I am Jenn and I have been a client of Cherish for a little over 2 years now. This is a long read but worth it if you are serious about competing. I want to share with 100% transparency what life is like as a Next Level Bikini Prep client.
I would like to first start by saying that even the best program, coach, team etc. is ONLY as good as the WORK YOU put into it. I will say that again for those in the back. YOU and only YOU are the key factor. I would love to tell you that the team at Next Level has a magical solution and I sit on my ass eating cupcakes all day and that life is just rainbows and unicorns 24/7. That just wouldn’t be remotely true, we work here! Getting all dolled up and prancing around on stage in a crystal encrusted bikini is just a tiny fraction of real life! The journey to the stage is the absolute best part. It is where I found myself, the failures meet with success, strength I never knew I had, perseverance, hope, and faith! Rome wasn’t built in a day but they worked on it EVERYDAY!! If you are not willing to put in some work, and are looking for a quick fix 12-week prep with totally unhealthy practices this is not the team for you. I trained for an entire year and had to be near stage ready before I could even pick out my first show.
So you are probably saying ok Jenn get to the important stuff, what do you eat, how do you train, what is prep like, how difficult is peak week? And I have all the answers to those questions!
I basically stay in a modified version of prep year round. I train the same and my diet doesn’t drastically change. Why is this? Staying RELATIVELY LEAN makes prep a breeze!!!
Do you eat the same thing every day?
DIET: This is bodybuilding you aren’t going to get the results you want eating processed junk with a side of “healthy” every now and then. My diet consists of whole unprocessed foods: lean proteins, complex carbs, healthy fats, and fibrous veggies. Basically an “IIFYM” approach (with limitations). While a pop-tart might fit in my macros, I have learned over time how to get the most volume for my macro budget. I get a macro breakdown with calories per day at every check-in. I have the option of getting a meal plan with proper portion sizes and I get to pick foods within reason to go in it. I previously lived off a straight meal plan for over a year by choice, because I wasn’t confident enough to figure out the MACROS. I have now developed more confidence and can sub whole foods and I even started playing around with healthy recipes. Because of my GI issues I am gluten free, dairy free, grain free, and whey free…this is just personal to me. In the beginning I was able to enjoy foods with all of these ingredients, but over time Cherish and I discovered these intolerances. In other words, everyone at Next Level doesn’t get a cookie cutter meal plan of tilapia, spinach and sweet potatoes. Because they value a smaller client load they are really able to focus on customizing per the client needs.
Let’s talk deal breakers??
Will I ever get to eat a doughnut, cupcake, burger or have a glass of wine? Absolutely, depending on how far away my show is or if I am in improvement season I am granted 1-2 untracked meals a week. Now this is where the me comes in- I either eat like a bikini competitor with a show around the corner or an unsupervised kid in a candy store. I can’t do one of anything, so I personally choose to have bigger portions of whole food meals. I don’t drink but I have teammates that have a reasonable amount of alcohol worked into their plans.
So how do I build this muscle and how do I know what to do at the gym with my coach hundreds of miles away?
I get five scheduled lifting sessions per week: three glute focused leg days and two upper body. Be warned you will work your butt off (or on, rather). I haven’t had one leg day yet that I didn’t have a variation of the hip thrust. Glutes will win or lose a show for you, but what good are killer glutes if you don’t have the right upper body to balance them out. Yes, I work the glutes more than anything however, my workouts are designed to bring the proper ratios. All of my workouts are loaded into an app with the correct amount of sets, reps, rest periods and each exercise has an instructional video on how to perform. I often have to turn in videos for Coach Cherish to give me feedback on my form to ensure I am lifting properly.
Ok, so you have to be doing hours and hours of cardio?
Actually unless I am in prep close to a show I at most get three cardio sessions to fit in at my leisure per week: one 15 minute HIIT and two 30 minute MIIT’s. Cherish will actually frown upon me doing more than the prescribed amount of cardio.
Do I need any special equipment?
I can’t live without my squat sponge, mini band or bands. The proper gym will have everything else you need. I CANNOT do my leg workouts at places like Planet Fitness or at home. Waist trainers need not apply either.
Do you take any scary supplements?
Absolutely not, I am about natural as they come when it comes to bodybuilding. My “supplements” are mostly vitamins and minerals, and include: Probiotic, Multivitamin, Potassium Citrate, Vitamin C, Calcium Citrate, Magnesium Citrate, Zinc, and Fish Oil. I don’t take Pre-workout, Creatine, Diuretics, NO Boosters. Occasionally I might add BCAAs if I need to do an assisted lift during PEAK week. I time my meals close enough to my workouts, that the food fuels them naturally.
How much water do you drink?
A gallon to 1.5 gallons a day
How do I know if I am progressing, do I have to weigh myself like every 5 minutes?
I have a bi-weekly check-in where I submit progress photos, measurements, training and/or posing videos, request any new foods for the meal plan (I can fit foods in on my own between biweeklies as well). In 2-3 business days I get honest but never brutal feedback, and any modifications to workouts, diet and such.
Now for the scary part……. Yes, I weigh myself and log it EVERYDAY. No, Cherish will not fire me if I don’t stay at or near my stage weight at all times (that is not even feasible or healthy). This is more for historical data and so we can look at rolling averages in order to account for my menstrual cycle…you can’t do that with infrequent weighing. Because of our long standing relationship, and this data If I were a betting person I would go all in on black that Cherish knows my body and how it will react to macro changes and food sensitivities/intolerances better than anyone else, including myself. That is the beauty of working with the same coach for a long period of time. The scale does not tell the whole story, I have competed at 125, 118, and 121. 121 was the best look on me thus far.
So what about the actual prep?
Provided that I kill my improvement season and stay RELATIVELY LEAN, prep is really business as usual. Closer to the show I will get fasted cardio, and my macros/cals will drop depending on how my body is responding. I don’t have my carbs or fats cut. And I usually get 1-2 carb refeeds per week. 3 weeks out dairy, whey, gluten, and artificial sweeteners are eliminated, which is not a problem for me since I generally avoid these anyway per my comments above.
So how brutal is the PEAK Week?
Actually my peak weeks aren’t bad at all compared to most. To be 100% honest, yes, by peak week I am exhausted, I’m usually starving, and my energy is pretty low. Is it even peak week unless you feel these things? It is the nature of the sport. My water load is increased by half a gallon and I maintain my sodium throughout the week. I have my regular scheduled lifts the first 3 days during the week, and all my cardio has to be in within the first 3 days of the week. 2 days prior is a 100% rest day, which I usually use to do things like haircuts/ die, nails and toes. The day before the show I have a light glute pump, and have to have my water intake in by 7:00PM. After 7 PM I cut water.
THE BIG DAY!!!!!!!!!
I have my normal breakfast and black coffee. I am allowed to sip water throughout the day. I bring with me 2-3 meals of chicken and sweet potatoes and I eat them every 2-3 hours. About 30mins prior to the stage I have 4-5oz sweet potatoes and 1tbsp of unsalted nut butter. 10-15 minutes prior to the stage I have 2 fun sized candy bars. Once the day is over I get a CHEAT MEAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And the next day I get a totally untracked meal day!
So I competed in the show now what…do they turn me loose and I rebound???
Not at all at!! At this point you really have 2 options: to continue on with improvement season until your next show, or you can take the valuable information you learned and take a break on your own until you are ready to compete again. I thus far have always continued with Coach Cherish into improvement season. This is the most IMPORTANT part of the process. This is where you build the muscle and dictate how easy or tough your actual prep will be.
Here is where you find a difference in Next Level – we DO NOT “REVERSE DIET”. If the goal is to use improvement season to gain muscle, why would I limit that by slowly adding more calories and thereby DELAYING metabolic and hormonal recovery? I go right back to maintenance calories and back to building. Typically Cherish likes for me to space my shows out enough that I have a good 5-6 months of build time, and to stay in a dieted state as little as possible. Next Level generally makes exceptions here when the client is at a point where it makes sense to make a strong push for a pro-card, and they have to do x number of shows to get there. But until you’re at that level, expect to have a long enough improvement season that you fully recover from dieting, AND have had time to improve/refine your physique so you’re even better at your next show.
Are you guaranteed to place, qualify for Nationals or get a PRO Card if you choose Next Level?
This is a completely subjective sport, you cannot control the judging panel, the competitors that show up to compete, or any other external circumstance for that matter. You can, however, control bringing the best you, which is a guarantee if you follow the program consistently as it is laid out. Joe does have some pretty impressive statistics on how well the team as whole places, as well.
Won’t I lose my period if I get that lean?
I thus far have not, it comes like clockwork every month. I’d venture to guess it is the balance between the dieted state and the improvement season.
Thank you for allowing me to share my experience. If you took the time to read this, then it must mean you are serious about your research. Making a decision on a contest prep coach is a HUGE deal…we are trusting our well being with these people we have never met. I encourage you to research thoroughly, ask questions. Ask 1000 questions if you have to. If they can’t provide you the answer I would suggest looking elsewhere. Again this is just my personal experience and the goal was to provide as much transparency as possible. Going off of my experience I would 100% recommend the team at Next Level! I wish you the best in your journey to the stage and feel free to reach out to me @hourglasspeach on IG if you have any additional questions.
2 Year Next Level Client
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