As competitors, we’ve all experienced the competition rebound. Some people’s rebound experience may be quite different from another person. In the years I’ve competed, each rebound has been a bit different. The first competition rebound I did was very uncomfortable and, for lack of a better word, wrong. You know something isn’t right when you wake up the next morning with your eyes swollen shut due to the amount of water you are retaining from the food you’ve been eating. It’s laughable now, but this is a serious problem.
First of all, the most noticeable problem is the puffy, soft look immediately following a show. When you go from being dried out and shredded to looking like the Michelin Man after 3 days and 20+ pounds later, you’ve already started off on the wrong foot. All that hard work is thrown away because of lack of self control with food. Once the water sets in and hormones are out of whack, it’s very difficult to turn it around.
The other problem is that health seems to be an afterthought when competing. The most important reason to not let yourself go is because of health-related risks. If you do as I did the first competition rebound, your blood pressure will most certainly be through the roof. Hormone balance will be sporadic at best. Physically you will be exhausted and lethargic. Mentally you will be discouraged and likely emotional. All of this could have been prevented if you had planned for the weeks following your competition. It’s ok if you’ve been there—I’ve been there too. As I’ve gained experience through the years, I know better what to do and what not to do. I’ve learned how to transition from being on the stage to off-season.
It’s great to enjoy a few hearty meals with friends and family, and maybe take a few extra days away from training intensely. But for me, I’ve noticed that sticking to my cardio and training following a show is crucial to staying lean and feeling healthy after a show. Indulging in tons of food may sound like fun, but trust me, it doesn’t make you feel any better once you have. So instead of pounding tons of food right after a show, I recommend that you jump back on cardio and do some sort of weight training, even if it’s low intensity. Just being active and moving fluids around in your body is all that is necessary. Don’t expect a long hiatus from cardio and training unless you also expect to quickly lose the physique you worked many months to obtain. I do extra cardio just to simply feel healthier. I enjoy eating the majority of my meals clean, again, because it makes me feel better than if I indulged in other foods. You should also ease back into weight training. Although your mind may be ready to lift the house, your body is still in a vulnerable state.
Enjoy your training, enjoy cardio, enjoy the clean meals, and most importantly enjoy life. It may sound a little crazy, but simply being happy and enjoying the moment will take you far. The happier that you are, the more you will likely want to keep going with cardio, training, and diet. The same is true if you stick to the plan and diet through the show. Reducing cortisol caused by all forms of stress is the key. Reduce stress, feel happier, and keep going. Happiness does not dwell in food, nor does it live anywhere but within yourself. Find a balance between enjoying food, friends and family, and staying true to your bodybuilding lifestyle. After a few weeks, you will start to feel more comfortable inside and out. Meaning, you will be much healthier, mentally focused, and your physique will be set up for a productive off-season.