Holidays During A Contest Prep: Diet Breaks & More


Is it possible to have a wicked time, taking in all the culture (food), getting married, celebrating and socialized and still work towards the Physique stage?

It’s a tricky question to answer, however many reading this will argue that it isn’t. For most competitive athletes, it’s all or nothing and the approach taken can often be ‘hard core’ and in order to achieve excellence on the bodybuilding or physique stage, you must suffer and become a recluse…

My initial beliefs were in line with the above, however this year in the lead up to my second competitive season, I learnt otherwise and was surprised with how much balance, flexibility and ‘life’ I could enjoy, if I did things correctly.

The biggest misconception I had when I entered the sport of ‘Physique’ was that everything had to be perfect. Nutrition precisely measured out, training always to the numbers and remaining within the tight confines of the plan to ensure that I maximised the outcome when I stepped on stage.

Having engaged my now wife last year, the wedding was set for June 2017, mid preparation for the ICN Nationals and my Pro Qualifier. Whilst I didn’t want to deviate from my goals of becoming a Pro Physique athlete, there was no chance I was going to miss out on enjoying my wedding.

In this article, I’m going to share with you all the five factors that allowed me to enjoy my wedding whilst still achieving success in the sport of bodybuilding.

So, how did I spend three weeks in Thailand, get hitched, enjoy a honey moon and still get my Pro Card 8 weeks later?

1. Get Ready Early = Planned Diet Breaks…

Prior to the wedding, we pushed the fat loss hard, dug deep and ensured I was in a position that would allow me to maintain for three weeks or at the very least cause minimal damage to my physique endeavors. This meant we had the option to implement a diet break. For those of you unfamiliar with diet breaks, their purpose is to reduce the fatigue of dieting, both physiological and psychological. This is achieved by:

  • Increasing calorie intake to maintenance or slightly above; and
  • Reducing the neuroticism of tracking;

The diet break kept me in check, because I felt like I wasn’t confined by the prep as much during this special time and allowed enough flexibility to put first the main reason for the trip. It was a holiday, and more importantly a momentous milestone in my life, getting married the love of my life in a place that was significant to both of us.

Upon departure I clocked in at 90.8kg and upon returning surprised myself and Coach with a weigh in of 89.7kg.

Even though the data may allude you to thinking that I was ‘perfect’, I will be completely transparent here and say that beers, buffets and cocktails were a regular occurrence whilst I was away in Thailand. Not ‘optimal’ for physique preparation or body composition, but an all important component of life and when the time calls for it, one not to be missed.

Letting go of the neurotic tendencies that come with competing such as diligent food weighing and tracking, I instead used the skills that contest prep can teach us about nutrition to loosen the reigns so to speak and lower the urgency and sense of control that occupied my every decision. Rather than over plan and try to control the environment and situations, I learnt to enjoy each moment with flexibility and mindfulness.

During the three-week holiday, my prep was put in the background, never forgotten about, but interwoven in and around the major reasons of the trip. I believe that’s the way a prep should be. Competing shouldn’t become an all consuming aspect of your life, and should not be placed as the number one driving factor behind your decisions. Preps will come and go, yet the behaviours and values you have towards others and yourself are essential and should always be constant and consistent across all facets of your life.

Not only did this diet break allow me to enjoy the holiday, but it peaked my motivation to get back into routine and hit the ground running for the final leg of the prep.

2. Plan Ahead, Know Thy Cuisine…

Before the trip, I researched the type of foods I’ll most likely be consuming. I got hands on with the cuisine. As best as I could I started purchasing and preparing similar foods at home while still in Oz, making them fit my macro and calorie targets. As our destination was Thailand, I found myself prepping foods like curries, satays, rice and noodles. I added oil, coconut milk and varieties of meats and veggies similar to what I would be eating while away. This gave me an exceptional eye for not only the quantities, but the macro and calorie values of the foods I was consuming. Before we left, I had an eye for meal prep to the point that I could cut types of food to within 5 grams of the desired weight. Sounds strange, but instead of just seeing food and flavours, I also saw numbers.

I had developed an understanding of how to put together meals to hit macro targets without having to weigh anything. Again, this is not ideal, but damn it felt good to put the scales away for a moment and enjoy food for what it is.

3. Make Your Travels a NEAT experience…

I moved, as often as I could. Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) is a huge player in metabolism and energy output. During a contest prep, this can be one area that takes a hit due to the fatigue of training and diet.

It’s no surprise that in the 21st century, we now have so many devises and inventions that have been created to do the labour and hard work for us. Innovations to make life simpler, easier or more effective with time, but at the detriment of our health, and in the context of bodybuilding – calories burned per day.

So, whilst I was travelling through Thailand, I made the effort to rarely sit and lye down (except when I was sleeping of course). I looked at everything around me and thought about how my NEAT would be effected and tried to keep as active as possible to ensure that things weren’t backsliding too far.

At most times, I focused on living less conveniently, keeping my goals in mind by bouncing between comfort and slight discomfort. I walked, swam, and searched for reasons to keep active. I found that the longer I sat still, the more I felt the niggles of hunger. With this in mind, while at home in Oz, keeping busy was essential during a prep, for neat purposes, but to also ensure I didn’t fall into cycles of counter production behaviour.

The household couch is a significant trigger for my old but not forgotten lazy habits. It’s a black hole of momentum. During contest prep and life overall, we need to ensure momentum is gained and maintained across all areas of life. Not just training and nutrition, but with self-regulation of habits, but more importantly our connection with others. The couch gave me moments of physical boredom that led to sedentary behaviour and time for hunger and ultimately, non-adherence.

When the body’s busy, so is the mind. At home and on holidays, I found that the less I moved, the hungrier I became. Movement, is not only productive but a great distraction and a necessary coping mechanism during periods of hypocaloric conditions, aka semi starvation.

Back home, I became the king of cleaning, gardening and reorganizing the house, simply to increase movement, keep me in the good books and also ensure my mind was busy. A total switch of perspective, changing the concept of housework to increasing NEAT and burning calories.

Taking this across international waters, I soon picked up where I left off and found myself walking daily, swimming in the ocean or in the pools and checking out the local environment.

4. Identify, Respond & Enjoy

My priority during the trip was not to maintain weight, but to enjoy the myself with the loved ones around me. I didn’t weigh a gram of food in the three week time period I was away.

Maintaining weight was accomplished by being mindful of my hunger and satiety levels. I ate when I was truly hungry, and stopped before I was stuffed. Initially it was difficult at the breakfast buffet, not only due to the quantity of food available, but also the variety. I limited myself to two plates of food for breakfast each morning. For both plates, I was mindful of hitting my protein, fat and carb targets, but also ensured I enjoyed the variety of foods available.

Whole foods made up around 85% of breakfast, and were mostly on the first plate for breakfast, the second plate was taste bud orientated foods. Some go to favourites were pancakes and waffles with peanut butter, dunked and held in the chocolate fondue fountain, then decorated with berries.

As we were getting married, there were celebrations. I enjoyed the atmosphere as well as the local cuisine. I drank beers and cocktails and made amazing memories with the loved ones around me.

Every three days, after wedding parties, social events, beers, cocktails and a few snack-cidents, I checked in with my coach. His goal was to ensure I had a good time, and bounced between an acceptable weight range. On a particular day, if I weighed in higher, I thought back to the food choices and behaviours. The following days, I turned down the taste bud varieties of food to bounce to the lower weight range. Some days it was fluid due to fibre, stomach upsets and too many carbs (waffles), but overall enjoying life and making small behavioural changes to meet desired results was the key. No robotic actions to over or under compensate, behaviours were normal and socially accepted.

5. Make Training Less Intrusive

Training daily was a staple in my routine, but something that I didn’t let own the day. If there were things that had to be done, I chose to do them in a time that would be less disruptive to everyone else routine. On holidays, I woke up early and unnoticed, hit up the coffee bar for the morning dose of short blacks, walked around the resort gardens, allowing time for the coffee to kick in, but to also spend some time alone, reflecting on how fortunate I was for the life I have.

Gym sessions were intense, most often chaining together a range of exercises to get in and out.

Using resort gyms, you have to have a very creative imagination. I became a master of improvising, ensuring I could perform close to my usual movements of the training block I was on.

During a prep, it is important to put first the loved ones and people around you. Being over controlling for your own outcomes during such times will only create resentment in others. Family and significant occasions should always take precedence, as in a years time, missing out and not enjoying such moments will create greater feelings of disappointment that will outweigh any accomplishment from a Physique competition.

Take Home Points for travelling during a contest prep:

  1. Plan ahead, get your physique ready early as well as your eye for international cuisine and culture.
  2. Move lots, be active and make your holiday a NEAT experience.
  3. Identify your hunger, respond with approparite levels of intake and enjoy the moment for all that it is.
  4. Become a training ninja, and ensure your gym sessions are not seen, heard or interfering with your family and friends holidays.

Thanks for reading guys, hope you learnt a thing or two and until next time…

Lukey T


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