ounces fish/ turkey/prawns
  • Greens/unlimited veggies
  • 1tsp fat of your choice (coconut oil, Udo’s Oil) or 1/4c raw nuts like almonds or pumpkin seeds) or 1-2 tbsp of chia seeds/hemp hearts
Meal 6

(before bed)

  • Blend in blender – 1 cup frozen spinach and 1 scoop chocolate protein powder, add some water to desired thickness


  • Whey/plant-based protein powder (1scoop)
  • Unsweetened almond or coconut milk to mix to pudding consistency
  • 1 tbsp nut butter
  • Blend and put in freezer for 15 mins


We all get cravings from time to time, even more so when you limiting your caloric intake as you ramp up to your show. When cravings strike, here is a great recipe to satisfy that sweet tooth without breaking your diet.

Chocolate protein powder to the rescue!

1 scoop protein powder, 1 tsp peanut butter, 2 tbsp egg whites, 1 tsp baking soda – microwave 90 secs – molten chocolate ‘no cheat’ cake!

Contest Prep
What to do about cravings during competition diet?

Your Contest Prep Supplement Plan


Like your diet plan, your supplement plan will be unique to you and should aim to help you round out any nutritional deficiencies, or give you a little boost to help you meet your goals. Below are some the supplements you will find in the gym bags of top competitors.

Supplement Why? Our Current Faves
Vitamin C
Essential for normal growth and maintenance of most tissues in your body, including collagen, which is needed for healthy connective tissue and wound healing. It’s also necessary to make certain neurotransmitters, for proper protein metabolism, and to keep your immune system strong and healthy.
Progressive Nutritionals
Vitamin C Complex

Helps to support the metabolism by turning fat into energy.
Magnum Carne Diem

Have been shown to preserve lean muscle, build muscle mass, and assist in reducing fatigue.
Allmax A-Cuts

(aka conjugated linoleic acid)
A type of omega-6 fatty acid that’s found primarily in grass-fed meat and dairy. Has been shown to increase metabolic rate, improve muscle growth, and reduce cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
PVL Essentials CLA

Sleep & Growth Formula
Contains a combination of ingredients to support deep, quality sleep, supporting optimal growth hormone production and muscle growth.
Magnum G-Spring
Sleep & Grow



What you do out of the gym is just as important as what you do in it. You are training hard and pushing your body to the limits. Taking time to rest, recover, and practice a little self-care will go a long way in helping you stay on track and reach your goals.

1. Sleep

Your body needs time to grow and repair. Aim for at least 8 hours a night during your contest prep. If you’re having trouble with this, try some of our sleep tips, or adding a supplement like Magnum G-Spring Growth & Repair to your daily routine.

2. Active Rest Days

There is a fine line between training hard, and overtraining. Ensure you take one day off to let the body relax. On this day, only incorporate gentle movement like yoga or walking.

3. Epsom Salt Bath

Epsom salt baths are a great way to relax and rejuvenate tired muscle. Try adding 2 cups of these magnesium-rich salts to a hot bath and soak for 15-20 minutes.

4. Track Your Progress

Keep a daily journal. Write down your ‘wins’ as well as anything that you need to work harder at. This will help you reflect on how far you’ve come, and what you need to do to achieve your goal.


Sample only.

Please work with your coach to develop a plan that is right for you.

While the requirements for each competition category may differ, overall judges are looking for a well-balanced physique that shows off hard, tight muscles. As you head closer and closer to your show date, you may need to alter your fitness plan to cut more body fat or develop ‘weak’ areas to ensure an overall aesthetically pleasing physique.

Below is what a ‘typical’ week looks like with respect to training. Work with your coach to determine the right exercises, reps, and load required to help you reach your specific goals.

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
Rest Day
(walking, yoga)
Legs (heavy  weights)
of cardio

1-hour hot yoga
of cardio
of cardio
Legs (Body weight)
of cardio

1-hour hot yoga
1-hour hot yoga
of cardio
Total body weights
of cardio



Congrats! You made it. You’ve put it all out there, had an amazing show, and (hopefully) a great experience learning about what your body can achieve with a lot of hard work and perseverance.

When you get off the stage, a well-deserved “treat meal” is most definitely in order, but then what? Over-doing it in the weeks post-show is a recipe to wreak havoc with your metabolism.

Although you may be ready to wave goodbye to meal plans (at least for the next little bit), planning your post-show (aka reverse) diet should be an important part of your contest prep.

You need a plan to slowly integrate healthy carbohydrates, fats, and proteins back into your diet. A reputable coach will include this as part of your training package.

Changing up your supplements is also important. We recommend switching up your supps to a combination that supports your metabolism and prevents the post-show rebound. We’re fans of Magnum’s Reverse Stack.


Surrounding yourself with like-minded people, either those who are currently prepping for a show or those who have competed in the past, is an excellent way to keep you feeling motivated. As they’ve ‘been there’ they know what it takes to push through the hard times to help you stay on track as you drive towards your goal.

Preparing for a Bodybuilding, Bikini, Physique, or Fitness competition takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and discipline. But there is nothing like discovering what you are capable of and stepping on stage to show it.

Contest Prep

About Your Author:

Tammy McDonald is the owner of Reflex Supplements Tsawwassen. With 15 years of education and experience in the fitness industry, and an avid runner and coach for 5KM to Marathon, she has inspired many people to work towards their fitness goals and improve their overall conditioning. Tammy has placed 3rd at the 2015 Nights of Champions, Masters Bikini Class, and is currently preparing for the Vancouver IFBB Pro/AM July 8th.

To stay fit herself, Tammy is motivated by her two young boys – they are very active, so she needs to be fit to keep up with them!

Disclaimer: Your Guide to Contest Prep is for information purposes only. All meal, supplement, and exercise suggestions are samples. We strongly advise working with a coach to develop a plan that is right for you. Before beginning any diet, exercise or supplement plan we recommend that you speak with a personal health care practitioner.

Contest Prep



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