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Natural Bodybuilding Contest Preparation

Natural Bodybuilding Contest Preparation


Natural bodybuilding is a sport that is dramatically increasing in popularity. This review looks at the current state of research and its practical recommendations for prepping to step on stage in peak condition. By following these recommendations, you will have the best chance to minimize muscle loss, and to come in as shredded and as full as possible.

“Caloric intake should be set at a level that results in bodyweight losses of approximately 0.5 to 1%/wk to maximize muscle retention. Within this caloric intake, most but not all bodybuilders will respond best to consuming:

  • 2.3-3.1 g/kg of lean body mass per day of protein
  • 15-30% of calories from fat
  • the remainder of calories from carbohydrates

Eating three to six meals per day with a meal containing 0.4-0.5 g/kg bodyweight of protein prior and subsequent to resistance training likely maximizes any theoretical benefits of nutrient timing and frequency.

Among popular supplements: creatine monohydrate, caffeine and beta-alanine appear to have beneficial effects relevant to contest preparation, however others do not or warrant further study.

The practice of dehydration and electrolyte manipulation in the final days and hours prior to competition can be dangerous (if performed incorrectly), and may not improve appearance.

Increasing carbohydrate intake at the end of preparation has a theoretical rationale to improve appearance, however it is understudied. Thus, if carbohydrate loading is pursued it should be practiced prior to competition and its benefit assessed individually.

Finally, competitors should be aware of the increased risk of developing eating and body image disorders in aesthetic sport and therefore should have access to the appropriate mental health professionals.”1


Because natural bodybuilders are looking to minimize negatives from dieting and maximize benefits from food intake, nutrient timing comes into play more in this population than for the general athlete.

Credit: Aragon


Natural bodybuilders should strive to follow the Helms Pyramid when determining levels of importance in an overall nutrition plan even during contest prep.




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