I repeat: you cannot contest diet year-round!
You hear many people, along with amateur competitors wondering why they cannot be in competition shape year-round. Everyone realizes a week or two after competition, that we are not as lean and hard as we were in the photos from our contest. Of course not!
This causes many competitors, especially beginners to become sad and depressed. After the countless weeks of training and dieting, how can we make what seems to be a complete 180 in a week or two?
A "Complete 180"
There are many factors contributing to the post-competition "soft" appearance.
Adding more carbohydrates back into one's diet will fill the muscles back out (refilling glycogen storage) and will cause subcutaneous water retention from sodium in extra food.
Remember, when there are few or zero carbs in the body, one loses a lot of water because every gram of carbohydrate binds in the muscles with almost three grams of water, so once one begins to eat more carbs, there will be more water in the body.
A competitor is now drinking fluids again, compounded with eliminating diuretic use will also make one appear soft (and you will hold water for a few days after depriving yourself of it during competition).
It is possible to retain up to five pounds of water weight, which is hidden within the body's extra-cellular fluid. Heavier people can experience more water retention especially if their intake of processed, convenient food is high (which is typical post-competition).
There are a few causes of water retention but for many an increase in sodium through the diet (mainly salt intake) is the most common cause. Sodium is present in virtually all food products so when a person consumes more food it is inevitable that they also consume more sodium.
Post-competition weight gains are often a combination of fat stores and water retention. What are the first things we eat post-competition- Salt, Fat, and Sugars!
Let's not forget that the coats of stage paint are long-gone, and your pale complexion only makes you appearance softer! Tanning helps boost people's self-esteem because a good tan is considered the ideal color today. Most people want to be considering beautiful by others and to be accepted so they therefore want to have the looks of a typical good-looking person.
Why Can't We Stick To The Contest Diet Year-Round?
The Nutrient Deficient Contest Diet
The public assumes that competitors are the healthiest people around. Ha! For 99% of competitors, the
competition diet is very nutrient-deficient (cutting out fruit, dairy, many fats, and many carbohydrates for extended periods of time isn't exactly what I would consider healthy).
When an individual does not ingest sufficient nutrients on a daily basis, all metabolic processes will suffer. This includes the building and maintaining of muscle mass. This is why the contest diet should be designed to include the fewest calories possible without creating nutritional deficiencies.
Unfortunately, everyone is different, and competitors realize that certain foods make them hold fat and/or water, which will make them decide to cut entire food groups from their diet. Women especially have to eliminate entire food groups due to estrogen and water retention. When a diet is deficient for extended periods of time, wrinkles begin to appear and skin loses elasticity. This is definitely not what the judges are looking for!
Metabolism Slows Down
When there is a dramatic reduction in the calories consumed, basal metabolic rate slows down, and in turn, one burns less fat during the day. This is one of the many reasons why competitors eat every few hours-to make the body keep burning calories and reduce the chance of this metabolism slump.
The more your metabolism slows down, the more likely you will be to store any calories as body fat. This is bad. For you to build muscle, you will need to utilize all of the calories you consume.
On the off-season, your primary focus should be to build in the areas which are lacking to further the symmetrical appearance; if you are trying to diet year-round, you will not be able to build anything.
Eventually, your body will go into a state of muscle-wasting and catabolism. Workout recovery and growth will be hindered, and motivation will definitely suffer.
We Need Body Fat!
Do you ever wonder why competitors are so short-fused while dieting? Or, do you ever wonder why we are not as quick-witted and how should I say?- Stupid? While competitors diet, fats are dramatically cut down. First, red meat is cut, then fatty fish, then the next and the next.
Essential body fat is required for normal physiological functioning, including thinking! Essential body fat consists of fat stored in the marrow of bones, heart, lungs, liver, spleen, kidneys, intestines, muscles and lipid rich tissues of the central nervous system. In females the extra 9% of sex specific fat is required for childbearing and other hormonal related functions.
Normal body functions may be disrupted if body fat falls below the minimum level recommended for men (around 5 %) and women (around 14%). Competitors obviously drop their body fat lower than this-especially female competitors!
What Can We Do About This Sadness?
Steps To Increase Self-Efficacy
- Schedule your photo shoots around competition dates only. This way, you will be sure that you are looking your absolute best!
- Drink more water to help flush out extra sodium.
- Use a bronzer or a sunless tanner to maintain a healthy "glow" for self-esteem provided by a tan. My favorite is the Olympic Gold Bronzer for my body, and Physician's formula bronzer for my face. Remember that sunbathing and tanning beds pose health risks and pre-mature aging, so try to limit exposure.
- Focus on your next competition goals. You will have more energy in the gym so train hard and work on your weaknesses. It boosts self-efficacy when you are able to train heavier and longer. Focus on your imbalances and work to fix them. Train heavy to utilize the extra calories and increase protein intake.
- Enjoy in moderation. One dessert or one trip through the drive-through here and there won't hurt you on your off-season. If you have an inevitable sweet-tooth, you can always opt to substitute candy bars with the latest protein bars, which are beginning to taste very similar to our favorite age-old candy bars!
- Focus now on the things which you neglected during your weeks of training and dieting: family, school, work, pets, hobbies, etc. Participate in church, school or work-related events and trips which you didn't have time for throughout your training and dieting. Take an educational class to further education or learn a new sport or game! Go on a vacation with your spouse or family/friends.
- Enjoy food while you can! It will only be a matter of time 'til your next contest diet! Eat now because it will make you ready to diet when the time arrives! Go out for dinner with your spouse, friends or family who were neglected while you were dieting! Enjoy yourself and relax!
Check Out My Journey To My First NPC Figure Competition!