Candice van Der Merwe


  • Age: 27
  • Lives: Sunningdale, Durban North
  • Height: 1.75m
  • Competition Weight: 60kg
  • Occupation: Recruitment Consultant

How did your passion for fitness develop?

I come from an active family. My mom was a competitive tennis player, my dad always had a keen interest in bodybuilding and my older brother lives and competes in New Zealand. I started training in the gym when I was 16 and it has paid off for me today because I have a good base of lean muscle to work with. At the time, competing never crossed my mind because I didn’t believe that I had the potential to look like the girls that I idolized on stage. But I’ve proven to myself that with the right attitude, determination and commitment I could transform my body. It’s a great sense of accomplishment to reach the personal goals you set for yourself. That’s what keeps me motivated, seeing the results of constantly challenging myself.

Where does your motivation come from?

I am very self-motivated and have always preferred to train alone in the gym. I go into my own world when I work out. For me, training is the easy part of competing because I love to exercise; it’s the dieting that really tests your mental endurance.

What does a typical day in the life of Candice Van Der Merwe look like?

When it’s competition season, I’m up at 04h30 to do my first workout of the day which is about 30 – 40 minutes of moderate cardio. I leave for work at 07h00 and work a full day up until 17h00. Then I head straight to the gym again for my second workout which is either weight training or High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). When I get home, I cook and prepare all my meals for the next day. I’m usually left with about an hour to just relax and do nothing, which I really look forward to! I’m a full-time honours student as well so if I need to work on assignments, my 1 hour of free time is spent doing exactly that. I’m in bed by 21h00 during the week. Sleep and recovery time is one of the most important aspects of this sport.

What workout routine has worked best for you?

Over the years, my routine has changed quite considerably. The human body is an amazing tool. Our bodies progress and adapt so well to what we repeatedly do, that it’s important to ensure that you keep changing things up in the gym to avoid hitting a plateau. I like to keep my body guessing by alternating my routine bi-weekly. Considering the different somatotypes, I would classify myself as a mesomorph, so I choose my exercises to work best for me in that respect. My routines are made up of both weight training and cardio. I keep my weights lower and my repetitions higher with shorter resting periods in between.

If you had to pick only 3 exercises, what would they be and why?

Reverse Hack Squats – they mainly target the upper legs but also activate the glutes and lower legs. Abductor machine – purely because it is an isolated exercise targeting the abductors. Deadlifts – they strengthen the upper and lower body as well as the entire back and core.

What is your daily eating plan like?

This is also something that has changed over the years. When I started competing in 2012, my diet was low in carbohydrates and I substituted a lot of meals with whey protein shakes. This was because I was on the road a lot and I often didn’t have time to sit down and eat. I achieved my best stage condition in 2013 by increasing my carbohydrates and eating more whole meals.

My current diet

  • Meal 1: x6 egg whites with ½ cup basmati rice
  • Meal 2: x1 tin tuna (in water) with pineapple
  • Meal 3: Skinless chicken breast (cooked in lemon juice) with ½ cup basmati rice
  • Meal 4: 150g sweet potatoe and whey protein with cinnamon
  • Meal 5: Cape Whiting fish fillet with steamed broccoli
  • Meal 6: 1 cup Fat Free Bulgarian Yoghurt with ½ cup raspberries and blueberries

What is your favourite cheat meal?

Most definitely a Hawaiian Pizza! And for my sweet tooth, I love red velvet cake as well as Speckled Eggs.

When trying to cut, what type of cardio do you prefer to do?

I like to change it up so that I don’t get bored or demotivated. One exercise involves walking at an incline on the treadmill carrying a 15 – 20kg weight bag on my shoulders for 30 – 40 minutes. The other variation is HIIT; I sprint for 30 seconds on the treadmill and walk for 1 ½ minutes. I do 8 sprints in total. This really gets you into your fat burning zone! I also perform this variation on the stepper to activate my glutes more.

What supplements do you use?

  • CLA's (Conjugated Linoleic Acid) - naturally occurring in organic dairy products and lean, grass-fed beef, CLA's can help boost your metabolism and burn fat, reduce inflammation and support lean muscle growth.
  • EFA's (Essential Fatty Acids) - namely omega 3 & 6, these help regulate proper thyroid and adrenal activity as well as regulating blood pressure. Due to its blood thinning abilities, EFA's can also help decrease high blood pressure.
  • Whey Protein Powder - helps to increase and preserve muscle mass which subsequently increases fat loss. Whey also helps to decrease recovery time and the symptoms of over-training. Increases immune system functioning.
  • Glutamine - Boosts immune system function. Helps maintain muscle mass. Prevents muscle breakdown and enhances glycogen storage (a form of energy muscles use). Aids in recovery from exercise and promotes healing.
  • Fat Burners – assist in burning calories as heat (thermogenesis), stimulate the release of adrenaline and increase your metabolic rate. I also like to use a good daily Multivitamin.

What are your fitness goals?

I have always advocated that the only person you need to be in competition with is yourself. That being said, I am my own biggest critic! I put a lot of pressure on myself to excel and achieve in everything that I set out to do. Ultimately, I want to be the best version of myself that I can be. That means constantly striving to achieve my own fitness goals and breaking my own boundaries. I believe that there are no limits in fitness, only negative thoughts that can hold you back and hinder your performance. I try to maintain a positive outlook.

Which athletes inspire you?

My brother, Garth van der Merwe, is my biggest role model and inspiration! He is a bodybuilder who competes in New Zealand. I have had the privilege of seeing him completely transform his body over the years. He makes me a Believer. Internationally; Amanda Latona, Chady Dunmore and Andreia Brazier are my biggest fit-spirations! They all have the “entire package”.

What advice would you give to women who would like to achieve a great physique?

DO NOT become obsessed with the weight you see when you step on a scale! Rather, focus on the difference you see in your body when you look in the mirror. Muscle weighs twice as much as fat and it can be very demotivating if you have been eating clean and you see that your weight has either gone up or stayed the same. This does not necessarily mean that you haven't lost inches or body fat, so DO NOT feel like you need to give up because your diet isn't getting you anywhere! After a heavy leg workout, I've noticed that my weight actually goes UP a kilo the very next day. Then the day after that, my weight drops back down again. This is because the legs are a large muscle group and can be due to inflammation or water retention. So DON'T become disheartened by weight fluctuations. Stay committed, stay motivated, all the little changes in your body are what amount to the really big difference you see in the end.

Tell us something that many people may not know about you?

I’m a bit of a germaphobe. I carry waterless-hand-sanitizer with me everywhere.

Who would you most like to share a protein shake with?

I don’t share my protein shakes!

What do you do in your spare time?

Because my week days are generally so busy, I really enjoy the free time that I get on the weekends to just relax. I’m a movies and popcorn kind of girl.

Favourite Quote?

Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring ~ Marilyn Monroe