In the previous blog post, we talked about the initial differences between on-season and off-season form. There are some pretty stark contrasts between the way one should go about their fitness grind when prepping for a contest and when coming off of a show.
Sticking to your competition diet. This is a mistake I pretty much immediately made until I spoke to some veteran bodybuilders and did my own research. There seem to be many women who fall into this pit because we usually hate putting on the weight after seeing how good our competition physique is. No woman wants to put on fat! Our tendency, therefore, is to keep eating the same things we ate during show prep. This kind of diet doesn’t allow the body to get enough energy to make improvements and gains. It may even cause you to lose muscle mass. It’s important to take in enough calories to help your body make the necessary improvements if you want to bring a better package to the stage on your next show, or simply, to look and feel better than you did last time. Stick to clean eating, but make sure your body gets the energy it needs to work harder and make new gains. Don’t worry about putting on a little body fat because you can always shed those on your next prep.
Bingeing. “But I deserve it after all those months of dieting!” you tell yourself (much like I kept telling myself). And you would be right. You definitely deserve to treat yourself to whatever indulgence you have been craving for the entire show prep. However, there’s a strong tendency to binge on junk after strictly and diligently eating clean during your entire prep. I always crave for a greasy, cheesy, pepperoni pizza and donuts during prep. The cravings get stronger the closer I am to contest day. All I can think about it stuffing my pie hole with it soon as I get off the stage! But this kind of post-contest celebration will only derail you from your future goals and sidetrack you from your dream physique faster than it takes you to ask for hot sauce in a pizzeria. You can definitely treat yourself to a cheat meal few days or every week, but don’t turn to junk food just to fit your macros for the day. During off-season, you can put on some weight (which would be totally normal), but see to it that it’s because of muscle and not fat. Keep your diet generally clean even if you indulge on some days. Do it wisely and you won’t have a hard time staying on track during off-season.
Keeping it very low-carb. Again, I have to say that women are usually the victims when it comes to fear of the carb. But carbs are really not the enemy; carbs are our friends! Carbohydrates are an amazing source of energy and shouldn’t be shunned during the off-season the same way we keep them at arm’s distance during show prep. They serve a purpose in our fitness and health journey and can help us achieve our goals if we know how to use them properly. For example, for a pre-workout meal, you’ll want to include complex carbohydrates like oats, sweet potatoes, and brown rice (quinoa too). The body will store this and use it as an energy source later on. Complex carbs are excellent for breakfast (you’ll feel fuller and more energised) or for a little later in the day. For post-workout, that’s where you can have some simple carbs like pasta, white bread, and some sugars (but again, don’t over-indulge!) because they are fast-digesting. These carbs will spike your insulin level and get your glycogen straight to your muscles.
Carbs get a bad rap, but they actually help in protein synthesis. They help the muscles get the amino acids from your protein drink so that you can build muscle!
Cardio to death. Okay, I was guilty of this too. I was so scared to put on weight post-show that I kept getting up at dawn to get cracking on the cardio–which I would do twice a day! But I didn’t realise that I was expending too much energy with cardio, not getting enough rest and recovery, and this was hindering any new gains from being made. You don’t have to eliminate it completely, but keep it moderate. Try incorporating a moderate (low intensity) cardio workout about 3 to 4 times a week for 20 to 30 minutes per week. You don’t sacrifice your gains, but you also keep your metabolism running.
On the other hand, another mistake involving cardio is not doing enough or any of it. I would say more men tend to fall for this one. They’re worried about losing size and gains so they bulk and lift but do zero cardio. But doing 30-minute cardio workouts thrice a week is actually going to help you more than doing none at all. It will strengthen your cardiovascular performance which is crucial for heavy lifters. You can keep your appetite up which will help you continue to eat your clean meals. Keep cardio in your routine if you want to continue making gains, adding size, and avoid losing any muscle.
Too much machine dependency. While it’s great to have machines that help you workout out your target muscle group, there’s still nothing better than using free weights. When you workout with free weights like dumbbells and barbells, the exercises you do engage the most muscle fibre and this will get you on the road to maximum gains. Try waiting until the end of your workout routine (when you’re feeling like you’ve spent most your energy already on free weights) to use machines or cables. When you get your body to work harder, you can expect better results. Free weights challenge your body better than machines can.
Letting numbers scare you. This goes for both men and women. Women worry about numbers on a scale going higher than their show weight; men worry about numbers going down because they love the idea of getting heavier. While the number on the scale helps you have an idea of where you’re at, you’ll do better by focusing on what you look like. Some women can be 110 pounds but still look flabby or unshapely (maybe even skinny fat), while a 118-120b woman of muscle can look fitter. Worry only about the scale IF you know you’re not eating clean, sticking to a good workout regimen, or going about cardio all wrong.
And lastly, DON’T skip meals! Your body needs protein every 2 to three hours so that your muscles can get a constant supply of available amino acids. When your body is unable to source them, it will till take them from your muscles. Make sure your body keeps a positive nitrogen balance (anabolic state) or else you end up driving yourself into a catabolic state where your muscles will waste away.
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