DRINKING seven litres in a day and fasting for 24 hours to allow her body ‘dry out’ is all part of the ‘crazy’ regime of one fiercely driven young Cork woman.
And while Sophie Tuohy admits herself it might sound ‘a bit nuts, to some people’ it’s getting her the results she wants as she’s just taken some of the top places in a recent UK bodybuilding competition.
She competed in the ‘Pro Tan Naturals Cup’ bodybuilding competition in Maidenhead recently, where she took first prize in the first timers, beginners class and juniors. She was also the overall place in the Wellness category.
“You have to be a tad crazy to do it but I love it,” said Sophie, who lives in Hollyhill and who is now chasing a professional bodybuilding card.
A personal trainer and online fitness coach, she embarked on this journey right after the first lockdown last year when she decided she wanted to ‘put her head down’ and train ‘for a purpose’.
Given the commitment and dedication required, it wasn’t something she did lightly. The first step was to sign up with a coach, and get stuck into the initial ‘bulking’ phase, where her training and calorie intake increased dramatically.
As a PT, she was already spending a lot of time in the gym, but this was a whole different ball game.
She trains six days a week and a typical day sees her get up at around 5am and take some ‘check-in’ pictures of her body, and record her weight.
Then it’s straight to the gym where she does a one and a half hour cardio session on either the treadmill or stairmaster.
After that it’s her first of six meals of the day — usually something oat- based; before heading to Motivated Fitness in Grange for a further two hours’ training, and then on to work in the Maldron Hotel until 9.30pm or so.
The rest of her meals are all pretty much egg, chicken/turkey and rice based and she tries to get in 3,000 calories a day (compared to the recommended 2,000 for a typical adult female).
The regime doesn’t leave much time for anything else, but Sophie relishes it. She admits that ‘you have to be a tad crazy to do this’ but she loves it.
“It’s my whole life, it’s a full time job. You must be obsessed with it so when days are tough, when you’re not seeing the results, you’ll push through to get results,” she said.
She hasn’t had alcohol since February, 2021, which was her last night out, and food treats aren’t an option.
“You just mentally detach from food. A treat is now going to the cinema or a drive some place like Killarney National Park. It’s not food. If you’re doing this just for aesthetic reasons you’re in it for the wrong reasons.
“It’s bizarre to my friends or to anyone who isn’t part of the circle. To prep is a privilege, and even though at times it can be a struggle, it’s something I choose to do.”
The Maidenhead event was her first time competing and she flew over to the UK a few days early to avoid any potential water retention.
“The day before the competition it’s all about increasing the water load so I drank around seven litres. Then there’s a 24-hour cut off point where you have to fast, and allow your body ‘dry out’ so it’s just skin and muscle. The night before then it’s about doing the tan, and there’s also the hair and make-up. So yes, it’s intense!”
There’s a whole language that comes with body-building and, back stage, competitors ‘pump-up’ with some light exercise to get blood flowing to the muscles to show them off.
Different classes have different requirements, and for Sophie the focus was on the quads, glutes and hamstrings. Once on stage she performed a posing routine which she prepared with posing coach Yvonne McGarry, a figure competitor from Macroom whose competitive background has helped keep Sophie motivated.
“So you walk on and do your routine and then you must line up with the rest of the competitors to do your comparison poses,” said Sophie.
Naturally, her whole body has changed completely since she started, she’s lost around 13kg in weight, but gained muscle.
“I do get lots of girls commenting on my body, and especially people passing comments on the size of my legs, but I rise above it. I’m deaf to it really.”
Her family are very supportive of her bodybuilding journey and her boyfriend, Luke Carey Murphy, is also a competing bodybuilder.
“It’s a very solo sport so it does require you to be selfish, so it makes it easier if you’re surrounded with people who get it,” said Sophie.
She was the first ever Irish person to win the overall place in the Wellness category and if she gets her professional card, that will be another first for the country.
“It’s a big sacrifice, but the way I see it is that you have to lose a lot to gain a lot.”