Updated: Jan 23
Competing in bodybuilding competition requires dieting down and reaching low body fat. This process takes anywhere from 20-12 weeks and it requires strict and controlled dieting.
What happens after you compete is very important for your overall health and weight management.
You just got done with your show, what to do now ?
Right after you step off stage, you should focus on your hydration, since most of the athletes drop their water intake to get the "dryer" look on stage.
The night after your show you should enjoy the meal you like and have been craving. Listen to your body and eat until you are full! Try to watch for your sugar intake, enjoy some treats, but do not over do it. Your body has been in deficit and low sugar intake for multiple weeks, overeating could make you feel very sick and shock your body which could cause you other issues.
1 Day after your Show
You will usually see a weight gain which can range anywhere from 1-8 lb depending on how much water you have dropped and how much food you have enjoyed. This weight IS NOT fat, you will not gain this amount of fat overnight. This is mainly caused by water retention from excess carbohydrate intake.
I always recommend to do some sort of light physical activity/cardio the morning after your show to help you metabolize the food you had and "keep your metabolism moving".
You can also take this day off from your regular dieting and mindfully enjoy the foods you like- but be careful! Listen to your body and try to reach for lighter options of foods.
1 Week After Your Show
I highly recommend to return right back to your regular diet you had before your competition. I always slightly adjust/up my clients diet for the first week, but most of the meals stay the same. You can be experiencing slight weight gain or see your weight staying the same. Treat your post show Reverse just like you would be on your prep, follow the meals and portions and avoid binging. This may sounds easy, but many athletes find it difficult. Do the best you can, your body will reflect it and it will allow your body to adjust to more food without rapid weight gain .
Rapid Weight Gain ?
This is one of the most common effects after prolonged and restrictive dieting and depletion. Your body will act like a sponge and it will store the food you consume relatively fast to rebuild its fat storage. If you are not careful and do not reverse properly, you could experience very fast weight gain (up to 5-10 lb) in the first few weeks. It is important to remind yourself that the food you like will always be there, there is no need to consume it all in the first weeks of your reverse dieting . This is one of the reasons why following and properly reversing your diet is so important for your physical and mental health.
Reverse Diet Planning/ Timing
Setting a realistic for your shape and weight you would like to get to during your reverse is another very helpful tool, which will hold you accountable. Your desired weight and shape should be decided upon your next steps in this sport . If you are getting ready to compete at another show, you and your coach will need to decide on the approach and timing of your reverse or go straight to another show prep.
If you are going into improvement/off season it is very important to understand and accept the fact that your are going to put on some weight and body fat.
Trying to stay stage lean all year long is not recommended! Your competition shape and look is timed and serves purpose for your competition, but it is not healthy for a female athlete to be staying at very low body fat levels for prolonged time. Our bodies are naturally design for higher body fat than males are. Keeping your body fat at very low levels could interfere with hormonal function and overall health. For these reasons, you need to find a weight towards which you will build up to and try to maintain it . I recommend to stay around 10-15 lb above your stage weight during your improvement season, which will allow your body to perform it's functions and build more muscle if you need to.
1 Month of Reverse Dieting
In one month your body should be already adjusted to your reverse dieting. The main focus during reverse dieting is to slowly increase your nutrients intake (mostly carbohydrates and fats) and decrease cardio while maintaining or slightly gaining weight. Try to consume majority of your diet from whole food sources. Incorporate the different kind of foods, which you were not consuming on your prep to provide your body wider variety of nutrients and vitamins on daily basis.
Many of the athletes follow 80/20 rule, which means 80% of your nutrition is very clean, whole food based and 20% of your nutrition are the foods or treats you enjoy. Following this rule can help you stay accountable without sacrificing your goals and shape you have worked so hard for. Following 80/20 rule will also bring you the feeling of satiety, because you will get to enjoy the foods you like.
Restricting the foods you enjoy all year long is not beneficial for your mental health which could lead to eating disorders, these are unfortunately very common in this sports, when you don't choose the correct approach.
With increased food intake and lowered cardio, you will feel a significant difference in your energy levels and overall strength. Building up your strength while nourishing properly and training consistently will help you gain more muscle in the areas you want to change.The weight training days should stay almost the same as they were during your prep.
The intensity of your training should be increasing.
The amount of sets and repetitions should be altered to help you with your current goal.
If your focus is to build more muscle or recomposition your physique you may add an extra rest day to let your body recover.
I always recommend to do your cardio, even during your improvement season, unless your daily activity is very high. Doing moderate amount of cardio will help your metabolism to work faster, however there is no need to do excessive amounts of cardio. You want to focus on utilizing the majority of energy for your weight training during the improvement season.
Recovery is essential for muscle growth. Regular Stretching and foam rolling will help your muscle to keep correct length- tension relationship (prevent over developing of one muscle over another). Deep tissue massage is also very helpful in your recovery, it helps with breaking scar tissue and releases tension.
Eating Out/ Alcohol drinking ?
When you follow your Reverse diet and your body is responding well, you should be able to enjoy 1-2 meals out during the week. Everything is dictate by how fast your body reacts and your current goals, but it is important to enjoy some meals, which you usually don't eat during your season. You can enjoy almost any meals, but you need to listen to your body ! Eat until you are full, stop eating when you are feeling full, overeating or binging won't work well for your goals, your body knows how much food it needs that is why you need to pay close attention to how you feel.
Having a drink or two also works during this time, but do not over do it. Alcohol has many down effects on body and muscle synthesis. It also contains 7calories per 1 gram- these are empty calories, which means that there is no nutritional value/ no nutritional benefit for your body from it. I always recommend to choose the drinks without excess sugar. Most of the cocktails contain fruit juices and syrups, which are packet with sugar. Dry wine or clear liquor should be your go- to. Many places offer "skinny drinks" with reduced sugar content.
Period Cycle !
It is very common to loose or miss few cycles during your competing season.This is mostly caused by lowered body fat and decreased food intake. Getting your regular period cycle needs to be one of your biggest priorities ! Having regular periods is very important for female health and this is the best time to focus on keeping your hormones in balance. If you struggle with getting your period cycle back even after few months of reverse dieting and higher body fat, I highly recommend you to visit your doctor and get the full check up.
I always recommend to get a full check up after your competition. During competition prep, we create a bigger stress for our bodies by training more intensively and eating in calorie deficit. Getting ready for your competition needs to be done in the most healthy and the least invasive way possible , but visiting your doctor and getting your blood work checked is always a great reassurance for your overall health.
This might be the subject which many athletes do not speak about too much, but this is another very important part when it comes to competing and reverse dieting.
We have dieted down to the smallest and leanest shape in which we have ever been during our competition prep, but now we need to accept and understand that gaining fat and weight is necessary part of this process.
You have put your focus and so much hard work to lean out and define your shape and now you need to gain some weight, gain bring your body fat to healthy levels and loose a little bit of your muscle definition ? Yes this is what happens during reverse. This can be hard to see and experience for many female athletes, but it is all about your point of view ! During my first couple reverse dieting it has fell very frustrating and unpleasant, until I have realized that this process keeps my body healthy and thanks to this process I am able to recomposition and build the shape I need for my next competitions.
You need to learn to love your body in every shape and enjoy every step of this process. Having more curves and being able to fill out the clothes more is always fun.
I hope you found this blog helpful and informative. Your attitude and mindset will determine how well your reverse will go for you. You can make it a great experience and. enjoy every part of it !
Thank you for reading my Blog, and feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or need any help firstname.lastname@example.org