Post-contest bingeing: how to take control
If you think prep is hard, reverse dieting is harder. Hear me out. You’ve spent weeks prepping, planning, weighing and measuring every part of your body and what you’re consuming. You’ve practiced extensive willpower, made sacrifices and probably skipped out on a few social outings to prevent yourself from being tempted (#noshame).
After your show, all of your friends baked their most decadent desserts — filled, stuffed and drizzled. You have the perfect post-show meal, including some sort of burger and a skillet cookie.
You wake up the morning after, and you feel like a weight has been lifted. You don’t “have” to do an hour of steady state cardio. You don’t “have” to measure sodium, drink two gallons of water or weigh your food. Most likely, you hop out of bed and head to brunch to kick start your “day after” festivities.
By the end of the weekend, you’re feeling as stuffed like the Oreo’s you consumed for the first time in months. Post-show festivities are over. What do you do Monday? Do you track? Take time off? Eat intuitively?
I would consider my competition season a great one. It was a longer-than-anticipated 40 weeks, due to uncontrollable circumstances (cross-country move, coach switch, new job, etc.), but I felt good, maintained strength and never once binged or strayed from my macros.
After my show, I would take a full day off from tracking, including the night after my show. This day was full out indulging — eating whatever I wanted. I usually eat brunch, dinner and some kind of dessert. In between, I’ll drink some protein to make sure I have some kind of balance, but I’m not focused too much on that.
Monday morning, I always wake up feeling bloated. Let’s be honest. When you go from eating a measly 1,100 calories to triple that in a day, your tummy is confused.
Here’s what I don’t do: extra cardio, extra anything, step on the scale or cut carbs.
Here’s what I do: get back on my macros and my routine.
Maintaining stage leanness is not going to be possible, and weight gain is inevitable. How fast and how much depends on how strict you are in your offseason.
For the first few weeks of a reverse diet, I refrain from eating out at restaurants. My rule: until I can fit a burger and fries in my macros without completely destroying my daily fats, I’ll cook. After a show, your body is highly susceptible to fat gain. Trust me, you’ll want to throw in the towel and try all the food you’ve been eyeing on Instagram, but now is the time to practice that self-control from prep.
Once my carbs get up to 150-200g per day (not just a refeed), I will incorporate “free” meals. I work best with two “free” meals per month.
A “free” meal is a meal I eat without anxiety, guilt or tracking. I like to plan mine around dinner. I find that when I have an indulgent meal for breakfast, I’m more likely to indulge for the rest of the day. To prepare for my meal of choice (likely high in carbs and fats), I eat strictly protein and veggies for my meals prior to my meal out.
Until the point of eating out, I slowly incorporate foods I’ve neglected for prep: oats, potatoes, rice and treats with nutrition labels (snack size candy, cereals, ice cream, Oreo’s, etc.). I’ve found that the more I work in foods I love in small portions, the easier it is for me to stay on track long-term.
The more patient you are with your body, and the honest you are with your poor habits, the better off you will be. We are only human. I’ve had my fare share of binging — and it will happen to us all — but how you recover and move on the next day is what counts.
Most importantly, enjoy your offseason. Spend time with those you love. Treat yourself. Find a balance that works for you.