There is no denying that dieting for a competition requires hard work, dedication, consistency and sacrifice. Most of the time people think the hard work is over once you step off the stage. You can be “normal” again. Unfortunately that’s not quite the case, not immediately anyways!
I have entered around 10 bikini shows and after each competition I definitely acted like I had never eaten a piece of chocolate in my life. The sense of “I deserve this” often comes to mind.
After the unexpected, and what seemed to be unavoidable post-competition eating frenzy I didn’t know what to do?
Do I go back to my competition diet?
Do I keep doing all my cardio?
Do I just go back to eating how I was before prep?
There are so many questions left unanswered. So, it is very important to have a plan for post competition. A good coach will provide an exit strategy for you, typically planned training and nutrition adjustments, and then continued support to stay on track – if you stay with them.
Even when you have stopped competing, it is so important to track your nutrition. In fact, it is probably even more important, especially if you have body image concerns or post-competition events to consider.
Why? This is typically where an emotional attachment with food happens – whether it is restricting your intake to try to maintain that stage condition or like myself in the past; unexpectedly overeating and craving everything around me.
This is why post-competition awareness and “reverse dieting” can be so valuable post competition.
Reverse dieting is where you move your calorie intake back up to maintenance (or beyond) in a progressive fashion in an effort to reduce fluid retention, or obvious visual deterioration. To do so will require you to be consistent and track your food intake, just like you did pre competition.
The are a few ways to approach the reverse dieting phase and in some cases it is just a matter of going straight to your estimated new maintenance calorie intake, but even that can be daunting for some – with an obvious increase in food and potential temporary fluid retention.
This is why it is so important to stay with your coach post competition; because in my experience and working with others I feel that post competition can be the most emotional time.
Being 10%-12% body fat (or 5-7% for men) and looking the best you have ever looked is not supposed to be sustainable.
If you haven’t got the correct support leading you towards a healthy mindset and relationship with your body you may go down a vicious cycle of binge eating, excessively training, and over dieting. Why? Because you have put so much pressure on yourself to maintain that stage physique.
It is especially important to stay with a coach post competition if you decide to compete again in the future. Each time you step on stage your calories, cardio and prep will be different. The best possible outcome is to stay within a healthy body fat range, whilst increasing your calories so you can start your next prep on higher calories, no cardio, and be better prepared.