Feature Article Submission – Living The Lean Life Post Comp
For most competitors, life after comp can appear to be a little bleak. With no immediate physique or competition goals in sight, it’s common to experience a sudden lot of focus and purpose, and justify any opportunity to indulge in foods that were ‘banned’ from the competition preparation.
The frequent sugar rushes temporarily suppresses the stress hormone cortisol and increases the surge of the body’s feel good hormones, serotonin but also quickly shifts the body into a fat storage mode. As such, this is often the period where many watch their physique ‘blow out’ and an unhealthy relationship with food and their physical appearance develops. Yet, this crucial post-competition period is often shunned, undiscussed and competitors are left confused as to how to maintain the focus and leanness that was once the sole reason for their waking.
As with any goal that had been set and achieved, it’s important that new ones are being established. For competitors, this can mean learning to live the lean life post comp and making a lifestyle of it. Here are 5 simple tips to stay lean and feel great about it.
Set an objective goal of maintaining a healthy body fat percentage throughout the year. While it is important to be psychologically and physically more relaxed with your nutrition during the ‘off-season’, this should not be your reason to binge and justify bad food choices daily. Keep yourself accountable through body-fat measurement methods like caliper testing, Bioprint or even the Dexa scan. Of course, this goal has to realistic, sustainable and part of a healthy nutrition and exercise regime.
Change your mindset. A huge reason for ‘blowing out’ is often due to competitors rewarding themselves with nutritionally poor food choices because they have trained hard and deserved the treat. This essentially begs the question: ”why would one deserve something bad if they have done well?”
Changing this mindset requires a real paradigm shift. Learn to reward your body with something positive, like real whole nutritious foods for recovery or a much-needed massage, rather than shoving down empty calories hoping no one sees you. Should you want desserts and sweets, then do so without having to justify it as reward. Do so because you can, enjoy the meal and not feel guilt about it. You will be surprised how well this actually works to decrease your sweet cravings.
Gradually increase overall calories. Often daily calories are decreased as the competitors draw closer to competition day in an attempt to speed up the leaning down process. This has adverse the effect of lowering one’s metabolic rate and breaking down muscle in the long run.
While it is important to increase your calorie count after the competition, it is important to do so gradually, ensuring the additional calories are made up of whole nutritious unprocessed foods. Steeply increasing calories over a short time through consuming lots of sweets and fatty foods will more often than not, cause the competitor to retain water and rapidly gain fat.
Modulate the type and amount of carbohydrates. As with overall calories, ensure carbohydrates are also added in gradually and smartly to prevent unnecessary blow outs:
The best time to add in carbs into your diet is post-workout as the body is most insulin sensitive, and this also facilitates more effective reglycogenation of the muscles. High Glycemic Index (GI) carb sources like protein shakes, white rice and white potato are best taken here to maximize the body’s anabolic function of insulin.
Throughout the day, choose to consume lower GI carbs over processed high GI foods as this prevents excessive and frequent insulin spiking.
Combining a protein source with your carbohydrates or increasing the amount of fiber consumed in a meal can be helpful lowering the GI of the meal.
Increase saturated fat and cholesterol intake. For many competitors on a typical bodybuilding diet, a very low fat intake leading into competition would have taken a toll on energy levels, immune function and libido. So how does increasing saturated fat and cholesterol help?
Saturated fat and cholesterol is a critical component of our cell membranes. The high stress of competition preparation would have resulted in a high level of cellular damage. Thus to facilitate optimal cell repair and function, it is crucial to increase saturated fat intake.
Cholesterol is necessary for the production of Vitamin D, a vitamin essential for life itself, regulating stress, sex hormones, metabolism and energy levels.
A very low fat intake has the adverse effect of lowering the body’s production of DHEA, a cholesterol dependent hormone. As the precursor of testosterone, lowered DHEA production also means lowered testosterone levels and overall anabolism. So if optimal body functioning and lean muscle gain is the goal, then saturated fat is a must.
It’s always important to consider the source of the saturated fat that you are consuming as they can also contain high levels of toxins and chemicals. High quality saturated fats from cold-pressed coconut oils and organic sources of animal fats from offal, ghee and butter are great sources to choose from.
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