At the start of this year I told myself I wanted to write more about the untouched subjects in this sport, either because they are taboo or way too specialized for anyone other than bodybuilders to want to read. With hundreds of articles on the net about fat loss, muscle gain, how to bring up your arms, etc., I wanted to narrow it down a bit. Not just to the demographic I specialize in, but also to specific matters that matter to them. My goal is to touch on topics that are rarely discussed, because they are taboo, or simply overlooked.
So much of what I teach has come from my own mistakes; I have nearly made them all at one point or another.
With that said, the topic I wanted to touch upon a bit is the post show feast. Not only is it common, but a tradition in bodybuilding circles, and to not partake in one would be considered inappropriate, and taboo.
“What do you mean you are not going to go out and eat with us?”
What do you mean you don’t want a bite?
I have yet to have many of my athletes check-in post show, and tell me that it’s been a long day and they would rather call it a night and catch up on some sleep versus go eat. Usually the cravings outweigh the long day, and they will surely ask me for permission to go out and “break their diets” or perhaps simply ask me what is best to have. In some cases phones are turned off and I don’t hear from these folks until a few days have passed, and those are the worst. Things end up happening, from regaining weight we fought very hard to take off those last couple of weeks, to actually partaking in season-ending binges.
We have all been there at one point or another.
So by now you guys have a good idea as to where this is going. I can hear the moans now, but I am not going to completely shut down the party. I am simply going to let you know what can happen, what will certainly happen, and what your choices are given your situation.
Let me first be clear, and once again make you guys aware that by the time you arrive at your show your metabolism has surely slowed down quite a bit. It is not the fire pit it was when you started your dieting phase. Some folks still believe that deep into a diet their metabolisms only get faster due to increases in hunger. But, hunger and metabolism are not one in the same. Aside from the downgraded metabolism you are surely under your body fat set point (the body fat your body feels most comfortable at), and in some cases far below it. At this point your body would rather store fat than release fat. You are in a great situation to store fat, as your caloric maintenance has dropped, your body has made storing fat a priority, and you're hungry. This explains why fat loss only gets harder as we diet longer and get leaner.
Natural Pro Robbie Sardinia in true contest shape
From a coach’s perspective the last few pounds with most clients are always nail biters to some degree. Going from really lean to stage shape (3% for men and 12% for women) is a delicate situation. Again you are dealing with a metabolism that is slower than what we started with, fat loss is much more challenging, and to add insult to injury it is also when your hard-earned LBM is the most at jeopardy. It’s a period that has to be monitored closely, and ideally we go through this period in the most efficient way possible. It’s a big sigh of relief when we reach the level of conditioning we are looking for. Not only because solving the case is consuming, but also because you want to minimize the length of this massively catabolic period in the diet’s timeline. Surely something you don’t want to do twice, but by binging you can set yourself up for just that.
When you go out and cheat after a show, you are going to put on fat, no way around it. This is fine if you are only doing one show, but that is not the case for most people. This is fat that we will have to take off once again, and all the nail biting we did to make sure your fall from the sky into “shredsville” was on a comfy pillow will start all over again. Maybe not completely all over again, but certainly we will have to clean up some of our mess. And sometimes it doesn’t look as good the second time around. You will likely store some fat, especially after a peak week where you ate your fair share leading up to the show. Topped off glycogen levels put you at a prime state for storing fat. This is where clients get a bit confused, as the nutrient partitioning that week makes them feel like they could have eaten an entire bakery without storing fat. What you may not realize is we stop just short of the point where storage occurs. A binge after this point is what pushes you over the edge. So you will put on some fat, and if you had one hell of a time getting that last pound or two off, then imagine doing that all over again. Only this time it will be harder, since overtime regardless of how well constructed your metabolic preservation was, it will slow down some. It doesn’t matter if you are a 110 pound woman on 1,100 calories, or a 190 pound man eating twice that, a big binge after a peak is going to cause storage. Think back to that grueling cardio session where the timer was not moving fast enough, because you will have to do that all over again. One thing is for sure, hardly ever does such zigzagging make for a better overall product. With each time you have to go back and “undo” what you did during that one cheat meal or the cheat days after in some cases, the less impressive the final package will be. You will have to diet harder, do more cardio, and it will show.
Some phases of contest prep sure feel this way.
Now let's discuss what can happen, and this is the not so fun part to talk about since I have seen it happen countless times over the years. We are all human, and at some point everyone (I am serious everyone) will to some degree “cheat” on their diets. For some it might be a tsp. of almond butter that leads them to cry the night away (ahem Eric Helms in 2007), to full blown binges where weeks of work are lost. Sometimes these post show meals can be just that. For almost any competitor it's really easy to start, and really hard to stop. I know for me it is, and I am often touted for my self-control. But, I too have caught myself in these ruts, and understand how difficult it can be to put on the brakes. Many folks have ended a contest season prematurely simply because they made that one decision. If you are prone to this behavior, I suggest you don’t eat after a show at all. If one slice of cheesecake turns into four cookies, and then turns into pancakes the next morning, perhaps it's best to not put yourself in the position to have to choose to push the plate away in the first place. It will not make you a better bodybuilder to go binge for a few days. Metabolic trauma created by the diet will take weeks to mend, so don't start thinking it will heal faster if you binge. That is simply looking at the big picture from an angle that appeals to you, and trying to justify unhealthy behavior.
However, I do understand that I coach human beings who can’t be perfect all the time. After weeks and weeks of counting every morsel, deviating from the plan momentarily might not be optimal from a physical sense, but mentally it might be just what the doctor ordered. I also understand that these athletes have loved ones who come watch them at shows, and maybe their parents or wife has not had a dinner date with them in a few months. It is something that the athletes and their loved ones might need. So now that you know what will happen and what can happen, let’s touch a bit on what you can do in order to make the right decision for you. But, again please realize the following.
· You will store fat, no butts about it. I am sure you are at the very least eating at maintenance the day of the show, if not more.
· It will set you back, but how much is determined by how much you indulge.
· For the “once you pop you just can’t stop” until-you-pop folks, perhaps its best that you don’t indulge at all until your last show and even then have a plan ready.
Now that I told you the bad news, let me liven up the mood by giving you some rough guidelines. This is surely a conversation I love to have with my athletes, and as you will see it will differ from person to person.
· If you have a show the week after, or even two weeks later, it’s in your best interest to call it a night.
· Go in there with some sort of plan, and how much you indulge should resemble what your intake was going into the show. If you are a 110 pound person ordering a “blooming onion” for yourself, it’s probably not the sanest thing to do.
· Like most active people, we partition carbs better than most inactive folks, so if you can I favor higher carb lower fat choices. A thin crust personal pizza, not pasta smothered in Alfredo Sauce.
· For some individuals it might be a good idea to have a moderator there, to make sure you don’t go too far. This is where I had my girlfriend Melissa give me the evil eye from across the table.
· Probably the most important one is that you should emphasize the occasion being not just about the good food, but the company. It is important to focus on being able to eat a French fry from your toddler’s hand, sharing a desert with your loved one etc. Thanking everyone who made it out there to see you that day is what is important. Eating as much as you can fit until it’s nearly impossible to sleep is not.
Leaving some food on your plate is an art that few have mastered.
I love this sport, because not only does it offer a challenge. It offers challenges that are so different from any other athletic endeavor I have ever partaken in. Hopefully this article helps you make better decisions during your contest season, and sheds a little light on what is the right choice for you after a show.
In : Team 3DMJ
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