Now that your show is over the first question you may have is “how am I going to maintain my results and “what do I do now up until I start my competition prep once again?” Some of you may have heard about reverse dieting, which is one way to go about it. However, you may not know what that is or how to really do it without coaching. In order to save you money and to make sure that you know how to handle the approach of the off season, I wanted to give you a few tips that are easy to incorporate and won’t cost you a thing
#1 AVOID SELF-DEPRIVATION
You may want to stay in shape while making more progress. However, it’s impossible for you to continue to lean out and stay lean while trying to grow muscle. Those are two different efforts and must be handled different. This is why some during the off season seem a little “fluffy” or, as you know those who say, “I am bulking.” Most females don’t find it favorable to bulk. They want to look good year round. However for the sport there is a way to zig zag your diet and caloric intake, macros & approach to ensure you get the best of both worlds.
The main thing for females growing more muscle is to stay within the 15 percent body fat range. Don’t neglect having your coach or someone check you in with a 9 point caliper reading or some reliable method. The key to gaining muscle and maintaining body fat in a reasonable range is to continue to eat clean and lean overall. It is common, especially with newer athletes, to binge eat post their show with sugars, alcohol and foods high in sodium. This is more psychological than anything. It’s important not to do that and to continue to eat whole foods that are low in fat, fibrous and give you satiety. Healthy fats and micronutrients will ensure that. This is the time to really load up on micronutrients. You can get those from colorful vegetables, a little more fruit and some sources of protein and carbs you may not always get to enjoy while dieting for a show.
It’s also a good time to give your liver and kidneys a break from heavy protein and stick to 1-1.5 grams of protein per lbs of your bodyweight for maintenance. If you are 130 lbs that is 130 grams of protein per day (divide that by 5-6 meals and that’s how much protein you need each meal). If you go for 1.5 grams you now have 195 grams of protein per day, which is great for growth, if this is a direction you need.
Keep in mind not every needs to grow muscle. Some competitors who win the overall or place within the top 2 are more likely to just maintain and tweak a few things.
#2 ADD CALORIES SLOWLY
#3 KEEP YOUR CARDIO TIME DOWN
Avoiding excessive cardio is one thing many competitors, who are cardio junkies, struggle with. The only time you would want to do this if you are 30lbs over weight and need to lose a lot of weight right off the bat. Once your show is over, you should be in a good place and not need as much cardio. You will not get rid of excess fat the right way. In fact your cortisol levels post a show will be out the roof. You need to reset your system and not go back killing it in the gym, especially with cardio. You risk burning muscle. If you do cardio, you are now in a position to focus more on HIIT training vs longer sessions. The purpose of the longer sessions is to burn more calories over a period of time and to take your size down, lean out abs and reduce water levels. The HIIT is great for maintaining muscle mass and fat loss, but it can burn out your joints. HIIT should only be done 2x per week. There is a misunderstanding that doing it everyday is the way! Not true. It is in fact only going to make you plateau and you risk an overuse injury.
CARDIO HAS ITS PLACE IN YOUR REGIMEN, BUT MAKE SURE YOU’RE DOING THE RIGHT AMOUNT FOR YOU.
Overtraining is ineffective. Most people don’t understand what over training is in the sport of bodybuilding. They use coaches that create methods that overuse joints and wind up injured down the road. In fact, if you don’t take time to recover you stifle muscle growth and risk being fatigued. When you are always fatigued, your body releases cortisol, and you hold more fat in your midsection. If you burn yourself out with dieting and training you are at risk for two things very difficult to repair and that is adrenal fatigue and metabolic syndrome.
Give your body 5-7 days of recovery for large muscle groups like your back, legs and chest muscles. Your smaller muscles 2-3 days to recover. A lot is contingent upon how heavy and hard you train during your sessions. For longer leaner muscles you use light weight and high reps and to grow a specific body part try doing heavier weight and lower reps. This is when knowing your 1 rep max may benefit you. Pyramid style training is also a method for growth. There are a few ways to do this. 3 x 15, 12, 10, 8 reps or maybe it’s 3 x 15, 12, 10, 15 reps. You can always drop set weight if you choose a load that’s too heavy. It’s ideal to log what you are doing so you can notice if you are gaining strength. Training heavy for glutes and some other body parts does not always translate to growth. Keep that in mind. Each body part needs change and variation and some like Glutes respond better to higher reps and lower weight in order to pump them up and create volume. There are many methods to try and not one is right. All seem to work for different reasons at different times and depending on what you are trying to achieve. This is when having a coach is highly beneficial and takes the guesswork out of things. It is unfortunate that many coaches are born from just doing competitions and not really being certified in fitness at all. Many are using what they do to workout or believe is the way, but truly lack the creativity or understanding around various methods. Coaching with Team Knockouts you use my Michelle Methods. These methods are intelligent and researched as tried and true. I give respect to a variety of methods out there and am absolutely sure there is no one right way or coaching method. There are many great methods that will work if handled correctly at the right time. Much of this sports weighs on timing and understanding the art and science of nutrition and training together. These two must be married since they rely on eachother. My goal is to ensure you get what you need when you need it.
#4 BE PATIENT
We are a society that is all about instant gratification to our own demise at times. We don’t win a show and it could have nothing to do with the coaching. The judging could be off. You could of messed up your posing, but you will quit working with your coach and move on. Only to learn maybe the grass was not greener on the other side. The more competitive you become the more at risk you are for these prima donna behaviors. This sport is not always about being comfortable and getting your way. Good coaching may have some friction because the more you grow and learn, the more you will question everything. You are playing a game of chess to get to win at the game! However, a good competitor in any competition knows the importance of staying and not playing. There is a time to pick a show, a time to leave a coach and a time to just stick with what you are doing. The saying is “if it is not broken, don’t fix it.” The issue is that people get impatient and they want more. This when blame begins. The reason I did not place well, “my coach is not political”, the reason I did not place well, ” I tripped when I did my posing.”, “my coach screwed up my dry out”, “my make up artist was awful.” The fact is you could be perfect up there and you just get overlooked. You could of done a lot right, but your nerves got the best of you on stage and what you thought you delivered was not how it came across on stage. Coaches that are good can give you the view from the judging panel. Even better if your coach is a trained judge or stays in the know of what the judges want. Politics don’t accelerate winning results. You understanding what they are looking for is. The off season is your time to take that feedback, that you should always request, and make some tweaks. You should have a pow wow with your coach about next steps and your future if he sport if you desire to continue. Most girls bounce around too much. They go from coach to coach, but never take a hard look at themselves and how unstable their own mind is. If you can’t tame your mind you won’t be good at this sport. If you get upset when you don’t like feedback from a coach or the judges this may not be the right direction for you. You can’t trust any diet, any method, any outcome if you are not a person who TRUSTS. If you are a person who gets angry and walks away from things and gets nasty after because you don’t want to admit you made a mistake, your pattern of this behavior is likely to be a repeat performance. Going to the pro ranks is about emotional control and not being a loose cannon. You have to work with a coach and work hard to perfect and use precision. If you jump around to much your doing too many methods and your body will be an example of that imbalance. So learn how to deal with some discomfort and don’t hire anyone you do not feel has strong credentials.
#5 ENJOY YOUR LIFE
This is the time to live within the normal world again. Being all bodybuilding year round is not what being a professional is all about. You can stay in shape and still have fun. You should not isolate yourself, but reacquaint yourself with friends and family. Make time to read more and spend a little less time in the gym. Doing anything ALL THE TIME is a symptom of OCD and not healthy bodybuilding. This is a time to recharge your batteries and integrate the things you learn about being fit and healthy. Bodybuilding, if done holistically, can be very healthy and your hormones should be in a great place even in the off season. If you are doing drugs to cheat the system and get fit faster, you have to understand the down side of those effects. You may wind up with exaggerated emotions making you more likely to have knee jerk reactions to things you don’t like. You will be more prone to fighting with those around you, even your coach. Your reality may look dark after your show and you may even feel empty. If your identity evolves around the sport so much that this is all you depend on, you may be in for a big let down. No one can stay on top of the game all the time. The results you get from show to show can very extremely and you have to be prepared for those disappointments and the reasons as to why, you may not know the truth. It is so important that you remind yourself that those who are around you in your day to day life are so important. It’s a great time to show them how much you appreciate them supporting you through your goals and that you are not turning into a narcissist. Whatever was important before may change, but hopefully you remain a healthy competitor year round.
I hope these tips and suggestions give you some ways to handle your body, mind and spirit in the off season! Wishing you much success! And remember to PRACTICE YOUR POSING! It’s a lot more fun when you aren’t under pressure!
Michelle Johnson, IFBB PRO
Coach for Team Knockouts
Michelle has been competing in the sport of bodybuilding since 2002. She was a figure and fitness competitor the first five years. She transitioned into bikini after taking 6 years off. Bikini offered her a way to compete in her forties that didn’t require a lot of muscle. This more realistic and natural approach was more appealing to her. She injured herself trying to do fitness again at first and when all fell through she jumped into bikini. At that point, she quickly made it up the ranks to the pro level in 2 years. She did two national shows and became an IFBB Pro winning her class. In 2011, former clients returned to her to do competitions and hence the birth of Team Knockouts. She is a firm believer in hard work and faith being a winning combination! You can read more about Michelle and her credentials here: Michelle Johnson