I didn’t really know what to expect on the day; of course I knew it would consist of a lot of testosterone, fake tan and budgie smugglers but I had never actually seen a bodybuilding show before. I can safely say now, that it is much more than what people imagine, and the preparation during the actual show day I have learnt is just as important as the previous weeks of hard work.
I had pre-planned my food for the day and had my packed lunch all ready, and had already arranged with the tanning company to get my tan topped up and glistening just before I stepped on stage; so I arrived feeling prepared, relaxed and raring to go. But when I saw just how many people were in the physique category, and the varying sizes and shapes of each competitor, my mood instantly changed from been totally at ease to being nervous and over-whelmed. As much as I tried not to, I couldn’t help but constantly compare my physique; criticising every little detail of my body and questioning…
Was I big enough?
Was I defined enough?
Did my muscles look flat?
My friend who came with me as my entourage on the day did his best to keep me focused and ensured that I at least stuck to my plan; ate my snacks when I needed, drank enough fluids, did my ‘muscle pump’ workout and went over my poses.
It was a nice surprise to see my client arrive at the same time as me, and it was good to spend the first part of the day meeting his friends and family who had come to support him on the day. Other than this early meet, I actually spent very little time with my client. Not for any particular reason, other than he had his family with him and I didn’t want to intrude as I knew just how important it was for him that they were there with him supporting him.
To be honest throughout the day, there was a lot of waiting around. I spent most of this time in awe of some of the physiques I saw. Even though it was quite obvious that this competition was full of enhanced competitors which I’m not for personally, it was hard not to admire the size and shape of some of the competitors. It was also interesting during this time to see all the different techniques and tactics people were using to get themselves in the best physical shape possible. There were people drinking wine, some people eating mountains of sugary sweets, and others who looked like they were pretty much starving themselves and avoiding all fluids throughout the day.
We were in the 3rd category, so once the 2nd group of competitors were being judged, we all got called to the side of the stage to wait for our time. It was during this time that I was shocked to experience the ‘ugly’ side of physique competitions. I am all for a bit of friendly banter and competition between competitors, but whilst we were waiting to go on stage I actually recall someone slagging other competitors off, saying that they looked tiny compared to everyone else and he was going to win. On the whole the vast majority of the other competitors were friendly and sportsmanly.
Next, we would be going on stage individually, in numerical order and lo-and-behold, guess who was I lined up next to…only my client. It was great, not only had we done our prep together and helped each other throughout the entire process, we were now going to be stood on stage next to each other as well. We couldn’t have planned it any better.
I was to be the 4th person on stage in our category, and when it got to me being next I started to become even more relaxed about the whole thing. But then disaster, the announcer called out my number but then the wrong name. Confusion set in, and even though it is such a minor detail, it completely threw me off-track. Should I go on, should I wait? I quickly got ushered on to the stage and as I appeared they corrected my name, and it was show time.
The first part of the show was the individual poses; nothing too complicated but enough to keep me concentrating. Seeing the packed out crowd was brilliant and such a thrill. Everyone was cheering and with the shining lights and flashing cameras, and I can only imagine that is what it must be like to be a celebrity. Once everyone had done their individual poses, we were then asked to perform 4 poses (known as the quarter turns) stood in a line along with 4 other competitors. There were 20 physique competitors in total, meaning there would be 5 groups. When you weren’t posing you had to stand at the back of the stage, but remain in character and continue to pose. After this, the judges then called back certain individuals to repeat their quarter turns, alongside different competitors. I have since learnt that this is so they can compare the physiques that stand out for a second time. Both me and my client were in the second group of call-backs, so I felt quietly confident that I might actually have a chance of getting a placing. Waiting for the judges to decide on the results seemed to take an absolute age; but then they started…
They announced 6th place…it wasn’t me; they then announced 5th place, again it wasn’t me. At this point I thought I had one more chance of getting placed; as there were three competitors in my opinion who shone through as being the best physiques in the category. But when they called out 4th place and it wasn’t me, I knew my hopes had gone. The three individuals who I thought would finish in the top 3, did in fact top the category. Sadly you don’t find out where exactly you were placed. I would have loved to find out if I was anywhere near the placings or whether or not…but I will never know.
Walking off the stage I have to admit I was slightly disappointed, even though I wasn’t expecting to place, I did think I had a chance; but never-mind. I got myself changed and had some food before I joined the rest of the crowd to watch the remaining categories. Prior to the show I was excited to be able to watch the other categories and was looking forward to seeing what it is like to view a bodybuilding show, as well as take part in one. But I actually found this part extremely boring after the first 5 minutes. I don’t know if it was because I was still a bit disappointed about not being placed, or whether or not it was because I didn’t know anyone competing and therefore wasn’t particularly interested in any of the results; but after watching the next two categories, I decided to leave and relax in the comfort of my home.
I absolutely loved the photo-shoot. After feeling so out of my depth on stage with the other competitors just the day before, my confidence during the photo-shoot was through the roof. I felt so much more relaxed and at ease with myself that I really enjoyed it. Although the shoot was done at a local gym that I had never been to before, and it was with a photographer that I had never worked with before, I wasn’t nervous in the slightest. The entire shoot lasted about 2 hours and we got through every exercise, position and pose that we wanted to, plus a few extras. I felt more confident about my physique than I did on stage, largely due to a mini-carb load I had the day before which made my muscles fill out a lot more. I wish I had had a bigger carb load the few days prior to the show, but hey ho. When the finished shots came back I was very happy with how I looked; my abs were very defined and my muscles were extremely vascular. The only negative point about the photo-shoot is that my tan from the previous day had smudged more than initially thought. As much as the tone and shading of the photos were adjusted, you can still see the smudged areas in some shots. But overall, I was extremely pleased with the outcome.
How My Food Increased Post Show
Due to the photo-shoot being 24 hours after the show, I had to hold back on my much anticipated, and much needed re-feed; and try to control my calorie urges. After the photo-shoot though I treated myself to one hell of a feast. I had planned this meal for weeks and knew exactly what I was going to have; I was to spend the night relaxing with my fiancée, over a selection of different takeaways. Over the space of 4 hours I consumed:
1 x 12 inch meat feast stuffed crust pizza
1 x 10 inch garlic bread with cheese and tomato
1 x mixed kebab with pitta
1 x portion of chips
1 x 100g bowl of granola
1 x 100g bowl of porridge
1 x 500g bar of cadbury’s dairy milk
Plus 2 x easter egg’s that I had been saving
I easily ate more than 4000kcals, but I just couldn’t get full. Every time I ate something, 30 minutes more I was craving more. Even though I ate a lot more than I originally planned, I wasn’t bothered…I had earned it. As soon as the last mouthful of chocolate was eaten, that was it…back to following a nutrition plan.
I had already planned out my next 4 weeks calorie intake, with gradual increases being added every week. First of all, I increased by 500kcals. Then it was another 250kcals, and then for the next two weeks I increased by another 100kcals each week. Pretty much all of these additional calories came in the form of rice, potato, oats and fruit. After spending almost 9 weeks removing these from my diet, I have to admit; at first my stomach didn’t like it. I regularly felt ‘too full’ and sluggish but after a while my energy levels started to increase and I was feeling better and better each day. By the time I finished this 4 week post-show nutrition plan, my weight had increased from 72kg all the way back up to 93kg. Yes I had put on some body fat, and although I never once measured my body fat during this period, I reckon I was still about 10-12% body fat. After this 4 week period was over, I just reverted back to my normal eating habits. As I’ve already said though I eat very healthy most days anyway so I was still eating better than what most gym-goers would; I just didn’t count calories and if I wanted to eat something different and have a treat…I did.
Where Am I Now…12 Weeks On?
12 weeks on and I feel fantastic. I actually feel better than I did at the start of my prep. My body fat is probably back to around 8-9% and my weight has stabilised now at 90kg. Not only am I heavier, I feel much fuller in my physique and my strength is better than ever. I have been applying a number of the things I learnt throughout the prepping process and am looking forward to seeing how these will improve my physique over the coming months. One of the most important things I learnt over the entire process is the importance of having regular re-feed days. I have never really trusted these in the past, and have always been wary of the increase in calories when following a particular diet. But having seen how your body can look better for eating more (when it is required), I will definitely be using these more often…even if I am not following such a strict diet.
Would I Compete Again?
If you’d asked me during the first few days after the show, my answer would have been definitely not; for two main reasons.
- As much I didn’t think it would, my daily moods, personality and tone of my voice (surprisingly) became gradually more and more affected by the reduction of calories.
- This then had a knock-on effect of affecting my home life and created tension with my loved ones.
But after being able to analyse my prep and looking back at each process that I went through during the prep, I would now actually consider doing it again.
Granted, I would do my prep a hell of a lot different and also for longer so I didn’t have to make any drastic changes, and I actually don’t think I would do as much cardio. I become far too obsessed with beating the calories I was burning than actually observing the physical changes taking place. Looking back I think my overall size and ‘fullness’ let me down on the day, and by changing these things, together with some of the food choices I would like to think that I could attain a better physique and would love to know if I could earn a top 5 place if I was to enter another competition. Saying that though, with my wedding taking place next year and the desire to start a family over the coming years as well; I definitely won’t be competing anytime soon…you never know, the next time I compete I might be entering the over 40’s.
I hope you enjoyed my journey, all the best…Martyn Pace