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.


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


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


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)


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)


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


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


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.


Fitness, Motivation

Q&A: How Can I Get Leaner Thighs?

It’s Thursday once again and time to answer another one of your questions ūüôā

Question from @hana_mkb: How can I reduce the size of my thighs? I do follow a healthy diet + I walk every morning (brisk walking). I lost so much weight but my thighs are stubborn. What is the solution? And will having them for so many years will leave them loose and flabby after losing weight?

And this time the answer will be from Mark Doherty, personal trainer and performance nutritionist:

Hi there,

Thank you for your question. In my 20 years of working in the fitness industry this is one very common area I often get asked about from many females. Having stubborn fat can be very frustrating for anyone and it can be easy to blame genetics or hormones which may not be the case in most instances. It may merely be that the correct training and nutritional protocols are not being applied, and on a consistent basis for a long enough period of time.

So firstly let’s talk about training. The fastest way to change the shape of your body and boost your metabolic rate is to incorporate resistance training into your routine. Yes, that’s right it’s time to hit those weights, and I can promise you, you will not get bulky.

Let’s look at bikini competitors Рit’s imperative that these ladies have nicely shaped legs and low body fat levels. They achieve this by training their legs anywhere from 1 to 3 times per week using resistance based movements. Exercises such as squats, leg presses, leg curls, stiff legged deadlift and lunges are crucial to this process.

If you are not currently doing this, it is really important you find a trainer that can take you through these exercises and help design a program catered towards your needs.

Secondly we need to ensure that your nutritional needs are being met to ensure fat loss and also to maintain lean muscle tissue. The most common error females make is dropping their calories way too low and doing way too much cardio.

My top tips for a fat loss diet are:

  • Create a calorie deficit (only a 5 to 10% deficit to start with)
  • Keep your protein consumption at 1gram of protein per pound of lean body mass
  • 90% of your diet should include one-ingredient, wholesome foods
  • Some people prefer carbohydrates and while others prefer fats. Find out what works best for you with the help of a certified nutritionist.
  • Ensure the plan is sustainable and fits into your lifestyle

One final point to take into consideration is that some females, even with the perfect diet and training program, may still struggle with fat loss in their leg/hip region. This may be due to an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone. In the past for these clients I have successfully used the supplement DIM (100mg per day). DIM has potent effects on estrogen metabolism and is able to keep the body’s estrogen levels relatively balanced.

I hope you found the above information helpful. Please feel free to contact us at Pinnacle Performance for a bespoke plan that is individualized to your needs.


Q&A: What is the best diet for abs?

This week we’ll be answering some questions from my Instagram followers (thanks guys!).

Question from @themulhaq and @suzyshedid: For flat belly, what will be diet plan? I’m talking about abs, which is the hardest part and there is always confusion about the diet plan, what to eat and not … There is a lot of people talking about abs training, but not much about nutrition.

Answer from Kim Barnard, Level 3 PT

There isn’t one best diet for achieving abs per se. Abdominals exist on everyone but they are hidden under a stubborn layer of fat around your midsection.

By decreasing your overall body fat percentage and increasing your lean body mass these will start to appear. To do this you need to ensure that your body is operating at a calorie deficiency through proper training and eating.

It is important to note that other aspects can affect achieving those flat, defined abdominals like genetics, bloating, food allergies, inflammation, etc.

Bloating for the majority of people is caused by food allergies or the inability to break down food in your intestines which causes imbalances in gut bacteria. In your gut there are trillions of good and bad bacteria that compete. Sometimes when the bad outweigh the good this can lead to an imbalance which leads to bloating or excessive gas.

Taking a probiotic promotes good bacteria levels throughout the body and helps to balance non-friendly, pathogenic, gut bacteria such as Candida fungus or E. coli.

Here are some guidelines to help shift the fat and get abs.

  1. Achieve optimal gut health by taking a good quality probiotic.
  2. Make a note of foods that cause bloating and avoid these. For a large proportion of the population dairy and gluten are the biggest culprits.
  3. Eat a balanced diet ensuring you are having the correct amounts of macros (protein, fat and carbohydrates).
  4. Ensure you are getting plenty of fiber which will lower glucose levels and cholesterol while improving digestive health.
  5. Avoid sugar or processed foods.
  6. Ensure you are getting plenty of sleep, high stress levels impact your ability to lose fat.
  7. Ensure through proper training and diet you are achieving a calorie deficiency.

Hope that helps!


Q&A: Muscle Soreness and Losing Fat – What am I doing wrong?

It’s Q&A Thursday again ūüôā

Let’s look at what the pros have to say…

Question 1:

Name: Tony

City: Kampala,Uganda

Question: I once did some sit ups and push ups for a week or so, then my chest started hurting when I continued, from that time I stopped working out. Was I doing the exercise wrong or was the pain caused by something else.

Answer from Alan, trigger point master trainer and level 3 PT

Hi Tony,

It seems you have encountered a very common case of DOMS. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness aka muscle fever is the pain and stiffness that you feel 24-72hrs post workout.

It is caused by microtears in your muscle fiber as a result of your workout and as your body repairs you will become stronger and muscles will probably grow given the right diet.

So don’t be scared of the pain, embrace it in a way. Like they said no pain, no gain. But there are exemptions to the rule as well, you have to make sure that the pain you feel is in the muscle, not the joints. Also pain should be hours or days after the workout, not during the workout.

Hope this helps!

Question 2:

Name: Ryanstein Raymond

City: Mumbai

Question: I have recently started working out to get a better physique, as well as with an intention of joining an airline. I notice my belly fat reducing as a result of the workout, but my cheeks seem to be a bit of a stubborn piece. Do you have any suggestions or ideas as to how I could burn em chubby cheeks?

Answer from Paul Level 3 PT:

Hi Ryanstein Raymond,

I hope you are well.

Firstly, you cannot target fat loss at one specific area of the body. Muscle cells cannot directly use fats as fuel, it must be broken down into glycerol and fatty acids and enter the bloodstream. Fat broken down to be used as fuel during prolonged exercise can come from anywhere in your body.

Fat loss comes down to how many calories you expend to how many you take in. If you combine cardiovascular exercise with weight training and sensible nutrition you will see results.I would recommend ensuring that your liver is functioning optimally. When we overeat or eat processed or fried foods the liver becomes over worked and overloaded, and then it cannot process toxins and fat in an efficient way. I would suggest that your diet contains high protein foods, colourful fruits and vegetables (especially berries which are high in anti oxidants), lots of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, and drink plenty of water.

The issue could possibly be related to inflammation. I would also suggest eating fish that contain Omega 3 fatty acids (mackerel, sardines, salmon) or taking an Omega 3 supplement. This will help speed up detoxification of stuff you dont want in your body, improve cellular health and the building of muscle, and helps decrease hormones that can cause inflammation.

Consider supplementing with a probiotic to detoxify the body and improve body composition. Probiotics are healthy bacteria that can restore balance in the intestines.


Do yoga and squats tone your body?

This week we answer a question from Uganda. PT Kim will answer Ingrid’s questions below:

Question: Is basic yoga just stretching or does it do something to your body like tone you? And do squats really make your butt bigger and tighter?

What the expert says:

Hi Ingrid,
Thanks for your two questions on yoga and squats.
Is basic yoga just stretching or does it do something to your body, like tone you.
Yoga has historically been a practice used for uniting the mind, body and spirit. Many people use this practice to still the mind from day to day disturbances. Although yoga is great for improving your flexibility, posture and balance it is unlikely that basic yoga will yield results as quickly as other strength training.
Don’t get me wrong, yoga can be used for strengthening muscles/toning however it does not stress the muscle enough over time for someone looking to bulk up or add more muscle mass. Most forms of yoga use mainly body weight sequences and well toned people may find that this alone is not enough to reach their fitness goals. The practice is usually not fast enough to provide high intensity cardio therefore it won’t help greatly in improving your cardiovascular health. In addition, those who want to obtain muscle definition from yoga would need to practice a more advanced form several times a week.
Dependant on what you want out of your yoga practice and if your fitness goals are to tone up РI would say that basic yoga would be a good addition to your fitness regime rather than the core of it.  
Do squats make your butt bigger and tighter?
In short the answer is yes however there are a lot of other contributing factors like genetics that play a part. Look at people like Jennifer Lopez or Kim Kardashian whose body shape is initially down to their genetics.
Squatting can make your butt bigger or smaller depending on your starting point. What I mean is if you have body fat to lose then squatting will make your butt get initially smaller but more tight and toned. If however you are already lean then you can create a bigger butt through strength training. Whichever boat you are in though it is sure to say that squats do shape up your glutes making them feel and look tighter.
The great thing about squatting is that it is an entire lower body workout, working your glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps and calves. Squats are a great way to build muscle which in turn is a great way to reduce body fat and increase your overall metabolism. There are many variations of the squat that can be used to target different areas. If your goal is to build a bigger butt then performing weighted squats two to three times a week will aid in doing so.
To perform a standard squat you should start with your feet shoulder width apart and toes pointing slightly outwards. Keep the back straight and sit down as if sitting in a chair. You want to concentrate on keeping your weight in your heels and aiming to bring your thighs parallel to the floor. Many people can find getting a deep squat difficult due to ankle mobility, if you have this issue then try squatting with small weight plates (1-2kg) under each heel which compensates for reduced ankle mobility.
Hope that helps and happy squatting!!

Q&A with the Experts: Getting Lean and Dealing with Ulcers

In the first part of a series of question & answer posts we will help¬†one reader find the right diet to get lean without aggravating her ulcers. Siddhi’s question will be answered by PT Elliott Speed.


Question: Hey Miranda, so my biggest problem is nutrition. I suffer from digestive issues (ulcers in the lining of my stomach) which means that I can’t eat too much protein without balancing with carbs. This is hindering my progress as almost all fitness instructors talk about no or low carbs and I can’t do that. What is a good diet for getting lean?

What I say:

Hi Siddhi, thank you for sending in your question. I too have struggled with ulcers and can totally relate to your situation. Ulcers, along with many other digestive issues, are caused by a bacteria called h.pylori. Did you know that 50% of the world population has this bacteria? Even though it is so widespread, not everyone has the same symptoms (some people don’t even have any symptoms) and suffers the same effects. H.pylori is responsible for a range of digestive problems, from nutrient deficiencies and IBS to ulcers, gastritis and even cancer! The bacteria feeds on sugar & gets irritated by salt, therefore you may find that salty foods aggravate your condition, so it’s best to avoid them. You can read more about h.pylori here.

As I’m sure you know, the diet for treating ulcers is high in alkaline foods and low in acidic foods. You can see from the detailed list here that whey protein powder is actually alkaline. From the list of vegetables you can see that peas are also alkaline and you can find some very good pea and raw vegan protein powders (they also contain a bit more carbs, so will be easier on your stomach). Make sure that if you are taking a powder, it is unflavoured, unsweetened¬†or¬†sweetened with stevia.

However it is best to get your protein from whole foods, instead of powders and other processed foods. Although slightly acidic, fish and chicken shouldn’t cause too much trouble for your tummy. And instead of eating starchy carbs, use non-acidic vegetables to cushion your protein intake. For example, have your chicken with asparagus, celery and watercress salad and use lemon and extra virgin olive oil as a dressing (all of these are extremely alkaline vegetables).

Avoid going hungry for long periods of time! Leaving your stomach empty with nothing but stomach acid in it will make your ulcers worse and may put you off food for a day or two (due to the pain). Drinking loads of water can also help.

If you are taking medications for your condition, you should definitely top up with probiotics and digestive enzymes to support your gut health. Another supplement to consider is glutamine, which I recently found out that it is shown to heal swollen gut tissue. Take in small to moderate doses to avoid these side effects.

That’s it from my personal experience. Don’t be afraid about adding a bit more protein (whey, vegan or fish and chicken). Don’t worry too much about the extra carbs you eat – unless you are an elite athlete and have to be extremely lean, carbs are actually good for you! And don’t be afraid to exercise – research shows that this can actually help heal your ulcer ūüôā

What the expert says:

Stomach ulcers can be a very common issue and preventing the symptoms from getting worse whilst dieting is a difficult task. However it is very possible to lean down and lose body fat without causing the digestive issues to become worse. First of all it is key to acquire the correct measurements such as body fat percentage and body weight, this will allow for the calculation of your lean body mass which ultimately leads to the calculation of your required macro-nutrients to lose body fat.

Macro-nutrients refers to proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Once your required amount it is known a customized diet can be made consisting of clean and beneficial foods. You should focus your carbohydrate source around multi-grains such as rice and potatoes as these will not irritate your stomach ulcers. You should avoid any processed meats and focus only on lean cuts such as chicken breast, lean beef cut and fish. It is essential to include vegetables to your diet, however they must be non-acidic, and these include: broccoli, carrots, green beans, cabbage and peas. Acidic food has the worst effect on aggravating stomach ulcers so it is best to avoid them.

It is essential that the food being eaten is also digested correctly and you are getting the most out of you food. Ways in which you can significantly improve this is by splitting your meals up into 5-6 smaller meals, this will also help with the prevention of acid build up in the stomach and aggravation of stomach ulcers. Each meal must contain a protein source; however you mentioned that this means you must balance with a carbohydrate. In this case you can spread your carbohydrates throughout the day with each meal.

For example the basic dieting rules you could use would be as follows:

  • 1 gram of carbohydrates per kilogram of bodyweight
  • 2-2.5grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight
  • Always eat as much non-acidic, non-starchy vegetables as possible every meal
  • Split your food between 4-5 separate meals spreading throughout the day. (preferably 2 hours apart).
  • Always eat 1-2 hours before you workout.
  • Eat your largest portion of carbohydrates after you workout to replenish the glycogen burned whilst working out.

Another good way in which you can aid digestion is to purchase a good digestive enzyme supplement. These factors will help significantly in losing body fat as the body will be getting all the right nutrients in order to work efficiently.

Having the right supplementation can also be very beneficial. A key supplement for you would be glutamine. Glutamine is an amino acid found in the bloodstream. Often the body cannot produce what is needed. Glutamine deficiencies can occur because of stress, medical conditions and excessive exercise. If the body does not have what is needed then it can become vulnerable, resulting in muscle wastage and suppressed immune function. This has a knock on effect as the stomach also needs glutamine in order to strengthen the gut lining from the many chemicals it encounters every day.

All the factors above will have a hindrance on your ability to lose body fat. A simple supplement protocol you could follow to start you off would include multivitamin, digestive enzyme, branched chained amino acids, essential amino acids and glutamine.

Good luck on your fitness journey!