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Post Contest Binge Eating: It Messes Up Your Metabolism!

The intake of junk food for multiple days following your pre-contest diet plan will result in several severe reactions... See how binge eating post contest can mess up your metabolism! Bonus: Ten easy steps to control bingeing.

We've all done it; after weeks of dieting for a competition on fish and raw vegetables, we give into temptation and go on a food binge.

In my own personal case, I've eaten hundreds of dollars of Denny's (my favorite!) food all by myself! When you've felt deprived from the effects of a low calorie diet, the feeling of being full is a "high" like no other. The trouble is that continuing in this bingeing behavior can devastate your metabolism for months or years to come.

Eating more food post-competition is helpful, but it depends on the food. You may be eating more protein and more vegetables, which is exactly what your body will need to recover from the rigors of contest preparation. In many cases, however, individuals turn to extremely high starch-laden foods and/or empty calorie foods such as candy.

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The intake of junk food for multiple days following your pre-contest diet plan will result in several severe reactions related to hormonal and brain chemistry. You could literally destroy in a few days what it has taken years to obtain.

What normally happens after we are done restricting ourselves for weeks to achieve our content shape is nothing short of a pseudo starvation state. Most of our "comfort food" has been eliminated from our diet. This restriction stops the normal flow of peptides to our brain and results in a temporary depressive state.

As children, most of us were conditioned by our families to enjoy certain foods. We were rewarded for good behavior with a sweet candy or treat. This behavioral adaptation results in our brains producing powerful chemical reactions centered in the hypothalamus which lead to peptide production. Much of this reaction is reviewed in a movie called, "What The *Bleep* Do We Know?" (The title actually involves the word 'bleep'; available on DVD.)

The movie explains how we condition ourselves as human beings to derive emotional and chemical stimulation from various environmental occurrences. In other words, some of us enjoy laughter, while others enjoy misery. Some of us enjoy sweeter foods, while others will crave protein-based foods.

This over-indulgence is a conditioned response and given that the average physique athlete is a borderline obsessive-compulsive disorder patient anyway, our susceptibility towards this predisposition of over-indulgence is very real.

Men And Women Are Different

Most physique athletes, especially women, perform better when their post-competition weight is maintained within 10 pounds of contest-ready shape. Most of your top physique pros will maintain their diets, due to photo shoots, guest posing, and other competitions.

Males can sometimes carry between 15 and 20 pounds of additional weight gain. There are some athletes who will gain up to 50 pounds of excess bodyweight; however "chemical enhancement" has to be considered. (Natural bodybuilding versus chemically-enhanced bodybuilding are two different worlds, and should be treated accordingly.)

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For a long time, powerlifters would gain as much weight as possible to be able to counterbalance heavy-weight lifting. As a competition grew closer, the strength athlete would simply lose excessive body mass while trying to maintain power. The trend has currently switched in the other direction and this can be seen in many of the strongman competitors and also the powerlifters.

Leaner and more cardiovascular athletes are leading the pack in today's strength competitions. Most high-level strength athletes and bodybuilders have come to the realization that gaining excessive weight is harder on the body and requires the use of more chemicals when it's time to reduce and remove that excess fat.

Looking At The Current Research

Two studies in the October issue of Behavioral Neuroscience show that when animals are stressed, deprived and exposed to tempting food, they overeat, with different degrees of interaction. This results in what is known as "dieters rebound" or "The Yo-Yo Effect."

What this means is that given a choice between eating nutritious food versus "junk food," it is likely that we will overeat the junk food. This results in nonproductive calories that further trigger our bodies craving of additional food to provide sedation of our need for protein and other nutrients.

Other studies have shown that individuals who are overweight and are given additional protein in their diet tend to crave less food over all.

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Opioids or endorphins (the brain's "feel-good chemicals") are triggered when we eat specific foods. You actually can become addicted to junk food. It takes approximately 2 days to alter our brain's perception of need and stimulation. Multiple days of eating improper foods and calorie rich food will result in an excessive endorphin production from our brain.

We are specifically susceptible to this after our contest dieting and preparation. This change in our neurochemistry is deeply attached into our genetic code. Some individuals are more susceptible to this than others. It is also related to our upbringing and our environmental stimulus that we have been adapted to by not only our parents, but our grandparents and specifically it is related to the habits of our pregnant mothers.

The extreme of this can be seen in cases where mothers who were addicted to various recreational drugs pass that addiction on to their offspring.

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The effects of binge eating are very powerful and have a trained effect on the hormones of our bodies. Hormones are the most powerful chemicals in our bodies. Insulin is the ringleader and controls 90% of the effects of the other hormones and chemical levels in our body. Very few chemicals have an effect on insulin directly.

The chemicals secreted by the hypothalamus are among the most powerful stimulants towards our mood and cravings. The lower that our insulin levels fall, the more effect these chemical stimulants have on their receptors. In other words, the hungrier you get, the more likely you are to eat junk food.

Once you have stimulated this pathway, a cascade of effects results in excessive eating and is very difficult to stop. Research indicates that trying to stop overeating is similar to any other addiction, such as alcohol, tobacco, cocaine, etc.

This is a very powerful and deeply-rooted mechanism within our body geared towards preventing starvation. It is a survival mechanism and therefore is entrenched in our genetic code, deeper than the drive for sex. You must recognize and respect this system and take steps to prevent overstimulation of that system.

Effects Of Binge Eating


    When you binge, it affects your hormonal system and mostly changes the insulin, thyroid, and serotonin levels. Insulin is affected due to the high levels of carbohydrates available. Elevated insulin levels will trigger your pancreas to make more and more insulin. This results in a slower and slower metabolism.

    Do you think it is easy to speed up your metabolism? Any bodybuilder over the age of 50 can tell you how difficult it is to cut weight, compared to when they were twenty-year-olds. Kerry Lind who won the "Mr. Ohio" at the ripe age of 44 had to start dieting 6 months prior to his victory!

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    Insulin is very powerful and will take months and even years to correct its slightest dysfunction. Insulin, once attached to the cell, will act like a vacuum to suck everything out of your blood stream. More insulin results in more unwanted items being sucked into the cell. Not just protein, but sugar and fats will enter the cells, too.

    Eventually, packed fat (cellulite) will make losing that fat darn near impossible to burn off and remove. Insulin is a contributor to so many other hormonal changes. Binge eating - and specifically binge eating with sugars and starches - will burn out your pancreas and cause less insulin to be produced. This is what causes the "bloating" after excessive eating and the feeling of being sleepy and tired.


    Your thyroid is located behind your Adam's apple. It has two parts and one controls your metabolism and the other part, called the "parathyroid," controls calcium. Binge eating will cause a decrease in your body's production of thyroxin and hence slow your metabolism down. The active ingredient in thyroxin is iodine.

    The hypothalamus controls the pituitary gland which controls the thyroid. This control is all driven by the first hypothalamus' glands production of TRH (thyroid releasing hormone), and that affects the pituitary gland with produces TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), and once this trigger is received by the thyroid, it absorbs iodine and the amino acid tyrosine to make T4 and T3.

    The thyroid makes about 80% of T4 and 20% of T3. The T4 is about four times less strong than the T3 at stimulating metabolism of every cell in your body. To put that in real world order for you, one unit of T3 is about 100 times stronger than any metabolism pill that you can take.

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    Now once T4 and T3 are produced there is a simple feedback mechanism. The T3 and T4 act like heat coming back to a thermostat in your house, more heat shuts off the furnace. Similarly, more T3 and T4 will shut off the entire production. Similar to that is the presence of high levels of insulin associated with binge eating.

    Using metabolism stimulants will slow the production of T4 and T3 down, hence why their use post-contest should be discontinued. Don't take a pill to make up for your poor diet choices!

    Various implants in your body will also slow the effectiveness of thyroxin. Using various forms of birth control, such as an IUD will slow your body's ability to use thyroxin. Medications will directly affect the T4 and T3 in your body and render it useless. Thanks to Mike Davies for pointing out this fact.

It's All About What Carries The Thyroxin In Your Blood

    Thyroid Binding Globulin (TBG) is the protein that carries the thyroid hormone in your blood stream. Insulin levels, excessive blood sugar, elevated toxins, etc., all affect the ability of TBG to do its job. Many times you may have a thyroid test and show normal T4 levels, but the carrier protein is not available to move the T4 or T3 to the cells.

    Poor nutritional choices and genetics both play major roles in your deficiency of TBG. Remember, thyroid tests often test the measurement of concentration, but not the action of the hormone. The lower levels of estrogen effect the thyroid binding globulin by lowering its production. Following a competition with restrictive diets and excessive exercise, the TBG is lower and that is why you are tired all the time and sleepy.

Medications That Slow Down Your Metabolism

    Medications such as these slow down your metabolism:

    • Birth Control
    • Estrogen
    • Testosterone
    • Anti-Seizure Medications (Dilantin and Tegretol)
    • Anti-Depression Medications

    The most devastating medication, however, which will literally stop the absorption of thyroid hormone is cholesterol-lowering medications. Like I said, don't use a pill to make up for poor dietary habits! High intakes of iron or calcium will also effectively lower your absorption of thyroid hormone.

Don't Drink And Binge

    Remember that alcohol contain the fastest-absorbed calories known to man. Alcohol will dehydrate you and should be avoided following the excessive dietary restrictions associated with contest preparation. This is a great time to choose Starbucks! Remember that coffee and chocolate both contain the most powerful antioxidants we have, about 50 times stronger than those in green tea!


    Over-eating or binge eating is very stressful to your body and makes your body produce cortisol. High levels of cortisol will result in more belly fat which can take weeks to months to reverse. Cardio activity of sessions less than 40 minutes in duration at levels that are between 60-80% MHR will result in decreased cortisol.


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10 Easy Steps To Controlling Bingeing
After A Contest

Heed the ten (okay, eleven) following tips to avoid the harmful effects of binge eating after your latest contest win!

  1. Your weight gain following a contest is primarily water - up to 90%. Drink lots of water!

  2. Eat foods that are designed to provide stimulation to your diet, but limit the caloric intake.

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  1. Avoid binge eating for periods longer than 24 hours after your competition.

  2. Return to your pre-contest meal plan as it was approximately four weeks out, as soon as possible.

  3. Continue eating six to eight small meals per day, maintaining a high protein intake.

  4. Get additional metabolic stimulation by engaging in cardio and sports activities that normally would have been avoided due to contest preparation.

  5. Be conscious of making contact with family members or loved ones to establish a reduced need for "comfort foods."

  6. Maintain a cardio base no less than 50% of your pre-contest levels.

  7. Avoid post contest weight gain greater than 5 to 10 pounds for a female and 15 to 20 pounds for male.

  8. Use supplements such as Oil of Evening Primrose* (500mg/100 pounds of bodyweight) for approximately 4 days post competition. EFA's such as those found in Oil of EP, and fish oils help to stabilize blood sugar levels.

  9. Avoid drinking your calories. Especially avoid canned soft drinks - the sweetener of choice in canned soft drinks is high fructose corn syrup, which doesn't require insulin and is just automatically absorbed by your cells to manufacture fat quickly and store it.

*A side note on Evening Primrose Oil: this supplement not only detox's your liver and kidneys, but it results in clearing up of acne. It is a free fatty acid (containing 8-10% of gamma linolenic acid [GLA]), which has been shown to have several effects on smooth muscle contraction and detoxification.


There is nothing wrong with letting your hair down (if you still have some) following a contest. Being reasonable and using moderation are the keys associated with quick recovery and lay the groundwork for you to do your best at your next competition. Do not take pills to make up for poor eating habits (I can't emphasize this enough), and remember to say your prayers just to cover the rough edges!