>You made it through the months of training, dieting and posing practice and showcased your relentless hard work on stage but now that it’s over, how do you return to normal eating?
I am assuming that healthy eating and fitness is a lifestyle of yours, so when I say return to normal eating that means healthy eating following the 80/20 rule for cheat meals. Everyone has a different prep but for many I know it often entails a week to a couple of weeks of eating low or very low carbs and depleting your body. It is important to know how to reintroduce healthy carbs without rebounding hard and embarking on a vicious cycle of bad eating and mood disorders.
After competing in a show, you may feel that you’ve earned the right to eat mounds of garbage and take some time off from the gym. It is important to give yourself a few days off from the gym and let your body relax. Try some yoga or walking if you feel the need to be active. As far as your food goes, it is okay to indulge in some of your favorite treats after the show, but you want to make sure that you get right back to eating clean as soon as possible or you may notice that those controllable cravings become more and more uncontrollable.
It is just as important to have a post-competition plan set out as it is to have the pre-contest prep. So be sure that you have this in place before the actual day after comes. You need to know what your baseline is for your meals so you can get back to and maintain your healthy body weight. The key thing with returning to normal is to slowly reintroduce foods into your diet over a few days or weeks, depending on the individual.
You will want to keep the portions of your regular foods a bit smaller so your body can adjust. For example, start to include a small piece of fruit into your daily food intake until you are back to your maintenance meal plan. You do not want to get carried away with adding too many carbs or general calories too quickly. Your body just can’t take that kind of stress and you will set yourself up for disaster. Your muscles will be screaming for glycogen replenishment at this time too, so while many try to maintain the extreme low carb way post-competition out of fear of getting fat, you will kill your metabolism and lose what muscle you do have left if you don’t slowly get those carbs back into your diet.
You will most likely find that you are hungrier than normal and this is typical and even a healthy thing if you have a plan set out and follow it. Your body has been deprived for a while and when you begin to reintroduce certain foods, particularly carbohydrates, it will create a physiological response that activates certain hormones that will affect your hunger, your moods, your energy levels and so forth.
When carbs and general caloric intake have been low for a while this has an effect on your general metabolism, thyroid hormones, your serotonin/dopamine levels (moods) and ghrelin (the hunger hormone). If you are aware of this beforehand and have a plan, you will be able to better understand what is going on with your body post-competition.
By being aware of some things that can occur after competing and having your plan of attack set up ahead of time, you will better be able to prevent weeks of feeling uncomfortable, bloated and moody. It is important to respect your body’s delicate systems and not overburden it with too much food too fast and also to allow it to rest and recover. It is also important to understand that while you may want to look like you do on stage every day, it is just not a realistic or healthy thing. Feed your body the nutritious foods it needs, decrease your training levels to a normal level and allow yourself to be the healthy and functional being you are supposed to be. ~ MT