Anyone who has ever set their foot on a bodybuilding stage, whether on a professional or amateur level, will tell you that weeks of strict diet and intense training will take its toll – both on the psyche and body.
You squeeze out the last drops of your emotional and physical energy during the peak weak with the mental picture of your big moment dangling in front of you like a big fat carrot… and then it’s over. A few hours of glitz and glam, maybe an exhilarating win or a disappointing placement, and then it’s back to life again. Who wouldn’t want to gorge down a giant hamburger after such a giant roller coaster nose dive?
Typically, this phase of the competition process is more difficult to handle for newbies, as they don’t have the experience and thus not the mental preparation or plan to move beyond it. Avoiding the dreaded post show rebound is not so much about denying the temptation of it as it is to formulate a new plan - ideally following the same expert advice of your coaches that got you on stage in the first place - that will take you to the next level, instead of tearing down all your hard earned progress.
That way, you will make the most out of the off season period, and maximize the benefits of an adjusted diet and training program to improve your conditioning for the next time. The truth is that if you want to succeed as a competitor, you have to let go of the unattainable vision of looking stage ready year round. You can absolutely look quite lean and definitely be fitter than the general population, but you won’t look in the mirror and see precisely what you saw the day of your last show. And why would you, anyway? The point is to excel beyond that and build on your weaknesses, rather than holding on to a certain result. It’s a journey, not a destination, and you have to learn to love the game if you want to be in it for the long haul.
On a positive note, the body is extremely anabolic right after the show, due to it being in a state of depletion. This means that it’s the perfect time to make some serious gains! The kicker is that if you utilize this time to your utmost advantage, you’ll be able to stay at a pretty sweet level of leanness as well, thanks to the new muscle action.
Don’t I deserve or need a bit of time to relax though?
Of course you do. It is completely fine to take a little breather right after the show both for psychological and physiological reasons, as it will reduce the risk of overtraining and avoid a mental burnout. Again though, you should formulate a plan with your coaches ahead of time that you can jump back on within a set time frame, in order to avoid a long-term, detrimental rebound. You are entitled to enjoy a cheat meal or two and relax on the couch for a few days, but on the whole, you need to increase your food intake gradually.
This concept is called reverse dieting. Week by week, your coaches will up your macros and calories in small increments, which will allow your metabolism to adjust to the new routine without causing complete chaos. With the right guidance, the nutrition will fuel your muscles for growth – not your fat cells!
Finally, every competitor is different. The importance of an individual post-show plan cannot be emphasized enough, so don’t go winging it thinking you can just figure it out as you go along or use another person’s cookie cutter plan. Always listen to your body… but most of all, your coaches!
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