As someone who’s helped legions of people (har har) lose fat, get lean, and build muscle, it’s no surprise I also get asked about preparing for natural bodybuilding and bikini competitions.

After all, there’s a lot of overlap between natural bodybuilding and getting fitter as a recreational weightlifter.

While I’ve never done a bodybuilding show or coached serious competitors, I’ve gotten “photoshoot lean” several times, like this:


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The truth is that getting down to “stage condition” is very, very difficult, and requires more discipline, perseverance, and masochism than most people are willing to endure.

It also takes far longer than most people expect.

Even when the contest is over, there are hurdles to leap, like avoiding bingeing while also navigating the emotional turmoil of looking in the mirror and seeing yourself get fatter.

That’s why I invited repeat-guest Dr. Eric Helms back on the podcast. Not only has he coached countless athletes over the years, but he’s competed numerous times himself, so he definitely knows the ins and outs of contest prep and recovery.

In this episode, we talk about . . .

  • Misconceptions about what prepping is really like 
  • What it takes to go from someone who looks athletic to someone who can step on stage
  • Post-show “rebound” and dealing with the emotional “fallout” of getting fatter
  • The physiological downsides of prepping (even when you’re doing things correctly)
  • How to give yourself the best chance of success
  • And more . . .

So, if you want to learn more about what it takes to prepare for a natural bodybuilding show, give this episode a listen!

Time Stamps:

13:27 – What should people know before dedicating themselves to weightlifting competitions? 

18:13 – What are the key differences between exercising for a competition and exercising recreationally?

36:55 – What are some of the physiological downsides when doing competitions?

49:29 – What are your best pieces of advice for getting jacked with the best outcome?

1:01:57 – How do you bring hormone levels back to normal?

Mentioned on the show: 

Eric Helm’s Website

Iron Culture Podcast

Nutrition Coaching Global

Eric Helm’s Instagram

Books by Mike Matthews

What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!