How to Train and Diet for a Natural Bodybuilding Competition?

Bodybuilders, here are some tips for your next competition! (Image via unsplash/Norbert Buduczki)
Bodybuilding needs intense training. (Image via Unsplash/Norbert Buduczki)

Bodybuilding competitions are a great way to test your limits as well as show off your hard-earned muscle mass.

While it may seem incredibly complicated and mentally exhausting to compete on the big stage, if you really care about the art of bodybuilding, you can do it. If you are unsure about how to prepare for a bodybuilding competition, read on.

Training and Diet Tips For Bodybuilding

Here are a few training and diet tips for bodybuilding:

#1 Create Balance Between Compound Lifts and Accessory Lifts

Compound lifts are the main lifts that work multiple muscle groups at once. These include squats, bench press, and deadlifts.

Accessory lifts are those that work one muscle group at a time, such as bicep curls or tricep extensions. Develop a harmonized routine with both these exercise types, depending on your needs and lagging parts. Try to do 60% compound lifts and 40% accessory lifts.

#2 Get Your Mind and Body Ready for Lengthy Preparation Period

The pre-contest preparation period is a long and difficult time. You have to keep your mind focused on your goals and not let anything distract you, so it's important that you start early.

That can be done through visualization techniques, such as imagining yourself in front of the judges when they announce the winner or by setting small goals every day that help you stay motivated throughout the process.

There are many ways to stay on track during this time — from meditation to journaling. However, whatever works best for you is what should be used. The most important thing is that once again: start now.

#3 Follow a Linear Progression Training Plan

Follow a linear progression training plan. That means the weight you train with should be increased every workout, or at least every other workout.

It's best to start off with a six-day split and working out three days continuously before taking a break. You can do that by either splitting up the body parts into two days (chest and back on one day, legs on another) or doing both chest/back and legs together on the same day.

It’s important that you get adequate rest between workouts for optimal muscle recovery. If you’re going to do two different workouts in a day, it’s best to have them separated by at least 24 hours (for example Monday - chest/back; Tuesday - legs).

#4 Focus on Compound Lifts and High-volume Training

The best way to build muscle is through compound lifts. Compound lifts are those that use multiple joints and muscles in a lift. Squats, deadlifts, and bench presses are a few examples of compound lifts.

These lifts can be very taxing on the body, so it's important to structure your plan so that you're able to recover from the training sessions. A great way to do that is by including high volume training in your routine.

High volume training is when you perform multiple sets with a relatively light weight to achieve maximum pump (the feeling of fullness in the muscles). The high rep range causes lactic acid build-up, which helps stimulate growth hormone production - further stimulating muscle growth.

#5 Pay Attention to Rest and Recovery Days

To ensure you're recovering properly, it's important to schedule rest days in your training plan. A rest day should not be used as an excuse to skip workouts, though. If you are experiencing fatigue or burnout, the best thing to do is take a break from training and focus on other aspects of health, such as sleep, nutrition, and stress management.

The idea behind a high-protein diet is that by following it consistently over time—and especially in combination with exercise—you'll build muscle mass at a faster rate than if you were eating less protein or none at all.

Protein has been shown to increase satiety (feeling full), boost metabolism, and reduce hunger cravings throughout the day. That makes protein an effective tool for weight loss, as its satiating effect keeps blood sugar levels steady. That ensures you won't get hungry again soon after eating something like sugary foods or processed carbs like pasta.

#6 Select a Calorie Intake that's Right for Your Body Composition

When it comes to bodybuilding, calories are the most important factor, as they determine whether you gain or lose muscle mass. That's why this is the first step in your training and diet plan.

The goal is for you to find out exactly how many calories can help you maintain your current weight, lose fat and build muscle, or gain strength and endurance. To figure out what works best for your body composition goals:

  • Follow a calorie-restricted diet for three weeks
  • Use an online calculator that considers your height, gender, age, and activity level to estimate your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). That will tell you how many calories would be burned if all your muscles were working at full capacity. Multiply this number by 0.6 if you want to lose weight; by 1 if you want to gain weight; by 0.8 if you want more strength and endurance.

#7 Use Right Macronutrient Ratios for Muscle Gain and Fat Loss

You need to consume the right amount of protein, carbs, and fat for muscle growth and fat loss. Protein is essential for building muscle; you should be consuming 1 gram per pound of bodyweight if you're trying to build muscle.

Carbs are important, as they provide energy during your workouts. A high-carb diet is perfect for those who want to lose weight quickly, as carbs cause insulin spikes, which suppress hunger cravings.

Fat plays an important role in our body, but too much can lead to health issues, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, so it's best that it's not consumed excessively if you're trying to lose weight.

#8 Use Weekly Check-ins to Track Your Progress and Tailor your Diet

In addition to using weekly check-ins to track your progress, you should also use them to tailor your diet.

If you’re losing weight, it means you should cut back on calories. If you are looking to weight and look like an oversized bodybuilder in the mirror, it's time for some more cardio or hot yoga classes.

It's important that you listen to what your body is telling you so that you don't starve or overwork yourself with intense workouts.

#9 Supplement Wisely with Multiple Protein Sources, High-quality Fats, Carbs, Vitamins, Minerals, etc

You can supplement your diet with protein powder, among others. If you're an experienced bodybuilder, it may be beneficial for you to increase your consumption of fat to support testosterone production. If that's the case, consider adding a quality fish oil supplement that contains EPA and DHA on top of what's in your diet — and don't forget to get enough vitamin E.

When using protein powder, remember that not all products are created equal. Some contain fillers, such as corn syrup, while others use soy lecithin (which some people avoid).

Look for a product that uses whey hydrolysate or micellar casein instead of soy lecithin if you want something clean and effective without any unnecessary additives or sugar added into the mix (which will only slow down digestion).

#10 Don't Commit Mistake of Getting Dehydrated or Starving Yourself at Weigh-in

The weigh-in is a very stressful part of the competition, as you will be competing against your opponents and trying to make weight. It's important not to make any mistakes here, as one wrong move could cost you the competition or even your career.

If you are dehydrated for the weigh-in, it's likely you will retain water after weighing in. Being dehydrated can also cause muscle cramps and make it harder for you to cut weight. After weighing in, eat right away so that if there is any water retention due to dehydration, it will be released with urination instead of retained inside the body where it could cause harm later on.


We hope you enjoyed this article and are ready to start your bodybuilding journey. Keep your head down, and train hard, as consistency can work wonders. Rest, eat, lift, and take note of all the aforementioned tips, and you could be on the stage in front of the world soon.

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Edited by Bhargav