Fitness in Beauty Contests: Lessons from a First-Time Contestant (CFC Spotlight Thursdays)

Okay, I’ll admit it: I’ve always been a bit skeptical about beauty contests. Whenever I’ve watched them on TV, the contestants seemed completely superficial, underweight and way too rehearsed! Then I talked to my friend Jen about her experience doing a fitness-focused beauty contest with Fitness America and had to re-examine my assumptions about beauty contests. Jen not only looked fantastic after competing (the pics speak for themselves!), but she’d also learned a lot about nutrition and exercise in the process of training to compete. So needless to say, I thought it would be great to share her experiences with you! Read on to learn more about Jen’s experience & to learn about fitness-focused beauty contests. You may not look at a beauty contest the same way again!


1. Tell us about yourself!

Growing up in Hawaii I have always been active and outdoors be it playing soccer, running track, cross country, or beach activities. After high school I moved to San Diego and worked at a gym as a fitness manager for 5 years. After that, I moved to Bloomington, Indiana to go to college, and 3 years ago I moved to Manhattan to start my career in Finance.

2. Tell us about the competition that you recently participated in. Is it the same as a traditional bodybuilding competition? How are contestants judged?

The competition I participated in was by Fitness America and is similar to a traditional bodybuilding competition where contestants go on stage to show their physique and is judged on various criteria based off their category. This was my first time ever being on stage, and I was in the model and bikini category. As for the judging, it varies depending on which category a contestant is in. Contestants are judged individually and in group comparisons. For all fitness shows or bodybuilding competitions, in the (i) bodybuilding round contestants are judged on muscle mass, in the (ii) figure round contestants are judged on athleticism of physique with little muscularity, in the (iii) bikini round contestants are judged on feminine and fit condition, and in the (iv) model round contestants are judged on photogenics and personality. You can learn more about the judging rules for the show I did (and for the other categories) here: Fitness America: Ms. Bikini America

 3. How did you get involved in the competition? What motivated you to begin training?

My New Year’s resolution was to get back into shape, so I hired a personal trainer to motivate me and hold me accountable to reach my goal. I saw tremendous results with him and decided to push it to another level and compete. Doing a fitness competition has been something I wanted to do for a while since back when I worked at a gym, so to be up on stage and in such great shape was a dream come true!

 4. What was your training regimen in preparation for the show?

My contest preparation started 12 weeks out from the show and I lifted weights 3 times a week with my personal trainer William Gregory at the Grand Central Equinox, and did cardio classes (like spinning) 3 times a week. The 12 weeks was broken down by each month as a phase, with an additional peak-week phase for the last week:

Phase 1: During the first month, my workouts involved heavy weight training 3 times a week, 30 minutes of cardio 2-3 times a week, clean eating 5-6 meals a day, and supplements (fat burner, CLA, glutamine, BCAA, green tea extract). During this phase the focus was mostly on building/maintaining muscles.

Phase 2: The second month involved moderate weights 3 times a week, and increased cardio from 30 min to 45 minutes 3-5 times a week. I started stage posing and walking practice with my posing coach Holly Goodwin, who is also a trainer at Equinox. She taught me how to do the bikini stage walk and posing turns, as well as taught me what the judges would be looking for. During this phase, the focus was mostly on maintaining my muscle tone and shredding fat. To do this, I also did the Dave Palumbo Keto diet halfway into this 2nd phase. Here’s two sample diets from the Palumbo Keto diet for a 140 lb Female (alternate 1 day on DIET #1, and 2 days on DIET #2, and then repeat.):

Diet #1
Meal #1 – 12 egg whites
Meal #2 – 40g whey protein
Meal #3 – 6oz chicken with 1-cup asparagus or green beans
Meal #4 – 6oz white fish (fluke, flounder, sole, ect.) With a green salad with vinegar & mustard (no olive or macadamia nut oil)
Meal #5 – 35g whey protein or 12 egg whites

Diet #2
Meal #1 – 2 whole (omega-3) eggs with 6 egg whites
Meal #2 – 35g whey protein with 1 tablespoon all natural peanut butter
Meal #3 – 6oz chicken with 1/4-cup (1oz) cashew nuts, almonds, or walnuts (vary it)
Meal #4 – 6oz salmon, swordfish, or red meat with a green salad (no tomatoes, red peppers, or carrots) with 1 tablespoon of olive oil or mac nut oil and vinegar
Meal #5 – 35g whey with 1 tablespoon all natural peanut butter or 2 whole (omega-3) eggs with 6 white

Phase 3: The third month of competition prep involved light to moderate weights 3 times a week, increased cardio to 60 minutes 6 times a week (with 2-3 times of fasted cardio in the morning), and continuation of Keto diet. The last week in this phase was where I did a “water load” by consuming 1-2 gallons of water a day for 3 days, and then water depleted up to the day of the show.

5. Wow this sounds super intense!! How did you feel about your body before you began training for the show? How do you feel about your body now?

Before the show I felt my body was a bit out of shape. Not fat, but I would say more like skinny fat. As far as how I feel about my body now, I feel amazing! I lost 15lbs, 10% body fat, and 2 dress sizes in 6 months. I have so much more energy and confidence, and can see my abs! Getting here took a lot of patience, consistency, pain tolerance, and of course hard work. Every bit of sweat, early morning workouts, and sacrifice is more than worth it at the end! Here are my before and after pics:

Before & After Photos

 6. What diet & workout techniques did you learn in the process for training for the show that you didn’t know about before?

I learned that being on high protein diet helps you protect and keep the muscles you build from lifting in the gym. It’s essential to eat a lot of protein; at least around 1 gram per body pound each day. Muscles are the engines for burning fat so more muscles you have, the more fat you will burn even while not working out.

I also learned that tracking my foods was the most effective “diet-wise” because it made me aware of what I was consuming and taught me about nutrition. Not only did it help educate me with how many calories, carbs, protein, and fats I was eating, but also helped me plan my meals for the remainder of the day based off my caloric intake limit. Tracking my foods at times was a bit tedious, however it was extremely effective when I was doing it.

Muscle symmetry!

7. Okay so dish! Tell us about the outfits & styling involved for the competition! Did the styling/fashion component effect what muscles you trained before the show? If so, how?

The fun part of this competition in the model and bikini class was that there were themed rounds. Evening wear, athletic wear, sports wear, swimwear are a few of them. Below are 4 of my different looks for the show including outfits showcasing: (i) athletic wear, (ii) patriotic-inspired style, (iii) custom bikini and (iv) Hula girl. The fashion component did affect what muscles I trained. My trainer focused a lot of my lifting on hamstrings and gluteus with a lot of squats, lunges, and dead lifts.

8. Do you think that your experience training for the show has changed the way you view dieting and exercising going forward? Are there any diet/exercise techniques that you plan to continue with even though the competition is over?

My experience training has definitely changed how I view diet and exercise. I learned most people in general over-consume food and you really don’t need much to feel satisfied. Sauces and dressings generally add a lot of calories to a food so I now stay away from them and request food to be cooked dry and always with dressing on the side. I try to never feel famished, and never feel full. I am always snacking on food throughout the day and try to keep it high protein and low carbs. It’s really a matter of finding the right balance with quality and quantity when it comes to food. Overall, I learned that it takes consistency, hard work, patience, and pain tolerance to really transform your body.

9. For readers who might be considering competing in a show like yours in the future, do you have any advice? And what advice do you have for readers who are gym newbies?

For those of you who are considering competing in a show, I would recommend attending a show in person to know what to expect. Read a lot of articles, follow blogs of professional and other competitors, and hire a personal trainer if you can. Pick a show in your local area that is 12-16 weeks away and make that one of your top priorities in your life to focus on. Training will take a lifestyle change and expect to make sacrifices. Surround yourself with likeminded healthy people who will motivate and support your goal.

As for the gym newbies, know that it is essential that you learn good form when lifting to prevent injury, as this is the building block for other workouts. Take your time, be consistent, and know that muscle soreness after working out is a good thing as it indicates your body is transforming. I would also recommend setting a reoccurring reminder in your calendar of your goal, as well as taking a before photo. As for diet, at first you really don’t need to change much of what you currently are eating, but just start tracking the individual nutritional components of the food. Doing this will make you more knowledgeable about what you are consuming and from there you can tailor your foods.

 10. Anything else you’d like to add?

It took 3 months of working out regularly before I saw significant results, and then it all came off and my body transformed tremendously from 3-6 months. Just be patient and consistent and you will see results. If you have a bad week, or miss a few workouts, just get back on track and don’t beat yourself up about it. Fitness is not a hobby, it’s a lifestyle!

SHARE: What do you think of Jen’s incredible transformation? What do you think about fitness-focused beauty contests?

Check out another CFC Interview here!


About ChicFitChef

My "deserted island" checklist: a BCBG dress, a healthy & diabetic-friendly meal and a few workout DVDs. ;-)
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10 Responses to Fitness in Beauty Contests: Lessons from a First-Time Contestant (CFC Spotlight Thursdays)

  1. Heather says:

    Good for her. She set out a goal and did what she needed to get there. I have to say, however, the diet surprised me a bit. I don’t love the lack of veggies in her plan. It’s a bit disappointing that a contest that focuses so much on fitness requires eating habits that don’t appear to be super healthy or good for the body long term.

  2. ~Jennifer R says:

    Heather, thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree. Isn’t it ironic that “getting fit” for a competition is actually not “healthy” and can be quite demanding on your body? The diet here is a contest preparation diet and should not be mistaken for a sample every day diet because it’s not sustainable.

  3. Richard Senelly says:

    Jen, you’ve developed a great work ethic and have the pics to prove it. There’s nothing you can’t do! While the physical effort and diet are impressive, i am most impressed with the consistent mental effort, focus, and persistence.

  4. Zenith says:

    Amazing transformation! What DOES the maintenance diet look like?

  5. ~Jennifer R says:

    Thanks for your support Mr. Senelly! Great question Zenith! The maintenance diet includes more carbohydrates (in the morning) and a caloric intake hovering around 1400-1700 a day.

    Here is a sample diet:

    Breakfast: Oatmeal with scoop of protein (either hot or blended with ice) I like to add flaxseed and cinnamon
    Snack: Pure Protein RTD Shake and almonds
    Lunch: Salad (with unlimited toppings/veggies) with some kind of protein. Dressing: Balsamic vinegar
    Snack: 1 pouch tuna with miracle whip on 1-2 rice cakes
    Dinner: lean protein (Fish or chicken) with veggies (I love grilled asparagus!)
    Snack: Protein shake

  6. Pingback: Fitness in Beauty Contests: Lessons from a First-Time Contestant … | Body And Fitness Needs

  7. Pingback: Making Treadmills Fun, Celeb Fit Trends & Lacey Stone (CFC Spotlight Thursdays) | ChicFitChef™

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