Figure and Bikini Competition Prep: Tips on setting up your diet

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The internet is full of information for bodybuilders, but where do figure and bikini competitors go for information on competition prep and diet? Sure, there are tidbits of information on the subject here and there, but they are all coming from different “experts”, all of which take different approaches. Try piecing all of this info together and you’ll end up with one big mess!

Well, you’re in luck. I’ve put together a few tips that will help you with your upcoming bikini and figure competition prep! Here they are:

Consider hitting your daily caloric intake goal top priority! Let the other competitors talk about the best protein supplements, fat burners and superfoods. If they haven’t figured out how much more relevant basic thermodynamics is, you will be WAY ahead of the competition.

The best starting point for most reasonably active women is body weight (in pounds) x 12. This amount is usually adequate for gradual fat loss without being too restrictive. Reassess after about a month and adjust calories +/- 10% (decrease if you’re not losing, increase if your strength and stamina is suffering significantly).

Up your protein intake as you cut calories! Many trainers and physique competitors have this backwards. Conventional wisdom would compel you to believe that you need more protein in the offseason when you’re trying to build muscle, and less during pre-contest dieting when you’re trying to lean out. The opposite is true.

Here’s why: In the off season, when your calories are up, you’re consuming more fat and carbohydrates. Fat and carbs both have what we call a “protein sparing” effect, meaning they cause a reduction in the amount of dietary protein your body needs. This benefit is lost during your more calorie-restrictive pre contest diet, since carb and fat intakes are lower.

To keep your body from feeding off of muscle tissue, you need to make up for this loss by increasing protein intake. You should generally aim for 1 and a half grams of protein per pound of bodyweight (use desired body weight or lean body mass if you still have 10 pounds or more to lose) during your prep. 1 gram per pound is ideal during the offseason.

Don’t let the low-fat or the low-carb pushers confuse you! Even if you’re somewhat insulin sensitive, it will make absolutely NO difference if eating in a caloric deficit (which you will be once you apply step 1 above). Caloric deficit dieting overrides virtually all modern dieting “rules”, so don’t put too much stock into what you read in the fitness magazines, or what you may hear from other competitors. Many of them are still clinging to contest prep information that’s been deemed unnecessary or inappropriate for over a decade!

In fact, if you think about it, you can use this principle to your advantage. If you prefer lower fat and higher carb, make that part of your plan. Just make sure your fat, protein and carbs all add up to your pre-determined daily caloric intake. In other words, get your protein and calories set based on your bodyweight, then decide what fat:carb ratio to utilize to fulfill the remainder of your caloric need.

There is really a lot more to figure and bikini competition dieting than I can cover in this article, and a ton of individual factors I can’t possibly get into from behind my desk. That said, if you get these few things right, I promise you will be ahead of 90% of your fellow competitors. With bikini being so new, and figure changing so much every year or two, many of the coaches out there are still figuring out how and where their approach to prepping their girls for these divisions needs to differ from what they’ve done in years past. I hope my article series sheds some light on the subtleties of dieting, training and supplementing for this amazing sport! For more info on figure and bikini competition dieting training and prep, visit my blog at

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