From time to time I get asked about my training schedule for preparing for a figure competition. When I tell the person that I only work out about an hour a day they seem really surprised; they were expecting me to say I did four hour marathon sessions.
I thought the same thing. Prior to my first competition my concept of bodybuilders was that they were all like Hanz and Franz of Saturday Night Live, which is to say, I thought bodybuilders lived at the gym and were kinda dumb. I didn’t even know that women competed, and when I found out they did, I thought that they must look like scary gorilla women who took steroids and grew beards. Needless to say, I was wrong about all that. (Although, I’m disappointed that I will not be growing a beard.)
One of the biggest misconceptions about bodybuilding is that a competitor’s physique is solely made by putting in long hours pumping iron at the gym. I can understand why people want to perpetuate this belief; it’s cool to lift insanely heavy weights over your head, and grunt like a beast, and have people check out your ripped body. But unless you are a sponsored athlete or independently wealthy you are at the gym for 1-2 hours a day tops.
So what about the other 22 hours?
Oh, right. The nutrition and recovery side. Food is actually the MOST important part of bodybuilding, but no one really talks about it because it’s not sexy to say, “Dude, have fun eating nachos and getting wasted at the bar tonight while I stay home and eat my broiled fish and green beans.”
You can lift weights until the cows come home but if there is a snuggly layer of fat over your muscles no one will see how strong you are. What you eat and when you eat also determines how well you change the contours of your body. If you want to grow lean muscle mass you add carbohydrates to your diet. If you want to get shredded before a show you cut them. You have to time when you eat fruit and when you take your supplements for the best results.
Another aspect to bodybuilding that is completely ignored is recovery time. When Henry Cavill was training to be Superman his trainer made him get at least 10 hours of sleep per night so his testosterone levels were right for muscle growth. How many people would want to brag about that? “Nah, don’t wait up for me bro, my bedtime’s at 8:30.”
If you are considering bodybuilding (which I hope you do – it’s an incredibly fulfilling sport) just go in with open eyes. The easiest part of bodybuilding are the workouts. Balancing out your macronutrients, eating clean even when you have to travel, saying no to alcohol, and forcing yourself to take recovery days are the parts that truly determine your physique.
How about you? Do you find that what you eat impacts your workouts?
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