Q&A: How Can I Compete Without Breaking the Bank?

In the last part of our Q&A series we look at the cost of participating in bodybuilding and fitness model competitions through federations, such as the IFBB and WBFF.

Our question comes from my friend & instagram follower @leanlioness : how do you do it without breaking the bank!?

What I have to say:

Competing is indeed costly, and unfortunately unlike other recognised sports (e.g. national & Olympic sports) getting financial support is extremely difficult. Most of the sponsorships offered by fitness & supplement companies are limited to free products and barely scratch the mountain of competition expenses.

Personally, I would recommend looking at competing as an investment in something you like, in your personal goal or or even in improving yourself! Just like you would save money for a dream holiday or education course, so you would need to plan & save money for a competition.

Of course, there are several ways you can reduce these costs, but you can’t eliminate them completely. Another thing to consider is the compromise between saving money & getting the results you want.

Most of the costly things (e.g. training, food & event beauty services) you can do yourself with the help of internet resources, however the experience may be much more stressful. Also having a mentor / coach with relevant experience who can guide you through the whole process is invaluable.

Your question is a good starting point and will helpfully hope anyone who is doing their research on competing. Below you will see a detailed breakdown on all the costs involved in competing and where you can save some money.

Answer from our expert, Lisa Maas, M.S. Nutrition, B.S. Exercise Science and US Women’s Figure competitor:

When I competed for the first time a few months ago, it was not until it got closer to the show that I realized how several little things added up. I already had a gym membership and was used to buying high quality foods, so these expenses were not new to me.

However, once I got further into the prep, I realized that costs added up for things like manicure, travel costs, solarium sessions to get a base tan, jewelry, make up… the list goes on and on.

In hindsight, I know I could have saved much more money had I planned everything more thoroughly right from the beginning.

Now let me help you to get the most out of your prep and look amazing on stage without spending a fortune. Below is a breakdown on what you will have to spend money on and how to spend your money wisely to make everything as affordable as possible.

Some things are optional while others are not.

1.Coach

Even if you have a good training background or are working in the fitness industry yourself, having a coach is worth the investment.

Although you may be able to do this yourself, having someone that holds you accountable, pushes you, and guides you through the program makes the whole process much more effective and enjoyable. Most prep coaches offer 12-week programs and will design your training and nutrition plan.

You may find a coach that can help you with everything (nutrition, training, and posing) or you may need to find two or three individuals to help you.

Approx. cost: $100-$600 /month depending on which services are included

2.Posing

If you are new to competing you should invest in a few posing sessions and having a coach who helps you with this is worth the investment. You could also teach yourself with YouTube videos but this is not as easy as it sounds.

At the end it all comes down to how you present yourself on stage and if you are able to show your hard work. You can save money by signing up for group sessions or session packages.

Approx. cost: Private sessions: $60-$150 /hour; Group sessions: $25-$35 /hour

3.Food

If you are already eating pretty healthy and do your weekly meal prep you already have an estimate about the expenses for food. However, you will probably be eating more protein and more frequently throughout the day.

Food costs for you may go up or down depending on how you ate before. Consider looking into food companies that offer customized nutrition plans and weekly delivery. Pura, for instance, is one of the best companies, preparing meals exactly according to your macros. This may be a little more expensive but saves you a lot of time and energy.

Approx. cost: Doing your own meals: $320 /month; Using a meal prep company: $680 /month (*food costs vary depending on the country you live in)

4.Supplements

You don’t have to go crazy on supplements. If you don’t have any health issues or compromised gut function that would need extra support, sticking to the essentials such as protein powder and BCAAs may be sufficient.

Approx. cost: $50+

5.Gym Membership

You can skip the membership and get by with a squat rack, barbell and bench, dumbbells and a pull-up bar at home. Otherwise, gym memberships can range from

$45-$140 /month

6.Federation Membership Card

Different federations will have different membership fees. Most shows require you to be a member of their federation before you can register for a contest.

Approx. cost: $60-$120

7.Competition Suit

A new custom suit can start at $150 and can get up as high as you would like. If you could see yourself competing in several shows, investing in a custom suit is a great idea. You can use that suit for several shows and eventually resell it for 50-75% of your purchase price.

If you want to save, you can look for a used suit. You can get a beautiful used one for $120 and up. There are also a few sites where you can rent a suit instead of buying one. Another option is to buy an affordable plain suit and add the stones and bling yourself to offset the costs.

Approx. cost: $120+

8.Competition heels and jewelry

Clear competition heels can range from $40-$60 and jewelry comes down to about $50. You can also add rhinestones to your shoes yourself.

As for jewelry, you will need rhinestone bracelets on one or both wrists. If you compete in figure or bikini you will also need earrings.

Approx. cost: $30-$80

9.Show day makeup

Your makeup must be very dark and should also match your tan. If you buy your own, it will last for multiple shows.

Having a professional do it is a little more expensive but may be helpful at the first show.

Approx. cost: Professionally done: $50-$90; DIY: $80 (multiple shows)

10.Hair

You can definitely do this yourself or have a friend do your hair for you. When it comes to hair, having a professional do it at your first show may be less stressful, but also more expensive.

Approx. cost: $30-$80

11.Competition tan

Using the event tanner is definitely recommended as they will make sure you look amazing on stage (win-win situation). This is more expensive but recommended for the first show. DIY competition tanning products will last about three shows.

Approx. cost: DIY: $50-$80 (for three shows); event tanning service: $100+ (per show)

12.Hotel and Travel costs

This varies depending on how far you have to travel for your show. Competing in local shows keeps these costs affordable.

13.Competition Entry Fees

Costs are about $30-$50 per category entered. This varies from show to show.

Approx. cost: $50-$200, depending on how many categories you want to compete in

14.Manicure

You will have to make sure that your nails are in good shape. You can do it yourself or get a manicure. French manicures look good on stage but in general, color and length are up to you.

Approx. cost: $15-$80

15.Photography

The event photographer will usually offer packages for $60-$75 for all of the pictures they take of you during the show. If you enter more than one category, the photography package may be more expensive.

In addition most competitors schedule a 1 to 2-hour photo shoot the week of the show, which may cost $150+. This is totally worth it though!

Approx. cost: $60+

As you can see, there are ways to keep the competition expenses to a minimum. How much you ultimately decide to spend on each thing is up to you.

I recommend making a list before you start your contest prep in order to prioritize expenses. Hiring a coach and signing up for posing sessions should definitely be at the top of your list.

Don’t let money be the reason not to compete! There is always a way to make it work.

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