The behind-the-scenes effort it takes to become a bikini competitor is insanely hard and takes more willpower than just choosing a salad over fries to go with your burger. I spoke with Taylor Chapman, an ACE-certified personal trainer, who has four competitions under her sequined bikini bottoms, and she shared just what it takes to hit the stage in heels, a skimpy two-piece, and a spray tan.
Preparing for a competition takes about three to five months, depending on how in shape you are. Taylor says if you're already in good shape, working out three to five times per week, it should take about 12 weeks. If you're not, you're looking more at 20 weeks. "You also want to be sure to allow enough time to lose the weight in a healthy manner, aiming to lose at most two pounds per week."
Strict doesn't even begin to describe her meal and workout plan. Take a look at what she eats in a day. If it's not on the list, it's off-limits. She admits, "I would dream about Mexican food pretty much every night, and I watched the Food Network religiously!"
Meal 1: 7:00 a.m.
1/2 cup oatmeal
3 egg whites, 1 egg
Meal 2: 9:30 a.m.
Pro Whey 30 protein shake made with water (30g protein, 5g carbs, and 1g fat)
Meal 3: 12:00 p.m.
6 oz. grilled chicken
2 tbsp. light dressing
Meal 4: 3:00 p.m.
Dannon Light and Fit Greek Yogurt
1/4 cup almonds
Meal 5: 5:00 p.m.
Meal 6: 7:30 p.m.
6 oz. chicken/tilapia/shrimp or 4 oz. lean ground beef
1 cup veggies
1/4 cup brown rice or 3 oz. sweet potatoes
Meal 7: 10:00 p.m.
1 flavored rice cake
Total daily calories: 1,100 to 1,200
For the first eight weeks of competition prep, she does 45-minute cardio sessions five times a week. For the last month, she steps it up to 60-minute cardio sessions, seven days a week. She says, "I got so tired of cardio that I had to mix up the exercise I did every 20 minutes." Example: 20 minutes stair stepper, 20 minutes arch trainer, 20 minutes treadmill. Actually, for best results, Taylor recommends interval training to keep your muscles guessing and to avoid overuse injury. As far as weights go, she trained five days a week. "You should build your plan based on muscle groups that need the most work. My typical week is as follows:"
Monday: Cardio, legs, and abs
Tuesday: Cardio, shoulders, and abs
Wednesday: Cardio, chest, and triceps
Thursday: Cardio, back, and biceps
Friday: Cardio, legs, and abs
Saturday: Cardio and abs
Sunday: Cardio and abs
Some competitors split workouts up, doing twice in one day, but Taylor preferred getting it all done at once. She admitted that in the last month, having no rest days was killer, so she'd do double cardio on Saturdays (one hour elliptical, then one hour soccer or tennis to mix things up) just so she could rest on Sunday.
Training for a bikini competition is no joke. The before-and-after pics are so impressive, to see what's possible with hard work and perseverance. But it becomes your only focus. "I hated that I basically had no life for three months. I lived in the gym and out of Tupperware containers," Taylor said. "You miss out on a lot of outings and events while competing because it can be very tempting to go out with your friends and not partake in eating or drinking. But in the end, it's worth it when you reach your goals."
Another tidbit you'll appreciate hearing is that this perfect body she achieved, with only 12-percent body fat, could only be maintained for that one day of competition. You can't possibly eat so strictly and work out that much all the time. Her off-season body was much healthier (pictured above), but she had to deal with nasty comments like, "Wow, so I guess you're done with the whole competing thing, huh?" It takes a very secure and strong person to brush those comments aside, and Taylor admits that competing never made her feel so insecure. But she also said, "This was one of the most challenging tasks I have ever done in my life and I learned the art of willpower and determination. I learned that I can truly do anything I put my mind to."