Contest Prep 101, Part 1

An effective protocol for getting your body ready for competition.


There is no doubt that preparing for a bodybuilding/physique contest can be quite intimidating, especially if it is your first time. There are so many vital components necessary for bringing to the stage a ripped, dense, full, and muscular body that it’s very easy to become both confused and overwhelmed.

I myself have competed in more than 20 bodybuilding competitions and have worked with clients all over the globe (novice to pro level), assisting in their contest prep for 25-plus years. And while each of us is unique in the way we respond to specific diets, training programs, and supplement regimens, I have been able to create a sensible, efficient, and healthy foundation protocol that will help just about anyone hit the stage with the kind of physique that will definitely grab the judges’ attention! 

Before I get into the nuts and bolts, I want to mention something regarding the off-season. It is my firm belief that those who are serious about competing and moving to the highest levels of the sport should keep their body fat in a range that will allow for a prep period of no longer than 12 to 16 weeks. I actually prefer the first four weeks (16 down to 12) to be a “break in” phase, starting by simply eliminating all junk foods (alcohol, too, if needed) from the diet while also getting used to consuming six meals per day on a regimented schedule. By keeping body fat at a respectable level year- round you will not only make contest prep easier and less mentally/physically exhausting but also allow for maximum retention of muscle mass. 


Below you will find a list of high-quality foods that can be included in your diet for the first four weeks of prep, as well as a sample meal plan so you can see how to put things together. As we move along, more and more foods will be removed, and the macronutrient profile will be adjusted. This is to allow for continuous progress to take place every week right up till the show.

  • Proteins: 93% lean beef, 93% lean turkey, turkey breast, chicken breast, steak, egg whites, game meats, white fish, salmon, nonfat cottage cheese, protein powders (can be used for up to three meals per day).
  • Carbohydrates: Brown rice, white rice, sweet potato, white potato, whole-grain bread, oatmeal, cream of wheat, quinoa, rice cakes, pasta, carb powder, all fruits.
  • Vegetables: All green and colored types.
  • Fats: Walnuts, peanuts, almonds, avocado, cheddar cheese, olive oil, fish oil, flax oil, coconut oil, nut butters.

Now that we have a solid list of foods in place, let me give you an example of what a typical day of dieting might look like at this point for someone weighing about 200 pounds and carrying between 10% and 12% body fat.

  • MEAL 1
    • P: Whey/casein protein powder mix (approximately 2 scoops)
    • C: Oatmeal (3.1 oz uncooked) 
    • F: No added fats
  • MEAL 2
    • P: Chicken breast (7.1 oz cooked) 
    • C: Brown rice (6.7 oz cooked)
    • F: No added fats
  • MEAL 3
    • P: Tilapia (8.3 oz cooked) 
    • C: Large mixed salad
    • F: Olive oil (1 tbsp)
  • MEAL 4
    • P: Whey protein powder (approximately 2 scoops)
    • C: White potato (10 oz cooked) 
    • F: No added fats
  • MEAL 5
    • P: Top-round steak (7.1 oz cooked)
    • C: Sweet potato (5.5 oz cooked) 
    • F: No added fats
  • MEAL 6
    • P: Casein protein powder (approximately 2 scoops)
    • C: None
    • F: Natural peanut butter (2 tbsp) 

Totals: 300g protein, 200g carbs, 28g essential fats


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