Carbs & Cardio for Competitors

I think I’m going to start calling “Carbs and Cardio” the two C’s of competition training. Why? Because more times than not, when I talk to people curious about fitness competitions they ask me about these two subjects. They want to know how many carbs a person “gets to” eat when preparing to compete. They also want to know how much cardio a person needs to do to get competition ready. Sometimes, (mostly when I’m carb depleted and tired from doing so much cardio – ha!), I want to answer, “A heck of a lot of cardio and not very many carbs – want to compete?” No – seriously, I can’t answer these questions definitely. If someone were to give you a definite answer, I would seriously question their experience. No two competitors are alike. One will intake more carbs than another. One will do more cardio than another. Every body is made uniquely, responds uniquely,  and needs unique training. It’s not fair to tell someone how many carbs you consumed to prep for a show and how much cardio you did, and have them expect that is what their journey will look like. It most likely will not look like what yours did at all. Everyone is different. If prepping for a  fitness competition were a cookie cutter experience, our job as coaches would be so much easier. It’s not. It’s an experimental game, and experience makes all the difference in getting the equation right.

Carbohydrates seem to have dirty, yet yummy, reputation in the fitness world as of late. The funny thing is no matter how hard you try to avoid them, they show up. Carbs can be very useful in training and developing the muscles and showing muscular shape – if used correctly. Some of our competitors take in more carbs than you might guess preparing for a competition. That is simply what works best for them. Some of our competitors take in as little as 5% of their daily macronutrients from carbohydrates. Our programs go by trial and error when working with competitors. We develop a plan and tweak it as need be. The last week before competition can actually consist of daily changes. Do not let anyone tell you that in order to compete you can only take in a certain amount of carbohydrates. There is no way to know what works best for your body without personally working one on one with a trained coach, using trial and error, to see how the body responds. 

Cardio. Some people need less; some people need more. All of our competitors shape their body through strength training, but we use cardio to shape the body as well. The cardio we have our Elite Coaching TwinGems do has more than one purpose. Yes, we want to burn fat, but we use body shaping cardio that promotes body shape. This enhances our strength training protocols. If someone tells you that you have to do an hour of cardio a day to compete, do not listen. You MAY have to do an hour of cardio a day to get competition ready, but you may not. There are many factors that play into this equation. How far are you from being stage ready? How well is your metabolism working? How strict have you stayed with your nutrition plan? Many more factors can play into the amount of cardio you have to do. I know of competitors who do 20 mins of cardio 3 times a week to get competition ready (I low key hate them – ha! because that type of protocol doesn’t work for me). I also know some that have to do a lot more. In reality, most people have to do more than 20 mins. 3 times a week. Just like nutrition, cardio and strength training regimens have to be personalized and monitored for optimal results that equal stage readiness.

Carbs and Cardio – the two C’s? I wish more people asked about the aspects of competing I find more compelling like, confidence, character, commitment, capability and celebration. I think we have to get past what we have to give up in order to see what we can gain through the competition prep process. If we can’t see the forest because of the trees, we might not ever see the beauty of where we truly are and where we have the capability to go. What am I saying? Ask anyone who competes, and I’m sure they will tell you that the process and end result are worth a few less carbs and a few more minutes (or hours) on the elliptical. I’m sure they will also tell you that the end result is so much more than a rockin body.

To get more information on our Elite Coaching competition packages, check us out at and click on competition training. We also have programs for women who want to look like competitors, but who don’t think actually getting on the stage is right for them. Email us today at to find out more!

By: Tanya Burk

Krista Abraham