It amazes me that, in this day and age, people are still following stupidly restrictive diets whereby they lift every day and do hours of cardio on top of that to prepare for bodybuilding competitions.
I am friends with a female figure competitor on Facebook and I just watched her go through the most unnecessarily gruelling prep. Her horribly restrictive prep began t 20 weeks out. She did all the things that I thought were now widely accepted as bullshit and broscience: she wasn’t allowed any fruit at all for the entire duration of her prep, she cut carbs at 10 weeks out, and she did a dangerous, unnecessary and outdated water depletion during her final week leading up to competition.
Throughout her prep, she posted some horribly disordered updates on Facebook, counting down to her monthly cheat meal, watching in envy as her husband ate normal foods while she sucked down yet another meal of dry chicken and asparagus, and giving out what was, frankly, terrible advice. She was bragging about doing an hour sprint session followed by a two-hour leg session, having eaten zero carbs in two days.
Alarmingly, her coach usually chimed in on these posts to tell her what a great job she was doing. A couple of times this competitor posted what could only be referred to as breakdowns, and her coach simply told her prep was a necessary evil that she just had to suck up.
This is going to sound bitchy, and I know I don’t have the right to say this as I’m not and never will be a figure competitor, but she did not look great for all that effort. She lost a lot of weight very quickly early on and she started to look almost sick, still a couple of months out from her show. I actually had to stop watching her lifting videos as they made me feel sick. If I was starving myself and hating every minute of my life for almost six months, I’d at least want to get a banging body out of it.
It was very sad to watch her transformation week after week. We had become friends when she was involved in Olympic lifting and strongwoman, and I had previously really admired her incredible feats of strengths. Now, she had shifted to posting videos where her “haters” were watching in the background and she justified her eating disorder in the name of dedication. I really thought she was smarter than that.
Any time someone criticised her overly restrictive approach (especially during peak week!), she became incredibly defensive and simply said that she trusted her coach. Just because someone is a “coach”, doesn’t mean they know what they are doing. There are plenty of clueless coaches out there who have no business coaching anyone through a competition, but thankfully these are becoming fewer and farther between.
I don’t know how she placed in the competition, as I stopped following her progress as I found it increasingly sad, but who can guess what happened afterwards? She suffered the inevitable post-show blow-out and has almost completely disappeared from social media – a far cry from her previous twice or thrice daily postings – except for a couple of posts to say she has gained weight and is in a bad emotional state.
From hearing the details of the very first week of her prep, I would have bet a million bucks that she would have ended up like this. It’s sad but it was clear she wasn’t going to listen to anyone from the get-go.
There is another bikini competitor I follow on Instagram. She is currently in the middle of prep, and has been complaining the entire way through. What’s interesting is that, at the start of her prep, she acknowledged that her metabolism was damaged and prep was probably going to make it worse. Yet, here she is posting videos daily about how exhausted and overtrained she is. Sadly, her body isn’t responding, so her (idiotic!) coach has slashed her already dismal amount of calories further and added in even more cardio.
There is a bodybuilding coach at my gym who makes me want to stick my head in the oven every time he speaks. I’ve overheard him berating his regular, middle-aged, non-bodybuilder clients for eating carrots, telling his clients to do cardio twice a day 12 weeks out, and banning all salt and seasoning from his clients’ diets. Alarmingly, he seems genuinely convinced that he is God’s gift to the industry.
I just can’t believe that with so many sensible coaches out there showing that prep can be done in a moderate, sensible way – Layne Norton comes to mind – there are still coaches who are making money off cookie-cutter plans based on minimal calories and excessive exercise.
With all the evidence out there that shows how bad competition prep can be for the body, I am just horrified that it is continuing. I am saddened that women are going through with competition preps, for a single day of glory, when they know it will create serious problems that may take years or even a lifetime to overcome. Is it really worth it?!
While I’m not necessarily saying that everyone should swing in the opposite direction towards the daily pop tarts and “flex bowls” made famous by IIFYMers, there is certainly a more sensible way to approach your prep than a 20-week chicken and green vegetable-only plan.
If you are in the gym every single day, for multiple hours a day, and being told you can’t eat certain vegetables as they are too high in calories, I hate to be the one to tell you but your coach is an idiot who gives the industry a bad name. There are plenty of coaches out there who do know what they are doing and won’t harm your health in your journey to the stage. All I can hope is that more people become aware of this and stop hiring the idiots who give the industry a bad name.
Have you ever been shocked by someone’s competition prep?