Stephanie Muzos - Bikini and Figure Competitor
Stephanie: Growing up, I was a competitive dancer who danced everyday in addition to attending an arts high school. I was a very discipline and passionate dancer, and identified myself as a “dancer”. I absolutely loved the stage, and enjoyed the hard work with the gratifying reward. Once I attended university, I quit dancing and lost myself as I no longer identified myself as the “dancer”. Who was I now? I fell into unhealthy partying and binge eating. This became a viscous cycle of body hate, as I would hate what I was doing to my body in terms of partying, and then I would make myself feel better by eating my feelings. This unhealthy lifestyle continued for years.
In 2013, I committed myself to working out 5 times a week at a gym; however, the binge eating did not stop. April 2014, after the Easter weekend of binge eating, I woke up very upset with myself and knew I needed some type of commitment and goal to work towards to improve my sense of self. That day I commitment myself to a fitness competition just 8 weeks out of the show. Everyone, even the coach I reached out to, said it was too short of a prep for a fitness competition. However, I committed myself to it, and with full discipline in addition to being a natural athlete, I ended up placing 2nd in both the Bikini and Fitness categories out of over 20 women. Competing reminded me of my dance years as it involved commitment and discipline in addition to competing against others on stage. I then reinvented my identity as a fitness competitor and it significantly boosted my self love and self esteem.
Diet and Training
The diet varies from off season to prep in terms of calories and macronutrients. My carbs start to drop, followed by fat drop closer to my show. However, I do not follow a low carb diet. For instance, during off season, my carbs were roughly 190g, and up until I was 1 week out of my show, my carbs varied from 100g-160g, as I would carb cycle. I would also have weekly refeeds (cheat meals) in off season of one meal of whatever I wanted to eat. I would also have weekly refeeds in prep up until 4 days out of my show; however, these refeeds were tracked as I had to hit 330g carbs. My calorie intake changes, as in off season I was consuming roughly 1800 calories per day, whereas in prep my calorie intake dropped to 1200 calories by the time I was one week out of my show. It is all a science and varies person to person. I also had a 6 month prep this time around which allowed me to eat more, and do less cardio, as my weight loss was very steady and slow. The more time taken to lose weight and build muscle, the better conditioned the body will be.
I am also a vegetarian; thus, my protein comes from protein powder, eggs, and Greek yogurt. In my off season I follow “if it fits your macros” thus, I can eat whatever I want, as long as I hit my numbers of carbs, fats, and protein. However, once I was 4 weeks out of my show, I change my diet to strictly oatmeal, vegetables, sweet potatoes, egg whites and avocado. I eliminate all artificial sweeteners as I find this stops bloating and helps prevent cravings.
Failed diet: When I reached out to a coach in my first 8 week prep, I worked with a coach for 3 weeks who had me on a starvation diet. He had me consuming only 700 calories a day, in addition to weight training and 70 minutes of cardio. I was on less than 40 grams of carbs a day. This caused me to come home from the gym crying every day, as I was not only hungry, but could not think straight. I felt as if I was going mentally crazy. I knew that competition prep was going to be hard, but I knew that it shouldn’t be life threatening. After a few weeks with this coach, I decided to drop him and stop working with him and work with another coach who doubled my calories and reduced my cardio, causing my body to respond better as it was no longer in stress and starvation mode. There are a lot of starvation diets that coaches will have their clients on; thus, it is extremely important for a future competitor to do their research on their coach before committing to a coach just because they are known in the industry.
I train 6 days a week, and design my program specifically for my own body. Due to my genetics, I easily gain muscle in my upper body and struggle with my lower body. This season, in addition to wanting to build my lower body, I wanted larger shoulders. Thus, my program was the following:
Day 1: Legs Heavy (3-6 reps)
Day 2: Back/Bis/shoulder (6-8 reps)
Day 3: Shoulders- (8-12 reps)
Day 4: Chest/Triceps (8-12 reps)
Day 5: Legs (8-12 reps)
Day 6: Pylometrics (circuit training)
Day 7: OFF
In addition to my training, my cardio varied. In off season I did about 15-20 mins of cardio a day; whereas in prep it varied from 20 mins HIIT to 40mins steady. I liked to switch it up often to refrain my body from hitting a plateau.
In terms of my diet, I ate about 6 meals a day, as personally I enjoy eating frequently. I ensured post workout that I consumed protein and carbs. For three months, in terms of my work schedule I was training fasted. However, for 6 months after, I was training on calories. I did not find a noticeable change between training while fasted or after eating.
The stage presence aspect of the competition was very easy for me as I have been dancing on stages since the age of 4. I absolutely love the stage, as it is my favourite part of the fitness competition preparation. Stage presence is extremely important in fitness competitions, and I thank dance for allowing me to have this stage presence advantage. For new competitors, I recommend working with a posing coach, and practicing! Although I am very comfortable on stage, I have a posing routine that I practice every other day to ensure it comes naturally and that I feel comfortable doing it. Prior to stepping on stage, I recommend not comparing yourself to any of your competitors and to not let negative comments get to you. There will always been supporter and critics, but you cannot let this distract or limit you. Nerves will always set in while on stage, but this is the time to show the hard work. Smile, do not compare yourself to anyone, and act like you are the only one onstage.
Show day is always my favourite part of the fitness competition preparation. The day is always exciting, although it can sometimes be stressful. Since I have done a total of 7 competitions, each experience is different. Up until last show, I have always done my own hair, makeup, and tan. This allowed me to be on my own timeline which relieved stress. However, my last show, I got it professionally done. With show day, I realized that you need to be relaxed and flexible. Things will happen out of your control. For instance, my recent show, the check in was 3 hours long which cut into the time I was supposed to get my tan done. However, the lady understood. Check in can be long, but it is exciting as you get to see other competitors and see how many people are competing in the show. It’s great to meet people who have the same passion as you. Show day is exciting as you go from a “gym” look to a “superstar” look, as you get your makeup tan and hair done to perfection.
Show day, I’m usually up at 4am to eat, and get ready. It’s a long day, but the adrenaline keeps me from being tired as I get extremely excited for the show. Prejudging is always my favourite as the judges will move me around onstage and compare me to others. The moment I get off stage, I roughly know how I have placed. Out of my 7 competitions, I have placed in 6, so I have had a very positive experience with prejudging. Back stage I get to eat chocolate, and have carbs, in addition to pumping up backstage. With finals, decisions are already made; thus, I go out on stage and have fun with it. I don’t over think it and I enjoy doing my individual poses onstage alone since with prejudging you do not get this opportunity. The show day is a very busy day, but it’s a great day to meet people and enjoy all the hard work you put into your fitness preparation. Delayed gratification at its finest.
Currently I am in prep for three shows this summer with the Ontario Physique Association. In 2017, I am planning on competing in nationals again and hoping to win my IFBB Pro card in the next couple of years. I recently got my personal training certification; thus, I have started training clients in Mississauga, Ontario and am looking for more to extend my brand and change lives for the better.
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/StephanieMuzosFitness