How I leaned up pre comp
It’s been five weeks since I stepped on stage to compete in sports modelling. I thought it time to share with you what really happened in the final week leading up to 5 March. Something I value highly is transparency and trust - so, here's my attempt at giving you a window into those last few days before competing. If anything sparks your curiosity, holla at me. I am always seeking new content or questions to answer in my blog posts.
A foreword on health:
Having spent the last couple of months narrowly focusing on physical aesthetics (sculpting a stage-ready body rather than maintaining my usual “health IS happiness” mantra), I naturally began to question the relationship between feeling healthy and looking healthy. Could they be achieved simultaneously?
For body building competitors the answer would traditionally be a no, but recently, I began to witness this approach being challenged.
Before diving into this loaded question it’s important to note that looking healthy is NOT an end goal in the books of a body building coach, nor is it a criteria used when judging girls on stage. Posing and grooming aside, a competitor’s success impinges on muscle definition and leanness.
Not surprisingly, this means that women will generally go to extreme measures to drop fat in a very short period of time, depending on the category and how many weeks they’ve had to prepare.
My definition of health is all-encompassing and based on sustainability – if a certain style of lifestyle a) doesn’t offer long-term solutions, b) isn’t enjoyable and c) is highly restrictive - I’m not into it. Fads and short-term fixes only exacerbate a problem.
I approach health goals holistically, which means that I address weight loss and building muscle with solutions that simultaneously improve gut health, strengthen the immune system, boost energy levels and include delicious foods (not tasteless, regimented ones).
“Health” is multi-dimensional. Without a positive mindset, positive change can't be sustained. After all, inner health—primarily gut and mental—reflects phenomenally on our external health. A clear complexion, flat stomach, bright eyes, shiny hair and even muscle tone says a lot about what’s going on in the inside. These visual signifiers indicate how well someone has slept, their stress levels and their body’s ability to process food.
To lose a seemingly small 4mm of fat, competitors can go to extreme heights. The final week leading up to comps was one of the weirdest and most challenging in my life. Seeing as it was my first time competing I decided to go “all in” and put my results in the hands of my coach whose methods were quite traditionalist and therefore “tried and tested” as being effective.
Basically, I went through what sounded and felt a lot like live taxidermy. Over seven days, I dehydrated my body in the pursuit of looking like a vacuum-sealed bag of muscle.
These four days were the most bizarre I’d ever endured in my life. I’ve experimented with some pretty freakish things in the past but was always motivated by the intention to improve my health, not put it at risk – which is definitely what happened here.
On the Sunday before I started drinking salt water. Known as “salt loading” these four days were all about increasing my intake of sodium after having spent weeks consuming salt-free food.
Not only was I sipping at seawater a problem; the volume was the gag-inducing struggle – three litres one day, five the next. To make matters harder, I was also expected to lift heavier than ever (which was made harder by my body aching with salt), continue working out twice a day on a zero-carb diet and start decreasing my calories.
Before deciding to train for competitions I had naturally expected things to get crazy closer to comp day. However, I chose to play the ignorance game until the last moment. When salt loading was sprung on me the day I was set to start, I frankly hadn’t Googled the science or side effects of it at all.
This usually isn’t like me. Science, research papers, health studies – that’s my jam. EVERY health choice I make in my life now is supported by scientific research – however, in this single case I put all my trust wholeheartedly in my coach.
Experiencing the symptoms of salt loading alone was enough to tell me that this IS NOT at all a realistic or healthy way to sustain that “shredded” look. Within the first few sips I already felt my body screaming out.
The first symptom was dizziness – essentially feeling drunk. Apparently, that feeling was a normal. Fortunately, I went through this fleeting and foggily-headed forgotten few days with my two friends I was competing with.
On the Friday I stopped training, consumed two servings of 150g kangaroo meat (THAT'S IT) and stood around while I waited for my fake tan to dry. Literally. Aside from a little active brain function, that's it.
Reflecting on it now, it all sounds unbearable. What’s weird is, at the time I felt “fine”. I somehow navigated those very salty waters on stoic autopilot. I certainly was not myself and my functionality was hindered, yet I managed not once have a mental breakdown, nor did I bail on even one workout. So, there you have it - my experience with salt loading.
If you're considering training to compete...
Here are my top three tips. You must be someone who:
- Naturally enjoys spending time at the gym
- Sees the value of stepping outside your comfort zone
- Has the foundations of good nutrition in place to return to post-comps
So, will I compete again? Maybe. But next time, I'll scrap the salt loading - I've got something else in mind.