Now let's get one thing straight I have never competed in any lifting discipline or body composition based show, whether you think this gives me any credibility or not that is down to you, but I have worked with a few people who have competed and help design and develop a few clients who were prepping for a show.
To me it seems like a lot of people are entering into these competitions and shows these days as a right of passage, or it seems to be the "in" thing right now. Just so we are clear I don't necessarily think it's a bad thing, I mean if you can get in to that level of conditioning and putting in that work and cost, all power to you, what I do have an issue with is:-
A) The PED'S (Performance Enhancing Drugs) people use as a quick boost to get them show ready and competitive, people willing to use very strong drugs that they have little to no experience with, or how it will effect their health, short or long term, just for the sake of a small plastic trophy, I mean really get a grip.
B) The physical and mental health strain that is often involved in prepping and competing, yes you look awesome for a short period of time shredded to the bone but the reality is yeah, you look good but feel like sh#t, your training sucks, you are at your weakest, sleep can be strained, can't fully focus or concentrate, can even put you in a depressed state especially after the comp (more on that later).
C) The practices and processes that people use to cut weight, whether it's no carb diets or using extreme drugs like DNP on the recommendation from their prep coach, or their own research.
Here are some simple recommendations that may help you make the best decision for you whether or not competing is right for you:-
1) Question your reasons for wanting to compete, if your reason is anything other than you feel strongly compelled, experience the show prep journey, and to see how far you can push and progress in this environment.
2) Invest In a good prep coach, now when I say a "good prep coach“ what I mean by this is a coach that appeals to you personally, whether it's their values or how they look or how they teach and structure what they do, also a coach that actually meets you at least twice a week for changes, assessments, measurements and tweaking. Personally I feel purely online prep coaches will not get you the best results possible. Finally a coach that continues to work with you after your show, to reduce any possible negative side to competing like reverse dieting etc, and limiting the physiological and physical damage from this process, not one that drops you straight after to deal with the aftermath on your own.
3) Give yourself plenty of time to prepare so you are not having to crash diet or make weight or condition for the show, so the diet can be used gradually and effectively. You can do as much research as possible on different practices and programmes, and even finding out the best times to carb, sodium and water load for best results by doing a dry run before show day a few weeks before.
4) Make a very distinct decision, if you are going to go down the drug assisted route or the natural route. If you do decide to use PED's then ensure you do as much research as possible, even pay for a professionals' time in consulting what to do, why and when, educate yourself you only have one life don't mess it up by being lazy or thinking you know it all, YOU DON'T.
5) Remember it's not for everyone and there is no shame in that there is a reason why everyone isn't doing it, and if it doesn't feel ritght to you then stop. To me it's a far more impressive person that goes to the gym week in week out, busts their ass and eats clean 90% of the time, for no other reason than they are trying to be better than they were the week before.
I really hope this article helps clarify your decision and help you understand, competing can be an awesome experience, as long as you do your homework and be true to yourself that's all that matters really.