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By Victoria D'Ariano. Read to learn Victoria's 8 tips to a successful reverse diet after a competition.
So you just completed a 12-16-week long prep where the focus was to get as lean as possible and each day you focused on how your body was looking and changing. It starts getting very lean, you see abs for the first time, and you fall in love. You enjoy looking like this and feeling like this. You like the way people compliment on you're physique and how “toned you look.” Stage day comes and you show off this beautiful physique you have just worked so hard for, and are so proud of. The day after you get to eat lots of treats because heck you earned it. Monday comes and it all sets in… what’s next?
For many competitors the post show aspect isn’t talked about or even thought about until BAM you are post show. Additionally for many competitors if they aren’t with a proper coach he or she doesn’t put anymore focus or time into you because his/her job is done. They got you to stage looking the best you have ever looked so their work has been complete. However, for you, you feel lost, abandoned and unsure of what is next.
You love the way you look and the way it makes you feel but staying that lean all year round IS NOT HEALTHY. Some people can, due to their genetic makeup, but for most this isn’t a possibility. Added fat needs to be added as hormones need to be regulated and for most women they need to start menstruating again., as losing your period is a consequence of low levels of body fat. The only way to get your period back is to increase that super low body fat percentage to a normal, healthy range for you and your body.
For most people you took the wait off SLOWLY and that his how you want to put the weight back on. The best way to avoid the “REBOUND” which we all know is a competitors worst nightmare is to add in this SLOWLY. If you were on only 50g a carbs for the last few weeks jumping up to 250g a day isn’t going to go well… TRUST ME.
The REBOUND – that one word, scares almost all of us. You have heard stories or seen it first hand. And it can be a real issue. Not only does this have a tremendous negative aspect on your body physically, the effects emotionally can be far more severe. Many competitors will fall into depression due to their physique softening up.
Another huge concern is that for the last 4 months you have been focused so hard on a goal of hitting stage that your life was all about that goal. You trained for it, ate for it, slept for it. It was all about the final outcome in 16 weeks. And now that, that has come and past you feel lost. It’s as if you’ve lost something. And then here we go again, depression will sink it, because heck you feel like you have nothing to look forward to.
So why am I telling you all this? What does it mean?
There are some things that occur at a physiological level within your body when you diet. For women, your thyroid slows down. Thyroids are what regulate your metabolism and with this slowing down your metabolism slows down, and now you are burning less calories you would normally burn. Testosterone also goes down and if you know anything about muscle mass and what is does for your metabolism you know that you want to hold onto as much muscle as possible to burn as many calories at rest as possible. With this dropping you are no longer holding onto as much muscle mass as prior and thus again a negative effect on your metabolism. This concept also applies to protein synthesis which also decreases due to dieting, therefore an increase in muscle breakdown.
For most individuals the intense training and dieting you have been doing has put your body under stress. And that means that cortisol levels have increased. This puts added stress on your adrenal glands and again slows down your metabolism.
AS you can see from the above information provided your metabolism isn’t a revving, fuel burning machine like it was before. And you know this because as dieting progressed you had to work harder to burn fat that came off at the start a lot easier. These are all adaptations our body has made to keep us alive.
So lets go back to the topic of MONDAY… two days post show. Some people now think they can go back to eating “anything they want” because the show is over and heck adding in some extra food won’t do a thing!
These people are WRONG… very WRONG. And this is where that dreaded word comes back in “REBOUND.”
So now you have someone who is done their show, wanting to keep their physique, but yet wanting to eat “normal” again and regain balance within their life, all while working against a slower metabolism. This outcome isn’t looking too promising.
SO WHAT DO YOU DO?
Well there is a way to avoid this dreadful rebound but you will still add on extra weight. This is NORMAL and HEALTHY. And as much as you want to stay as a super-shredded super human all year round your body wasn’t made to and it can have a severely negative impact on your body physiologically and even eventually mentally. Also if you want to make improvements for your next show you know that you will have to give your body enough food to increase your muscle mass, and therefore make improvements.
It’s called REVERSE DIETING, and if you have spent 16 weeks or longer prepping for a show this is a term you NEED to educate yourself on. Dieting into a show is important, obviously to get the outcome you want. But dieting out of a show is where it really matters. This is where damage can occur if you aren't careful.
SO WHAT IS REVERSE DIETING?
Basically it is what the name implies… reversing your diet. And if you are planning on doing a show for the first time you need to be fully aware that you will need to put as much time and effort post-show as you will for getting to the stage.
8 TIPS ON HOW TO REVERSE DIET:
1. ADD IN CARBS SLOWLY each week (20-30g each week)
Example: follow 2 weeks out plan for the week following, then 3 weeks out, then 4 weeks out…etc.
2. ADD IN HEALTHY FATS to help with hormone regulation, cravings and satiety therefore helping you to avoid snacking or binging
3. SLOWLY REDUCE CARDIO - each week reduce your cardio
Switch to doing mainly steady state cardio if you were doing a lot of HIIT cardio to reduce some of the stress put on your body, again giving your adrenal glands some rest.
4. WEIGHT TRAINING- depending on what you're peak week protocol included (water cutting/manipulation) your body is still going to be dehydrated therefore joints, tendons and ligaments are at a higher susceptibility to injury. Make sure to listen to your body and don't push yourself too hard within the gym following a competition. Yes, you will hear that optimal gains can be made post-show but also injury. I recommend switching up your training to reducing the weight load and increasing the reps. This will be easier on your body, decrease chances of injury and also gives your central nervous system (CNS) a bit of a break from the heavy lifting you were potentially doing prior.
5. SET NEW GOALS - you have just completed a HUGE accomplishment of competing in a fitness competition which is not something everyone can do, you should be proud. The goal you had set has been surpassed, and now it is important to set new goals. Focus on what you would like to improve on and make small goals to accomplish these.
6. ACCOUNTABILITY - during contest prep you are constantly sending your coach updates which holds you accountable to the plan. During offseason and more importantly post-show, continue on with weekly to bi-weekly updates. Take progress pictures and provide feedback to either you're coach or for yourself. This will hold you accountable to the post-show plan you have set in place.
7. CHEAT MEALS - Start incorporating cheat meals into your program. One a week is what I recommend and I suggest having it post workout to ensure the extra food is being put to good use. If you find having one cheat meal a week leads to binging and over-eating I would suggest having a few small treats throughout the week instead of one larger cheat meal. For example: have a muffin or higher carb treat pre-workout or a bowl of pasta for a post-workout meal.
8. GET BACK ON THE HORSE - If you fall off track for one meal, don’t sweat it. Just make sure you get right back on the horse. The common mistake people make is when they use “all or nothing” thinking. “That wasn't on my meal plan, I wasn't supposed to eat that, so now the whole day is ruined. I might as well just make today a cheat day and start back up tomorrow.” This is the type of thinking I DO NOT want you to use. If you mess up with one meal or have something not on the plan, who cares… just make sure your next meal is back on track. Don’t let one mistake lead to a full day of eating. One treat won't have a negative impact, but a full day of binging will.
Competitions are FUN and a huge accomplishment, but what is most important is YOU'RE BODY and HEALTH. After completing a competition, be smart. Educate yourself prior to entering a contest and also make sure you understand the importance of post-show. Once you have followed a post-show protocol, you're body will be better regulated and this is when you can really focus on having more balance in you're life.
For coaching email Victoriadariano@outlook.com
Don't forget to follow on Instagram: @victoriadariano
Photography: Bryce Murdoch, Jason Lynch