Flying With The Phoenix - Contest Prep Nutrition
The topic of nutrition and especially dieting and how it relates to contest prep used to be a very taboo subject with me. As a small recap, and some insight into my life, and WHY nutrition and dieting is especially taboo, one need look no further than my personal history.
From 11 years old until I was 20, I battled anorexia. After recovering from anorexia, I struggled with bulimia for about a year (I should tell you that the bulimia started after my last contest in November 2008). I received professional help from both (as well as endless support from family and friends), and I'm happy to say that at 22 years old, I'm finally in the clear in terms of recovering from my eating disorders.
Well, in all honesty, that's not completely true. I admit that I still struggle with body image issues, having a healthy relationship with food and "listening" to my body on a physical level. Those are several areas I am still trying to work diligently to fix.
Contest Prep Diets
The latter issue (listening to my body and its signals) is the one I'm going to address first in this article. After putting my body through 10 years of hell by consistently starving it of nutrients, I now struggle with physical and psychological issues surrounding food. From the physiological side, I cannot differentiate hormonal signals indicating whether I'm hungry or full. I can (and have) gone on binges that last for DAYS and consume upwards of 10,000 calories a day; there is no limit to how much I can consume.
Conversely, there have been days where I've had an early breakfast, and then literally gone an entire day without eating because I forgot and just wasn't hungry throughout the day. Then, I'll go to bed with 1-2 meals in me, but still not be hungry. It's like my body either doesn't understand the "stop and go" signals, or it doesn't have them anymore (this probably isn't the case, as I've studied physiology long enough to know you can't "kill" a hormone).
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There Have Been Days Where I've Had An Early Breakfast, And Then Literally Gone An Entire Day Without Eating Because I Forgot And Just Wasn't Hungry Throughout The Day.
In addition to the wonky hormonal signals, the psychological side consists of the struggles related the whole concept of dieting in general. On one hand, part of me hears "contest diet" and becomes like a rabid dog because the idea of dieting and being able to restrict again (especially given that it's warranted with contest prep) triggers a memory in my brain.
On the other hand, part of me hears diet and gets scared because I don't want to slip back to old patterns and ideologies. This is what I struggle with. These are the dualities of my psyche. And they can both get me in trouble because there will be days during the diet where I forget to eat, and that subsequently leads to a binge the next day when my body recognizes that it's starving.
Sometimes though, I also sabotage myself (by not sticking to the diet and OVER-consuming) for fear of slipping into my old habits.
Finding A Coach
Anyway, there IS a point to this little biography. The point is that all this has to be taken into account when I pick a contest prep coach and when he picks out a contest prep plan for me. They have to be aware of the fact that I have an "all or nothing" personality - that I tend to get carried away with things and will over-do the diet or cardio portions if given too much freedom and not enough structure.
You may say my standards for a coach are high, but after going through what I've gone through, I now know what I need psychologically and physiologically. Not to mention, this is contest prep! It's kind of a big deal!
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You May Say My Standards For A Coach Are High, But After Going Through What I've Gone Through, I Now Know What I Need Psychologically And Physiologically.
Creating A Nutrition Plan
So right now, I get my nutrition plan from a coach, and it consists of a daily macronutrient breakdown. 5 days a week, I'm entitled to a certain amount of carbs, proteins and fats, and he lays out (explicitly) approximately how many grams of each I should be eating and when I should be eating them (pre and post workout being the most important).
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I Get My Nutrition Plan From A Coach, And It Consists Of A Daily Macronutrient Breakdown.
Two days a week, I get an increase in carbs and a decrease in fats and proteins. This is to help my metabolism and keep my energy levels and strength up. I like the "Macro breakdown" approach because it leaves me just enough freedom to be variable in the quality of foods I chose, but it restricts the quantity so I can neither binge, nor under eat because I know what I need to be consuming daily.
My nutrition changes depending on how much (or how little) progress I make from week to week. I leave it all up to my coach so that I don't have to make any decisions, and don't get the dreaded "Paralysis by Analysis".
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