8 February 2019
HELP, I’VE JUST FINISHED COMPETING
With the 2016 bodybuilding, fitness and physique season drawing to an end, I thought it was time to release a piece that covers the harsh reality that is the post competition blues… When competing in a fitness/bodybuilding show, it is inherent that you give it your all. Dedicate every waking moment to prepping your food, training,…
With the 2016 bodybuilding, fitness and physique season drawing to an end, I thought it was time to release a piece that covers the harsh reality that is the post competition blues…
When competing in a fitness/bodybuilding show, it is inherent that you give it your all. Dedicate every waking moment to prepping your food, training, cardio and everything else that is required of an athlete trying to reach their peak physical condition. What most competitors fail to realise is that once the excitement of hitting the stage comes to a grinding halt, transitioning back to reality is extremely difficult.
Let’s face it, competing in a physique show means stepping away from reality and normality for a while in pursuit of an unsustainable body. This encompasses a variety of physical and psychological consequences once the glitz and glamour of competing is over. From binge eating to a lack of motivation, the struggle is real for when you hang up the bikini’s and trunks for another season.
So how does a competitor transition from the stage to ‘reality’ without succumbing to the aforementioned privations?
1. Self Acceptance
One of the biggest mistakes I see many competitors make when they finish competing is they try to maintain their stage physique and continue their contest diet / training.
This is both unrealistic and unhealthy, and thus the first thing that must change in order for the competitor to transition to reality is acceptance of self – with more fat.
Whilst there is much debate regarding the ‘reverse diet’, the evidence from both a physiological and psychological stand point doesn’t support its efficacy in improving one’s capacity to increase their food consumption whilst minimising fat gain. Therefore, your best bet is to get out of a calorie deficit and reverse the adaptations of dieting.
In an ideal world we could maintain our stage condition and continue on our merry way with our diet and training, looking like an Adonis/vogue model for the rest of our lives.
The harsh reality is that our bodies homeostatic drive / evolutionary purpose has other ideas. The stress of dieting/training and being at extremely low body fat percentages poses a threat to our longevity, and thus the body wants to shut down anything that isn’t necessary for survival to achieve our end goal – life.
This means that hormone function, energy production, mood, appetite and pretty much everything you can think of is negatively affected to drive weight gain.
Accept that you will gain weight post show, despite how hard you worked and how much you like the idea of being shredded year round.
You must also accept that once you get off stage, weight gain is both necessary and healthy in order to continue your career as a competitor and ensure you don’t burn out.
Whilst I see far too many competitors uncontrollably ‘blow out’, there are certain steps and measures that can be implemented post show to ensure that weight gain occurs incrementally in a somewhat healthier fashion
2. Focus on habits & behaviour.
The second thing to recognise when transitioning from a contest prep into a more flexible/sustainable lifestyle is that your habits and behaviours must change to align with our new goals – healthy relationship with food, body and slow and steady weight increase.
Instead of obsessing of the number of grams your chicken breast weighs, or how much fiber you have eaten for the day, your habits and behaviours must now be ‘long term’ orientated.
- Drinking adequate water.
- Eating protein at each meal.
- Eating 3-5 different vegetables daily.
- Eating 1-2 pieces of fruit per day.
- Having an Inclusive/unrestrictive diet – 80% unprocessed foods & 20% processed foods.
- Moderation / Portion control.
- Enjoyment and consistency of training.
3. Hunger / Satiety.
In addition to creating good habits and behaviours, your diet must prioritise internal hunger / fullness cues as opposed to having an external focus (calories, macros etc).
Forget the numbers, scale, macros, meal prep etc, and start listening to your bodies hunger and fullness signals. Whilst this may be hard initially due to the fact that your body will be ‘starved’ post show, causing you to be hungry ALL OF THE TIME and phenomenon’s like hyperphagia rear their ugly heads, it’s important to be aware of what your body is telling you, and eating only when truly hungry, and stopping when you are satisfied, not stuffed.
This is not to say that you should abandon you ‘diet’ or plan, that would be daft. Completely giving up on a plan will lead to some serious weight rebound, and like anything, you still need to eat and train within certain confines specific to your new goals, the reigns will just be loosened a touch due to the fact the stage has come and gone.
4. Set Goals aka Strength.
It’s time to put away your smart phone and stop taking selfies every morning, checking your abs in every mirror your walk past, and obsessing over when you will see some new ‘cuts in your glutes.
Now its time to set some goals unrelated to your body image, and strength related goals are a fantastic way to keep your motivation to train and eat well high.
I like setting powerlifting related goals with my physique athletes, as this ensures they are still hitting the gym, still eating semi-decent, and have something to look forward to once the excitement of hitting the stage wares off and the post competition blues kick in.
You don’t need to compete, but ensure you set some goals in the gym unrelated to how you look. You’ll thank me later.
Chances are you pissed off a lot of people during your contest prep.
It’s time to mend the broken relationships, and ensure you haven’t lost those near and dear simply because you wanted to win a plastic trophy or get a sponsorship.
Make sure that your relationships are upheld by getting in touch with those who may have been negatively affected by your hangri-ness, and also do your best to make these catch ups unrelated to food…
There is very little balance in the world of bodybuilding and bikini wearing. It’s extreme, and it’s unsustainable for the most part.
Finding balance, and getting your ‘groove’ back for life is essential to your mental well being, long term health and bodybuilding career. If you can’t find balance within a few weeks or months, I recommend seeing an expert to consult/confide in them about your struggles as it can be a tedious task doing it alone.
7. Extra Curricular Activities.
No, bicep curls do not count as an extra curricular activity.
Competing sucks the life out of people, and can take away all of the enjoyment from the things they love. It is therefore extremely important post show to continue to do the activities and other hobbies you may have given up in order to compete. This ties in with balance, relationships and pretty much all of the above, but it bares repeating.
Stepping on stage in a physique or bodybuilding show can be one of the most enjoyable experiences, and the lessons we learn during a bodybuilding prep are transferable to all that we do. Unfortunately, due to the extreme nature of the sport, competing comes at a cost, and its important to manage that cost when your season ends to ensure that the experience doesn’t scare you for life.