10 Post-Contest/Post-Transformation Rules to Live By
The show’s done. The adrenaline is just starting to wear off and you’re hungry, tired and not sure where you go from here. Here are 10 easy to understand tips that will help to set you on the right path to avoid an unwanted post-contest rebound and other negative metabolic consequences.
After you’ve restricted or reduced water for a show, gradually increase your water intake after the show slowly. Even though you may feel extremely thirsty after a show, re-introducing water and returning to your regular intake slowly, over a few days is much easier on your kidneys then just pounding back water continuously. What’s an even better idea is to replenish after the show with something like Gatorade or another sports drink that will help to restore the proper mineral and electrolyte balance first and then establish proper hydration. As a rough guideline, add 1 liter each day until you’ve returned to your regular intake.
2. Diet – Cheat Meals
Obviously after the show you deserve a cheat meal – anything you want, YOU’VE EARNED IT! Then after that, for the first week most can have one small cheat meal every day (either 3-4 hours pre-workout or immediately post-workout) for one week. After that period, you should return to one or two cheat meals every week – depending on your own metabolism. The key point to remember when it comes to cheat meals is moderation. Keep your portion sizes controlled. Indulge, but if you eat to the point of not being able to move and your stomach feels like your 4 months pregnant – you know you took your cheat meal too far. Smarten up for the next one. Another really important tip to remember is to be very careful not to have two consecutive cheat meals – I call it the “off-season train” once you allow that train to gain momentum by fueling it with decadent foods….good luck getting it to slow down and returning to a clean, healthy diet.
3. Diet – Regular life
This will vary based on the individual but there are few points that most if not all clients can follow. In the week after the show try to include a small serving of complex carbs with most of your meals. This will work to completely restock your muscle glycogen levels and prime your muscles for some of the best weight training workouts of your life in the post-show week. Carbohydrates also have a stimulatory effect on the metabolism so this will help to keep the metabolism revving. As a general rule of thumb, most can eat an extra two servings of complex carbs per day without spilling over. If you have fast metabolism, having carbs with most or every meal is a more reasonable recommendation.
It’s also a good idea to re-introduce some otherwise healthy foods that were cut from your pre-contest diet such as fruit (2-3 servings / day), dairy (1 serving daily), whey and casein shakes (1 of each/day) and healthy fats like nuts, seeds, olive oil, flax oil and nut butters (2-3 servings/day). Most of you had cut these out near the end to lean out your physique for the shoot or contest. There is nothing unhealthy about them, so now is the time to slowly reintroduce them.
Depending on what your final week was like, be careful when reintroducing sodium. If sodium was restricted for your entire final week, then do not start loading it back into every meal in the week after. Make dietary changes gradually to cause the least amount of shock to your body and lessen the impact of any rebound.
After a few weeks you should objectively evaluate your body, take another look at what can be improved, set some goals and come up with your new diet plan with your coach.
Despite what some will have you believe, some of the best gains in muscle growth are to be had in the week after your contest. Think about it. You’ve dieted down for 12-16 weeks and created a unique state in your body where your muscle cells are highly receptive to nutrients and have an extremely high capacity to absorb and synthesize the raw materials for growth. The style of training you should be doing is higher rep (4 x 12-15), pump training with short rest periods between sets (45 seconds). This style of training will work synergistically with the increased carb intake you’ll be consuming by burning off any excess carbs and stimulating the synthesis of muscle glycogen. Don’t try to break any strength records. Train for a great pump in the muscle and get out of the gym. No more than 45 minutes if you’re doing a single body part.
Cut your cardio in half in the week after the contest. You’ve done enough cardio for the show – give your knees, joints, feet and mind a much needed break. Plus, cardio does interfere with muscle growth to some extent and that will mess with what we are trying to achieve with objective # 4. If you were only doing 20 minutes per day, a 10 minute warm up pre-workout would be the max.
6. Thermogenic/Fat Burning supplements
Never abruptly stop any supplement that was working to increase your metabolism or burn fat. Taper down instead. This means to slowly reduce your inake of the supplement over the course of two weeks. Think logically and come up with a way that you can gradually taper down so that at the end of two weeks you are not using any of these supplements. Once off, stay off for at least 4-6 weeks before starting any more supplements like that.
7. Diuretic supplements
Same principle as above – do not abruptly cut something that was causing you to drop body water. Instead, slowly taper off this for a period of 5 days by gradually and progressively reducing your intake.
8. Set some objective limits
Obviously you will re-gain 2-3 pounds of healthy water weight after a show that was needed to keep your cells properly hydrated. After that you will also probably gain another 1-2 pounds of just reloading your muscles with glycogen – TOTALLY NORMAL AND HEALTHY….so don’t freak out. So now… after that 3-5 pounds of initial gain you should set a max weight gain limit for yourself because you never want to get too far out of contest shape (aka “striking range”). This will vary from the individual, but as a general rule of thumb – women should don’t ever get more than 10-15 pounds away from their contest weight and men should never get more than 20-25 pounds depending on their metabolism. Once you start to get close to your weight limit, an alert should go off in your head letting you know that your diet is out of control and you need to tone it down (ie less fats and less sugars – ie. EAT CLEANER!) and think about reducing the frequency of your cheat meals.
In addition to setting weight limits for your self, it’s also a great idea to set tape measure limits for yourself. I like to use the waist measurement. So if I compete with a 30” waist I set 34” as my objective waist circumference cut off. Once I hit that 34.5” an alarm goes off reminding me that my carbs are probably too high. I’ll scale back on portion sizes and cut carbs out of one of my meals until I stay within that healthy waist range. Your problem area may be your thighs. In that case – set a limit for that. Keep in mind that you do lose about an inch in the final week as a result of water loss so don’t count that. So you might want to add 2 inches as the maximum if your thighs are dominant. Pick two objective tape measurements and use those in addition to your weight limit and keep them in the back of your mind…hooked up to an internal alarm system.
As a final objective means of keeping yourself in check, take progress photos every 2-4 weeks and compare them with the previous photos to gauge whether your weight gain is quality or junk weight. Work with your coach to determine this if you are unable to see it clearly.
9. Plan your next contest
Your training will suffer if you don’t have a long term goal. Even if the show, trip or photo shoot is one year away, make it a goal. Work with your coach to look at pictures and create some short term and long term goals for your body. One of the most common ways people get off track is when they feel lost and lack any structure in their life. Having a long term goal in your sights (without being too obsessed with it) keeps you hungry and focused on your training and sensible eating.
10. Re-connect with your social life
It’s a natural by-product of contest prep for you to not see your friends and family as much. Now is the time to re-establish those connections and friendships and not get yourself lost in the “pre-contest bubble” that can distort reality and cause you to forget what’s really important in life.
Other Items to consider
Book a Physical
Take a liver cleanse supplement