Cydney Gillon’s Contest Prep Tips for Natural Bodybuilders

Seven-time reigning Figure Olympia champion Cydney Gillon knows how to tune a physique to compete at the top of the sport. While most bodybuilders who compete on the Olympia stage are enhanced, contest prep can be similar for natural athletes.

On Jan 23, 2024, Gillon shared seven contest prep tips for natural bodybuilders on her YouTube channel based on her nearly two decades of experience in the sport. Learn them below:

[Related: Nick Walker Will Enter the 2024 New York Pro Bodybuilding Show]

Natural vs. Enhanced Bodybuilding Coaching

“If you bring it, you bring it, and that’s the person who will win,” said Gillon early in the video. Determination is critical for success in competitive bodybuilding for both natural and enhanced athletes. Gillon affirms that selecting the right coach to help achieve one’s physique goals is a top priority. For example, coaches who know how to build muscle naturally to the target body composition will benefit natural bodybuilders.

Per Gillon, one size doesn’t fit all. Patience is required for effective physique gains. Recognizing weaknesses and being objective about them can help maintain a healthy mentality for the years required to achieve bodybuilding success. Gillon’s running training lasted for four years to establish a base of conditioning and power to support her bodybuilding training before entering competitions.

Gillon acknowledged genetics’ role in bodybuilding as it pertains to muscular development — another nod toward why proper coaching and strategic programming are necessary to offset any genetic shortcomings an athlete might have.

Image via @vytamin_c on Instagram

[Related: Rubiel “Neckzilla” Mosquera Is Out of the 2024 Arnold Classic]

Supplementation, Sleep, & Stress 

Gillon said many factors play equally valuable roles in contest prep. In addition to training, proper supplements for recoverygetting enough sleepreducing stress, and balancing gut health are all critical for performing at 100 percent.

Creatine is Gillon’s number one supplement for recovery, followed closely by hydration and glutamine to support her running and cardio volume. Gillon consumes amino acids early in the off-season and tapers them off a few weeks before a show to refine her aesthetics. For physiological and mental stress, Gillion relies on herbal supplements like ashwagandha, Rhodiola Rosea, and adaptogens.

Gillon built the requisite muscle in the correct proportions for Figure competitions using amino acids and creatine in combination with correct coaching, recovery, and supplementation. 

Contest Prep Length

Some athletes achieve better results from a long-term prep of a year or longer; others see results six months or fewer. Depending on how one feels mentally during a diet or with ramped-up cardio, adding or shaving prep months between shows can impact metabolism and body composition.

Cutting & Bulking Tips

Gillon implored athletes to avoid crash diets when cutting before competition. She believes that crash diets create too challenging of an environment for the body to maintain the muscle roundedness that looks good on stage.

Image via @vytamin_c on Instagram

Additionally, excess cardio can flatten certain body parts, like the glutes. Therefore, she recommends keeping cardio brisk, not blistering, especially when cutting calories. The type of cardio can also impact the body. Steady-state cardio might not create enough energy expenditure, while HIIT might be too exhausting. Gillon urged not to exert the body into a catabolic state (when the body breaks down its muscle; opposite of anabolic).

Losing body fat at a prep’s end is the goal. Supplementation and the proper cardio/diet (read: calories in vs. out) are the most significant contributing factors. For Gillon, BCAAs and EAAs worked best during a cut.

Post-show, Gillon recommends reverse dieting — gradually increasing caloric intake to boost metabolism. Adjusting gradually can help correct hormone imbalances created by aggressive dieting and cutting.

Gillan’s closing IP was to be goal-focused rather than gratification-focused.

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Featured image: @vytamin_c on Instagram

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