Natural body building and fitness competitors endure vigorous workouts and strict diet regimens to compete in drug-free fitness competitions and physically look their best. There are simple steps that when followed correctly can help you to achieve maximum fitness results without the use of performance enhancing drugs, such as steroids. In fact, in natural bodybuilding competitions, participants are not allowed to take steroids, and are randomly tested for usage. Below are tips to help you succeed in natural bodybuilding and fitness competitions and physically look your best.
1. Stick to a Consistent Workout Schedule
When training for a natural bodybuilding or fitness competition, it’s essential to stick to a consistent workout regimen and train most days of the week. It’s important to let your body rest on the days you do not workout. Preferably train at the same time each day; twice daily workouts are sometimes required, especially 12 weeks leading up to the competition (weight training in the morning and cardiovascular exercise in the evening, for example).
2. Train with Weights; add Cardiovascular Exercise
Weight training is essential to build muscle mass and maintain it. It’s also the key to success in bodybuilding and fitness competitions. It’s important to work each muscle group about once per week during training. Muscle groups include: shoulders, chest, upper and lower back, biceps, triceps, abdominal muscles, quadriceps, hamstrings, gluteus maximus and calves. Many people who weight train will divide these muscle groups into 5 workouts: shoulders, chest, back, arms, and legs. Abdominal workouts can be performed 3-5 times per week in addition to other resistance workouts.
During the muscle maintenance and building phases, some cardiovascular exercise can be included in your workout. Once your muscles have been strengthened and built to your satisfaction, you can increase cardiovascular exercise as needed to help burn extra body fat.
3. Eat a Clean Diet
Prior to 12 weeks from your competition, eat a well-balanced diet consisting of adequate amounts of lean protein, carbohydrate, and healthy fats while limiting sugar and saturated fat. Consume plenty of calories and protein (about .6 – .7 g protein per pound of body weight) to help build and maintain muscle mass during strenuous workouts.
Twelve weeks prior to the competition, start decreasing your body fat through a strict diet regimen. Progressively decrease your calorie, carbohydrate, and fat intake while increasing your protein (.8 – .9 g protein per pound of body weight) until you’ve lost the desired amount of body fat (one week before competition your diet should be the most strict). After the competition and during your off season it’s important to eat normally again. You’ll likely increase both weight and body fat, but this is to be expected and necessary. Maintaining a very low body fat long-term can be dangerous, especially in women.
4. Get Plenty of Rest
Staying well-rested will give you stronger, more intense workouts and help your body recover from workouts more quickly. It will also help prevent you from overeating and cheating during your pre-competition diet. Body builders and fitness competitors typically require more sleep than people who do not work out as intensely.