Rebounding & Reverse Dieting Post Contest
After months of brutal prep, you kicked ass on stage. But what happens when the excitement clears? Do you get right back in the gym, or take time off? What about cardio and diet? Here’s your guide to dodging a viscous post show rebound while still building some precious off-season muscle.
Back in 2004, there was a girl at the gym where I trained, who finally did her first Figure show. She’d whittled down her estrogen-laden fat stores to reveal a very nice figure beneath.
So, what did she do after her show to preserve some semblance of her prized physique?
Did she gradually increase macros to feed her depleted muscles and stoke her metabolism?
Did she back off the long duration aerobic work and implement total body workouts to allow for adrenal recovery and increased energy turnover?
Hardly. She disappeared from the gym for a solid month, and when she returned, she was as soft as a corn-fed cow.
For some reason, she felt that she’d earned the right to take a month long sabbatical, devoid of any nutrition or exercise guidelines. Not only that, but she’d sorely missed out on the opportunity to add some fat-incinerating muscle to her frame.
Then you have the other end of the spectrum: The camp of girls who are back on the hamster wheel right after the show.
“Yeah, but the judges told me I need to tighten up my glutes!”
So the viscous rebound continues.
The scary thing is that I’ve even seen girls jump back in the gym the very next day after a show. In some cases, they even follow the same routine they used to prep for the show as a means to hold on to that elusive contest condition. But there’s one key difference: They want to exchange the oatmeal for Sara Lee coffee cakes and chicken breasts for half a jar of almond butter.
I’ll give you one guess as to how that scenario turns out.
As appalling as it may seem, I’ve seen some guru trainers prescribe twice-a-day fat burners along with early morning fasted aerobic training in the brutal dead of the off-season.
So, you end up having psychotic, bugged-eyed wannabe Figure or Bikini pros hopped up on ephedrine, ripping and snorting through hour long “fat-burning sessions” in order to make that spoonful of almond butter permissible.
Again, all of this is in the middle of the off-season or immediately post show with no other competition in sight.
Then what do the gurus have their pawns do when it’s time to start cutting? They double-up on the cardio sessions, throw in another fat burner, and drop the cheat meal. Boom!
All of that chronic cardio will have their bodies as flat as a deflated birthday balloon and as soft as a cotton swab.
“Yeah, but I’m gonna have more muscle!”
Oh no you’re not!
Any muscle you gained from you previous bulking diet will be eaten away well before your contest prep comes to an end.
Considering the fact that your adrenal glands could double for some California raisins and your body is now so efficient at any form of aerobic conditioning you can throw at it, what chance do you have of actually looking your best by working with the guru?
You have a better chance at winning the Powerball than looking decent with that off-season protocol.
The Right Path Post-Competition
For you chicas out there who compete, it can often be quite the obstacle to transition back into a normal routine post-competition.
Here’s why the next move is so crucial: Once you reintroduce some filthy sugars or greasy trans-fats into your uninitiated palate, you’re going to crave that decedent fix worse than the junkie down on Broad Street craves his next hit.
The deprivation involved during a contest prep diet also contributes to the meteoric rise in adipose tissue. Before you had a structured diet to follow; you weighed and measured everything. But now you’ve taken off the reigns and are ready to take your body eight weeks in reverse over the next eight days!
The best plan I can offer for someone coming off a show is to follow the eating pattern I laid out in my article, Food Addictions: Don’t Count Macros.
The only change I’d suggest is to have some Karbolyn post-workout and double-up your carb intake at any one of your meals each day.
Your body is going to be like a sponge for at least a month coming off your show, assuming you were really lean. Your muscles are going to suck up everything you toss down your gullet since your nutrient partitioning will be at it’s peak during your post competition phase.
So, since your muscles are going to be primed for growth, wouldn’t it make sense to commence on an all-out assault to add some Grade A beef to that Figure frame?
Not to mention how your metabolism is going to take off like a bottle rocket when you supply it with a steady increase of low glycemic carbohydrates and then toss some Karoblyn to stoke the flames after hitting the gym.
You might as well toss some gasoline on an open fire.
Do you see now why taking a month off from the gym after doing a show is about as smart as paying one of those big name online gurus for a cookie-cutter program?
If you said “yes,” then there’s still hope for you.
A Successful Prep Starts with the Off-Season
Now that we’ve examined how to maximize your potential coming off of a contest, let’s take a look at the front end of the journey. The key to having a successful contest prep is to lay the foundation with a solid off-season protocol.
Many moons ago when I played college football, the off-season training was almost as difficult as the season itself. Call me crazy, but I actually enjoyed the off-season training; that was my favorite time of the year.
The funny thing was that the more effort I put into the off-season work, the better prepared I was when the season rolled around. I had fewer injuries, I was stronger, and I passed the team conditioning test. The end result of it all was that I performed better during the season.
No, you don’t wear a helmet and shoulder pads, but the principals are still the same. If the stage of training leading up to your contest prep cutting diet is optimal, it’ll allow for fewer time-consuming workouts and less time suffering through a diet you hate.
However, those stubborn fat layers will now melt off a lot easier, and that coveted muscle hardness (or tone, as you call it) will be much more prevalent. The culmination of your intelligent approach is stepping on stage with a better package than you ever thought possible.
I talked to a drug-free competitor three years ago who had a tumultuous off-season, which was detrimental at best.
She told me she wanted to grow into contest shape because, “That’s what Arnold did!” I explained to her that besides the fact she wasn’t Arnold, she was a female and drug-free on top of it.
Anyone who gets stronger or actually gains muscle on a pre-contest diet is either severely de-conditioned, had a diet sorely lacking in nutrients and proper supplements, or just introduced steroids to their protocol.
I was talking to a girl a few weeks ago who was a month into her off-season, and she was worried about gaining too much fat. She said that the previous day she ran sprints at a local track, and then later that same day she went for a three-mile run.
She said that she wanted to get her endurance up.
“What if you could stay lean and make incremental strength gains with a very minimal amount of energy systems work? Maybe even allow yourself to get de-conditioned from an aerobic standpoint, but still keep a solid, lean conditioning level”, I asked her
“That way, when you start your contest prep diet, you can keep your energy systems days the same for the first few weeks and let the diet take care of the fat loss.”
“I don’t think that’s possible,” she said.
Why not? There are plenty of females who eat healthy and exercise on a regular basis that can maintain a relatively lean, athletic physique. Besides, you aren’t some aerobics bunny who peddles herbalife and munches bars & shakes for every meal.
You’re a competitor and valiantly refer to yourself as an athlete with a solid foundation of muscle to bolster your metabolism. Plus, you know how your body responds from several years of weight training and competition.
See what I’m talking about now?
A good starting point for a basic off-season protocol is to lift weights three days a week and perform some form of energy systems work on three other days when you aren’t lifting.
Let’s take a look at what that might look like:
Mountain climber and jumping jack superset
5sets of 20 reps, 30 seconds recovery
Add one set each week
toadie and jumping rope superset
6 sets of 10 and 50 reps, 30 seconds recovery
Add two sets each week
8, 100-yard half gassers (sprint 50 yards, touch line, and sprint back)
60 seconds recovery
Add one each week
“Hold on second there, Wet Wolf! What if I can’t find a field to run gassers on? Oh yeah, and what if it’s raining?”
Go to a nearby parking lot after closing hours when it’s empty or just use the street or sidewalk.
If it’s raining, you can still perform the other two routines, as they can be performed indoors and standing in place. Therefore, you won’t need much space at all. The toadies could even be performed as a ground-based exercise by keeping your hands planted in push-up position and basically performing froggers instead.
“This routine might be hard, but I don’t think I’ll burn nearly enough calories since they’re only going to last eight to 12 minutes!”
Why don’t you give it a try then, spanky? I bet that sweet little heart of yours will be beating faster than when your seventh grade crush finally passed you that note in science class asking you to the dance.
Even the most undisciplined endomorph could keep things under control with a routine like this.
So, excluding the warm-up, no metabolic workout should last over 15 minutes.
Best Show Ever
Now, just imagine if you were able to maintain a rock-solid, lean physique all off-season and actually enter into your contest prep program with minimal work to do.
Do you think you’d suffer from fatigue as much? Do you think you’d have such severe food cravings? Do you think you’d burn out? Do you think you’d hit the usual plateau?
Do you think you’d come in to your next show looking your best ever?
You bet you would.