The contest season is winding down and with the true warrior spirit of a bodybuilder; you're already planning exactly what you need to do in order to achieve even more next year. You're planning to win. Nutritionally speaking, I have several suggestions. As a matter of fact, I'm going to give you the top five things you can do nutritionally this off-season to make it happen.
Do You Really Want It?
But before I do, I need to know if you really want it. Hey, you... in the back row... wake up. That's why you lost this year. You weren't willing to do what others were. You were weak.
How did George Washington, with a fourth of the troops, (untrained at that,) a fraction of the artillery (not even enough gun powder or rifles for every soldier,) low morale, rampant disease, and horrible weather drive the elite forces of Britain out of a well-fortified Boston in 1775? He wanted it bad.
Click Image To Enlarge.
George Washington Crossing The Delaware.
He Wanted It Bad. Do You?
He was willing to do whatever it took. He did everything it took. Are you there yet? When you have to get up early and do cardio, will you push the snooze bar or will you train harder than anyone else battling for YOUR title? When everything in you wants to cheat on your diet, will you smile and walk away with your heart burning for the victory? How do you harness this psychotic level of motivation?
Renowned psychologist, Laura Ellsworth, author of Choosing To Heal, states,
"Intrinsic motivation occurs when one is passionate about a task and performs it for the sheer pleasure of it. Extrinsic motivation occurs when one performs a task because some force, either external to the individual (money, rewards, punishment) or internal to the person (a value or belief that impacts an individual's sense of self-worth) drives that individual to perform."
"I believe that people are affected by external controls but ultimately make decisions that come from within. This explains why not everyone is able to be successful with diets or bodybuilding. If all that was needed were external motivation, like a picture on the fridge, then everyone would look great.
Instead, people succeed in anything because they look within, self-evaluate, and understand their internal motivations."
So, do you really want to win? Thought so. Pull up a chair; we're going to map out your off-season.
Begin with the end in mind. Your genetics and level of development will dictate your shape, structure, and overall size, right? So what does that leave you?
First, it leaves your condition, or the body fat percentage you'll be at. Second, it leaves your peaking ability; you want to be full, tight, and crisp. That, of course, is everyone's focus and the cause of sleepless nights. It need not be.
1. Avoid Getting Too Heavy:
The first mistake you can avoid is getting too heavy in the off-season. It's always tempting to keep riding that strength curve up while ignoring the scale. Is it fun to squat 200 pounds more in the off-season? Are you kidding?! Most meatheads would take a personal record squat or deadlift over a night with Paris Hilton! But, when it's time to lose 40 pounds for your contest, the parties over. Way over.
I'm not aware of any double-blind, placebo-controlled, peer-reviewed studies on this, but I have almost two decades of contest experience, hundreds of client case studies, and more than a few laps around the campus that form my theory on off-season weight gain.
Being in a calorie deficit causes your metabolism to shift downward. Good dieting will cause a slow, moderate shift and bad dieting will cause a meltdown. Bad dieting for a long period of time will be catastrophic metabolically as well as your worst nightmare for muscle loss. I'll bet you've been here.
Think of the contest you had to lose the most weight for. I'll bet you were way thinner/stringier and not as crisp as you thought you'd be. Am I right? The longer you have to diet and the harder you have to diet, the more muscle you'll lose and the harder it will be to lose body fat at the end.
It's mostly muscle, man!"
Actually, the higher the calorie overage, the more muscle you will gain. No argument. But, the law of diminishing returns is in full effect. The further you go the more fat you gain per ounce of muscle. Then, of course, since you have to diet longer and harder to remove the fat, you lose all that muscle and end up with either a net gain of the same amount or having lost even more muscle than if you had only gained half that much body fat.
You get two big rewards for sticking to about 10-15 pounds over contest weight. First, you get to eat more while dieting. More importantly, you get to plan to ramp up toward the show in a way that will leave your competition wondering how in the heck you got so full and tight at the same time. I'll come back to this one at the end.
The rigors of pre-contest leave all of us wanting to eat anything we want, I know. We earned it. Remember, though, your metabolism will never be as low as when you're coming out of that contest weekend. I've seen people gain back more weight in a week than they lost in four months and it's sometimes psychologically devastating.
2. Watch Macronutrient Intake:
The contest can be anti-climactic for some people; okay, for most people. There's only one winner per class, right? The rest of us go home with a body anyone would kill for, so don't destroy it with a week of uncontrolled binging. Enjoy a meal or two, but then set limits for your food intake.
|WHAT'S YOUR GOAL|
That means planning and tracking just like pre-contest, but you'll get to slowly increase food, schedule cheat meals, and watch your strength and muscle re-gain go up without all the body fat.
This is my second point. You have to know what your macronutrient intake is to make sure you can reach your goals.
You do it dieting for the show, why not do it preparing and working through the off-season that leads to the next show.
It's more food and more flexible, but you'll make sure you don't have any holes in your plan and it will keep you more accountable to staying with your plan of slow weight gain up to a limit.
3. Match Your Food To Your Training:
My third point continues the emphasis on having an effective game plan regarding the food you consume. Match your food to your training. Prioritize the workouts and recovery. You need to do the normal things like keep protein going in around the clock but make sure you schedule enough carbs and fat for the meals leading up to the workout so you start with a full tank.
I would even allow for sipping on a protein shake made with juice during the workout. Then, of course, get a meal in right away after training.
Looking For Some Great Protein Shake Recipes? Go!
With good nutrition before and even during the workout, you delay the catabolic effects caused by the workout itself. The post-workout meal is still important, but less critical that way.
If you're eating high-quality food 90% of the time, you'll have room for these meals without gaining too much body fat.
4. Short, High-Intensity Cardio Sessions:
I have one little secret that will help your off-season progress more than you think. Do short, high-intensity cardio sessions. If your VO2max and overall conditioning is higher, your workouts will be harder and you'll get nutrients to the muscle cells more efficiently. This adds up.
I'm talking about just two, ten-minute sessions or so per week. Make it fun. Warm-up for five minutes, stretch a little, then run a mile and time it. Each session, improve your time. It has to be functional and improve your cardiovascular health. Leave the recumbent bike and newspaper behind and actually break a sweat.
You won't lose muscle; you'll support muscle growth. And, you'll find that since you're eating enough food, cardio can actually be fun versus when you're dragging while dieting.
5. Get Ready Early:
I'll finish where I started. The goal of retaining as much muscle as possible, being as lean as you can be, and peaking perfectly can be made much easier if you're ready early. If you stay leaner, you stay in control of your food, and you're in shape already due to the functional cardio, you're in a great position to be ready for the show a couple weeks in advance.
If you can actually be adding food slowly toward the show, instead of still dieting full speed, you'll find you still get harder and tighter, but you get fuller and start regaining some muscle fullness. Don't overlook the fact that I said you'll still get tighter.
You can be moving carbs back up slowly and the net effect will be more energy, better workouts, tilting your metabolic rate back to higher efficiency, and you create an upward cycle of improvement in muscle fullness and skin tightness instead of the other way around by still depleting hard all the way up to the show.
You luckily don't have to stand in an open field in a firing line with a musket aimed at redcoats, but you will be standing in a line with bodybuilders who want that title. Just make sure you want it more by being willing to do what it takes for a full year in order to win it!
About The Author:
Dr. Joe Klemczewski is a WNBF Pro with graduate degrees in health and nutrition. He personally works with top pro and amateur bodybuilders around the world with his unique online Perfect Peaking Program. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.