Managing your nutrition after a bodybuilding show can set you up for some serious lean mass gains, but if you aren’t careful, leave you waterlogged, bloated, and in a position to put on body fat. You’ve dieted for 16 weeks. Your hunger is through the roof. You daydream about food and the only thing on your mind after you step off that stage is smashing that package of Oreos with a big glass of cold milk. We’ve all been there. For the most part, it’s ok to have a few treats after a show, but it’s important to transition back into a strict diet after you’ve had a few cheat meals. Here are some tips for managing the post-show rebound.
Add Back The Carbs
Just as you whittled away your calories and carbs as you progressed through your contest diet, you slowly want to introduce them back into your diet afterward. When you are in a state of low body fat, your body needs less insulin in order to shuttle carbs into your muscles. It’s extremely efficient at doing this when contest lean. If you had been eating only 200g of carbs during the final weeks of your contest diet, consider adding in only 50% to 100% more, so 300-400g carbs total. This increase in carbs will lower the hormone leptin, which will in turn decrease your hunger slightly, helping to ward off those cravings.
Avoid Junk Food
It’s still important to avoid excess junk at this point, as junk food will more than likely contain a copious amount of dietary fat. Dietary fat is essential to the human body, but overconsumption of fats will easily lead to the storage of body fat. Your body will only use so much at one time. Those two double bacon cheeseburgers and large fries from 5 Guys will most likely end up being stored as body fat somewhere on your body. As I mentioned earlier, a leaner body is a more efficient body at utilizing carbohydrates. Hold steadfast with your discipline because the chronic overconsumption of fats will ultimately destroy your plans of reaping the benefits of the post-contest rebound.
Strategically Lower Yo
Protein will remain the same throughout the beginning of your post-contest rebound. Carbohydrates become protein-sparing when they reach a sufficient amount (usually around 1.5g per pound bodyweight and up), so you can lower your protein at this point. You don’t want to lower your protein from the start, as protein is generally more satiating and will help you overcome the bottomless pit that is your stomach.
Don't Forget Micronutrients
Manipulating your macronutrients is very important, but addressing micronutrients is also key. Think about it—you’ve endured somewhat of a restrictive diet for several weeks, you’ve been doing plenty of cardio, and you’ve been training balls to the wall. Your body is probably deficient in several micronutrients, namely calcium, magnesium, and potassium. All of these micronutrients are responsible for strong muscle contractions, fluid balance, and reduction of inflammation. I make sure to include lots of leafy greens, avocado, and potatoes in my diet plan in order to address these issues, in addition to taking a multi-vitamin/mineral like Animal Pak.
As with any bodybuilding program, monitoring and reassessment are key. Weigh yourself every day. Take pictures regularly. If you are gaining 5-10lb in a week, you definitely need to back off food a bit. Slow and steady will bring your body back to a state where your training is extremely efficient with unbelievable muscle stimulation. If you maintain your discipline and eat what you should rather than what you want most of the time, you’ll set yourself up for an amazing off-season where you are starting lean, healthy, and strong.