Written by IFBB Pro Josh Wade
15 September 2023






Preparing for Your First Show

Enjoy the Suck If You Want to Win

Relentless Pursuit


By IFBB Pro Josh Wade

Sponsored by ALLMAX


There is no magic pill, secret or shortcut; it’s all about consistency and hard work!



Q: I’m wanting to compete for the first time next year, and was wondering how many weeks out do you start prep, and do you ever include cheat meals?


A:That answer can vary significantly from show to show, person to person and really depends on if you’ve truly ever been shredded! If you carry more fat, then obviously you’ll need a longer prep, but I’ll use my first show in 2006 as an example that the first time you compete and must get down to super-low body fat levels is the hardest. I was 27 years old at my first show and started prep 16 weeks out at 220 pounds. So, my first time dieting I was told by a national-level competitor that I had 27 years of baby fat to get rid of and after the fat cells have been shrunk it would be easier in the future. Also, in 2006 there was nowhere near the same information as there is nowadays so for me that was better, as I learned a lot through trial and error. I didn’t do things as would be normal protocol these days; I did two hours of cardio per day and ate super low calories as most of my meals were deli meat turkey slices and celery sticks. I’ll lay out what my diet plan was below but let me say that was true suffering.


People say they suffer all the time, but I was eating under 2,000 calories a day for over 15 weeks while doing two hours of cardio per day plus working 10 hours a day as a plumber and had to find time for weight training as well. Going into my first show that way I feel is what made my mind as strong as it is today and why prep got so much easier for future competitions! I did not include any cheat meals or ever strayed from my diet as I ate the same thing at the same time every day religiously and in my opinion if you don’t keep it that regimented, how are you going to know what’s working and when things need to be changed? In those 16 weeks starting at 220 pounds, I dropped 47 pounds and weighed in as a middleweight at 173 pounds.


I only attended one bodybuilding show prior to deciding to compete but looked at magazines for years, so I thought that’s what everyone did when preparing for a show. I thought everyone approached it the same way and dieted as hard as possible to get every bit of body fat off, but I noticed at weigh-ins that I was in better condition than everyone else and even though I was nervous, my confidence started rising. Back then there weren’t open weigh-ins, so everyone had to weigh in with their weight class and you got a first look at your competition. I won the novice and open middleweight bodybuilding classes at that show truly because of my condition, as there were bigger guys who lacked the shredded condition I brought and I feel especially at the local level, shows are won from conditioning!


Let me say that even though I lost 47 pounds for my first show, I didn’t gain weight fast while starting to train so I never stretched out my skin to the point that it had no elasticity, and that can be something that can truly always hurt your chances while competing as it is a visual sport if you have loose skin. So don’t try to gain too fast as usually it will be mostly fat and stretch out the skin and don’t try to lose too fast either, as crash dieting will lose muscle, slow your metabolism, and leave loose skin. A slower, longer dieting process should help the skin retract as you lose weight and fat.


This was the diet I used for my first show in 2006, total calories were 1,913.


Meal 1: ½ cup dry measure oats, 2 scoops isolate protein powder

Meal 2: 1 can (6 ounces) solid white albacore tuna in water, ½ cup brown rice

Meal 3: 4 slices turkey breast deli meat, 6 celery sticks

Post-workout: 2 scoops isolate protein powder

Meal 4: 6 ounces chicken breast, ½ cup brown rice

Meal 5: 4 slices turkey breast deli meat, 6 celery sticks

Meal 6: 8 ounces tilapia, 12 asparagus spears


I wouldn’t recommend starting calories this low, but I didn’t really know what I was doing and went all in and although the outcome was what I had hoped for, I think I came in too flat and sacrificed muscle by doing so. Now I always start a prep a lot leaner than I used to with calories way higher so as John Meadows always said, “We have more wiggle room” and you can gradually reduce calories as needed to get the same outcome without sacrificing muscle tissue and it makes the whole process more tolerable.


Having an experienced coach can greatly help you learn your body and what works but most importantly take notes, pay attention, and adjust according to results and not just because you think you should do something at a certain point. Bodybuilding is such an individual sport, and you need to learn how your body responds to have a successful bodybuilding career but don’t be afraid of suffering, as getting body fat down to minuscule levels is not always fun and enjoyable. So, like they say, enjoy the suck if you want to win!


Bodybuilding is almost as much of a mental game as it is physical. We are constantly second-guessing and might even make changes when not necessary instead of staying on the course. I feel a lot of that is because there are so many coaches now online trying to sell themselves that they will put out information that might contradict what you’ve been told or what you are doing and it doesn’t mean it’s right or wrong for you, as again, it’s such an individual sport but let me tell you there is no magic pill, secret or shortcut; it’s all about consistency and hard work!


For questions to be answered in my column or coaching inquiries, please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Website: www.teamwadefitness.com






1 scoop Impact Pump (helps increase blood flow and transportation of nutrients while significantly helping the focus for mind-muscle connection)


1 scoop Aminocore (prevents muscle tissue breakdown during training)




1 scoop Carbion (50g carbs) (really helps with energy and endurance during workout by giving your body carbs that don’t have to be digested, therefore they are readily available for fuel)Post-workout:


2 scoops IsoFlex (fast-digesting protein with essential amino acids to start the building or repairing process immediately)



Give these a try and I can guarantee your energy, intensity and pumps will dramatically increase in the gym.




For more information, visit allmaxnutrition.com


Learn more about Josh Wade at https://allmaxnutrition.com/pages/josh-wade