The world of bodybuilding is extremely intriguing to me. Whether you are training for a show or just working out to look better/get healthier, everyone has a goal or dream physique in mind. Once you have that goal set, you are now trying to sculpt your body to get to that point. One of my favorite quotes by Arnold Schwarzenegger from the movie Pumping Iron is “Good bodybuilders have the same mind when it comes to sculpting, that a sculptor has. If you analyze it, you look in the mirror and you say, okay, I need a bit more deltoids…so that the proportion’s right, and…you exercise and put those deltoids on, whereas an artist would just slap on some clay on each side.”
This is definitely how I feel when I’m working out. I know that I need to improve certain body parts, so then I start exercising those body parts more often or with more sets/reps. When you get to the point of competing, this is the mindset that you have to have. You have to look at the downfalls of your physique and try to improve them. For me, I had talked about competing in men’s physique for like 3-4 years but I kept telling myself that I wasn’t ready and would come up with some excuse. Plus, I wasn’t happy with how my physique looked. It wasn’t horrible by any means, but it wasn’t up to my standards. I wanted to look perfect for my first show, so I kept trying to improve year over year.
Back in 2013, at the Boise Fit Expo held by bodybuilding.com, I had talked to one of my idols at the time, Ryan Hughes, and he said something that stuck with me all the way until now. He asked me if I competed and I told him no but that I wanted to, but I needed to get bigger. He said that he knows the feeling, but you just have to get on stage, even if you don’t feel ready, just to get the experience out of the way, and then if you love it, continue to get better. He told me that his first show he took dead last. This was crazy to hear because at the time, his physique was one of the tops in the industry. Now as I just said, I obviously didn’t take his advice right away because I waited a few more years, but I still thought about those words when I finally did compete. That no matter how I placed, at least I was getting the experience and seeing if I liked it.
Now finally onto the actual process….
To start off my prep, I googled contest prep coaches in my area and came across Big Jon Fitness. After looking at reviews, I saw that they had high praise so I called them and asked when I could come in to ask some questions. During my meeting with Jon(the owner and an absolute beast), I asked some basic questions about what kind of diet style he followed and we talked for about a half hour or so. I told him that I wanted to prep with an IIFYM style of dieting, and he said no problem, so I signed up with my eyes set on the Idaho Muscle Classic on June 3rd, 2017 in the true novice men’s physique class. Big Jon’s plan was $300 a month which included: 1 training session per week with a trainer, a personalized meal plan, and 1 posing practice per week. I prepped for 12 weeks, so in total I paid $900 for a trainer.
Once prep got underway, I got my first meal plan from Jon and I was very surprised. The meal plan wasn’t IIFYM, but very plain jane, chicken and rice, fish and potato, veggies, turkey bacon and eggs, etc. I emailed him back and asked if I could go more flexible and he said that would be fine. He did provide me with my macros in the first email, so I just went based off of those. My macros were 325 grams of protein, 180 grams of carbs, and 115 grams of fat, for a total of 3125 calories. If your jaw just dropped, then you had the same reaction as me. I ended up saying oh well, and following those macros very closely for the next few weeks before Jon dropped them a few times until the end of prep. Prep was challenging, and I wasn’t a fan of the extremely high protein high fat diet, but I did it anyways since I was paying for it. I’m going to skip through the majority of the prep, because it was basic stuff like weekly check ins, posing practice, workouts, and lots of food.
Fast forward to about 2 weeks out from the show, I had lost a ton of weight(about 18 lbs) but I knew that I still wasn’t ready. I was still eating tons of food and bloating out every day eating the amount of calories that I was supposed to. I kept hoping that things would change, but by the day of the show, I still wasn’t feeling great. I had lost a few more lbs, and felt okay in the morning, but it wasn’t the package that I wanted. Part of this was because I only prepped for 12 weeks and had a lot of fat when I started, and the other part was because my body didn’t react well to a high fat, lower carb diet.
During the day before the show, we had check ins at the venue, where you basically tell them that you are still competing and they check your NPC card(which I purchased about a month before this) and they give you a goodie bag with a t-shirt, some supplements, and your number button. After check ins, I had to go and get my first coat of tan and laughed along with my friends and family because I was DARK. Tanning is definitely the annoying part of the show, because you have to try not to get it everywhere. I wore a long sleeve shirt and sweat pants, and then had to sleep in them as well, all while trying not to sweat, because sweat would ruin the tan.
The next morning, I woke up extra early and I was stoked! I ate some oatmeal and protein, and left to go get my second coat of tan. For those who don’t know, you have to get spray tanned for a competition because the lights on stage are so harsh that if you don’t have it, you would look like a ghost. You have to get two coats, the first is the main tan and the second is more of a gloss coat that is extra dark. Once I had my tan, I had to rush back home and get my meals together before I headed off to Boise to the venue. I got to the venue like an hour early, so I just waited outside until I saw other people showing up. Once people got there, it was go time. We had a quick competitor meeting and then pre judging began. During pre judging, all of the classes go through their posing, and the judges make their initial decisions. Almost all of the decision comes from pre judging and then finals are later that night.
During pre judging, I sat around and ate some rice cakes with peanut butter knowing that I had about an hour until I went on stage(coaches orders). This is where things started to go wrong. I started to bloat out quite a bit even though I only ate one rice cake with peanut butter, but I think it started with the oatmeal and protein that morning. My body didn’t lean out by the time I had to get on stage, so I knew I just had to try my best and get out there and have fun. Back stage, I got a few minor touch ups on my tan, and then lined up with 5 other guys to go on stage. I thought for sure that at this point I would be stressing out and super nervous, but I wasn’t at all. I walked up on stage, hit my couple of poses, got off stage, and just like that, I had stepped on stage for my first time.
After pre judging, I was ordered to go eat a big meal, specifically a burger and fries to help fill me up for finals later that night. I went to Five guys with a friend and had my meal and felt great after. To kill some time, I went and hung out at the bodybuilding.com fit expo since it was only about a 20 minutes from the venue, and waited until I could head back to the venue. Once the time came, I went back over there to meet up with my family and friends that came to watch.
When finals started, I still had about 2 hours before I had to go on stage so Jon had me eat a chicken and sweet potato meal while hanging out with my family and watching the other competitors. Time seemed to slow down as all of the amazing physiques graced the stage, and then it finally came. The time to go back stage and get my final glaze before going on stage in front of a couple hundred people.
Once back stage, I was told to eat a small piece of candy and another rice cake with peanut butter a couple minutes before walking on. Once again, I bloated out. So by the time I got on stage, I was not thrilled with how I looked, but I gave it my all. Once again I wasn’t nervous, but excited to be done so that I could eat everything in sight. While posing with the other guys, they started calling off names from last to first for the top 5 out of 6 competitors. I patiently awaited them to call the names, and then they did. 5th place is Alex Costa. Whoooo! While it wasn’t ideal, I didn’t take last place and that was my main goal when I started prep. It was a great experience that was well worth the time, effort, and money. From there, there wasn’t too much more, we took some pictures, had some laughs, and went to dinner at a Brazilian buffet.
My Main Takeaways:
Working with a trainer was great for my first show. They showed me all the ins and outs of getting signed up and trained me on posing which I didn’t know much about. However, for me because I knew what diet methods worked best for me, I shouldn’t have strayed away from them. Every body is different, so you need to find what works for you. I lost a lot of weight, but didn’t get really lean. So the diet worked, but just not for me for a contest prep.
I would also prep a little bit longer. For my second show I prepped for almost 16 weeks because I wanted to take my time and make sure I could be fairly flexible. Just make sure that however much time you choose, you dedicate a lot of time and energy into staying on track.
Most importantly, have fun with it if you choose to compete. You’ll find out if you enjoy it enough to keep going. I definitely did. I did my second show in November and still took 5th place, but I felt that I looked 100x better and that is what mattered.
If you’re interested in doing a show and have any other questions for me, feel free to hit me up on Instagram @alexcostaphysique and I can also help with customized meal/workout plans.
Also don’t forget to check out my other blogs on the site in both the Health and Travel sections.