Ok, so we hear about reverse dieting, clean bulking, dirty bulking or just straight going ham and not caring about any form of diet. So what do we do? Well, it really depends on your goal, body type and lifestyle! I can’t say which is wrong or right, but I can share my personal approach and what works well for me.
If I am bridging shows or competing in multiple shows over a short period of time, I will keep my diet pretty strict. I do allow a good harty dinner and a couple treats directly after a show along with a full day of eating what I want the day after. To be quite honest, it doesn’t take much for me to be ready for clean foods again. I drink at least a gallon of water a day to flush out retention as there always is some. If you manipulate sodium and water, our bodies will hold onto extra water naturally. Many new competitors get concerned with the sudden weight gain post show, but usually it is just water. I resume my normal diet as I had prior to my peak week with possibly added macros based on my conditioning. If your feedback is to tighten up, you likely won’t need to add additional food and need to be vary cautious about post show refeeds or limit them based on your bodies response. I evaluate my conditioning each morning and monitor my weight and make adjustments if needed.
I stay active!! The best way to regulate your body is by keeping clean foods in your diet, hydrating and continuing with your training and cardio. I call it “moving the carbs around”. In fact, post show we go into a very anabolic zone as we usually have an influx in carbohydrates and calories. I train very hard the following week as I want to put the food to good use! Not only will you feel good and have solid workouts, our muscle fullness will be off the charts! This is growth time! I don’t just focus on cardio to burn the calories, I put weight training as my primary focus to burn glycogen stores.
When you are bridging multiple shows, you are at high risk of loosing muscle fullness. I incorporate a supplement called Laxogenin which helps reduce cortisol, increases protein synthesis to up to 200%, increases strength, and is non hormonal. The effects are very noticeable and I am able to maintain muscle volume much better then without. A woman’s dose of Laxogenin is 50 mg daily and a males dose is 100 mg daily. If you can time the supplement prior to training, that is ideal. The particular product I use is Laxoplex figure which is designed for women. You can also benefit from Laxogenin in an off season or cutting phase. It can be cycled for anywhere from 4-12 weeks and only needs 2-4 weeks off between cycles.
When I am completely done with my competitive season, I follow an 80/20 rule. I really believe in having a physical and mental break from dieting. However, I still eat clean the majority of the time and pay close attention to nutrient timing around my training. That means I consume larger carbohydrate pre and post weight training or earlier in the day and taper off into the evening. I consume more lean proteins, vegetables and healthy fats in the evening. I check my weight about once a week to assure I am not gaining too quickly. When I notice the scale rising, I eliminate white sugar and white flour that has likely crept back into my diet . Processed foods will add the pounds on quickly as they are usually more calorically dense then simple wholesome foods. I like my weight to remain around 5-15 lbs max above my pre peak week weight. This range allows for a manageable prep when it is time to start again and I am happy and comfortable with this range. I do not track my food regularly but do pay attention to nutrition labels. I pay close attention to my body, hunger and fullness levels and tone.
I have tried tracking my macros and reverse dieting myself and found that it did not work for me. When I am done prepping for a season, I like enjoying time with family and letting go of the mental stress of dieting. I also find that tracking macros gets a bit sloppy for me personally. If you’re not tracking thoroughly through out the day, you can easily loose track and then its all a wash. For many people, this works great. It can also be a method for someone who feels the need for constant structure. I feel that reverse dieting can be very helpful for new competitors as they are still learning their bodies. Slow weight gain is important how ever! Anything too fast is simply putting on the wrong kind of pounds. Muscle growth takes a LONG TIME. It requires patience, food, and hard work.
There is a “danger window” as I call it post show. This phase is directly after your show and can be as long as 6-8 weeks for some. This is when your body is acclimating and your metabolism is adjusting to both different foods and higher macros. Wether you reverse diet in a very calculated manor or “eye ball it” as I do, you must be careful and resist the strong urges of eating yourself into a sick frenzy. Some foods may cause discomfort when they did not before eliminating them such as dairy. This is when we need to listen to what our bodies are telling us and be smarter then our cravings. It takes a strong mind to cut down for a prep and an even stronger mind to ease ourselves gracefully into a successful offseason. A diet or strategy is as good as the effort put into it and that goes the same for an off season.
Ultimately, based on your goals or feedback and your body type, that should dictate how you approach your off season. If your body naturally wants to hold more weight, you will need to be very mindful of your diet and the weight gain and try very hard to remain at range above stage weight to assure a successful cutting phase in your next prep. Your starting point of your prep will dictate how well conditioned you come in. If you have too much body fat to loose, the prep is more about weight loss and not about perfecting your conditioning and maintaining muscle fullness. If your body type struggles at putting on muscle and burns at a higher level ( as mine does) you have a bit more wiggle room and should be eating to grow. A little layer of body fat is essential in order to protect your muscles. My fiancé Chris Ellis who is a professional Mens Physique Athlete and I have a rule of thumb we go by. If you can see your lower abs, your too lean. If you can just see your upper abdominal lines then that is a perfect level of body fat to have in your off season. If your abdominals are completely gone and soft with no lines, your body fat has gone too high and its time to pull back. It sounds super lame but its that simple. Thats how we gauge our bodies threshold in the off season.
I hope this helps give insight to some of you. Again, this is my personal approach I use for myself and has allowed me to compete for 5 years in the IFBB league successfully with out burning out and or damaging my metabolism or mental state. My preps are always around 8-10 weeks and Im am usually ready 1-2 weeks before. Many people require longer preps and some shorter. It is all about your starting point and learning your body over time.
If you want to learn more about my coaching or prepping style, you can email me firstname.lastname@example.org or contact me through my website.
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