How I Prepared for my First Bodybuilding Contest

Krista Schaus
Magazine 13 #3

After 10 years as a competitive powerlifter in Canada and attaining status as a Master lifter and a ranking of one of Canada’s Top 20 Female Powerlifters, I was ready for a new challenge – Bodybuilding.

Important Disclaimer: It is important that I stress that even though the 2008 NKC Bodybuilding Championships hosted by Beverly International was my first bodybuilding competition, this lifestyle is not at all new to me. I have been training, eating, supplementing and living the lifestyle for 15 years. I started lifting weights at the age of 9. I was a competitive gymnast, track & field athlete and baseball player during my youth. I began formal weight training in the early 1990’s. I have trained, competed or participated in powerlifting, martial arts, police/military and obstacle course over the past 10 years. In this article, I will share with you some of the finer points of preparation that helped me put the finishing touches on my physique.

Lat Split Krista

Build a Strong Foundation

I strongly believe you should develop a strong, quality foundation, before you attempt to focus on contest preparation. You build a house from the bottom up and your body is no different. Take the time to fill in the cracks, strengthen your weak links, fill the gaps in your training, nutrition and lifestyle.

Bodybuilding Building Success on a Solid Foundation

Build first, then burn. Grow and then gleam.

A Bit About Me

As a wife and mother of two children, a business owner and strength coach and a competitive athlete, my life would certainly be defined by most as "busy". However, I prefer to say that I am an active person. "Busy" carries with it negative connotations of being stressed, hurried, overburdened and imbalanced. We are all busy and really the stuff that makes us "busy" is simple everyday activities – it’s just life. So, am I busy? Yes, if busy means I’m a dynamic individual who is passionate about setting and achieving goals and putting all the necessary things into action in order to attain those goals.

My husband and I have chosen as one of our main areas of focus to live the bodybuilding lifestyle where wellness, personal and physical growth are the focus. With this philosophy in place, our training, eating and lifestyle is not challenge at all – it is simply who we are and what we do.

I made bodybuilding my goal for 2008. After 10 years as a competitive powerlifter in Canada and attaining status as a Master lifter and a ranking of one of Canada’s Top 20 Female Powerlifters, I was ready for a new challenge. I didn’t understand where all of a sudden the desire to compete as a bodybuilder came from, I just knew it was the right path for me.

Side Oblique Krista

Nutrition 1700-2000 calories

Many years of quality, clean eating coupled with pre-contest calorie / carb cycling has been the key to my recent bodybuilding success and previously in other athletic endeavors.

My calorie range leading up to the NCK Championships averaged 1700-2000 calories per day. I kept my carb intake LOW Monday through Thursday, 40 to 80 grams, and bumped it up to around 200 to 300 grams Friday to Sunday which were higher days. On my low days, my macronutrients were around 45% protein, 45% fat and only 10% carbs.

On my high days the carbs and fat were simply flipped with 45% protein still, 45% clean carbs and only 10% fat. Occasionally, I had ultra high carb intake days taking in as much as 500 grams of both clean and simple carbs and up to 3400 calories. This was usually at the end of a 10 day training cycle of double sessions. If you are lean enough, work hard enough and have EARNED the re-feed, you will actually be rewarded with a more metabolic effective and muscular physique.

Krist’s Calorie Cycling Tips

  • Come up with a plan where you may eat low calories and low carbs for a series of days followed by a shorter period of higher calories and carbs.
  • Print out the plan and keep it in a binder in the kitchen, stick it on the fridge and keep at copy at work.
  • Stick the plan as closely as possible (90 to 100% compliance) for 2 weeks then reassess and make adjustments accordingly.
  • Know when your body truly needs a re-feed day and when you are simply making an exuse to go back to some old, bad habits such as evening snacking.
  • If carbs are lower, fats must be adjusted to keep everything in balance – protein is the foundation and carbs or fats are added to the meal accordingly.
  • Keep vegetables high, varied and nutrient dense – this will avoid deficiencies and also helps keep later day cravings at bay.
  • Your body releases a hormone based on how much and how often you feed it – when you first drop your calories, you will feel hungry and deprived. It is temporary. Tough it out and your hormones will adapt to the new eating in a few days.
  • Eat frequently – frequent feedings increase your metabolism by about 15% and you are less likely to experience hunger and diverge from the plan.
  • Supplement with Essential Fatty Acids or fish oil – Your body will improve how it uses and where it stores calories. I supplement with 1 gram of fish oil or EFA’s for each ten pounds of lean mass I have. For me that is 12 capsules each day.
  • Keep your carb choices ultra clean and nutrient dense such as oatmeal, sweet potato, pumpkin, quinoa, brown rice, Ezekiel bread, and berries.
  • Supplement with digestive enzymes to ensure all those nutrients from your food and supplements are actually being digested, absorbed and assimilated. Plus, 80% of the body’s energy goes to digestion so you will free up essential energy for training, growing and life!
  • Earn your carbs! Everyone has a different tolerance for carbs, sugars and even different tolerance for different types of carbs, at different times of the day and in different combinations with other macronutrients. You may need more than others, less than others or a different cycling of carbs.
  • Keep a food journal and you will better learn about your habits, patterns and how your body adapts to food. I use personally.
Other Essential Diet Tips:
  • Increase water to the point where you feel you are drinking ridiculous amounts – your body will be less inclined to hold onto it if you are taking in beyond adequate amounts (the same theory applies to fat! If you feed your body smart fats, it will feel at liberty to burn stored body fat).
  • Try adding lemon, Chrystal Light, or flavoured BCAA’s such as Glutamine Select to your water to avoid boredom. The BCAA’s will help you retain your hard earned muscle while burning body fat.
  • Chew gum if you find snacking is tempting. Brushing your teeth or chewing on gum really helps if you are at your calorie limit for the day after dinner and find it hard not to eat something in the evening. My favorite is chocolate mint flavoured gum.
  • Find organic dark chocolate as high a cocoa content as possible (85% or higher). If you are really dying for something off your plan, one square will do the job and also supply you with some essential nutrients such as magnesium and antioxidants.

Supplement Advantage

I was first introduced to Beverly International’s amazing supplement line when I was visiting a Kentucky based client, a figure competitor, and her husband who is a distributor of Beverly products. From my first sample of Muscle Provider, I was hooked! I fell in love with Glutamine Select, Muscle Provider and Muscle Synergy and used them all to help prepare for my first contest. Quality combined with great taste is often very hard to find! I currently am using Beverly’s Ultra 40 Liver Tabs and Density (Essential Amino Acid tablets) now that I am between competitions and focusing on building rather than burning.

My staple supplements:
  • A green food supplement – 2 or more servings daily
  • A broad-based multivitamin – taken at each main meal
  • EFA and Fish Oil capsules or liquid every feeding except post workout
  • Muscle Synergy to build and preserve muscle under even the most intense double session training conditions.
  • Glutamine & BCAA’s in high doses (Glutamine Select) – I consume 30 to 60 grams of each divided throughout the day and pre/during workouts
  • Muscle Provider protein powder – this is amazing mixed with organic yogurt, tastes like cake batter!
  • ZMA – two to three before bed and sometimes one after very high intensity training sessions

Supplementation is definitely an area I find athletes can do better. The more you push your body to the limits the more important it is to give back. You cannot keep taking from your body and expect it perform optimally.

Clearing Up Cardio Confusion

There is a lot of conflicting information out there on cardio and no one is really right or wrong.
The key is to figure out what works best for you.

My body is the type that is built for strength and speed (highly fast twitch dominant), rather than for distance running, so I prefer HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). HIIT preserves muscle tissue and I can burn a lot of calories in a short period of time as well as increase my metabolism for hours afterwards.

My preferred form of HIIT is on an upright bike. I warm up for 2:00 then perform 6 to 8 sets of high speed, high tension 30 seconds sprints. I aim to do cycle with much tension as I can while maintaining 130 RPM. I follow this with 90 seconds of a low recovery interval at only 60 to 80 RPM. This is a killer workout but it really targets lower body fat particularly on women. If I want to target belly fat, I would do the same type of high / low sprint intervals but on the running track. I do HIIT anywhere from once every 2 weeks to 3 times a week depending on how much fat I need to lose and how quickly.

I also do some steady state cardio, usually about 12 to 20 minutes of moderate paced walking on a treadmill after hard weight sessions. This reduces lactic acid and cortisol in my body which can interfere with fat loss and sleep patterns and also brings down my nervous system which can be overly stimulated when I train ultra hard.

Speaking of ultra hard training, here is MY FAVORITES LIST as it applies to training:
Favorite Rep Ranges: Relative Strength of 3 to 7 rep ranges for the 1st 75% of the workout followed by functional hypertrophy of 8 to 12 for the last 25%.
Favorite Workout Format: Charles Poliquin’s German Body Composition 8-10-12 program. A1 is 8 reps at 4010 tempo (ie bench press), A2 is 10 reps at 3010 tempo (ie incline DB Press), A3 is 12 rep range at 2010 tempo (ie Cable Chest Flies) with very little rest between exercises. You can do this for each muscle group. This is a favorite of mine as it is a Best Bang for Your Buck program – you will get leaner, more conditioned, stronger and bigger on this program.
Favorite Weekly Schedule: Chest/Back Day 1, Legs Day 2, REST, Shoulders Day 3, REST, Arms Day 4, Legs Again Day 5. HIIT is performed with Abs, Calves, Forearms on Rest Days or as a Double Day.
Favorite Body Part to Train: probably back as nothing looks better than a well developed back – this is an area too many lack.
Favorite Exercises: 1) Extended Snatch Grip Deadlifts, 2) all and any chin-up variation 3) Barbell 1 Arm Clean & Press (done with the BB on it’s end in a corner)
Least Favorite Body Part to Train: likely biceps. I have always had them even as a small kid and never spent a lot of time training them, so now that I do they hurt and are relatively weaker. I can actually feel pukey training arms?! Go figure.
Least Favorite Exercise: Seated Calf Raise... whether I use 5 or 50 lbs, these HURT!

At War with the Weights

I recommend you progressively lift heavier weights. Do not set a mental cap on what you should be able to lift because of your age, gender, training background, injuries etc..

Historically, the best bodybuilders trained heavy on basic movements. Focus on strict form, creating tension in the muscle, mentally being involved in every rep, every set, every workout. Treat every rep and every workout like you are at war with the weights and make sure you emerge the victor. With that attitude you are guaranteed to build quality muscle.

Krista’s Favorite Workout:
GBC 8-10-12 (3 to 4 weeks):
Intensity is reduced each additional set, so the first set should be the heaviest.
A1 – Rotator Cuff Work
A2 – Trap Work
B1 – BB Bench Press – 3 x 8 – 4010 temp – 10 sec rest (145 lbs)
B2 – Incline DB Press – various grips – 3 x 10 – 3010 tempo – 10 sec rest (45 lbs)
B3 – Cable Flies (from low to high) – 3 x 12 – 2010 tempo – 2:00 rest
C1 – Pullups – 3 x 8 – 4010 tempo – 10 sec rest
C2 – Chest Supported DB Row – rotating grip – 3 x 10 – 3010 tempo – 10 sec rest
C3 – Seated Rope Row to Chin – 3 x 12 – 2010 tempo – 2:00 rest
A1 – Core activation – alternating arm leg raises
B1 – BB Squat – 3 x 8 – 4010 tempo – 30 sec rest (185 to 205 lbs)
B2 – BB Split Squat – 3 x 10/10 – 3010 tempo – 30 sec rest (30 to 55 lbs)
B3 – Leg Extensions – 3 x 12 – 2010 tempo – 2:00 rest
C1 – BB Snatch Grip Deadlift – 3 x 8 – 3111 tempo – 30 sec rest (185 to 205 lbs)
C2 – DB Romanian Deadlift – 3 x 10 – 2111 tempo – 30 sec rest (40 to 60 lbs)
C3 – Lying Hamstring Curl (toes pointed) – 3 x 12 – 2010 tempo – 2:00 rest
Arms/ Shoulders
A1 – 1 Arm Supported DB Overhead Press – parallel grip – 3 x 8/8
A2 – DB Powell Side Raise – incline bench – 3 x 8/8
B1 – BB Curl – 3 x 8 – 4010 tempo – 10 sec rest (50 to 65 lbs)
B2 – Kneeling DB Hammer Curl – 3 x 10 – 3010 tempo – 10 sec rest (20 lbs)
B3 – Extended Grip DB Incline Curl – 3 x 12 – 2010 tempo – 10 sec rest (15 lbs)
C1 – Close Grip Bench Press – 3 x 8 – 4010 tempo – 10 sec rest (135 lbs)
C2 – Decline DB Tricep Extension – 3 x 10 – 3010 tempo – 10 sec rest (20 lbs)
C3 – Rope Overhead Tricep Extension (French Press) – 3 x 12 – 2010 tempo
Note: I do not spend a lot of time on shoulder work as it is a dominant / strong muscle group.

The Nitty Gritty

I put as much time and effort into posing as I did training. Preparation will show on stage or at least it will give you confidence on competition day. Practice in front of a mirror and eventually away from the mirror. I was amazed at how different it feels doing it away from the mirror. It gives you a bit of a safety net that will not be there on competition day. I also got my family around the living room and made them watch me go through my quarter turns, mandatory poses and routine. My clients also became my mock judges.

Initially, the posing aspect was so foreign to me that I forced myself to pose while brushing my teeth, again when I was getting dressed in the morning and undressing in the evening. As a strength coach, posing and pumping was often mocked and certainly discouraged. It is an unwritten rule in the lifting community that you do not show off your muscles. I am still working on getting in touch with my inner.

Defying Myths

One mistake I made, or really an error, was assuming at first that all bodybuilders or at least most use some sort of performance enhancing drugs. I was thrilled to learn that there are numerous natural organizations and drug tested events. I think the bodybuilding community needs to do more to defy the stereotypes and dispel the myths and it seems to be a common, rarely disputed belief that drugs are rampant in the sport. In my short, but still, time spent in the sport that is not at all true. Some of the best physiques and most impressive people I have been fortunate enough to meet and work with in the industry and sport are 100% clean and natural. Learning from them, I have been able to develop my best physique with nothing but hard training, quality food and supplements and a strict work ethic. I will continue to do so and proudly represent natural bodybuilding.


Developing a solid physical foundation and a high performance physique takes many years and continual dedication to hard yet smart training, clean eating and appropriate supplementation. If you keep the playing the game and enjoy the journey, the development of an exceptionally good looking and functional physique is really just a bonus. The life lessons and personal growth and development along the way are the real benefits.

Autumn Edwards
How I Won My First Figure Competition – A Complete Program