The USN Classic at the Bodypower Expo 2016 marked the final competition of the year that I planned to compete in as a bikini athlete. I can’t tell you how much food I consumed over the course of that day and the following day but many of the things I’ve craved during prep were demolished by my bottomless stomach. Despite following a fairly flexible diet there are some things that you simply can’t fit in to your macros in any substantial quantity (I’m thinking pizza and ice cream here).

Needless to say that after a lot of food I finally hit my incredibly high carbohydrate tolerance and experienced what is known as ‘spilling over.’ This happens when your muscles are filled to absolute maximum capacity and can’t pull in any more carbohydrate or water, the result is water floating around under your skin, making you feel flabby and soft.

Many competitors go completely off track after they finish competing and rapidly gain back all of the weight that they worked so hard to lose during prep plus more on top of that when the world suddenly becomes their oyster and no foods are off limits. There are several steps that can be taken to avoid this.

  1. Reverse diet

I planned my reverse diet before I even began my prep. Post-competition I did just want to eat everything but the prospect of having no structure was terrifying. My reverse diet is significantly more flexible than my prep diet and if I go over my calorie allowance or don’t perfectly hit my protein for a day or two it doesn’t really matter. The concept of reverse dieting is to gradually bring calories back to a more sustainable level and overcoming the metabolic adaptation that occurs when energy intake drops whilst dieting.

There are no rules for a reverse diet and it can be done as rapidly or slowly as you’re comfortable with. I personally am going for a more rapid approach as I used a lot of calorie and carb cycling during my prep diet and had days where my energy intake was substantially higher.

  1. Set some goals

Most people experience post competition blues whereby they feel slightly aimless and lost, training and dieting begin to suffer as a result and personal life may also take a hit! One way to counteract this is to set some new goals. These don’t necessarily have to be fitness based but I find that having off-season performance targets to work towards keeps me motivated.

  1. Change your training

Prep training is tough, especially in the final few weeks when energy levels get really low! Use the increasing energy as an opportunity to play around with your training. Switch up your training split, throw in some new exercises, try a couple of classes or add in supersets and giant sets. Why not try a couple of workouts from your favourite bodybuilders? Doing this will help to prevent boredom and a lack of progress.

  1. Don’t stress

For the first week after my competition I was holding enough water to save an entire third world country in a drought. My cravings were all over the place, my hormones were everywhere and I was stressing out about putting on weight. Now, almost two weeks post show, my weight has stabilised and I feel better about my slightly softer, not quite as super shredded and depleted body. I’m eating more and trusting myself to not track a single thing yet maintain a reasonable calorie intake. You’ve spent the past few months stressing about prep, so why stress about not being in prep?

Take some time out and your body will thank you for it. Have a diet break, have a week off from the gym or a deload week and a few days out to treat yourself for all of the hard work because life will still be there when you get back.

  1. Increase your fat intake

Prep can see bodybuilders taking their fats to pretty much zero and this is going to do some pretty horrendous things to your body. Adipose (fat) tissue is responsible for the secretion and production of a lot of hormones, notably leptin which is responsible for appetite regulation. Ask a bodybuilder about their non-existent sex drive during the final few weeks of prep as body fat levels begin to drop extremely low!

Food rich in mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids such as oily fish, olive oil, nuts and avocados are important for the absorption of fat soluble vitamins and minerals whilst also helping to regulate blood clotting, nervous transmission and muscle contraction. It can take more than six months for a physique athlete’s hormonal profile to return to ‘normal’ levels after dieting for a show so consistently incorporating fat rich foods in to the diet is important for overall health.

  1. Eat some pizza and ice cream

Or whatever food it is you’ve been craving because let’s face it, you deserve it and one cheat meal (or two) won’t make you fat.

 

- Charlotte Fisher
Nutritional Science Student