You’ve just competed in your final show for the season, and you’re not sure what to do..
Transitioning from being ‘dry & shredded’ and looking your best to looking a little softer and fuller can sometimes be hard to deal with. How do I know this? Because I’ve been there. All my clients have been there. My friends have been there.
It is never an easy task adjusting to looking ‘worse’, but it’s unavoidable and most importantly, it’s normal and it’s accepted. When transitioning into an off season after a contest/fat loss phase, it is important to do what’s called a Reverse Diet. A Reverse Diet is just exactly that; Dieting in reverse. In the initial stages of a reverse diet, it is recommended that you increase your calories slightly and slowly increase in the coming weeks to ensure you’re not gaining large amounts of body fat, whilst restoring your metabolism and regulating your hormones and basically bringing everything back to normal. Reverse Diets for a lot of people can be tough to stick to because we feel as if it’s over, and we don’t have anything else to work for, so we may as well just do what we want. This is not a good attitude to have and large post-comp blowouts can be detrimental to your health and your metabolism.
With regards to increasing your calories and lowering your cardio(if doing any), it’s going to depend on the context. How long the diet went for, how low your caloric intake was, how many calories/hours of cardio you were doing per week, what condition you were in. This is an important time to stick with your coach as it’s going to hold you accountable and make sure you stay in good shape post contest to avoid disappointment in yourself and so you don’t have to go backwards after a blowout. Another thing to keep in mind is that post comp weight gain is generally coming from Glycogen retention and water weight and the body fat won’t start coming on immediately.
Some people don’t like off season, and that is understandable. Everyone wants to be in amazing shape all the time, have definitive muscles, look vascular and be tanned. But the general consensus is that you can’t have this. But what if I told you that you could have your cake and eat it too?
Going back to the above section on reverse dieting; if you have reverse dieted PROPERLY and slowly, there is no reason as to why you should be out of shape during your off season. Will you gain body fat? Yes. Having a little bit of extra body fat is good for numerous reasons. You can limit the amount you put on by reverse dieting in a smart manner and continue to look good in your off season.
Some people like to call the off season the ‘Improvement Season.’ And that’s definitely a fair call. The off season is definitely your chance to make some solid improvements to your physique. If you are constantly doing back to back shows/seasons, you will find it very difficult to make improvements to your physique, and you won’t continue to get fantastic results at your shows(if you were), if this is the case. In regards to how long your off season should last, this again needs context. If you are at a higher body fat percentage and have some decent amount of muscle to build, you’re going to need a longer off season to A. Make the improvements muscularity wise to be competitive and B. To build up your metabolism in order to allow for a slow and steady dieting process to ensure you reach the condition you need to be in. If you are constantly worried about putting on weight and you are doing things to continuously combat weight gain, then you won’t make improvements and you are just wasting valuable time you could be spending making improvements to your physique.
If you are continuously competing in consecutive shows/seasons, and not getting the results you want, stop competing for a while. Get some judging feedback, take a year or two off, and work on the things you need to in order to get the result you would like. Contests are always going to be there, so taking some time away from the stage is more than justified and is a very good idea.
CUTTING DURING OFF SEASON:
During the off season, some people like to do what’s called a ‘Mini-Cut’ every so often(context needed but maybe every 8-12 months or so), to keep their body fat levels in check. The general consensus is to get some body fat off quickly, and then build your calories back up from there and stay in somewhat good shape. In my opinion, this is a good idea to give you an idea of where you’re making most of your improvements and the direction you are heading in/need to head in. It is also good mentally, as you can bring yourself to a point where you may be satisfied with how you look. If you are only doing a short off season(6-12 months), then this would not be recommended, but if you’re doing an extended off season(2-3 years), then this is definitely plausible and I personally think it’s a good idea.
If you are not sure what direction to head in during your off season, need help with your reverse diet or need assistance with your next show/contest prep, don’t be hesitant to get in touch with me; firstname.lastname@example.org