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When Should You Gain Weight for a Pageant?

Scott Keppel is the fitness trainer of many Miss USA & Miss Teen USA contestants.
Scott Keppel, left, is the fitness trainer of many Miss USA & Miss Teen USA contestants.

Often we discuss losing weight for a pageant. However, for some contestants, the opposite is true.

Body insecurity can happen to anyone at any size. Girls always seem to want to be thinner and guys always seem to want to be bulkier.

In pageantry, however, there is a “look.” And it actually falls in the middle of the two extremes to be honest. (Read: The Top 13 Pageant Swimsuit Bodies of 2015)

The Competition

The swimsuit and fitness wear competitions are often officially called, “Lifestyle and fitness.” Since a full physical and medical exam would be a bit extreme for a pageant competition, we use swimsuits and fitness wear to display our hard work and dedication to living a healthy and active lifestyle. (Read: How to Turn Your Pageant Diet Into a Lifestyle)

In this phase of the competition, the judges are wanting to see if you look as though you have the stamina and healthy habits that could get you through the long haul that is your year of reign as the titleholder.

Why You May Need to Gain Weight

“Being told you need to gain weight can be a difficult thing to hear; and often times even more difficult to do,” explained Scott Keppel, owner of STS-Scott’s Training Systems in Chandler, AZ. Scott Keppel Fitness is also the official trainer for Miss Arizona, Miss Arizona’s Outstanding Teen, Miss Arizona USA and Miss Arizona Teen USA. He also works with Miss Utah USA, Miss Teen Utah USA and Future Productions, the directors of seven different states in the USA system.

To find out if you are categorized as underweight, here is a simple link where you can enter your weight and height to determine your BMI, or body mass index.

If your BMI is under 18.5, you are considered underweight and may want to consider gaining weight before the competition.

“You may need to gain weight because you are too thin, which causes you to look emaciated,” Keppel said.

The stage is big, so if you are tiny, it’ll stand out even more so on stage. Just as if your hair doesn’t have enough volume, if you don’t have the muscle definition, it won’t come across the way you intended. (Read: Top 5 Pageant Swimsuit Hairstyles of 2015)

“A look of being too thin can be thought of as unhealthy [the same] as a look if one is too heavy,” Keppel said.

Think of the runway models a few years ago where social media was freaking out about how sickly the models appeared in some major fashion week runway shows. Comments such as, “She could break like a twig,” and “Feed the models,” were popular. You don’t want to initiate those same concerned and uneasy feeling in the judges if possible.

In The Beginning

Of course, gaining weight can be a shocker. But sometimes going up in a size or two is positive. You’ll no doubt gain some curves to rock on stage.

“What one does not realize if you are used to being a certain size and/or weight and then you’re told to gain some, which in turn will typically cause you to go a size or two can play tricks on your mind,” Keppel explained. “I encourage you to remember the weight you gain does not have to be all, if any, fat.”

That’s right, we’re not telling you to go gorge on pizza and cookies and become a couch potato leading up to your pageant in order to fill out your figure.

In fact, just like the girls who are trying to lose weight for their pageant, it’s going to take a dedicated and trainer approved exercise and nutrition plan to get you there.

Gaining the Right Weight

“If you lift weights, add healthy foods and monitor your gains you can add some quality muscle which in turn will help burn more fat and can lead to you being even leaner,” explained Keppel.

Yes, you read that correctly; you can actually LOSE fat while GAINING weight!

Why? Because you won’t be gaining fats through poor diet choices but strategically adding pounds where it counts through muscle gain. Just like the contestants losing weight, what you’re actually doing is losing the fat and toning the muscle and creating the healthy look the judges will be looking for.

“Keep in mind one pound of fat only burns about eight calories a day where a pound of muscle can burn up to four times that amount,” Keppel said.


If you have a medical condition that prevents you from gaining weight, talk with your doctor before getting on any sort of exercise and nutrition plans to prevent any medical complications or emergencies.

Make sure to work with a trainer who understands how to properly train contestants for a pageant. It really is different than training for other sports. You can find trainers, in addition to Keppel, in our directory.

As always, listen to your body and discuss any concerns you have with your trainer and doctor. But don’t let setbacks be discouraging; you just might need to change your approach and game plan.

Going Forward

Lifestyle and Fitness competitions can be nerve-wracking, but they don’t have to be, and usually aren’t when you are comfortable in your own skin.

So, instead of thinking of this as “gaining” or “losing” weight, think of it this way: I’m gaining muscle. I’m getting stronger. I’m healthier. I’m going to own that stage.

I promise that you’ll be so proud of yourself when that six pack starts to show or when you randomly notice your extensor muscles while driving down the road holding the steering wheel.

Good luck, loves!


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