What Not to say

So you know a woman who is about to embark on her first bikini or figure show prep. (Or perhaps this is her 100th show. That’s probably a stretch- but you get what I mean.) There are a few things I wish someone would have told my friends and family NOT to say to me while preparing. But before we get to the Top 5 Things Not to Say, there is something you must know first:

Someone who has made this commitment is about to make an incredible lifestyle change and it is not easy, nope, not at all. As a friend or family member of a competitor(especially a first time competitor) head my advice and be SUPPORTIVE. Every competitor will have their ups and downs, mood swings, etc. But so does everyone else-they’re still human after all! When an individual dives head first into a show prep they are completely pushing  beyond their limits both physically and mentally.

What you say to a person during their show prep can either have very positive or negative affects on your relationship with them during prep and post competition. You never know what will stick with someone and thus add even more anxiety and stress to an already depleted competitor. So please, avoid saying the following altogether:

1. “Don’t Get too “Muscley”/Don’t Look Like a Man”


This truly gets old- real quick. Everyone loves to assume when you say “bodybuilding” you want to become like the picture above. That by lifting heavy weights you’ll all of a sudden magically put on about 50lbs of muscle and be jacked as all get up. Yeah..no. Doesn’t work like that. Here is a (very) brief lesson about building muscle:

1. The more muscle you build the more fat your body will burn. 1lb of muscle is leaner than 1lb of fat, therefore if you have a higher muscle to fat ratio you can actually weigh more but appear leaner.

2. Do you know how hard it is to build muscle like that?! It takes years, DECADES evenof intense training and dedication to get anywhere close to looking like that. A first time competitor who is training/leaning out for a bikini show and has a 12 week prep to do so could never, I mean never, possibly EVER in a million years look like that.

Strength is beautiful and if a woman wants to add more muscle to her physique she’s going to whether you like it or not. I personally will never strive to have a physique like that, it’s just not for me, but I respect people who do. So, before you tell a woman to not look like a man because she talks about adding more muscle mass (ahem, while losing body fat) please do a little research of your own on the fundamentals of strength training.

It may also be helpful for you to research the different divisions and what division your first  time competitor is competing in. To learn a little bit more about the NPC (National Physique Committee) divisions and requirements go to this awesome post.

2. “You’re Doing Too Much”


To most people it sounds absolutely insane that you would dedicate hours of your day to training, lifting, cardio and meal prep. But for a serious fitness competitor this is their lifestyle. Don’t knock a person because they choose to spend their time on the Stair Mill and making home cooked meals instead of out drinking at bars, sitting on the couch watching television, or eating out everyday.

Although some may disagree with me, bodybuilders and anyone who seriously competes in fitness competitions are ATHLETES. Professional football players have daily practices, train and fuel their bodies with proper nutrition so they will have strength and endurance to perform right? Right! The same concept is applied to bodybuilding. You eat, sleep, and train so you can be at your physical and mental best come show day.

3.  “You’re Too Skinny”

Ashley Kaltwasser - Reigning  Bikini Olympia 2013. Photo credit: Bodybuilding.com

Ashley Kaltwasser – Reigning Bikini Olympia 2013. Photo credit: Bodybuilding.com

I love this- ah how quickly the coin will flip. First people don’t want you to look like a man, then when you get close to show day and you’re lean they want to tell you you’re too thin. Oye vey. In order to compete in a show a person must lean out considerably so their muscles are well defined and “pop” on stage. This means throughout their entire prep they have been cutting body fat and are at their lowest body fat percentage closest to the show.

It is for a very short amount of time that a person will remain as lean as they do on show day. This is not to say that fitness models and competitors don’t or can’t be lean all year round, but for the most part, a competitor will return to a “healthier” state of body fat in the off season.

4. “Eat a Carb”

Sweet Potato Scale

Sweet Potatoes- The Ultimate Carb

This one really took a toll on me during prep. Yes, you have to deplete your carb intake to cut body fat, there’s really no way around it. But hearing this so often really stuck in my head and when I wasn’t on show prep again I went straight for carbs- and the not so good ones either i.e. Cake, Cookies, Sweets.

Sweet potatoes, rice, oatmeal, fruit, peanut butter- staples of many diets, all contain considerable amounts of carbs. Heck, pretty much everything has carbohydrates in it! Just because the carbs a bodybuilder eats may vary from what the average American considers carbs (i.e. pasta, pizza, bread, etc.) doesn’t mean mean they aren’t getting enough. They are simply getting their grams of carbohydrates from different sources. If you don’t believe me all you have to do is look at a nutrition label :)

5. “It won’t kill you to have a bite of  (Insert bad food here)”

Assorted Junk Food

Why yes, yes in fact, it will.

That one bite will lead to another and another and another. Thus, completely derailing a prep. A competitor knows this. If you have the mentality of: what’s one bite here, and another bite there? Pretty soon you’ll be completely “off track”, focus will be lost, and all the weeks or months of training and dieting can be thrown off. Yup, one bite of a Snickers bar can do all that.

Instead of tempting a competitor with how good the food tastes or being upset when they politely refuse Grandma’s Snickerdoodles, understand that crappy food will not get them to their ultimate goal. One bite of food, although tempting and delicious, is far less appealing than the moment of stepping onstage knowing you gave it 100%.

When you enter into a show prep you are either committing 110%, or not at all. If its not on “The Plan” you can bet its not going to be eaten. When your goal is to push past your limits you have to sacrifice. A first time competitior will quickly learn that food is fuel. The emotional connection once had with say, a Big Mac,  suddenly isn’t so powerful.


This sport is  one that challenges you and you grow with every prep. You begin to learn what works and doesn’t work for your body, you try new ways to diet, you vary your cardio and strength routines. It’s all a process, a journey. As a competitior learns what works for them they already know people will criticize and tell them what they should and shouldn’t do.

As an individiual starts to make seemingly incredible lifestyle changes people will always  give their 2 cents. What’s ”healthy” to one person, is “unhealthy” to the next.  The honest truth is this sport requires an insane amount of dedication and discipline and when someone is competing it doesn’t matter what you say. They’re going to do what they know works for their body to get it to look the way it’s supposed to.

With all of that said, I would like to share a note to competitors as well:

This lifestyle is a CHOICE.

Competing is a CHOICE.

It is a decision that you, and you alone, have made because it is something you love and makes you happy and fulfilled. The tendency to start thinking you’re better than everyone else who isn’t on show prep is an evil that becomes all too real. You’ll start judging people because they aren’t as lean, muscular, fit, or whatever as you are. Don’t let that thinking get in your head- because you’re not better, you’re just different.

And here’s a reality check-not everyone aspires to look like you.

Also, don’t whine about how hard it is. You’re just asking for people’s opinion that way. Don’t complain about the diet, training, or anything else. Because again, you are CHOOSING to do this. No one is holding a gun to your head or forcing tilapia down your throat.

Competing is a sport that allows you to train beyond your limits, teaches you how to be insanely disciplined and above all else is fun. If it isn’t fun anymore- maybe you should rethink why you’re competing.

I hope whether you’re a competitor, or supporter of one, you’ve found this article honest & insightful.

It wasn’t sugarcoated because, hey, let’s face it, you can’t have sugar on show prep anyway ;)

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