I spent my off season from professional Obstacle Course racing to cross something off of my fitness bucket list— a figure competition. Yes, where you stand on a stage with a spray tan, clear heels and a bikini and flex. Sorry—pose. Although this was seemingly out of character, the mental and physical challenge was actually right up my ally. I was intrigued with the task of figuring out how to change from 24/7 performance eating and training to aesthetic eating and training. Although I didn’t train for this competition traditionally (performance remained important in my training oftentimes and my pescatarian diet would be scoffed at by some) I tried to adhere to the world of bodybuilding to see what it is all about. Here’s what I found:
Training similarities and differences
- Lifting heavy for less than 8 reps. This is a staple of bodybuilding. I also keep this in my regime year round probably more than the average performance athlete because I think it is important to keep a good base of raw strength. The movements I chose, however are always compound, whereas bodybuilders love to isolate.
- I completely omitted the classic 12-15 rep “feel the burn” lifting sessions as I think they are superfluous, inefficient, and completely non functional. I just could’t do it.
- Interval training. I do high intensity interval training year round using a multitude of body weight and sports specific movements in various timing schemes. Bodybuilders use cardio, often in the form of long, low intensity. I maintained my HIIT training as I found it to be a more efficient way to “do cardio” while remaining functional and maintaining muscle while getting conditioned.
- The quality of my workout for performance is MUCH better because I care more and I am not depleted while doing them.
- I have reintroduced key specific running workouts designed to make me faster at running.
Diet Similarities and Differences
- I eat no dairy products accept fish and eggs. Although I was warned this would be extremely difficult, I maintain this in performance and aesthetic training.
- While training for figure I had to be much more intentional about eating protein. I ate 1.2grams of protein per pound of body weight whereas year round I eat about .8-1g per pound of body weight.
- Carbohydrates are extremely important in both realms for similar reasons of fuel and muscle repair. In performance training I eat carbohydrates much more liberally, knowing I will use every gram in my workouts or recovery and never be depleted of glycogen.
- The hardest part of eating for physique is the trace amounts of fat allowed. Training for performance I am glad to eat (healthy) fats with reckless abandon once again! These fats give me the energy (most caloric food and great fuel source), usually protein and keep me a happy athlete because they are delicious.
- The supplementation I use for both stays similar. Gnary Vegan Protein helped me immensely while training for figure. I was able to hit those high protein macro numbers without animal sources. I still recover with Gnarly Vegan after my performance workouts as an assurance that I am getting quick and clean recovery before I can have my next meal. I use Gnarly BCAAs in both cases as well, giving me energy for my workouts and minimal breakdown.